As a longtime fan of the departed Full House Café, I was eager to check out the new Sequoia Diner that now occupies the space at 3719 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland’s Laurel District. We planned to get there as close to 8 a.m. as possible, since we expected the recent buzz would mean big crowds early in the day.
As it happens, we were right about the crowds: at 8:15 we got our pick of tables for two, which are in the center of the room. The booths, one holdover from Full House, are for larger parties. Counter seating was also available. By 8:30, the house looked pretty full with families, friends and a number of single diners enjoying their breakfasts. One woman at the next table loved her huevos rancheros so much, she showed me the photo she took of the dish, which she not only described as “setting a new standard” but also declared “a work of art.”
After just over two weeks in operation, the diner feels crisp and new, with its white walls and mounted greenery. It’s not fair to compare the look of the place with the old Full House, home of the poker-playing dogs. The fresh look takes some getting used to. Light wood floors and tables and lots of plants: a lean and green décor establishes the diner’s “it’s about the food” philosophy.
And what about the food? We got off to a good start with some Highwire coffee. As we waited to order, I noticed the mismatched flatware, which reminded me of my first visit to Chez Panisse just after it opened. A good omen? A nice, homey touch in any case.
I ordered the American breakfast: two eggs any style (I like mine poached), with potatoes and toast ($10). I asked to substitute the house English muffin for the toast. The English muffins at Arizmendi are the ones to beat, so I was eager to see what Sequoia produced. My companion ordered the breakfast sandwich: house English muffin with cheddar, egg and ham ($9). We agreed to share a side of house made bacon ($4). The bacon, served crisp, was excellent.
While I was delighted with my eggs (done just the way I like them), the surprising appearance of a wonderfully dressed salad and the just-right potatoes, the English muffin was more like a hamburger bun (albeit a good one) and not at all the crunchy, buttery item I had hoped for. I spoke with the server about it, noting my expectation of a more traditional English muffin, and asked if I might have a biscuit instead. She promptly went back to the kitchen and brought me a perfect biscuit — which is the measure of a great diner, in my opinion. The golden brown biscuit she brought, along with some sweet and delicious strawberry jam, will keep me coming back to Sequoia Diner in the future.
Attentive service (several refills on our coffee, friendly but not intrusive check-ins) and a well-staffed house made this a most pleasant dining experience on a busy Saturday morning. I’m glad we got there early and had the opportunity to savor our breakfast.
Change is good. Welcome to the Laurel District, Sequoia!