A weathered sign out front reads Boot and Shoe Service. But don’t let the name fool you—Boot and Shoe Service fixes food cravings, not worn leather soles. Its name pays homage to the original tenants, which is pretty cool considering today’s world of trendy restaurant tags (sorry 21st Amendment). Charlie Hallowell, the mastermind behind Pizzaiolo and formerly at Chez Panisse, opened Boot and Shoe Service three years ago. They have been receiving positive accolades ever since: three stars from Bauer, write ups in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Yet there is still an honesty about the place. The vibe is friendly, warm and creative. Tattooed bartenders mix up killer bloody marys at the full bar in the back as the chefs cook and plate tasty, fresh food in the front. The menu rotates seasonally highlighting local ingredients in simply delicious dishes.
Saturday morning was a birthday brunch for us. David turned 27 years young. Like most men, the way to his heart is through his stomach, specifically breakfast. On the weekends, Boot and Shoe Service fills up fast, so we got there at 9:30 am and waited on the café side of the restaurant. We ordered coffee and fresh mint tea from the knowledgable, mustached baristas. Above us, large skylights warmed reclaimed wood walls that were accented by a few turquoise painted planks. Quirkily little details, such as tiny paper houses on the bar and eclectic wall art, added to the inviting nature. A major renovation last year expanded the restaurant into the adjacent business.
I poured my tea and watched a tiny mint leave escape into the clear cup, swirling around and around like an empty merry-go-round. We finished the pot and then headed to the other side of the restaurant, where we ordered our morning lineup: a colorful winter citrus salad with onions and olives, hash with a perfectly poached egg, and spicy patatas brava. All the food was served in beautifully crafted ceramic bowls. Behind our table, a sturdy pizza oven loomed in the background, reminding me of what this place is really known for—damn good pizza. I made a mental note to come back for dinner.
We finished our plates and left. Back outside, the Boot and Service sign stood sturdy in the noontime Oakland breeze. I’m not sure what this place was like before but I’m sure happy for what it is now.