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Lunch at actual cafe
6334 San Pablo Avenue
Oakland, CA

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I had been here before with a friend when we were looking to grab a bite to take to the movie theatre with us. Sneaking food into the theatre is so much better than trying to make a meal out of movie theatre fare.

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I was in the mood for a salad but couldn’t remember which one I had eaten before. They have a small beet salad and a big salad that does not have beets. I seemed to remember having a big salad with beets. So, in true good customer service fashion, they suggested that they could add beets to the big salad. Solved.

Mixed Greens Salad

Real Big Salad at Actual Cafe

For dressing, I typically do a balsamic vinaigrette and couldn’t remember which dressing I had done last time. Basically, I needed to recreate last time because I do remember that whatever I had was very tasty and I was pleased. They allowed me to taste both dressings and although I could not be sure, today, I went with their house made mustard vinaigrette that accompanies the Real Big Salad. It had a bit of a kick to it that was just right for the Real Big Salad that included mixed greens, avocado, pear, and nuts.

Great Customer Service!

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Sharing is so much more fun. Why get your own?

To go with our salad, we ordered the Fancy Flavored Lemonade with ginger. They were out of lemons and made ours with lime instead. The gentleman who took our order assured us that the ginger tasted great with the substituted limeade. He was so right!

The greatest thing about the Actual Cafe, aside from the fresh ingredients and clean taste of their food, is the culture of the environment. This is a true neighborhood spot that invites you to come in and hangout for a while with your friends, family or perfect strangers. The community style seating that takes up the center of the seating area helps to encourage patrons to engage with one another, share your space/meal with a stranger. And laptop-free weekends are the perfect message.

Laptop-Free SignWe have laptop-free weekends, because we think technology has given us great tools, but we need real interactions: not just the virtual kind, but the actual kind, too.

Wall Bike Rack

Wall Bike Rack

This is a great restaurant. If you are in the Oakland area, be sure to check out some of their events. Ride your bike over, park it inside on the wall (I thought the bikes were part of the decor until someone took one down and rode it away . . . so cool.) and make new friends.

Check our their menu and events here.

Dessert at James and The Giant Cupcake
6326 San Pablo Avenue
Oakland, CA

James and the Giant Cupcake storefront

James and the Giant Cupcake

As if the Actual Cafe was not enough, we had to have dessert. When we arrived at the cafe, we parked at the end of the block and enjoyed the stroll past a couple of shops. The one that caught both of our attention was James and The Giant Cupcake. Truth be told, I had seen the place before I even turned to park on the side street and had every intention of forgetting I was ever on a diet and indulging. But, when we walked past, I pretended that it was the Boy’s idea and that I was not sure if we would stop to get one. He’ll learn one day . . . my sweet tooth is worse than his.

Pink Lemonade and Vegan Chocolate with Buttercream Icing

Pink Lemonade and Vegan Chocolate with Buttercream Icing

They had so many great flavors to choose from – red velvet, peppermint patty, sea salt caramel, Pot-o-Gold , french toast and maple bacon – and the two we settled on: gluten-free vegan “First Date” and Pink Lemonade.

I expected that the Boy’s would be moist, tasty, full of flavor and mine would be gluten-free vegan, which means bland and boring, right? Wrong!!!!

Cupcakes and Baker

Cupcakes and Baker

These cupcakes were so good and the atmosphere was so cool that I felt the need buy more. I ended up with two more gluten-free vegan “First Dates”, one Sea Salt Caramel, one Red Velvet, another Pink Lemonade, and One Pot-O-Gold.

I don’t know what the craze is with cupcakes. But, gone are the days of dry, sponge-like, dreadfully bad vanilla or chocolate. If you are going to make it in the cupcake embracing world, then you need to think of creativity past that of ornate decoration. You need out of the ordinary flavor combinations like French Toast and Bacon.

You need to give people to make people want to sing your praises.

Loyal repeat customers are not automatic and some businesses forget the basics.

  1. excellent customer service – greet me, check on me, smile, look like you enjoy what you do.
  2. great environment – keep it clean, make sure it is comfortable (seating and energy), make it such that I want to spend more time there, and if you have something for the kids to do . . . even better.
  3. have a great product

James and the Giant Cupcake has gotten it right!

Fun and colorful.

Fun and colorful.

If you are in need of cupcakes for any occasion and you are in the SF Bay Area, it is worth the trip to James and the Giant Cupcake. They only make one gluten-free option each day (Carrot, Sugar and Spice, or Chocolate) but will take special orders for a minimum of a dozen. So, place your order. You won’t regret it.

Check out their menu here.

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