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Mmmm… Mama’s

I said it was deserving of its own post, so here it is: Mama’s Royal Cafe!

outside Mama's Royal Cafe

Located on the border of the Temescal and Piedmont neighborhood’s in Oakland at Broadway and 40th, Mama’s is an Oakland institution. They opened their doors over 35 years ago in this same spot and have been going strong ever since.

I went Saturday morning after a brief discussion with a friend who lives close by:

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” I said. “There are already folks lining up outside.”

He said, “Well maybe we should go somewhere else…”

And I replied, “I want my Mama’s!!!

End of discussion. And so we walked, and we waited, and as I’ve said before, it’s always worth it!

mama's royal cafe art

The thing that makes Mama’s unique is their combo of vintage eclectic decor with today’s fancy farm-fresh local produce. You’re in this classic diner-feeling establishment, eating Niman Ranch meats, Petaluma eggs, Acme bread (which is out of this world… when they ask you what kind of toast you want, the correct answer is “Acme”), and amazing seasonal fruits and veggies, typically featured in their specials of the day.

I had one of their specials on this visit: a roasted fennel frittata with carmelized onions, parmesan cheese and a few other yummy ingredients. Served with perfect potatoes crispy-cooked  (it amazes me how many breakfast places have mediocre potatoes), and that incredible Acme toast. I made my way through my entire platter of food and was munching on my last piece of toast when my friend said, “That bread is the best!” I only had three bites left, slathered in butter and jam, but I offered it to him. I was already over-stuffed, and in general, am working on being a better sharer. He was grateful.

One of my favorite Summer Specials is their fresh fruit crepes. They only serve this when the most amazing berries, mangoes, nectarines, and kiwis are available, all tucked into delectable crepes with a créme fraîche sauce to die for. If you’re like me – you have a hard time deciding between sweet and savory and are always trying to talk your friends into getting both and splitting them – this is a great one to get. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait about 8 months before it’s available again. It’s worth the wait!

The restaurant has 3 rooms… the main entrance leads you into the sign-up area, coffee station, counter seating, and small tables near the window. Next over is a narrow room filled with wooden bench booths… this is a cool spot if you want a little privacy. Each booth has possesses one of these quaint little jukeboxes (unfortunately now inoperable) which back in the day, played two songs for a nickel… “the equivalent of two complete records!

mama's royal cafe, mixmaster vintage advertisement

vintage aprons at mama's royal cafe

The farthest room is the largest… ideal for bigger groups and great people watching.

The entire restaurant is filled with quirky art… vintage aprons and teacups galore, boomer era advertising (I love the Mixmaster poster above – “it even polishes silverware!”), Poodle with a Mohawk, and of course, the wonderful napkin art.


Every spring, Mama’s hosts their annual Napkin Art Contest with real cash prizes… this is no joke! Top napkin takes four hundred smackerooos, second and third get $200 and $100 respectively, plus more complimentary breakfasts and kids prizes too. Only requirement is that a paper napkin must be used. 2010 entries due March 31st… prizes distributed April 15th. You can see original winning entries displayed at the restaurant, and photos of winners in Mama’s online photo gallery. This stuff is amazing!

sign at mama's royal cafe