Part Incubator, Part Cafe

Forage Kitchen celebrates togetherness.


Forage Kitchen brings artisans and business together.

Lori Eanes

Iso Rabins loves to eat. He loves to cook. He loves harvesting wild ingredients—which is how his ForageSF collective, Underground Market, Wild Kitchen dinners and “CSF” (Community Supported Forage) food-delivery program rendered him a foodie celebrity.

Because what he likes best about all these activities is sharing them with like-minded souls, Rabins launched Forage Kitchen in Oakland’s Uptown district this fall. Part communal workspace, part cafe, it’s outfitted with top-flight equipment—charbroiler, deep-fryer, tilting skillet, stockpot burners, reach-in freezers, 30-quart mixer, Cryovac—along with office space, a cookbook library, conference room, meat-curing room, dishwashing staff, composting zone, and retail space. Workshops, a PR firm, and a bookkeeper further help artisans become businesspersons.

“The thread that runs through all the things I’ve done is connecting people with their environment, giving them a new understanding of their environment, and providing resources for them to do what they want,” Rabins explained.

Whether it’s a prosciutto entrepreneur or someone with more plums than she can comfortably pickle into umeboshi at home, “being around people who are philosophically aligned creates a kind of osmosis that gets you doing stuff you wouldn’t otherwise have even thought of.”

The cafe’s “well-thought-out menu,” as Rabins described it, is a collaboration between himself and Jeff Mason, whose immensely popular sandwiches—sold briefly via Pal’s Take Away at Firebrand in Oakland—“are the best I’ve ever tasted, anywhere.”

Augmenting a rotating array of chefs and of member-made edibles, one cafe standby is rotisserie chicken “with a cardamom-star anise braise that I’m really excited about, because I like to do weird fun stuff.”

That stuff includes pop-ups, First Fridays, and family-style potlucks.

“What’s cool about Oakland that used to be cool about San Francisco is that sense of freedom, a feeling in the air that people want to do interesting things. San Francisco has become so expensive and cutthroat that if you don’t succeed 100 percent right away at whatever you’re doing, you’re done. If you want to do some interesting, creative thing, but you don’t have a million dollars—in Oakland, there’s still that freedom.”

Forage Kitchen, 478 25th St., Oakland,


Published online on Nov. 4, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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