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Cheap Eats: Cafe Umami


Photo from Chloe B. yelp.com

Why go? Any spot serving meals this delicious is worth bookmarking, but with its focus on umami—the gloriously satisfying, rich mouthfeel imparted by glutamate-rich foods (like parmesan on pasta)—this affordable café deserves best-in-class status. 

What’s the vibe like? Narrow and simple like a coffee shop, with a community picnic table and a smattering of café seating, Umami’s personality lies in its modern lighting, hanging plants, and welcoming service. 

What to order? The eight brown rice bowls with creamy ginger-tahini sauce are outrageously good and as substantial as ramen, yet not as daunting. The Balanced Bowl brings an umami-laden mix of avocado, mushrooms, burdock root, kale, and a shower of cotija cheese. The eight toasts—utilizing thick slices of Acme bread—are equally generous. Stick with Aleppo pepper–dusted avocado toast, or top it off with sardines and miso brown butter. 

Added bonus: Bone broth, mushroom coffee, fantastic teas (including chocolaty Aztec Spice), and treats from Berkeley’s Third Culture Bakery. 

How much? Toasts cost $6–$10; bowls are $8–$14. 2224 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, (510) 646-2394, cafeumami.com. Breakfast and late lunch Mon.–Sat. $

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