Hofkuche debuts at Forage Kitchen as Oakland’s latest beer garden


When Matt Johansen and Iso Rabins, co-owners of Forage Kitchen, began to think of ways they could revamp the exterior space of the property, it became clear that the answer came in the shape of a beer garden.

Last year, the duo began to think of who they could partner with to create something special at Forage Kitchen. Before they knew it, a partnership with Fabricius Wiest, owner of Suppenkuche, would form to launch Oakland’s latest beer garden, Hofkuche.

“We’ve wanted to activate that space for a while and put something permanent,” Johansen said. “That combination with the history of Suppenkuche and Fabi just came to light and the project was born.”

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Before Hofkuche, Johansen and Wiest had been previous business partners in 2011 at Biergarten before Johansen sold his share in 2016 to open Forage Kitchen with Rabins. Years later, Johansen and Wiest have teamed up once more to offer a new concept amid the ongoing pandemic.

“[Hofkuche] helps both of our businesses in these super hard times,” Johansen said. “It’s hard for restaurants across the country [but] I think that there can be something really specially created in this moment.”

When Hofkuche opens Saturday, the exterior space will have about 15 beer garden tables, as well as some wine barrels that will be used as tabletops. String lights will add charm in addition to the natural features on site. And, since this is a business born out of the pandemic, customers will have the chance to place orders through QR codes once seated, or at a counter window.

The menu will stay true to tradition, featuring items typically found at German beer gardens. Wiest, who is native to Munich, said that most beers will be imported from Bulvaria with a rotating list of seasonally focused drinks.

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Among the bottled options and 10 beers on tap, Johansen said that local brews from Ghost Town Brewing, Temescal Brewing and Fort Point Beer Co. will also be on hand.

“Our hope is to expand that, but we’re trying to start out with something and then see kind of how it plays out,” Johansen said.

The current food menu will also showcase a mix of German salads, pretzel knots as starters while larger plates include currywurst and rotisserie chicken. Wiest shared that he wants to integrate other dishes and specials once they get into the full swing of things.

“It’s a good selection of the basics,” Wiest said. “This is just a smaller menu to start, and then I definitely want to bring other things like pork roast and dumplings. We have a thousand different things we can do, so it just depends on what we want to try out.”

Wiest and Johansen are optimistic about the beer garden and said it’s another way to create jobs for existing and new employees. To start, Hofkuche will employ about 15 staff that will include some from Suppenkuche.

Wiest said he’s excited to work in a space that has a large kitchen available and enough space to accommodate customers outside. Since mandatory shelter-in-place orders, Suppenkuche has transitioned to takeout and has only a limited number of tables for outdoor dining.

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“The whole business shrunk in that sense,” Wiest said of Suppenkuche. “We’re fortunate at [Forage Kitchen] because they have a fully equipped kitchen where we can do more things than in San Francisco.”

Johansen hopes that once customers visit Hofkuche it will bring them a sense of normalcy. To start, it’ll include free drinks — well, at least for the first 50 customers anyway.

“A lot of people are in their homes or their office, and Hofkuche is a space where they can feel at home. I think that’s what everybody is looking for and we have it here.”

Hofkuche opens Saturday, Sept. 19 from 3 to 9 p.m. and will operate Wednesday through Friday with lunch from noon to 4 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 8:30 p.m. It will operate Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 8 p.m. Find them at Forage Kitchen at 478 25th St. in Oakland.

Susana Guerrero is an SFGATE digital reporter. Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @SusyGuerrero3

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