The first thing you notice when you enter Marrow is the backs of heads eating at the front counter. In our case, the shaved heads of four Teamster-looking dudes chowing down on lunch.
The second thing you notice is a giant sheaf of brown paper tacked to the wall, with Marrow's mission statement written out. It's the usual earnest foodie paean to local, sustainable animal slaughter, relatively new to Downtown Oakland and always nice to see.
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"Discriminating" is the keyword here. With portions this dainty, the food had better be excellent -- and it is. Classic, too: with dressed-up staples like a grilled cheese made with olive tapenade or a Reuben with housemade kraut, Marrow wants everything old to be new again.
A perfectly cooked dish of grilled Delta asparagus with shaved grana over carpaccio feels both nutritious and slightly decadent, although the soft egg felt tacked on. Beef fat fries -- hell, the joint is called "Marrow," not, say, "Watercress" -- are the shoestring kind, similar to In & Out's, only heartier. They're the kind that you don't want anyone to watch you cram into your mouth faster and faster.
Ringed with a wooden counter, with blown-up photos of Oakland landmarks and only two actual tables with another outside, Marrow is "masculine-cute" (except they should probably reconsider plopping the compost and recycling bins in the front window). Sit-down food comes on a paper-lined metal tray with no fuss.
As with S.F.'s Heyday, the trend towards simple, familiar lunch options freshly prepared is smartly refreshing (and probably ideal for maximum turnover). In Marrow, the locavore movement has gone in the right direction.
Marrow, 325 19th St., Oakland.