"Basque Ambition," Josh Sens, SF Magazine

Basque Ambition

With its far-flung Spanish menu, all-day bodega, and live jazz–streaming mezzanine, Duende aims high.

Josh Sens | March 14, 2013

According to Paul Canales, his buzzed-about new restaurant in Oakland’s Uptown district takes its name from a Spanish word referring to “the spirit of evocation, soul, and creative expression, of which the core elements are irrationality, earthiness, heightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical.” So much for just going out to grab a bite to eat.

Sure enough, though, when you step into Duende, located in an art deco–era building with ceilings high enough to house a climbing gym, you come upon the makings of a theatrical—if not exactly diabolical—evening. The outsize space is home to a bodega with a wine bar, a cocktail bar–cum–lounge, and a dining room composed of deep, dark wood booths fringed with detailed ironwork. One wall is given over to a large, tribal-looking mural and another to installations of found object art that lend the feel of an urban gallery. A mezzanine in back doubles as a stage for live music.

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