The area around the Richmond BART station isn’t exactly known as a culinary hotspot, but a vibrant new takeout place could start shaking up that perception. With the heart of the East Bay city’s Mexican and Salvadoran food enclave several blocks away, the stretch of Macdonald Avenue near 23rd Street is a relative restaurant wasteland. Amid the nail salons and barber shops, there’s not much beyond a McDonald’s — and, now, an ambitious little takeout operation called 2207 that sells, among other delicacies, Korean-inflected kalbi banh mi.
Named after its street address, 2207 (“twenty-two zero seven”) opened in June with no fanfare and practically no external signage. For a while, Yelp reviewers seemed to believe the restaurant was called “Infrared Charbroiler,” the only visible sign in the window, which is actually just a reference to the high-heat cooking appliance favored by the chef.
The restaurant is the first for its young Korean-American chef, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Daniel. (He told Eater SF he’s just press-shy and eschews all social media beyond 2207’s Instagram page.) This is a family operation: Daniel does all of the cooking in the back; his mother works as the cashier in front. The restaurant is only open four days a week, for lunch only. It’s not listed on Grubhub or DoorDash. The only dine-in option is one long, communal standing table.
But the food listed on the concise, diner-style signboard menu is legit — and surprisingly eclectic. That aforementioned banh mi is a masterpiece of sandwich construction, even if it isn’t really a “banh mi,” strictly speaking. The charcoal-grilled short ribs, prepared with a homemade yakiniku-style marinade, are layered with cucumber rounds, grilled onions and peppers, and crisp lettuce. You can get the same short ribs bone-in, over rice.
Otherwise, there’s nothing that’s really Korean about the restaurant. There’s a whole fried chicken leg, which Daniel says was inspired by Popeyes and Jollibee, that owes its outrageous crunch to his unconventional use of okonomiyaki flour. There’s an enormous burger made with cult-favorite Flannery beef. And there are more ambitious menu touches, too: seasonal specials like grilled branzino in classic French sauce vierge; Brentwood corn and Early Girl tomatoes from the local farmers’ market; a wild-rice salad topped with big-ass grilled scallops. Stacks of cookbooks arranged artfully near the entrance (including the Manresa cookbook and Roy Choi’s L.A. Son) are a testament to the restaurant’s seriousness of purpose.
In a city like Richmond, restaurants with this kind of sensibility can be bellwethers of gentrification, dishing out the kind of fancy food that’s meant to attract wealthy out-of-towners and recent transplants rather than longtime residents. But 2207 is nothing if not a neighborhood joint. Nearly everything on the menu is less than $12. At just a shade under $8, the fried chicken, which comes with waffle fries or a salad on the side, is about as good a bargain as anything you can get at the McDonald’s around the corner. And the customer base seems to be made up almost entirely of regulars who live and work in the neighborhood — the construction crew building the new apartment complex across the street, the guys at the barber shop next door, the folks who work at City Hall a few blocks away.
Daniel, for his part, says he doesn’t have any immediate plans to make 2207 anything more than a neighborhood joint — or even, really, to expand beyond weekday lunch service. He says he would like to offer breakfast at some point, and the restaurant has a lovely back patio he says would be perfect for hosting the occasional special dinner.