The mid-century dinner party might seem like an odd source of inspiration for a restaurant, what with the era’s famously gravity-defying Jell-O salads and oh-so-American tuna casseroles. But that’s the idea behind Bardo Lounge & Supper Club, a new restaurant and bar opening on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland on Wednesday, October 10.
Owners Seth and Jenni Bregman bought Michelin-approved Michel Bistro last year with the intention of eventually transforming the neighborhood French restaurant into a 1960s living room-esque lounge. It took years of collecting furniture, light fixtures, and other decor — traveling to flea markets and vintage dealers up and down the West Coast — to complete Bardo’s look with help from Arcsine, the design firm that also worked on Duende and Calavera.
The downstairs lounge space captures that living room feel — that, or of a vintage furniture shop — with intimate nooks, different colors and shapes, soft lighting, wood paneling, and comfy surfaces. Each piece has a story behind it: Seth’s mom’s 50-year-old couch; a chandelier from the historic Imperial Hotel in Portland, Oregon circa 1953; a yet-to-be-installed door from San Francisco’s original Fog City Diner. Jenni will be the resident DJ, playing a mix of R&B, soul, jazz, bossa nova, and retro-inspired modern music — “always groovy,” she says.
Seth, a former bartender at acclaimed post-Prohibition cocktail bar Stookey’s Club Moderne, brought on Jason Huffman (The Grid, Blackwater Station, Rich Table) to manage the bar. The menu emphasizes spirit-forward cocktails using house-made tinctures and syrups as well as foraged garnishes, all served from eclectic — often gold-embellished — vintage glassware. Some are reimagined classics, like a vegan version of a Grasshopper with creme de menthe, coconut cream, crème de cacao, and toasted coconut foam.
“We didn’t just want to pull a mid-century cocktail out of a recipe book and make that, but we used them as inspiration,” Seth says.
The food follows suit, as envisioned by former Michel Bistro chefs Anthony Salguero and Brian Starkey. Between them, the two have held stints at Sons and Daughters, Commonwealth SF, and Plumed Horse in the past. They devoured cookbooks from the 1950s and 1960s, acknowledging that most of the dishes don’t immediately excite but finding inspiration in how home cooks were beginning to embrace the idea of global cuisine.
In the downstairs lounge, the chefs will serve small bar bites directly inspired by these cookbooks: a reinvented green bean casserole, oyster and bone marrow pot pie, “covered” castelvetrano olives with house-made cream cheese and pimentos.
“We’re taking a familiar item and giving it a little refurbishing,” Starkey says.
In the upstairs mezzanine, the chefs will offer a three-course menu for $59 that showcases more of the experimental, international leanings of the era. Entrees will include a spread of condiments, pickles, and fermented extras to encourage sharing and passing items around, just like a dinner party. Dishes might look like chilled, jerk-rubbed chicken with ginger fried rice and puffed rice crackers, or hand-cut noodles in foie gras butter with cognac and aged gouda.
“This is definitely more us,” Salguero says. “That’s what so exciting about this project — we can do anything we want when it comes to food.”
Bardo Lounge & Supper Club is scheduled to open Wednesday, October 10, at 3343 Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland.