It used to be that if you wanted food from trendy San Francisco restaurants like Curry Up Now or Senor Sisig, you had to venture into the city, deal with parking, and during the pandemic, find an outdoor park where you could eat your meal.
Now, though the launch of Local Kitchens on Mount Diablo Boulevard, several of San Francisco’s trendiest and most popular restaurants now have a presence in the East Bay, right in the heart of Lafayette, California.
Local Kitchens is part of a nationwide trend--fueled in part by the pandemic and the rapid growth of online ordering and food delivery--towards so-called “ghost kitchens” which serve food from multiple restaurant brands. Local Kitchens does exactly that. The Lafayette restaurant--which occupies the space formerly used by Cheesesteak Shop--has a single kitchen which is shared by multiple restaurants.
At the Lafayette location, one can now order food from Senor Sisig, Proposition Chicken, Curry Up Now, Mixt, Glaze and Wise Sons, all of which are popular in the city. You can also get pints of ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe, a favorite ice cream store originally from the Mission District, including their signature Secret Breakfast flavor, which combines bourbon and cornflakes.
One can order food from Local Kitchens using a variety of services, including Doordash and other delivery services, in keeping with the restaurant’s high-tech concept. Each restaurant appears on Doordash under its own brand (search Wise Songs to get their food, for example), but the food is actually cooked and fulfilled by Local Kitchens. You can also order through the restaurant’s website or app. And you can walk in and order in person using kiosks in the store.
Once you place your order, Local Kitchens’ staff cooks your food to the standards of each partner restaurant. Your order is then placed in a large series of square bins, ready for you (or your Doordash driver) to pick up. Most orders are branded with the packaging of the restaurant you’re ordering from--if you didn’t go into Local Kitchens, you’d have no idea your food didn’t come from the actual restaurant itself.
A staff member at Local Kitchens told me that the restaurant originally launched with a minimalist interior, but later closed for a few weeks to make upgrades. Local Kitchens is still working on their ordering tablets and other systems, and had just recently added a large video screen showing pending orders. The staff member said that locals love the concept, and that demand has been strong. They said that it takes a lot of training for kitchen staff to learn to cook food from so many different restaurants, but that ultimately they produce meals to the standards of each restaurant with which they partner.
Local Kitchens is a positive step towards more food diversity, and an interesting example of a new business model for local food. It likely wouldn’t make financial sense for the six partner restaurants to open their own branches in the East Bay. But by banding together and sharing one space--and by integrating directly with high tech solutions like delivery services--they can bring such things as Jewish cuisine and Indian street food to lower-population cities like Lafayette.
Local Kitchens is also part of a trend towards more San Franciscans moving to the suburbs during the Covid-19 pandemic. As they move from the city and set up roots in neighboring cities, their food will likely follow them, and Local Kitchens is part of that trend.
If you live in Lamorinda and have a hankering for a fantastic reuben sandwich or a pint of Secret Breakfast, look to Local Kitchens to scratch that itch, or at least tide you over until the next time you’re downtown.