There aren’t many Native American restaurants in the Bay Area, let alone the country. So rarity alone is a good reason to check out Wahpepah’s Kitchen in the East Bay. Founded by Crystal Wahpepah—a member of Oklahoma’s Kickapoo nation—the casual spot at the old Reem’s space in Fruitvale Village shines a light on Indigenous cooking techniques and ingredients. This place is as much about enjoying tender charred buffalo skewers, exceptionally moist blue corn bread, and acorn and amaranth cookies as it is about getting acquainted with Native foodways. Bison, salmon, squash, corn, and seasonal fruits are roasted, baked, and stewed until rich and hearty. We could drone on and on about the whole menu, but the centerpiece of your table should be the spicy pumpkin seed and mushroom mole presented alongside two tender handmade nixtamal tortillas.
We appreciate anything that gets slightly smoky flavors from an open flame, so we love this dish. The buffalo is cubed, charred, and served yakitori-style over a large roasted Anaheim pepper. Like a lot of other dishes here, it’s paired with a side of tangy chokecherry sauce. It’s two skewers per order, which you can share (or not).
Wild Native Mushroom Pumpkin Seed Mole
The mole verde is dressed up alongside black beans and a bit of greens. Which all doesn’t hurt, but it would be great on its own. The chartreuse green color comes from the chilis, and earthy tang from the oyster mushrooms cooked with it. With this mole, spiciness creeps on the tongue a few seconds after eating. Two handmade Nixtamal tortillas are on the side. Use them to sop up everything.
Blue Corn Bread
Cake-like and super moist. The blue corn bread gets a sweet boost from creamy maple glaze.
Tan oak acorns and amaranth are the key ingredients in this wonderful finisher. There’s also an over-abundance of dark chocolate chunks, and that’s not a complaint.