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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Lodge on Piedmont Avenue: Antlers Above the Rest

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge Avocado Toast - SCOTT CARROLL
  • Scott Carroll
  • Avocado Toast

On the heel of Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue, the familiar brown-shingled siding and rooftop of Egbert Sousé’s cocktail lounge is no more, and a log cabin exterior painted the color of deli mustard has taken its place. The original brick walls remain standing, but there’s an instantly recognizable stag’s head on the sign outside. It's familiar enough to anyone who has sunk their teeth into the meat lover’s sandwiches at Stag’s Lunchette downtown. The Lodge is the fourth Oakland boîte to open as part of Alexis Filipello’s burgeoning culinary empire, which also includes Bar Dogwood and Darling’s Elixirs.

click to enlarge Bar at The Lodge - SCOTT CARROLL
  • Scott Carroll
  • Bar at The Lodge

Once inside The Lodge entrance (the doormen are still sitting astride their stools), you’ll find the transformation is more than skin-deep. Gone now are the rows of RGB screens flashing plasma beams from every orifice of wall space. The vertical wood panelling has turned horizontal, just like the aesthetic. How proud would the characters in Portlandia be to discover this orgy of antlers!

Although the outdoor patio has strings of charming overhead lights and rows of community tables, you are not in Brooklyn despite the $10 cocktails and the avocado toast ($5). It is, perhaps, shocking that a chef known for menus meant to delight a carnivore could have created a happy array of vegetarian (if not vegan) snacks and sandwiches. You can build your own grilled cheese ($6) with a tangy tomato jam or bacon chutney: Each additional ingredient only enhances the basic building block of sharp white cheddar and mozzarella.

click to enlarge Roxy's Veggie Sandwich - SCOTT CARROLL
  • Scott Carroll
  • Roxy's Veggie Sandwich
Roxy’s Veggie Sandwich ($10) on Dutch crunch housed a wide cross-section of crisp and creamy textures: pickled beans, hummus spread, artichoke hearts, avocado, marinated mushrooms, tomato, and smoked provolone. The friendliest bartender in the East Bay announced with chagrin that they were out of chicken chicharrones ($7), the hot ticket item for the night. Instead, a side salad of greens ($5) with sheep feta, cherry tomatoes, and a vibrant citrus vinaigrette refreshed the palate of all that gluten.

Filipello must be in love with Oakland. She’s investing in and reinventing one neighborhood joint after another. Her determination to succeed is written on every refurbished interior wall, hanging off of every antler. One question remains: Where will that stag’s head show up next? Bets are being placed now on the Dimond district or the Laurel for 2016.

The Lodge, 3758 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-350-8470.

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