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“SF’s healthiest restaurant in a former McDonald’s looks to do it again”

Kitava Oakland’s menu includes a chickpea bowl, a plantain bowl, sesame chicken and tuna poke. | Courtesy Kitava

Six years ago, friends Bryan Tublin and Jeff Nobbs converted a defunct McDonald’s in the Mission District into what they called a “clean casual restaurant” and named it Kitava—the Sanskrit word for thorn apple, an ancient remedy for indigestion. 

Now, they’re bringing the same idea to Oakland. The first East Bay brick-and-mortar location of Kitava opens on Monday, Jan. 9.

“Clean casual” might sound vague, but the concept is pretty straightforward: healthy food in an approachable environment. Kitava’s recipes are designed around produce and proteins cooked in healthy oils and flavored with herbs and spices. White refined sugar is strictly off the menu.

“We want to normalize healthy eating, but have it be not pretentious,” Tublin said.

During the pandemic, East Bay diners got a taste of Kitava when it operated as a pop-up kitchen at Buck Wild Brewing in Jack London Square. 

“We’re so excited to have a permanent presence in Oakland now,” Tublin said. 

Culinary director Preethi Aylard, who comes to Kitava from The Riddler, and before that, Bar Tartine, developed a vegan alternative to one of the restaurant’s most popular snacks, the crispy chicken. Her cauliflower bites are made from florets breaded in gluten-free cassava batter. Also special to Kitava Oakland is a cashew cream soft-serve churned in partnership with nearby vegan ice cream parlor Mr. Dewie’s. 

The East Bay location expands on Kitava’s beverage menu, with 22 taps serving Buck Wild Brewing’s gluten-free beer, as well as hard and non-alcoholic drinks from Marin Kombucha, JuneShine and Boochcraft. They’ll pour organic red, white and rosé from Skylark Wine.

The choice to open on the edge of Temescal—one of The Town’s trendiest dining destinations for a while now—was part business-driven, part personal. Tublin lives nearby, as does Aylard. “We have a deep connection to this area,” Tublin said. 

Most recently, the 40th Street space belonged to Magpie Taproom, which shuttered during Covid. For most of the 2010s, it was Hog’s Apothecary.

As part of a grand opening event next weekend, Kitava will help recruit volunteers for three nonprofits: Reading Partners, Oakland Leaf and Playworks. Diners can also upload photos of their dinner to GiftAMeal, and in return, the charity will provide a free meal to people in need.  

Tublin told The Standard that expanding to the East Bay feels like a natural extension of his and Nobbs’ mission in a neighborhood that’s close to his heart.

“It’s hard to find a place that allows you to lead the lifestyle you want that’s also down-to-earth and approachable,” Tublin said. “We want people to be able to see themselves here.”

Kitava Oakland