It’s been a challenging time for Black vegan restaurateurs in the Bay Area. Lourdes “Lulu” Marquez-Nau’s Casa Borinqueña closed last September, Tamearra Dyson’s iconic Soulely Vegan followed in October, and Darren Preston’s Malibu’s shuttered in December. But now, it seems the tide is turning: Vegan Mob is on the rise, Marquez-Nau is opening a new location on Market Street in San Francisco, and Preston’s Malibu’s Burgers is about to be back in action.
Plant-based fast food hotspot Malibu’s Burgers lives again in the former Lumpia Company space in Uptown Oakland as of January 12. The take-out-only location is at 372 24th Street in Oakland. A few items have been removed from the menu as new items including house-made vegan burger patties and juices get added to the list — though fans should anticipate the same menu for the first few weeks of business. As the one-person show, handling everything from prep work to emails, Preston is excited to move Malibu’s into a smaller space. “This lets me focus without running such a big operation,” Preston says. “I can attack this from a different angle for now. Do I think we’ll forever stay in a takeout location? Probably not.”
Preston has narrowed the menu to fit the new space. In the first few weeks, the menu will be the same as was offered at the former Piedmont location, while inventory gets cleared out. Then, sandwiches like the Gillie Philly will likely come off the menu as well as a few burgers. The prep required for such an expansive menu was difficult as everything is made-to-order, Preston says. But as he simplifies the menu, he sees a chance to add new items.
A gluten-free, soy-free bean patty — in lieu of the usual Impossible patty — blew up on the few times they tried it out, so he’d like to bring it back for good. There’ll be more mushroom chicken filets on the menu in the near future, too. On other burgers, the oyster mushrooms that replace chicken come battered and fried, but the team is trying out grilled iterations. A house-made drink is in the works including a few different juices in addition to classic Coca-Cola.
The smaller space, catered to takeout audiences, in addition to those less-processed patties and house-made juices, reflects a growing niche in the market. Preston says a lot of his customers want these items instead of Impossible and Beyond products, a harkening back to the raw food movement of the 90s that Alicia Kennedy discusses in her new book No Meat Required. It’s a fecund time for Preston and his family; his brand new baby is healthy, and his mom — also known as the mind behind Casa Borinqueña — is expanding to San Francisco. In his perfect version of Malibu’s, though, Preston wants his food to be accessible cost-wise. If he can bring the price down as he grows, he’ll call it a success. “I want to consolidate and bring things in-house,” Preston says. “I want anybody to be able to come in and get a drink and a burger.”
Malibu’s (372 24th Street, Oakland) is open as of Friday, January 12 from 5 to 8 p.m.