Crave BBQ to Open in West Oakland's California Hotel

It will be part of the new California Hotel Live! Visual and Performing Arts Cultural Hub.


Image courtesy of EBALDC

In partnership with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), Bay Area native chef Rashad Armstead announced today that he will move his restaurant, Crave BBQ, to the historic California Hotel and into the newly established California Hotel Live! Visual and Performing Arts Cultural Hub — a community gathering place outfitted for locals to be entertained, meet, and eat, located in West Oakland's San Pablo Avenue Corridor neighborhood.

“We are so pleased that Crave BBQ has found a home in West Oakland where Rashad and his family have such deep roots,” said EBALDC director of commercial real estate Carolyn Johnson. 

“Beyond great food, Crave will help make California Hotel Live! into a true cultural hub where San Pablo Corridor residents can come together to break bread in community.”

Having opened in 1930 and closed in 1971, then abandoned, the red-brick hotel in its heyday drew such noted performers as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sly Stone, James Brown, Mahalia Jackson, Richard Pryor, BB King, Big Mama Thornton, Lou Rawls, and Duke Ellington. It has now been renovated and provides 137 units of affordable housing as well as commercial space. 

With its soft opening set for early next year, Crave BBQ will join other tenants including Blackball Universe, Resilient Wellness, the SPARC-It Place, and the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music (OPCM).

“The journey to getting to this point was not easy, but we believed that with God on our side anything was possible,” Armstead said. 

“My wife Chandi and I are now ready to show the world it is never about how you start, but about how you never gave up, no matter how hard life gets." 

Crave BBQ began last year as a pop-up, according to SF.Eater, then grew a fan-base for its slowly smoked meats. The forthcoming restaurant will serve these as well as mac-and-cheese, yams, collard greens, and other sides. 

Armstead also helmed a Berkeley-based catering business, Artistic Taste 7.

His great-grandmother, Sarah Rawls, opened her first restaurant in West Oakland before launching further restaurants, writing cookbooks, and producing a TV cooking show, also according to Eater.

“Crave BBQ is more than a restaurant. It is an incubator that trains future restaurant entrepreneurs,” said OPCM founding director Angela Wellman.

“The Oakland Public Conservatory of Music will be collaborating in the design of a comprehensive youth program that teaches collaboration across the food and entertainment sectors," she explained. 

"Crave's youth will operate food pop-ups in what will be an exciting, vibrant youth-run food and entertainment collaboration.” 

Since 1975, the nonprofit East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation has invested over $200 million in assets that have impacted the local community physically and socially. 

"With Crave BBQ, we will be the voice for the underdogs and the overcomers, and will show Oakland we must all exist even in adverse times," Armstead said.

"That is our power: to make our presence known and to say, ‘We're not going anywhere anytime soon.'”

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