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Expansion, Reservations, and More!

Recently we have been fielding a number of questions about what’s going on with all the construction down the street from Homeroom.  “I hear you are moving your restaurant?” is the most common one (No!  We are not—is the answer).  So we thought it would make sense to fill you in on what we are up to, and hopefully answer all those burning questions that have been floating around.

The entrance to Homeroom To-Go, under construction!

The entrance to Homeroom To-Go, under construction!

Q. I hear you are moving your restaurant down the street?

Nope—we are just expanding a block away!  In a perfect world, we would have expanded adjacent to Homeroom instead of down the street, but our next door neighbor didn’t want to move and frankly, her space wouldn’t have been big enough for what we wanted to do.  By moving down the street, we are tripling our size and will be able to do all sorts of things that we’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the space to make happen.

Q.   If you are not moving your restaurant, what are you doing?

The original Homeroom will stay put, but it will just be for serving dine-in customers.  The new Homeroom will be dedicated to three things: take-out, catering, and special events.  Homeroom To-Go will be where all of our take-out is moving to.  Take-out customers won’t have to jostle through crowds at the restaurant to order food anymore, and will also be able to pick up all sorts of other great stuff to go, like our homemade dressings, whole pies, and beer or wine to bring home with their mac.  We already do a lot of catering and events (think office lunches and Outside Lands), so our new space will have a big kitchen to accommodate a bunch of events that currently we have to turn down because of a lack of space (next year we’re coming to you SF Street Food Festival!).  Lastly, we will have an event space where larger parties will be able to make a reservation for special events like birthday parties, graduations, and all the stuff you currently have to wait in line for a long time to do at Homeroom.  We will also use the event space for cool events we’ve always wanted to do more of like beer and mac pairings, or nights with cheesemakers, and all sorts of other fun classes and community events.

Q.  Will all this new stuff make Homeroom easier to get into?

Yes!  It became clear to us about a year ago that the wait to get into Homeroom was becoming insanely long many nights of the week, getting busier by the day, and that we really needed more space.  We are confident that by allowing big parties to make reservations at our special event space and by moving take-out customers down the street, that the wait for a table at the restaurant will become shorter and much more pleasant.

Q.  If you are going to let large parties make reservations at the new Homeroom event space down the street, will you let smaller parties make reservations at the original Homeroom?

Because we are still such a small restaurant and try to keep our prices affordable, we will still not take reservations at the original Homeroom and will continue to be first-come, first-served.  However, large parties are what generally cause longer wait-times at the restaurant right now, so by moving them elsewhere we are pretty sure that the average wait time for a table at the original Homeroom will be much less daunting.

Q.  Why did you decide to expand down the street instead of opening a new Homeroom somewhere else?

We really feel that Homeroom has so much potential for expansion in it’s current location that to start opening up Homerooms elsewhere right now would really take our eye off the ball from fulfilling Homeroom’s full potential here in Oakland.  When we originally envisioned Homeroom, it was not only a great restaurant, but would offer a take-out experience you actually look forward to, a place to share special events in customer’s lives, as well as a center for the community through classes and events that relate to mac and cheese.  We try our best to do this all at Homeroom right now, but we don’t have the space to accomplish it all—so we really want to make this Homeroom everything we know it can be before we set our sights elsewhere.

Q.  Will you ever open Homeroom in other places?

We have spent a lot of time in the recent year soul-searching about the best way to grow the restaurant that we love so much.  We have met with some really inspirational business leaders (thank you Ari Weinzweig of Zingermans, Neil Grimmer of Plum, and James Freeman of Blue Bottle!), to understand more about how they have grown their special food businesses, and how to expand something really special without losing what makes it unique.  We are confident that Homeroom will one day expand beyond Oakland, but before that can happen we really want to focus on making our original location the best it can possibly be so that it can be a model for our future growth.  We also want to keep developing all the managerial talent that we have so that we have leaders ready to grow with us without compromising the original Homeroom experience.  These things take time, and though we are lucky enough to be approached all the time by investors, we know that slow and steady wins the race if the things you care most about most is the quality of your food, super-friendly service, and trying to be the best part of the day for every person that walks in the door.

 Q.  When are your babies due?  And how are you doing this all while pregnant?

We have been getting this question a lot lately too since we are both pregnant and have rather huge bellies.  Allison is due with her second son in August, and Erin with her first son (she already has a daughter) in September.  As to how we do it all—frankly, it’s not that hard and the beauty of owning your own business is that you have a lot more control of your schedule than when you work for someone else.  The last time we were both pregnant we completed our cookbook– and we found that whether with writing a cookbook then or overseeing a business expansion now, the deadline of having kids on the way actually helped us because it caused us to be even more efficient with our time and actually get things done on a faster time-table than would happen otherwise.  And luckily, when you love what you do, things like morning sickness or swollen feet don’t get in the way (although admittedly, they are annoying).

Erin (left), Allison (right) and babies-to-be (in bellies).

Erin (left), Allison (right) and babies-to-be (in bellies).

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B is for Beer

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You know and love homeroom for our big bowls of creamy mac and cheese. But did you ever check out our awesome beer selection?
Because we have a pretty small bar, we can only offer six taps at a time, but that only means we have to put a little extra thought into each beer we choose. We feature local breweries as much as possible because, well, there are some great breweries really close by! In fact, right now all six of our taps are pouring beer that is brewed within 200 miles of Homeroom, and two of those are brewed right here in Oakland.One of our beers, The Lucky Devil Aleister Abbey ale, is from a brewery started by the sister and brother-in-law of one of our servers. Have you met Catalina? She’s been a server at homeroom for over almost two years, and we’re super excited to carry the premier beer from her family’s brewery. We’re also one of the only restaurants who have it, so if you want to give it a try you’ll have to come on out to homeroom (there could be worse things, right? While you’re here try pairing it with our Maxcimus, it’s an awesome combo).
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Another thing to look out for is our rotating seasonal tap. We change it every month so that we can continue to bring you new beers to try. Right now we have the Nico Wheat from Shubro’s brewery in San Ramon, CA. Nico is a light, refreshing filtered wheat beer, made with English hops to give it a crisper finish. It’s a great choice on a hot day, and luckily we’ve had plenty of those lately. It’ll only be around for another week, so get here soon!If you want to know more about our beers, or what might be up next on the seasonal tap, follow us on facebook or stop by and talk to one of our bartenders, who’d happily talk about beer all day long.
Ask Lindsey about our new beers!
In the meantime, what beers would you like to see on our taps? Leave a comment below!
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Homeroom To-Go and Sriracha Madness

For the past few months, our lives at Homeroom have been consumed with working on our new project, Homeroom to-go, which will be opening up later this year just a block away from the restaurant. We’re moving all of our take-out there, and we’ll also sell cool things like beer and wine to go, full pies, jars of salad dressing, and other tasty treats. We’ll also have a little condiment corner where you’ll find an awesome selection of hot sauces and other toppings that are delicious on mac and cheese.

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Our search special products for Homeroom To-Go led us to SOSU – a Bay Area local and small-batch maker of condiments and hot sauces. They are currently doing a Kickstarter campaign to get their Whiskey Barrel-Aged Sriracha to market. When they contacted us about doing a special event with them around our sriracha mac, we were intrigued. But what really convinced us was after we tasted their sriracha in our mac and cheese. We were blown away, and immediately said yes.

So for ONE NIGHT ONLY, on February 27th from 5:30 til 10, we’ll be making ALL of our sriracha macs with Sosu’s Barrel-Aged Sriracha.  Aged in whiskey barrels and naturally fermented with chilis and a touch of brown sugar, this sriracha is smoky, fiery, and delicious. This is sriracha for all of you who think you don’t like sriracha.

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The owner of Sosu, Lisa, will also be at the restaurant to give you samples of her magical sauce.

 For all you sriracha-lovers out there, we thought it would be a fun event to try something new, and a cool way to support a new business whose product we’ll be excited to carry at Homeroom To-Go.

You can contribute to Lisa’s Kickstarter campaign to get a jar to a barrel of the Barrel-Aged Sriracha. Let’s help her find a permanent home and bring to market a delicious product!

Hope to see you on thursday!

– allison + erin

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