Tried and true North Oakland gem Mama's Royal Cafe is celebrating its 40th year this week, and for those of us who've been fans for years (18 out of 40 years ain't too shabby, right?), we can attest that the homey lil' spot on Broadway is still cooking up American diner food just the way we like it – affordably priced and dependably good.
Like a true diner, Mama's is, and has always been a place where lots of different people from the neighborhood converge. Whether that be a family with kids in tow, old-timers who've been living around for ages, punk kids needing hangover breakfast, or poor Cal students, you can find them all eating pancakes, eggs, and sandwiches in Mama's old wooden booths or at the counter atop vintage stools.
It's been a longtime favorite of punk kids because they offer stuff like tofu scrambles, fake sausage, and Yerba Mate; the cafe's decor has a nod to the DIY aesthetic (there's a vintage apron collection hanging on the walls, as are works by punk alt-comic artists Lynda Barry and Mimi Pond, the latter who made the awesome sign pictured above); and their waitstaff has always had representation from the punk community. For me, even though I'm more like the old-fogey who eats breakfast at 7 or 8 a.m. these days, Mama's will always be thought of as the place where friends meet for much-later morning brunch, after a night of partying at a show or house party, a little worse for the wear, but nothing a diner mug full of coffee and some fluffy hotcakes hot off the griddle couldn't cure.
Mama's Royal was opened in 1974 by George Marino and friends and has always been ahead of the locally-sourced game. According to the Oakland Tribune, the cafe uses eggs from Petaluma, meat from Niman Ranch and Fulton Valley, bread from Acme, and seasonal produce from Berkeley Bowl. In celebration of its birthday, Mama's will be having special surprises, like giveaways for every 40th guest.
So here's to Mama's 40th year and to many years more – I hope it never changes.
Photo by Sarah Han