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Burdell - The Bay Area’s most eagerly awaited restaurant is now open for modern soul food

One of the year’s most highly anticipated restaurants, Burdell, is now serving chicken and waffles, boiled peanuts and sourdough biscuits in Oakland.

At 4640 Telegraph Ave. in Temescal, Burdell’s pink walls, crooning blues tunes and vintage dishware evoke a trip to grandma’s house for dinner. It’s all befitting a restaurant bearing the name of chef Geoff Davis’ maternal grandmother. 

More than a homage to one woman, Burdell is a celebration of dishes brought across the country during the Great Migration period, which saw an exodus of Black people from the Southern states toward the northern United States and westward into cities like Oakland. (Davis’ family settled in the Philadelphia-New Jersey area, and he was raised in Modesto.)

Davis has been melding Black foodways with fine dining sensibilities since starting Burdell as a pop-up last year. He is an alum of fine dining institutions Cyrus and Aqua, was executive chef at San Francisco’s True Laurel, and served as chef de cuisine at Flour + Water’s more laid-back offshoot Penny Roma.

“What if Zuni or Chez Panisse cooked this food instead of European food?” Davis asked, “And how can we make these dishes more modern by using great ingredients and techniques?” 

Burdell’s menu includes items to share, like plates of North Carolina country ham and summer melon ($19), as well as crispy chicken skins and fried shallots with a cornmeal waffle diners can slide through chicken liver mousse ($17). Burdell’s boiled peanuts ($8) aren’t cooked in the average vat of salty water: Davis adds miso from local fermentors Shared Cultures, a special house spice blend, bay leaves, salt, vinegar and a dab of homemade peanut butter. The mix is boiled for 12 hours until the shells are rendered tender and full of flavor. Davis then sprinkles a little more of that special spice mix on top.

“When you suck the peanuts out of the shell, you get a great umami, nutty flavor,” he said. 

The hearty okra stew, $28, is made with green beans, sesame oil, sesame paste and a remix of Southern cooking’s “holy trinity” — a blend normally made up of green pepper, celery and onion. Davis’ version includes shishito peppers and leeks. He tops off the soup with purslane, sesame seeds and shaved raw okra. 

Diners can expect other hearty dishes like neck chops, made with pork from Klingeman Family Farms in Washington state. Davis chose this cut due to its resemblance to classic pork neck bones, a soul food staple, though this highly marbled cut is closer to a pork chop and is roasted and served with a mustard seed jus, chanterelles and a peach jam.

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