Ohlone Cafe opens in Berkeley


Cafe Ohlone
Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, UC Berkeley
The first Thursday tasting is September 1, reservations are available online

Opening a restaurant is never easy, but opening a restaurant in a non-traditional space and on a UC campus is an even greater challenge. As the founders of Cafe Ohlone, Louis Trevino and Vincent Medina, have said on more than one occasion, “we must wait until the time is right” to open, and that time has come: starting today , the world’s first Ohlone restaurant is finally taking reservations. for its brand new space in the Anthropology Building at UC Berkeley.

Meal details – which have a set menu, with dishes laid out on redwood boards – are available on the Café Ohlone website. Upon opening, the spot will offer weekly tea on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. ($33), lunch on Thursdays at 1 p.m. ($44) and brunch on Sundays at noon ($110). The plan is to add dinner service (which will cost $165 per person) in October. Presumably, when the time comes. —Eve Batey

Nosh’s original report on Cafe Ohlone’s new location, which was released on April 14, is below:

A traditional shell mound will be built with these oyster and abalone shells at the future site of Cafe Ohlone outside the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, as seen April 11 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Cafe Ohlone was California’s first native restaurant when it opened in 2018 in UC Berkeley’s Press Book Yard. The cafe lost its home when, after 46 years in business, the bookstore closed for good just months after the pandemic began.

Founders Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, who are partners in life and in business, planned to relocate to San Lorenzo or Niles, to maintain continuity with the neighborhoods their ancestors have always called home. But in a surprisingly fitting turn of events, their new cafe will be a stone’s throw from their original location, in the completely redesigned Phoebe A. Hearst Courtyard of the Hearst Museum on the UC Berkeley campus.

Medina is calling the space with an ambitious design “a love song to the Ohlone culture.” Created in partnership with designers by Terremotothe open-air restaurant will feel like you’re stepping into an Ohlone village space, with winding walkways adorned with dozens of plants and flowers, redwood tables and seating, murals by an indigenous artist and a long redwood table reserved for elders in Medina and Trevino.

“Each time students enter campus, they are reminded that the Ohlones are a living community, we have never left and we are still here. It’s a dream come true.

Cal’s Road

Louis Trevino (left) and Vincent Medina (right) sit on local granite boulders that will be incorporated into seating for the future site of Cafe Ohlone outside the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley , April 11, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Cafe Ohlone’s move to UC Berkeley began in January 2021 article in the Daily Cal to name the building that previously honored Alfred Kroeber, the controversial anthropologist who took custody of a Yahi man and presented him as a “living exhibit», and falsely asserted that the Ohlone people were extinct.

Commenting on the question of naming, professor of anthropology Kent Lightfoot said there were more important actions the university could take than removing Kroeber’s name. He suggested the school take concrete steps to support the people of Ohlone, including finding a new home on campus for the Ohlone cafe.

Lightfoot first encountered Medina 10 years ago when Medina was working at Mission Dolores, a church in San Francisco that was first built from 1782 to 1791 with Native American labor. Medina spoke with visitors to the Mission about its history from an indigenous perspective. “Vincent was young,” Lightfoot said, “but even then he was eloquent and articulate about the story and relearning his language, Chochenyo. I knew then he was someone special.

Medina and Trevino were intrigued by Lightfoot’s suggestion. Because their old location was so close to the new, they thought it would be symbolic to simply cross the street, bringing their Ohlone living objects, baskets, mortars and pestles to live alongside their older counterparts housed at the Hearst Museum. Soon the project gained the support of Hearst Museum Director Lauren Kroiz and Chancellor Carol Christ, and eventually UC Berkeley even created a fund to which patrons can contribute and support the restaurant.

But before agreeing to go ahead with the plan, they checked with their elders, who gave their approval and cited this project as a symbol of a healing time, as the connection of the Ohlone peoples with Cal’s anthropology department is deeper and more sinister. foundations.

The problematic past of the Hearst Museum

Vincent Medina (left) shows the location of a native California oak tree at the future site of Cafe Ohlone outside the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, April 11, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

As Medina acknowledged when he first announced plans to reopen Cafe Ohlone in Cal, the museum’s history is troubling. Once the Ohlone Tribe lost federal recognition—largely due to Kroeber’s statement that there were no more Ohlones—the Hearst Museum went to Ohlone lands and plundered the lands of the tribe. seashells.

“They entered and removed our ancestors from their cemeteries; they took away our cultural objects,” Medina said. “They just took as much as they could without caring about the sacred.”

Medina still remembers that when he was 8 or 9 years old, an elder from Ohlone told him that “the remains of our ancestors are kept in paint cans and plastic bags under the tennis courts of the ‘UC Berkeley and there’s nothing we can do about it’.

In the early 90s, it was true. And according to Kroiz, although the “ancestors and possessions” of the Ohlones are no longer in paint cans and plastic bags, they are still housed in the Hearst Museum, but decisions about their future are not in his hands. It’s because repatriation — i.e. the restitution of cultural objects and relics to tribes and descendants — is the subject of a federal law and State Law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). NAGPRA CPU is under the control of Office of Government and Community Relations.

Kroiz said she fears the issue of stolen artifacts and remains has prevented Medina and Trevino from moving through space. She said she hopes this project can be a symbol “that we can make something new out of the history we inherit.” According to Kroiz, when Medina and Trevino raised this concern with their elders, they were told that “sometimes things don’t happen in the order you think they will happen.”

Lightfoot believes the new cafe, and what it symbolizes, will benefit the entire campus. “This will be a fabulous opportunity for Berkeley faculty, students, staff and the broader community,” he said.

“There are no better teachers than Vincent and Louis. As well as sharing the most delicious food, they describe where their ingredients come from and what role they played. Lightfoot also hopes the couple’s involvement will bring other Indigenous people, both local, from across California and beyond, to campus.

“That’s what Cal really needs,” Lightfoot said. “I hope they will be a catalyst to bring more Indigenous relations to the Cal campus, which would be good for all of us.”

The new Café Ohlone

Vincent Medina (right) and Louis Trevino (left) at the Cafe Ohlone site outside the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley, April 11, 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Originally, Medina and Trevino had hoped to open in late 2021, but that timeline proved overly optimistic and failed to account for the many bureaucratic hurdles that needed to be overcome in a UC setting. Medina, Trevino and Kroiz all stood together, and Christ also lent his support at critical times, sending emails to various administrators and departments that emphasized his strong support for the restaurant.

Cafe Ohlone’s daily menu will include weekly offerings like Wednesday tawwa-sii (a weekly tea hour), weekly multi-course dinners and a Sunday brunch. Expect a wider menu than before: although Medina and Trevino originally referred to Cafe Ohlone as a “guerrilla restaurant” and only served ingredients their native ancestors ate before contact with outside cultures , they eventually made a few exceptions.

The couple say the past two years have given them plenty of time to reflect and talk with their family members, realizing that in the years since colonization, their ancestors have survived and even enjoyed some foods adapted from their colonizers. So alongside their classic Ohlone salads, duck fat potatoes and chia seed pudding, their new menu will include bay rabbit mole, black walnut cake, Colorado venison chili, a piñon cake and rosehip pie.

“Chile peppers and slow-cooked stews tell a story specific to our family,” Trevino said. “We all love those foods of old, the things that our family made and loved. We like what they liked.

“’Decolonizing’ can sometimes only mean a time before colonization,” Medina said, “but we try to think of it as a continuum. If our family has intentionally absorbed things into the culture, then every time is valid and has its place.


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