Inside OMCA: Blue Oak Cafe

I spent the morning at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), a museum dedicated to California art, history, and natural sciences. As a child, I have had many memories and field trips to OMCA to view the large collection of California art. As an adult, I have visited OMCA to attend private events, Friday Nights at OMCA, and special exhibits.
Today I was there to catch the exhibit Respect: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom before it closes in another week, on August 12. From music, dance, fashion, and graffiti art, the exhibit explores the many facets of Hip-Hop culture. It was cool to see that the exhibit attracted an ethnically diverse group as well as young and old.  

I stopped to have an early lunch at the Blue Oak Cafe, OMCA’s dining option. Today, the cafe is run by Grace Street Catering. Blue Oak Cafe offers a variety of options including soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches.  
I decided to order the BLT which is prepared with Niman Ranch Applewood smoked bacon, butter lettuce, tomato, harissa aioli on sliced sourdough bread. I was impressed by the generous sized BLT that also came with an organic mixed green salad topped with pickled vegetables. The harissa aioli spread elevated the sandwich and gave it a California twist. It was all very fresh as well.  
The Blue Oak Cafe appeared to be pretty popular. As I was heading out, the tables were filling up and the line to order was quite long. The cafe has some outdoor seating with umbrellas, so it’s definitely a nice place to enjoy lunch, an afternoon snack, or a glass of vino. The Blue Oak Cafe is open on museum days (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) and admission to OMCA is not required to eat there.

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Blue Oak Cafe: Inside Oakland’s Museum

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It has been over a year since the Oakland Museum of California went through a major renovation. Today it is much more modern. Although it has kept its extensive California History exhibit, it has brought in some great exhibits. When they reopened in 2011, they brought the fun Pixar exhibit. Today, they have the 1968 Exhibit which describes the major events of that year. My book club met there today and afterwards we had lunch at the museum café, Blue Oak.

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The café was also upgraded during the renovation and the food has gotten a little fancier. Blue Oak Cafe serves mostly salads and sandwiches, but they seem to do it well. I ordered the tuna nicoise salad, which came with seared Ahi tuna, haricot vert, potatoes, boiled egg, and olives. This is actually one of my favorite salads and they did a good job with it.

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Several of my friends ordered the chicken salad sandwich on focaccia bread. I had a bite and thought the filling was excellent and the thinly sliced apples in it made a huge difference in texture and taste.

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When my friend’s beet salad came out, there were “oohs and ahhs”. It was such a beautiful presentation unexpected for the museum café. I suspect that this was a tasty dish as the plate was licked clean.

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If you are visiting the Oakland Museum, you should not bypass the Blue Oak Café. The food is pretty good and you can feel good about supporting a local institution.