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Yuppies Cashing In On The “Ghetto Gourmet”

September 22, 2008

The Ghetto Gourmet Logo

So what are a bunch of yuppie-types doing sitting on couch cushions while drinking the vino?

It’s the “Ghetto Gourmet”.

Ghetto Gourmet isn’t listed in the phone book. Nor will you find it by cruising Rockridge’s restaurant row on College Avenue in Oakland. Ghetto Gourmet has no sign. It has no wine list. It doesn’t even have chairs.

What this unlicensed, underground restaurant does have is a pit bull named Shinobi, a cramped kitchen with appliances in various states of disrepair and a gregarious host named Jeremy Townsend who, in his untucked shirt and jeans, will dance with his guests, jam on his harmonica and invite patrons for a post-dessert nightcap at a nearby bar.

Culinary speakeasies like Ghetto Gourmet are popping up in cities in the Bay Area and beyond, across the country and around the world.

Part of the thrill, of course, is the hipness factor, the ego-inflating I-know-something-or-somebody-you-don’t-know feeling that comes with being on a VIP list. But underground diners also can find surprisingly good food at bargain-basement prices.

In two years, Townsend has attracted a steady following at Ghetto Gourmet, which he runs out of his rented Craftsman home on occasional Mondays. Word of mouth, and sporadic Craigslist postings, have brought out friends, friends of friends and adventurous diners eager to fork over $30 for four courses of the likes of pan-seared duck and chevre crepes.

The health department — and fear of salmonella — be damned.

What a cool idea! I don’t know if calling it the “Ghetto Gourmet” is very appealing, but I get the gist of things.

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