Last spring, La Cocina alumna Reem Assil won a contest sponsored by restaurant-reservation site OpenTable that enabled her to transition from a farmers market pop-up to a full-fledged brick-and-mortar. There was a Kickstarter campaign in there, too, which means Assil’s dream of an Arab street-corner bakery fragrant with the scent of za’atar really resonated with people.
As of Tuesday, May 16, Reem’s is open just beneath Fruitvale BART, serving the pillowy flatbreads with excellent chew known as man’oushe that come straight out of the saj, or traditional dome griddle. It can be eaten as a burrito-style wrap or open-faced like pizza. This being California, there’s a Golden State Man’oushe (served with eggs, red-pepper tomato sauce, goat cheese, parsley, and tomatoes) that can be dressed up with sujuk (Armenian beef sausage) or a fried, cured pastrami known as basturma bacon.
After the idea of opening a place of her own came to her one day at a bakery in Beirut, Assil did a stint at Arizmendi, the S.F. bakery cooperative. And Reem’s is a breakfast-and-lunch spot, open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. So there’s lots of the sweet and savory breakfast pastries called ka’ak — a cognate of sorts, being Arabic for “cake” — such as sesame bread rings or orange turmeric tea cakes.
Palestinian-Syrian by birth, Assil was a community organizer before making the move into the kitchen. You can see a strong reflection of her labor roots in the oversized mural by Chris Gazaleh of a smiling Palestinian activist named Rasmea Odeh wearing a headscarf, with lime green, pink, blue, and yellow Arabic calligraphy superimposed over her. Look closely and you’ll see a picture of BART police shooting victim Oscar Grant, inset almost like a cameo. Put your fist in the air, but don’t spill your cardamom iced coffee.
Reem’s, 3301 E. 12 St., Suite 133, Oakland, 510-852-9390 or reemscalifornia.com