The Oakland Museum of California should see a boost in food-loving visitors thanks to a recognizable chef taking over the menu at the Town Fare Cafe, the restaurant inside OMCA. The chef behind San Francisco’s former Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles, Michele McQueen, is now running the ship at Town Fare and her new menu is now making its debut. “McQueen’s new menu for Town Fare pays homage to her family roots and Oakland upbringing and aims to bring together flavors from the diverse cultures within the local community,” the museum’s website reads.
Michele McQueen. Photo Credit: OMCA
Town Fare Cafe has been in somewhat of a limbo since celebrity chef Tanya Holland left the restaurant in January. Since then, the menu has had a Hawaiian theme thanks to Hawaiian chef Puaokalani Barquis, who was hired as a temporary fill-in until the museum made a permanent hire. With the addition of McQueen, the restaurant now seems to have a clear direction, which is centered on Southern food but includes other influences. OMCA’s CEO Lori Fogarty said in a statement to SFGate, "her approach to food and hospitality are the perfect fit for OMCA – both embody a deep commitment to bringing people together through art, history, and science with a 'town flare' that is signature Oakland."
Of course, McQueen’s new menu features her expertly-made fried chicken, which has been dialed in through her work at Gussie’s and while running a Northern California location of the LA-based chain, Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles. The fried chicken at Town Fare comes with red beans, chow chow, rice, and cornbread. Other entrees include grilled salmon with field pea succotash, chicken andouille sausage, and low country shrimp and grits. On the appetizer side, you’ll find a fried green tomato Caprese salad, and dip-ables with a southern flare, like black-eyed pea hummus, collard green dip, and pimento cheese. McQueen said in a statement, “Oakland represents many different cultures and I want the menu at Town Fare to be a reflection of that.“
Photo Credit: OMCA
There will also be a full list of beer, wine, and cocktails from Black-owned companies including Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, Hella Coastal Brewery, and Wachira Wines. According to Eater, “McQueen also teamed up with Sadé Stamps of SweetWater Consulting on a cocktail menu with options such as Bissap Rum Punch made with sorrel and allspice dram and the Hot Oaxaca, a blend of mezcal, watermelon sangrita, and guajillo chiles.”
Along with McQueen’s debut comes a large new sun deck dining area at Town Fare Cafe that has an outdoor bar and room for 45 guests. It will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with cocktails and a limited food menu. The indoor cafe is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The cafe and the patio are both open to the public without the need for a ticket to the museum.