For the Bay Area, the growth of Native American cuisine in the restaurant world has been a welcome addition to the rich tablecloth of the Californian palate.
In honor of the fourth annual Indigenous People’s Day in California, the Examiner has created a list of places in the Bay Area to enjoy a traditional local meal by Indigenous chefs.
1. Wahpehpah’s Kitchen in Oakland: the first of its kind in California.
12 years running one of the only Native American-owned catering
businesses in California and a historic appearance as the first Native
person to compete on Chopped, Chef Crystal Wahpehpah was ready
to debut her restaurant. In November 2021, Wahpehpah’s Kitchen opened in
Oakland’s Fruitvale Village to great acclaim.
“Being born and raised as a Kickapoo Native American and also African American from East Oakland — if I can do it, you can too,” Chef Wahpehpah told KGO-TV a few days before the grand opening.
The menu rotates seasonally and incorporates local and traditional ingredients with familiar dishes. This fall, don’t miss the berry salmon salad, the red chili rabbit and blue corn tamale, the smoked squash tacos or the acorn crepe for dessert.
Wahpehpah’s Kitchen is open from Wednesday to Saturday.
2. Cafe Ohlone in Berkeley: storytelling through food.
This cafe is a labor of love by Vincent Medina of the East Bay Ohlone community and Louis Trevino of the Rumsen Ohlone. Hosted by the Hearst Museum at UC Berkeley, Medina and Trevino’s cafe is the only uniquely Ohlone restaurant in the world. As cultural stewards for their Native community, the two co-founders sought to provide a physical space that could both educate the public and represent the Ohlone culinary tradition.
“All of our food stays as close as possible to the standards of our old ways of eating,” the founders wrote on their website. “Essentially, the food we share at Cafe Ohlone is specific to the East Bay and Monterey regions — both culinary traditions before contact, and traditions that our family embraced after colonization.”
Meals at Cafe Ohlone are served with sustainably and locally harvested ingredients. While some dishes are seasonal, there are a few standbys that are available year round: quail eggs with sturgeon caviar and watercress microgreens, venison backstrap and local wild mushrooms and to top it off for dessert, yerba buena and bay laurel sorbet.
To plan a visit, make sure to check the Cafe Ohlone website for reservations.
3. Indigenous Red Market in Oakland: a celebration of Native culture every month.
The Native American Health Center in Oakland hosts a monthly gathering of indigenous vendors, musicians, dancers, artists and chefs to foster connection in Oakland’s Native community and showcase the variety of Native-owned businesses in the area.
The last Indigenous Red Market on Sept 24 was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the NAHC. The festival featured vendors from around the country and several contests, including a hand drum play-off and a cultural regalia competition for youth.
The next market is Nov. 7 — and mark your calendar, because according to the festival’s Instagram, “you do not want to miss this one.”