I grew up in Albany, went all the way through Elementary, Middle and High School, seemed like forever. Back then, Albany was a sleepy little town stuck in time and Solano Avenue (the main drag) was no exception. It wasn’t uncommon to visit stores, shops, pharmacies, offices and diners that’d been there for 50+ years. As a teenager it drove me crazy and ended up taking a bus in to Berkeley (right over there) for a little fun and merriment.
Today, one of the last strongholds of that era, was Walker’s Pie Shop. I was sad to see it go for posterity reasons, but honestly the food didn’t keep me coming back. Wondered what would replace it?
Bistro 1491, babeee !!!
J and I were headed out for breakfast and I thought I’d see if there was any room at the Sunnyside Cafe just up the street. Nope, packed tight and I’m not the kind of person to wait, walk or deal with such things.
A look to the left and I spied Bistro 1491, sign said they served breakfast, and they had room. I can still see where Walker’s used to be, the green tiles out front are still there. Inside looks very familiar as well, but there’s new paint, tables, chairs and FAR more light in the place. The smells were clean and food-like, niiiice. We were seated immediately by a great server/waitress person and given the menu.
I’m a bad restaurant reviewer, I don’t take notes. But what I can say is that the menu was absolutely outfricken standing, perfect in every way. It wasn’t over the top modern all fused with craziness, but it wasn’t stuck in the diner past either. It was clear that whomever put that menu together, knew what ingredients taste like and what goes well with what. Of course, my head was in a cloud and I thought it was near lunch time, wrong. I was over an hour off, and my lunch order was out of place, whoops. The waitress didn’t even bat an eye, said they could do the crispy pork loin sammich but instead of fries I would be getting the breakfast version. I’m not the kind of person who insists on anything, figure the chef knows how they like it and I’m fine with whatever. But she insisted and was off. J’s breakfast was a simple 3 egg omelet with their list of options.
Editor’s note: Here’s their web site with the menu listed! Bistro 1491.
The food arrived promptly, not many people there. I felt better because in a very short amount of time, people started showing up and the bustle began.
The plates were small works of art, made my heart skip a beat.
The food matched the menu and the expectation. Each bite, each layer, each ingredient married with the next. The cranberry aioli was subtle and played with the pork, played with the onion sprouts & lettuce. J’s omelet was equally as impressive with the subtleties. If execution is the key, this kitchen owns a locksmith’s toolbox.
But you know what? The kitchen can be this good, but if you don’t have the support of the floor, you’re going no place budro. During our visit, I watched, looked, listened and even used the bathroom (perfectly acceptable). Plenty of people hard at work, silently. Nobody screwing around, talking loudly, causing trouble or complaining of this over that. From the front to the back, they worked very well together. We were really impressed with our first visit to Bistro 1491.
Will we go back? Oh you bet your buttons we will. Is it a destination or just some place to go when you’re in town? Bistro 1491 is a destination for us. If I were in Berkeley or Richmond, I would go without hesitation. Will they always be perfect in every way, for everyone at all times? No, don’t be a *ick. These are good people, producing an exceptional product and there will be bumps from time to time. Lighten up man!
J and I give Bistro 1491 4 strips of bacon out of 5. They didn’t get the fifth strip only because I want to go back and see if they can top this visit.
1491 Solano Avenue
Albany, CA 94706
ps – Next time I plan to order something with scrambled eggs. Will they be the creamy, stirred juicy version? Or the more common plain omelet whacked to pieces with a spatula? I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll do it right.