Grease Box is taking its gluten-free baked goods and comfort food to Downtown Oakland, seeking investments to make the move from its original, shack-like space in North Oakland to a more central spot and targeting a late-summer opening.
Chef/owner Lizzy Boelter started Grease Box as a fried chicken food cart before moving to a permanent location at 942 Stanford Avenue three-and-a-half years ago. There, she shifted her focus to gluten-free baked goods and brunch, delivering food via Caviar and Uber Eats, but putting her dinner service on hold due to a lack of nearby customers.
“We were on an island, basically,” says Boelter, “we were just there in this industrial neighborhood.” Boelter’s betting that her new address at 378 17th Street, with better foot traffic, will deliver more diners — but there are other advantages, too. “One of the best things about being in Downtown Oakland is it’s full of other women-owned businesses — and queer-women-owned businesses, and businesses owned by women of color and queer women of color. I didn’t fully realize that until people started coming out of the woodwork to welcome us to the neighborhood.”
After cooking at restaurants like Pizzaiolo, where she was unable to eat the food due to her celiac disease, Boelter developed gluten-free (and gum-free) versions of American comfort foods. Grease Box may be a favorite of gluten-intolerant and celiac-suffering diners, but Boelter’s classics like burgers, chicken and waffles, and pies get high marks from gluten-eaters, too.
The new Grease Box will be an all-day restaurant with a pastry shop, bakery, and a bar serving gluten free beer and cider. Boelter says she’ll maintain her previous menu and expand on it, promising “all the fried things; all the cheesy things.” In the meantime, those looking for Grease Box’s gluten-free sourdough are in luck. Bi-Rite has plans to carry Boelter’s raw, take-and-bake sour bread dough soon.
To build out the bakery and restaurant’s new, 1,200 square-foot kitchen and dining room, Boelter is seeking $75,000 in funds through Wefunder, a site where supporters can make micro-investments of $100 or more. “Our friends aren’t rich, and we don’t have the same access to venture capital as some companies do,” says Boelter. “As someone who’s not the white-guy making wood-fired pizza, it’s a different challenge.” And as opposed to funds raised on sites like gofundme, Grease Box will owe back money it makes through Wefunder. “I wanted investors, not donations,” says Boelter. “I don’t want to just take a handout from people.”