It feels awfully cozy inside North Light, the newest addition to Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. The all-day cafe and bar opens this afternoon with a lofty goal: “We’re trying to create a place that offers what anyone wants at any part of the day,” said co-owner Dan Stone.
That means, when it opens at 7 a.m., North Light functions as a cafe where folks in the neighborhood can go to work and read. The music — provided at all hours from a record player — will linger on jazz, classical, and other genres conducive to focusing. Drinks like Turkish coffee, nitro cold brew on tap, and sparkling lavender matcha (there’s no espresso bar) will fuel productivity alongside daytime sustenance such as avocado toast and grain bowls.
But in the evenings, lights will dim, candles will flicker, and rock ‘n’ roll will blare across the room. Folks can drop in for a full dinner or a round of Mediterranean-inspired cocktails until midnight, sitting along the teal tile-lined bar or out on the spacious covered patio. The narrow, 700-square-foot space, formerly wine bar Marc 49, has been completely redone thanks to from architect Said-Jon Eghbal and designer Jill Rosenthal (also behind Rich Table and Belcampo in Oakland).
Beyond the all-day aspect, owners Stone and Lee Smith are bringing their unique creative edge to the space. Stone founded the now-shuttered literary and music magazine Radio Silence, interviewed legends for City Arts & Lectures, and produced documentaries at the National Endowment for the Arts. (He also bartended at cocktail bars like the Alembic.) Smith, meanwhile, is the concert promoter behind Prescient Entertainment. That’s why music is such a focus, with large drawers full of vinyl for sale, in addition to a wall of magazines and 18 bookshelves that dominate the room.
Those shelves are lined with roughly 300 titles, each selected by 16 notable people such as George Saunders, Patti Smith, and Samin Nosrat. Down the line, Stone says each book will come with a bookmark stamped with a personal recommendation — for example, a note explaining why Smith loves César Aira’s An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter. Stone hopes to host literary events at the 25-seat patio in the future.
Ronnie New, the opening chef at the Mission’s Alamo Drafthouse, has created a simple menu of lighter, Mediterranean-influenced fare for North Light. Daytime offerings include bacon-egg-Manchego sandwiches, patatas bravas, and beets with harissa. At night, full entrees like steak with blue cheese and shrimp with black garlic aioli as well as bar snacks like deviled eggs and sardine crostini join the menu. While there’s a lot of great food in Temescal, New says it lacks late-night, early-morning, and vegetable-forward options — ditto the sort of light, Californian-Mediterranean flavors he loves. “We had a void to fill,” he says.
Den Stephens, the general manager and bar director, hails from popular Portland, Ore. spots like Oven and Shaker, Higgins, Coopers Hall, and Hamlet. His cocktail menu continues North Light’s Mediterranean vibe with an emphasis on ingredients like Campari, vermouth, Bénédictine, and Aperol. Wines primarily come from France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. (See the food and drink menus below.)
Stone, who lives in the neighborhood with two young kids, also wants to make sure North Light is particularly friendly to families. There’s a brief kids’ menu, plus a nice changing table and “a staff that’s very excited about welcoming families and kids,” as opposed to treating them like a burden.
North Light Daytime Menu by on Scribd
North Light Nighttime Menu by on Scribd
North Light opens today at 3 p.m. at 4915 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. Its hours through Sunday will be 3 to 10 p.m. Starting Tuesday, January 22, it’ll be open 7 a.m. to midnight every day except Mondays.