Café Underwood: North Oakland’s New Work-At-Home Café

| September 1, 2014 | 2 Comments
  • 2 Comments

While working in cafés is not a new concept, it’s not all that common to find a space specifically designed for this purpose. Café Underwood is pitched to folks who work from home, but want to collaborate with others, have a meal or drink, or just get away from piles of laundry and other chores.

When Dominick Scala, an east-coast transplant who had been bartending at Dogwood, decided to pursue the venture, he had in mind a kind of New Orleans-style writers’ grotto, an escape from the world, complete with absinthe.

Café Underwood owner, Dominick Scala. Photo: Kim Westerman

Café Underwood owner, Dominick Scala. Photo: Kim Westerman

As a longtime freelance writer himself, Scala had some specs for what his ideal setup would be. But as he partnered with blacksmith Mark Ruddy from San Rafael to work on the interior, the space dictated something more akin to a Brooklyn loft space. They chose benches and tables made of redwood, reinforced with industrial steel. The bar is a complementary zebrawood, and adds warmth to the high-ceilinged room.

The beautiful zebrawood bar at Café Underwood.The beautiful zebrawood bar at Café Underwood. Photo: Kim Westerman

The beautiful zebrawood bar at Café Underwood. Photo: Kim Westerman

There’s also a pretty wood deck with several tables for outside workspace.

Café Underwood outside workspace. Photo: Kim Westerman

Café Underwood outside workspace. Photo: Kim Westerman

The upstairs loft space will be open soon, with rentable chair space for individuals or for large meetings of up to 20 people.

Tables are generously spaced to allow for a modicum of privacy, should you need it, and they’re also big enough for co-working or meeting with a group.

View of the main café space from the upstairs loft. Photo: Kim Westerman

View of the main café space from the upstairs loft. Photo: Kim Westerman

Lots of singles also share communal tables, easily and without crowding. What’s also nice is that, on any given morning at 11am, you might find someone drinking a glass of prosecco, and another having a Highwire latte.

A whole-milk latte made with Highwire Coffee. Photo: Kim Westerman

A whole-milk latte made with Highwire Coffee. Photo: Kim Westerman

There is a small food menu that will gradually expand as the café settles into a rhythm. Current selections include “grits” (actually, polenta) with parmesan, two kinds of frittatas, served with baby arugula, and a ploughman’s platter in two sizes, with prosciutto, salami, and a couple of cheeses of the day, served with Acme baguette and olives.

Vegetarian frittata. Photo: Kim Westerman

Vegetarian frittata. Photo: Kim Westerman

Polenta with parmesan. Photo: Kim Westerman

Polenta with parmesan. Photo: Kim Westerman

 A small ploughman’s platter. Photo: Kim Westerman

A small ploughman’s platter. Photo: Kim Westerman

The wine and beer list is also evolving, but there’s currently Ghost Town’s Tumbleweed Rye, Lucky Devil’s Aleister Abbey, and Donkey & Goat’s Rousanne white wine on tap, as well as bottles of Nebbiolo, Grüner Veltliner, Pecorino, Gavi, and two bubblies, with rotating by-the-glass options.

With its friendly vibe and aesthetically pleasing ambience, Café Underwood should prove to be a welcome respite for weary telecommuters.

Café Underwood
Address: Map

308 41st St. Oakland, CA 94609
Phone: 510-995-6660
Hours: 7am-10pm, Monday-Thursday; 7am-1am, Friday; 8am-1am, Saturday; 8am-5pm, Sunday
Price Range: $
Facebook: Café Underwood
Twitter: @CafeUnderwood

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Category: bay area, Bay Area Bites Food + Drink, beer, beverages, cocktails and spirits, east bay, local food businesses, oakland, restaurants, bars, cafes, reviews, wine

About the Author ()

Kim Westerman has been writing about food and wine for most of her adult life. Originally from North Carolina, she moved to Berkeley in 2006 to pursue the California dream, which, it turns out, is all it’s cracked up to be. She’s a farmer’s market junkie, a lover of all things tomato, and Champagne-obsessed. She loves to cook with her five-year-old son, and she makes frequent pilgrimages to International Boulevard in search of her next favorite Mexican dish. She spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and wine pairing, often starting with the wine and working backwards when planning menus. She thinks the best places to eat outside the Bay Area are Rome, Crete and Shanghai. Her work has appeared in KQED's Bay Area Bites, Forbes.com, the New York Times, Tasting Table, Fodor’s Travel Guides, and lots of other publications.
  • Niecie Williams

    Grits are grits. Polenta is polenta.

  • Regan LL.M

    Best regards and wishes to my old friend, Dominick. I hope for the cafe’s success. Even-handed and fair review, too.