Perhaps you have a hankering for a rice bowl from Hawker Fare or a margherita pizza from A16 Rockridge, but are too lazy or preoccupied to leave your house — to deal with parking, wait for a table, or any of the other hassles of a formal restaurant dining experience.
If so, Caviar, a delivery service for restaurants that don't normally deliver, might be the solution you've been waiting for. Founded by four UC Berkeley alums, the company launched in San Francisco two years ago, and has been slowly rolling out its service to other major cities. Caviar just launched service in the East Bay last week, with a preliminary lineup of fifteen restaurants that includes some of the most popular spots in Oakland and Berkeley: Hopscotch, Phil's Sliders, Plum Bar, Hawker Fare, and A16, among others.
Here's how it works: Diners place an order from the restaurant of their choice, either "on demand" (for delivery within the hour) or up to a week in advance. Caviar then dispatches a driver and notifies the restaurant; delivery is guaranteed within the hour, and you can track the exact location of your food while it's in transit.
Customers pay a $9.99 flat fee for the service plus an automatic 18 percent gratuity, both of which go directly to the driver. Meanwhile, the company makes its money by taking a cut from the restaurant — usually between 20 to 25 percent of the sale, depending on the restaurant, co-founder Jason Wang explained.
Other notable features: Caviar's website features a photo of every single dish; there is no minimum (or maximum) order; and the delivery zone, which covers most of Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville, is notably large — there are restaurants on the list I'd never normally consider getting takeout from because they're just too far away.
Caviar recently took some heat from the tech-culture blog Valleywag, which criticized the company for not being up-front about the fact that it's really just offering a luxury service for people who are as lazy as they are wealthy — "Seamless for rich people," as the author put it, referring to the popular delivery service. But Wang said the idea that Caviar is mostly delivering food from expensive white-tablecloth restaurants is a misconception, pointing to the diversity of the restaurants represented. And it's true: Higher-end restaurants like Hopscotch and A16 are far outnumbered by places like Shan Dong, a Chinatown standby where nearly every dish costs less than $10.
According to Wang, quality is important to Caviar — the company only plans on partnering with what its founders consider to be "top" restaurants. But in most cases, that translates to low- to mid-range neighborhood spots that are extremely popular.
Wang said Caviar plans to add at least one new restaurant a week — the next two on the list are Ike's Lair and Homeroom. As an opening promotion, from now until May 25, the company will waive the $9.99 delivery fee for East Bay orders.
Sunday Suppers for a Cause
The Sunday Supper — a prix-fixe meal served on what is traditionally a slow night in the restaurant business — is seeing something of a revival in the East Bay. Charlie Hallowell (Pizzaiolo, Boot and Shoe Service, Penrose) is the latest restaurateur to launch a Sunday Supper series — this one with a philanthropic slant.
The idea is simple: For the next year, on the third Sunday of every month (except December), a prominent East Bay restaurant will host a $100 multi-course, prix-fixe dinner. Two-thirds of the proceeds from every dinner will go to a selected local nonprofit organization. So, with two 75-person seatings, each sold-out event represents a $10,000 donation.
Hallowell's Sunday Suppers series will kick off at Penrose (3311 Grand Ave., Oakland) on Sunday, May 18, with seatings at 5:30 and 8 p.m. Proceeds from that dinner will benefit Oakland Leaf, which runs a variety of educational programs for youth.
The menu for Sunday's dinner at Penrose is still a work in progress, but the format will be a three-course family-style meal. The first course will consist of three different salads — a fancier composed salad, a leafy green salad, and a hot grilled salad. The second course will be a slow-braised meat, served with polenta and some kind of cooked spring vegetable. And there will be something for dessert. A house wine, likely donated by a local winemaker or wine shop, will also be included in the cost of the ticket.
Lauren Greis, an event coordinator who is helping to organize the Sunday Suppers, said that she and Hallowell picked the eleven nonprofit beneficiaries for this first year. Initially, Hallowell's three Oakland restaurants will see the bulk of the action, with a handful of others — Miss Ollie's, Box & Bells, and Chez Panisse — hosting dinners as well.
Tickets are available through BrownPaperTickets.com.
Taco Grill Moves, Expands
Taco Grill — purveyor of sustainably sourced meats and exceptional pozoles in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood — has moved across the street into a larger space, as first noted on Chowhound. The casual taqueria, which is now called Obelisco (3411 E. 12th St., Ste. 110), will keep its lunchtime order-at-the-counter service, and add sit-down table service for dinner, according to owner Leticia Chavez. She said she'll start serving two or three rotating entrée specials every night — things like birria (goat stew), cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork), and chicken or pork in pipián (pumpkin seed sauce).