The much-anticipated new restaurant from Jay Porter, who’s run successful restaurants in Southern California and made waves in the food world by advocating for tipless restaurants, is expected to open in North Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhood later this year.
The new business, called Salsipuedes, is anticipated to open at Market and 42nd streets. It has garnered excitement from neighbors because it will be the first restaurant in the immediate area. Temescal, the growing 40th Street district and Emeryville are nearby, but Longfellow itself has few dining options aside from two popular Ethiopian cafés.
Porter spoke with Nosh this week, sharing the first news about the restaurant since last fall. At that time, Porter was keeping close wraps on exactly where Salsipuedes would open, though he had signed the lease in September.
Now, with a conditional use permit approved by the city of Oakland, Porter has named the location as 4201 Market St., in a space that was, most recently, a salon. The building permit and alcohol license are still to come.
He and his wife, Katie Mayfield, plan to take a similar approach to what worked for Porter in Southern California with The Linkery, which had a “super deep farm-to-table nose-to-tail approach on food.” It will be a neighborhood-serving restaurant, expected to seat about 40, with a small menu of perhaps 12 items featuring California cuisine.
“It’s really going to be about our hospitality, being in the kitchen with Katie and me, eating this food that we’re really passionate about,” he said. “We’ll get the best ingredients we can, very localist. The cuisine is about the harmony between land and sea — so there will be a little bit of seafood, a little bit of protein and great local produce.”
He said the goal will be to do “the absolute best work we can” and described Salsipuedes as “a fun, warm place for people to come.”
He said he wasn’t sure how often the menu would change, and that it could be anywhere from every few weeks to every four months.
“It will be a place where people have favorites and they come for those favorites again and again,” he said.
The beverage program will be very “personal,” with the aim of buying all beer and wine direct from producers.
“There’s so much more richness when you’re talking to the producer every time you make an order,” Porter said. “It will be mostly local, but ideally all producer-direct.”
Porter said he and Mayfield moved up to Oakland from San Diego last year. They explored the area, riding around on their bikes and getting to know different neighborhoods, to choose the right spot for Salsipuedes.
“When we got to Longfellow, we thought, ‘This feels emotionally so good, it would be a great place for us,'” he said. “We got to know more about the neighborhood and knew it would be a great fit.”
He said they liked the layout of the neighborhood, which historically was considered part of Temescal, and is bounded by Temescal Creek to the north, State Route 24 to the east, Interstate 580 to the south, and Adeline Street to the west. Longfellow has been identified as one of Oakland’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods.
And they were also drawn to the mix of residents, a combination of longtime and newer neighbors. When they saw the “for lease” sign in the window at 4201 Market, they got in touch with the landlord, who was excited and supportive about their plans, said Porter.
“Everyone has to understand that a restaurant is a somewhat transformative thing, and they have to want those transformative qualities,” he said. “Not every landlord does, but this property owner did, and so did the neighbors we talked to.”
Porter said, from his perspective, Longfellow has immense potential to grow in terms of its food and retail offerings, though he acknowledged that his business would start out “being on an island in terms of retail,” on Market Street and in the area.
“There are so many storefronts, but they’re not being used for retail purposes,” he said. “I know it wants to be this active place. And I’m hoping we can become one of many great places.”
The couple has drawn on the Bay Area’s deep culinary traditions to help prepare to open Salsipuedes. Mayfield has been working at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco, getting to know the local culinary world. And the couple has become close with owners at Oakland’s Ordinaire and Ramen Shop, who have been “really collegial with giving us tips and advice.”
He said they’ve also drawn inspiration from West Oakland’s FuseBOX, “and what they’re doing in a neighborhood sense. It’s a modest scale but they’re doing it so excellently, and really heartfelt cooking. That’s exactly the kind of thing we want to do.”
The couple’s move to Northern California was driven, in part, by their belief that the Bay Area could better support a restaurant with a deep commitment to sustainability and local food. He’s not aiming for a “super high end” place, but added, “People here understand what farm-to-table costs.”
Said Porter: “For us, it’s the best ingredients in the country, the best food market in the country. If you’re able to do an excellent restaurant in the Bay Area, people are going to know about you. People are going to come.”