Looking for lunch in the East Bay?
Maybe you were in Berkeley protesting GMO foods? Or you were in Albany at the CostCo store loading up on giant-sized jars of mayo? Perchance you were in El Cerrito buying organic foods? Perhaps you were in Richmond, having just stepped off the BART train from the city to visit the Rosie the Riveter Museum?
And you're hungry!
Well, do we ever have good news for youse! Cousin Jan, My Beloved and I were looking for an early lunch so we stopped in at Assemble, the newest food haven in the old Ford plant in Richmond. We arrived a few minutes before they opened, so we took a quick tour of the Rosie Museum, which is just across a small plaza, vowing to return when we are less distracted by hunger. It is filled with interesting exhibits about the contributions of women during WWII, when the men were off fighting and women were surprising the guys, themselves, and the world with their ability to build ships in record time.'
In addition to showing women that "We Can Do It," the work they did spawned several other interesting developments that liberated women to work outside the home, such as employer-sponsored day care and health care. The shipyards were owned by Henry J. Kaiser - ever wonder where Kaiser Permanente's name came from? Make plans to visit the Rosies in the near future - it's a very interesting little museum.
But hunger was calling.There was another restaurant in the plant for a couple of years, but it folded and now Assemble has opened. In keeping with the theme of the Ford plant, where cars were assembled before it was converted to making tanks during WWII, the interior is industrial chic, with huge pipes running here and there along the walls and ceilings. The furniture is all of wood, but comfortable and graceful. Clearly, the owners understand the vibe of the plant, too, as the tunes playing in the background are swing music from the war years. We really enjoyed hearing renditions of many old favorites as we perused the menu and made our choices.
The emphasis on the menu is fun, casual food. We shared the above order of "Frito Pie," a concoction of Fritos topped with chili and chiles, cheddar cheese, jalapeño pepper slices, sour cream and green onions, all served on a plate lined with the shiny, opened Fritos bag underneath. It brought a smile, both when it arrived and as we worked our way through it. It was listed as a starter, but would have made a generous meal for one. As it was, we had plenty as a starter for three!
My Beloved and Jan both had fish and chips - the fish was very lightly battered and crisp, and both said it was tasty. The French fries that accompanied it were killer, deeply crisp on the outside and tender, almost creamy on the inside. The few fries I stole from the others' plates almost made me regret my own choice, they were so good.
I chose the muffaletta sandwich because I had never before had one. The huge wedge that arrived was so big I couldn't fit it in my mouth. I sliced it in half in order to get a bite of the layers of ham, salamis, and cheeses with a savory layer of olive tapenade to give it zing. The accompanying scoop of potato salad was tangy with mustard, studded with colorful peppers, and topped with fresh chives. I enjoyed my first muffaletta very much.
We don't normally have dessert at lunchtime but Assemble had assembled (sorry, couldn't resist!) a warm strawberry-rhubarb crisp that was not to be denied. Topped with a scoop of cardamom ice cream, it disappeared in record time with three of us spooning up bites of gooey, sweet-tart fruit topped with crunchy granola-like crumble.
We stumbled out of there, full to the brim, and already planning to return next time for dinner. Next time you are in the East Bay, give Assemble a try. Then, take a long walk on the path along the water to work off some of the meal, while you mentally thank all those Rosies, who helped us to win the war.