s we reach the midway point of summer, now is a good time to look at a quintessential element of California fun that I found to be nearly non-existent on a recent trip to Seattle — outdoor dining.
To enjoy the Southern California sunshine I headed to Glendale where I found Wild Oak Café, a picnic-esque casual dining spot in a now-converted convenience store tucked into the hills behind the Chevy Chase Country Club.
Wild Oak Cafe sits alone, nestled into the base of an evergreen hillside. Utilizing the architectural bones of a gas station convenience store, Wild Oak blends easily with the naturally beautiful landscape to create a cozy, cafe atmosphere. The red awning, which looks like it covered an old-school gas pump a half-century ago, now acts as shade for Wild Oak’s main dining area, an outdoor patio.
The once concrete floor has been replaced by weathered–looking wood slatted flooring. A vintage Model T sits just off the patio, alongside a tree, and holds pots of bright flowers. To order, you head inside where hints of a convenience store still stand, like the floor-to-ceiling refrigerators at the back that are filled with craft beers, bottled water and juices. Most of the interior has been replaced with a kitchen, espresso station and pastry case, all visible behind the counter where orders are placed.
For better or worse, Wild Oak’s menu covers everything from all-day breakfast options, soups, steak sandwiches, chicken bowls and spinach salad to Portobello mushroom burgers, date smoothies, pressed juices and all kinds of coffee and espresso concoctions.
I visited at midday on a Sunday, the perfect time for my crew and me to check out their breakfast and lunch options. I nearly had a breakdown while perusing the photo-heavy menu which made every option appear equally as delicious. However, as nearly every food item on the menu is over $10, with most options closer to $20, I could not justify ordering quite as much as I typically would. The egg white breakfast burrito ($13) had all the staples — spinach, bell peppers, onions, cheese and salsa, with a choice of breakfast potatoes or hash browns inside. The burrito was smaller in size than the typical Southern California breakfast burritos that mom and pop shops like Lucky Boy have made us become accustomed to. I understand that egg whites are less voluminous than their higher-in-cholesterol yellow cousins, but the fact that it was smaller in size, higher in cost and about 80 percent potatoes and tortilla left me regretting my choice. I will give the benefit of the doubt and say the regular breakfast burrito ordered with hash browns would be a better choice in terms of bang for your buck, especially because for the same price ($13) as the egg white version you get bacon and sausage to occupy some space in the tortilla.
The French toast ($14) described on the menu as “fresh artisan bread stuffed with cream cheese and orange marmalade” came out as nearly an entirely different menu item. Rather than the bread being stuffed it was more like a spread of cream cheese and marmalade between the triangle slices, although the strawberries served on top of the dish were a pleasant surprise that made up for the slightly misleading description.
On the cafe side of the menu, they have Armenian coffee ($3.50) which nails the bitter, full body balance you need in that delectable hit of caffeine. On the “do it for the Instagram” side of the menu is the rainbow flower latte ($8), topped with milk foam and contained in a glass with a mix of food coloring. A work of culinary artistry undoubtedly, but that adds nothing to the flavor besides a few extra dollars and some extra stress on the barista. I recommend sticking with the regular latte ($5) instead.
Wild Oak is a great date spot and neighborhood hangout. The outdoor location is dog friendly and there is plenty of shade and seating on even the hottest of summer days. As seemingly isolated as the space is, it provides a hub for the golfers next door to swing by and pick up some alcohol to-go or a quick bite before their round. As you sit on the patio you can watch the regulars who live in the mansions above Wild Oak stopping by for their daily coffee in their Maseratis and BMWs and all the Instagram influencers using the flower covered Model-T as a backdrop for pictures of their rainbow coffees.
Wild Oak is about the experience and the atmosphere as much if not more than the food. For a converted gas station out of the way, it is understandable why they need to have a rainbow coffee; and with a neighboring community of multimillion-dollar homes I cannot blame them for having slightly higher prices than most fast-casual cafes.
While I was not the most impressed by the food, I respect the quaint charm and atmosphere of Wild Oak. It is a great first date spot, or a place to visit after a hike when you are not quite ready to be too disconnected from the outdoors, or just to stop by and grab some white claws to go.
Wild Oak Café
3111 E Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale
Major Credit Cards Accepted/Alcohol Served But Not To Be Consumed