Local with Lisa | Calavera

Calavera is an upscale Mexican restaurant and has been a part of Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood for the last seven years. Recently, they had an ownership change. I met up with Desiree Maese and Omar Huerta, two of the new owners.

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I asked Desiree what it was like to transition from an employee to one of the owners.  “It’s been more of a progression. Kind of a natural progression for us,” she said.  “We’ve all been doing these jobs and taking over and really taking ownership of the restaurants, as our own.  Because they were our heart. So, when Chris approached us about doing this transition and this transfer, it seemed so natural.”

“And which restaurants are we talking about?” I asked.  She told me “So, it’s going to be Calavera and then Chop Bar, which is over in Jack London Square.”

Chef Omar Huerta at Calavera

I turned to Omar, Calavera’s head chef and co-owner. “Is there anything as new owners that you would want to change or are you just hoping to keep everything the same?” I asked.

“I think, the idea was to keep the legacy of when Chris started this restaurant,” Omar said. “We are going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Cocktails at Calavera

“I think we really like to help a lot of the Latino community, especially since most of the food that we get is from Mexico,” Omar added.  “We want to keep helping them grow and for us as a restaurant to keep showing Mexican cuisine. It can be on the same level of any cuisine in the world.”

Carnitas tacos on fresh, hand made tortillas at Calavera

I asked Desiree, “How would you describe Calavera to someone who has never been here?”  She was quick to respond.  “We are funky, we’re colorful, we’re bright. We’re welcoming. We’re home,” Desiree said enthusiastically.  “We’re authentic. It’s kind of a place that you want to just come to the bar, have a cocktail and hang out.  Taste some mezcal, learn about them. Our bar staff is super knowledgeable.  So, if you’re not very familiar, you can get a whole lesson.”

Cocktails at Calavera
Cocktails at Calavera

I also wanted to hear more about the food and drinks.  “Omar, if someone has never been here, what would you say that they should try or know about your menu and your drinks?” I asked.

“I think one of the things is that we try to do everything in-house,” said Omar. 
So, I think one of the keys that we have is the tortillas. We make tortillas in-house. We get the corn from Mexico. We make the nixtamal.” 

The old molino, making fresh tortillas at Calavera

He pointed to a machine in the corner, flattening tortillas.  “And then we got the Molino,” he said.  “And we always have somebody making tortillas. I think it’s one of the keys not a lot of restaurants have done, the idea to have that kind of system that we have as well as the guacamole as well as the mole that we have. So, we try to have something traditional from Mexico, but with a lot of flavor and color and presentation.”


Who should I interview next for Local with Lisa? If you have a suggestion I’d like to hear it! Or if you’d like to talk about real estate and want to know your home’s current market value, I’m happy to provide you a complimentary assessment. Get in touch!

For more Local with Lisa, click here.

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