Cafe Ohlone by mak-'amham
@ University Press Books/Musical Offering
2430 Bancroft Way, xučyun (Berkeley) — see map at bottom of page
We are currently offering a series of lunchtime tastings every Thursday and biweekly Saturday dinners until our hours are finalized. To find out when we will be open, visit our Twitter feed
Bringing Ohlone small bites, Native teas, smoked meats and Indigenous food sovereignty back to Berkeley.
*hours will change based on needs of our community — for updated hours please visit our website and @makamham on Twitter at the start of each week for menu and weekly hours
A pre-contact, contemporary Ohlone restaurant in the middle of xučyun (Berkeley)
We're dreaming big things with a small space.
Cafe Ohlone by mak-'amham will open in the terraced back patio and kitchen space of University Press Books and Musical Offering Cafe at 2430 Bancroft Ave., xučyun (Berkeley).
In the next month, we are carefully curating and building up our new space to reflect Ohlone culture — and we are dreaming big. Imagine walking through the rushed, urban cityscape of modern Berkeley and entering University Press Books, a charming, iconic bookstore where you'll walk through it's long, narrow corridors to reach the very back garden where the door for Cafe Ohlone will be. We are building a space with intentionality and one that reflects who we come from.
Walking into Cafe Ohlone's door will be a celebration of Ohlone culture; Chochenyo language — the inner East Bay's first language — proudly on the menus, the aromas of Native plants flowering in abundance, resting on our shelves will be functional and beautiful Ohlone baskets, tule mats will be placed in baskets for people to have a seat on our back staircase, and a reclaimed communal redwood table is in the works for a central seating space, in homage to the old villages many of our direct ancestors come from in the redwoods of the Oakland Hills and Carmel Valley. Photographs of our family and some of the heroes of the Ohlone community will be displayed, and a fire pit will allow traditional warmth on even chilly East Bay nights. We are excited to have deep involvement from the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, the sovereign Tribe of the East Bay that co-founder Vince Medina belongs to, and for family members and elders from co-founder Louis Trevino's Rumsen Ohlone community to collaborate often allowing us to have a dynamic Ohlone-run space that reflects our Indigenous identity.
Natural ingredients that we gather of salt, Indian teas, acorns and walnuts will be shown in respectful ways as reminders that our food is always sourced from our land. Strings of lights will move up the banisters for nighttime dining and contemporary Indigenous music will commingle with the lively conversations we imagine happening at Cafe Ohlone.
And of course, we'll eat. Cafe Ohlone will prepare small bites that will change every week based on seasonality. As an example, we will have mineral-rich tender Indian greens, bubble gum-flavored early growth shoots and Indian onions during the wet times of early Spring; juicy huckleberry, oak woodland blackberry, wild strawberry, earthy hazelnut, rusty red California buckwheat and oily chia seed dishes in Summer; baked rich black oak acorn bread and caffeinated bay nut truffles during Fall's acorn harvest; as Winter comes our dishes will get heavier and utilize more preserved ingredients, such as bay salt cured meats, dried summertime berries and umami-rich locally gathered chanterelles. To get a better idea of some dishes we will prepare, please visit our menu.
Cafe Ohlone will have a wood smoker to slowly roast our traditional meat, Native meats that we treat and obtain with respect and gratitude. Some of our traditional meats that we plan to prepare are: venison, quail, salmon, elk, duck, rabbit, clams and mussels. Traditionally, our meats would be cooked for hours at a low temperature in a subterranean earth oven; while earth ovens are still used in the Ohlone community, we are going to use a contemporary wood smoker to prepare traditional meats in our Cafe space. Daily, in the latter part of each day, we will offer a meat smoked in oak, manzanita or bay laurel wood that cooks slowly and fills the space with the rooted aromatic smells and flavors of Ohlone cooking.
We will have four different local, Native teas that we gather at the start of each week — rose hip, yerba buena, hummingbird sage, artemisia, elderberry, black sage, and manzanita berry are some that we will have regularly, when these plants are available. We will describe the language and the cultural uses of the teas, and our living connections to the old places where they're gathered, as well as the benefits they offer. And while coffee isn't native to the Bay Area, it's something many of our people adopted soon after it was introduced — we plan to have Ohlone-style coffee, locally roasted coffee that has been infused with roasted bay nuts and piñon nuts (when available) and hand pressed walnut and hazelnut milk that has been infused with sweet and spicy East Bay gathered bay laurel.
We are creating a space where Ohlone culture and cuisine is respected and celebrated regularly, a place where these powerful ways can thrive. We want to create a space where Ohlone people can see our culture and cuisine reflected in the public. We also want a space where people outside the Ohlone community can experience the richness of our traditional food while seeing the vibrancy of contemporary Ohlone identity.
We imagine Cafe Ohlone being a place for meaningful, boundary breaking dialogue, a meeting place for protecting our sacred sites, a launching pad for gathering trips with our family and Tribe, a place of dialogue about decolonization, a place where we host open mic for poetry and song in California Indian languages and organize talks from leaders in the Ohlone community about our living story. While this is a lot, for those who want to pop in and have a cup of hummingbird sage tea and an acorn flour brownie, while sitting alone and simply experiencing our cuisine — Cafe Ohlone will be that place too.
We want to express our gratitude to the team at University Press Books/Musical Offering Cafe, as well as the Christensen Fund, for helping us make our vision a reality.
It's been a long time coming; we wholeheartedly understand the importance of the revival of our Ohlone foodways as we enter this new stage and see Ohlone foods coming out of memories of elders and the kitchens of tribal members and back into the world around us. We feel proud to be a part of bringing back something we have been lacking for too long — our food.
We always recognize and acknowledge that it is our ancestors and our elders who guide this work and teach us how to gather, prepare and eat our Indigenous foods a second time. We respect and give gratitude to this fact, and to their strength, dignity and power.
'ammamak 'oyyo! Let's eat, again.