San Francisco may get all the credit as one of the country’s top food cities, but just across the Bay, in Oakland, another food movement is taking place. That movement’s no-holds-barred, anything-goes mentality is on display at Haven, an airy restaurant serving progressive American food in a convivial setting. At Haven, which lies on a newly renovated piece of Oakland waterfront, executive chef Charlie Parker offers an inexpensively-priced set menu that’s served family-style.
“The food community is fun, low-key, positive, farm-to-table. Oakland is very open; there’s not too much judgment. You’re pretty much able to do whatever you want, and you’re close to great produce. A lot of great chefs are moving here, and it’s a pleasure to go out to eat,” he says.
Dinner at Haven always starts off with a dish called “Breaking Bread,” a platter of pickles, meats, spreads, cheeses, and breads, which sums up what the restaurant is all about.
“Our first course is supposed to be break down doors and make people feel welcome,” he told us. “We want people to enjoy being here with friends and family and not have to think so much about the menu and what they’re going to order.”
Parker has the same mentality when it comes to hosting Thanksgiving, whether it’s with family or friends. Much of the recipes from the “friendsgiving” he hosted with the close-knit staff at Haven were a nod to the Northern California setting he lives in, as well as nostalgic favorites from growing up.
“A lot of my recipes are done so I can make them ahead, so I can actually spend time with friends and family,” he says, alluding to many of the items he uses from the restaurant’s larder, such as pickled vegetables and preserves. “I’m used to my mom making Thanksgiving, and everything’s super rich. We want to stay away from that, and use more acid, more greens, more vegetables. Everything’s local, very light, and straightforward — although I’m lowbrowing some things, like using cornbread as a stuffing.”
Regardless of what’s on the menu, friends and family remain number one. Says Parker: “There’s a lot of hard work that goes into this business, and it kind of shows that people spend a lot of long hard hours and it’s nice to sit down and connect over food. It brings you down back to earth.”
To experience Friendsgiving at Haven firsthand, catch our video below.
For more, including Charlie Parker’s Northern California “friendsgiving” menu, head to our Open Kitchen: Haven page.