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The World’s Only Ohlone Restaurant Brings Traditional Foods to UC Berkeley

September 17, 2021
by Margie Cullen

AFTER A FORCED HIATUS from in-person dining due to COVID-19 and the closure of University Press Books, where it was originally hosted, Cafe Ohlone is coming to the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in November.

Originally a food pop-up where guests ate from one long table three times a week in the back of the bookstore, the restaurant, owned by Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino, will now feature separate tables and native plants for natural social distancing.

Along with the traditional, Ohlone-inspired dishes the café specializes in—soft-boiled quail eggs, chia pudding, and hazelnut flour biscuits, to name a few—Medina and Trevino also want to incorporate foods from the tribes’ more recent history, ones influenced by colonization. One example: Venison Chile Colorado, combining traditional Ohlone game with Mexican spices and cooking techniques.

Co-owner Vincent Medina welcomes lunchtime guests to the cafe. // Photo by Mogli Maureal

Berkeley anthropology Professor Kent Lightfoot was the first to suggest the café move to the museum, but the decision was complicated by the painful history between the Ohlone people and the Hearst family, not to mention that between Indigenous peoples and anthropology more generally.

The museum has yet to return thousands of sacred objects and ancestral remains taken from Ohlone land. And the museum’s namesake, Phoebe A. Hearst, built her mansion on Ohlone land, not far from where Medina’s ancestors lived in poverty. Lately, however, the museum has indicated its desire to return objects belonging to the Ohlone while also promoting Ohlone visibility. Medina and Trevino are optimistic the move will help to repair the relationship.

“We want to see reconciliation,” Medina told the San Francisco Chronicle in June. “We want to see a world where we can see our culture uplifted even by institutions that in the past haven’t done right by our people.”

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