The Black Orchid

The Black Orchid


Oakland is a place of constant transformation. The foodie landscape has been evolving into something different, something current, something well, happening, for quite some time now. Late-night clubs, fabulous upscale dining, and delectable food truck offerings are appearing all over the city like dandelions whose seeds have blown carelessly to wherever the errant winds have blown them.

Which brings me to my latest adventure, Longitude Oakland. Longitude is itself a happening little Tiki bar that has recently set up shop at the corner of 14th and Webster in an art deco building that once housed a custom brassiere maker. Nothing says change quite like that.

Its exterior of marbled green tiles and soft, rounded lines of twenties deco architecture might suggest to a visitor something other than what lies within. Only the map-filled windows hint at the building’s true purpose. Stepping inside its doors, guests are transported to a time and place limited only by their imaginations. The tropical decor and delicately lighted interiors conjure up far away places ripe with adventure.

The promised fulfillment of the gods of the Tiki: a tradition that dates back to the thirties, Oakland isn’t a stranger to the Tiki Bar of yore. It was here in Oakland that Vic Bergeron’s Trader Vic’s with its signature drink, the Mai Tai, first made an appearance in 1936.

Mystically delicious Crab Rangoon

Mystically delicious Crab Rangoon

In a newer incarnation of the classic, Longitude succeeds at bringing its guests to that magical tropical paradise where worries and work cannot pass beyond its palm-covered doors. The lure of the tropics is alive in Oakland.

The other night, I met a friend for a drink at Longitude to check it out for myself. After all, if I can’t take my own advice, I can hardly suggest others do so. When we stepped inside the gateway to the palmy and oceanic paradise inspired interior, we were immediately transported to that other place that is a Tiki bar. We nestled into a corner table, and proceeded to order some adult refreshments. Suzanne Long’s inspired cocktails were a refreshing and complicated delight of mixological mastery.

I had the Firecracker. A sublime blend of spicy and sweet, the cocktail is an inspired mashup of Canton ginger liqueur and vodka, brightened by a hint of lemon, and garnished with pickled ginger. With its rim awash in sesame seeds rather than salt, it’s the perfect way to recover from a hard day at the office. Our lovely companion ordered the Shrunken Skull. Two kinds of rum, a sprinkling of cinnamon, mingled with the blood-red sweet of a house-made grenadine: purr-fection. Hubs had a Black Orchid. Similar to a Mai Tai in its rum-based tropical flavors, this drink has Long’s signature all over it. Begin with a house-flambéed rum cordial, brighten the rum up a bit with a little flourish of citrus then seal the deal with a bit of actual rum to round out those flavors. This unique cocktail even features an edible orchid and a hidden gem. Literally, there’s a real pearl nestled in each glass as a souvenir. No need for a complicated treasure hunt featuring swashbuckling Pirates and faded maps with an “X” somewhere to mark the spot. Longitude is the spot. Find it, and you’ve already found a hidden treasure.

With all these lovely cocktails, we were a little hungry, so we tried a few of the table bites, and ordered the coconut shrimp and crab Rangoon. Let’s start with the shrimp: giant succulent shrimp covered in raw coconut and popped into a deep fry for just enough time to turn them golden and crisp. Each delectable morsel can be savored alone or dunked in the memorably classic sweet chili dipping sauce that accompanies them on the platter. This is a classic done to perfection. I say, Amen! The Crab Rangoon are likewise beautifully prepared. Each crispy house-made wonton is resplendently stuffed with blue crab and cream cheese. The food at Longitude effortlessly conjures up that mystical paradise we all yearn to find.

The Firecracker ~ Brings a little heat into the equation

The Firecracker brings a little heat into the equation

My advice? Close your eyes, imagine yourself on a deserted island, listen for the whispering heart of the Ocean, and take a trip to wherever your heart longs to be. Check it out, and make a memory of your own.

Longitude Oakland
347 14th Street, Oakland
(510) 465-2008

About The Author

Angela F. Lazear is an Oakland native and the author of EAST BAY FOOD SCENE: Essays on the Ritual of Dining ( Launched in 2007, East Bay Food Scene was established to pay homage to Oakland’s fascinating history, while chronicling the city’s rebirth through a vibrant, ever-changing landscape of food offerings. Many of Angela’s fondest childhood memories involve accompanying her grandparents to Oakland’s finest restaurants and sitting with them at the “grownup” table. Twice a month her grandparents would take her out for shrimp cocktail and filet of sole, at what was then The Sea Wolf, on Jack London Square. It was on these occasions that Angela discovered that collective dining brought with it the opportunity to make lasting memories. To this day, a perfect “old school” shrimp cocktail will bring to mind one of her grandfather’s fascinating and colorful stories of Prohibition, bootleggers, and run-ins with “wise-guys” seeking to get alcohol to the masses. These colorful stories were a kind of live theater. When Oakland began its dining renaissance, Angela saw an opportunity to honor both her family’s legacy and the city of her birth. Contrasting Oakland’s past to its present, her essays focus on how sharing great food experiences with loved ones can enrich one’s life immeasurably. Food is more than sustenance, it serves as a landmark for recalled experiences with loved ones and family. It is this connection between food and family that drives Angela to experience and chronicle the current generation of chefs and restaurateurs, as they re-invent cuisine and elevate it to an art form. Her mission is to share with her readers the stories of an Oakland that was, and to connect them to the Oakland that is becoming, that its inhabitants might remain in touch with the City’s past, as they inevitably meet with its promising future. The ritual of dining is an experience so entrenched in our collective personal history that we run the risk of missing the point if we fail to savor the experience as much as we do the myriad of flavors. Each morsel has the ability, at a later date, to recall moments from our past as vividly to the senses as if actually captured on film. A self-titled “Philosophoodie,” she would encourage her readers to savor every bite as it comes, take the time to engage with one another over every meal, and “make a lasting memory of your own.” Twitter: @foodaprecianado; Instagram: Foodapprecianado Facebook: EastBayFoodScene

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