Tasty Thursday: {The Best Mexican Brunch in The Bay}

It’s no secret that there are two things we love in this world; Mexican food and a yummy Saturday brunch! But how often do they go hand in hand?? Mexican restaurants don’t tend to be everyone’s go-to brunch spot, but we say they should! In fact we’ve kinda made it our mission to criss cross the Bay looking for the best hidden gems {especially during the height of my Mexican food pregnancy cravings}. That’s why we were stoked to learn about Taste Buds, a cool new YouTube show presented by Ford. To help celebrate the show’s launch, we’re working with Ford and Taste Buds to share one of our favorite Bay Area discoveries!

Dona Tomas, one of Oakland’s hottest Mexican joints, will convince you Mexican is the perfect brunch food. From its sunny outdoor patio, to the best chilaquiles verdes you’ve ever tasted, to tequila for breakfast {why not???} – move over mimosas and dime-a-dozen eggs benedict, the menu at Dona Tomas won our hearts {and our bellies!} over!

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Before we chat chilaquiles – seriously, they’re life changing – let’s walk through Dona Tomas’ sophisticatedly decorated dining area. Set smack dab in the middle of Oakland’s poppin’ Temescal neighborhood, the space features dark stained wood tables, authentic tapestries on the walls and wrought-iron candlestick sconces  – all instantly transporting you to a chic Mexican villa! Nothing is over the top or too loud. It’s exactly the way we’d decorate our own Mexican vacation home {if we had one!}. In fact, we’ll take those wooden guacamole bowls with us right now!

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The carefully curated decor still features colorful moments – think old-timey photos antique posters, jumbo grass pendants and colorful floral tablecloths on the outdoor patio will totally get you excited for what’s ahead: a gorgeously fun Mexican feast!

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Now let’s talk about these chilaquiles! For those of you who don’t know, they are crisped up tortilla chips doused in tomatillo salsa and sprinkled with fluffy egg, chunks of queso fresco, crema and avocado on top! We ordered a lot on the Donna Thomas menu {because how could you not? it was so hard to decide!} and these were everyone’s fave and a must-try!

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Coming in a close second were the juicy Huevos Rancheros with two fried eggs, black beans and pickled carrots. But then there were the Mole Enchiladas – a chocolate, almonds, peanut and chile recipe straight from Oaxaca! And the Carnitas Tacos and the Chile Rellenos – poblano chiles stuffed with yams and walnut cream sauce. Ok, it was pretty impossible to pick a fave. Seriously, talk about a culinary overload. Each dish is elevated with organic and locally sourced ingredients and tastes as fresh and delicious as they look!

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Oh and let’s not forget the cocktails or “cocteles” in Spanish! If hibiscus infused Flor de Caña Rum, lemon, grapefruit syrup with sparkling wine doesn’t whet your appetite, the habañero infused Vida mezcal, agave & lime, muddled cilantro, fresh cucumber & celery Celerito definitely will! In fact, we’ll be back to taste test the evening cocktail menu in Dona Tomas’ separate crimson red bar room! Oh and don’t forget to top off your brunch with crunchy on the outside and gooey in the inside churros and coffee! Yummm.

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Whether you’re tired of the same ole’ long lines, looking for a fun new spot to spend your Saturday morning or are in need of a weekend hangover cure stat, check out Dona Tomas in Oakland. It will not disappoint. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a warm day, drink margaritas at 10 a.m. and explore a buzzing East Bay neighborhood!

You can also check out the episode of the Taste Buds featuring SO many of my favorite San Francisco hot spots, not to mention my girl Erica Chan of HonsestlyWTF fame, below!

Now, who’s hungry??

original photography for apartment 34 by aubrie pick 

This post is sponsored by Ford. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own. Thanks for supporting partnerships that help keep Apartment 34’s doors open!

Retail Therapy: {Oakland’s Best Decor Store}

We do our fair share of running around our cities exploring, perusing, eating, shopping and drinking. We call it “work,” but really, it’s what our life goals are made of! It’s an especially good day when we stumble upon something so good, we name it the best. We discovered this sweet shop over a year ago and have been loyal to it since. Every couple of months we pop in to see what newly curated treasures adorn the shelves and every time, every time, we fall in love with it all over again. Properly named and popularly adored, I Love Neighbor is the best decor store in Oakland and here’s why!

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You’re strolling down Piedmont Ave on what’s likely a gorgeous day in Oakland. The East Bay is always good for sunshine! On any particular day, the City Across the Bay is at least 5 degrees warmer and the sky much sunnier than fog-ridden San Francisco. As you pass all of the usual suspects, some that have occupied the street for years – decades, even – Fenton’s Creamery, Lost and Found Antiques, Issues, you mosey past something new, fresh, young: I Love Neighbor. You go in {duh!} and your eyes become as big as saucers as they proceed to soak up every little nook and cranny of this gorgeously curated space.

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Brass chandeliers made by local artists, glass and ceramic mobiles, vintage paintings and antique taxidermy all hang from the walls or soar from the tall, wood beam ceilings above you. Black and white Icelandic sheepskins, classic striped foutas, colorful Moroccan rugs and handmade textiles from artists in Brooklyn adorn a mid-century chair or spill over a dip-dyed ladder.

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Locally made candles, cocktail syrups and shrubs, organic soaps and detergents {peach oil laundry detergent. hello!} line the chic shelves. Grey washed live-edge bowls, smoothly carved horn spoons, unique candlesticks, tiny leather coin pouches, brass scissors in every size and rope dog leashes all make the cut in their well-stocked cabinets.

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And, the staff! Well, they’ll become your new best friends not only because they are so friendly, but they’ll also indulge you as you jabber about loving everrrrr-y-thing. They’ll likely tell you about the item in your hand and somehow convince you, in a way your best friend would, that you need it. The store is inviting, never stuffy or intimidating and there’s a backyard luring you in for “just a peek through the back door” yet it enticies you to sit down and stay a while – a neighborly Oakland mentality if we’ve ever seen one!

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So if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Neighbor. And if you’re not, do yourself a favor and be in the neighborhood! To all our buddies in San Francisco who rarely find themselves breaking out of their norm, I Love Neighbor is worth the quick drive over the bridge and we dare you, just dare you, to not fall in love!

original photography for apartment 34 by aubrie pick

Retail Therapy: {The Podolls, San Francisco}

I first learned of The Podolls, the clothing line created by husband and wife design duo Lauren and Josh Podoll, not long after arriving in San Francisco. At the time, their designs – both their hand-designed fabrics and clothing made out of said fabric – were entirely online. But I was immediately smitten. This is my kind of style – oversized tunics, cozy sweaters, super soft tees all in a nice neutral color palette. So when they opened their first boutique in Burlingame I knew I’d love the brand personified and they certainly didn’t disappoint. And now they’ve gone one step further – opening a second shop in Noe Valley! We made an immediate beeline to the perfectly curated and beautifully designed space. From custom displays (made by Josh no less!), and an in-store playhouse – Lauren and Josh have outdone themselves with this space – and I couldn’t be happier for them – and for my closet!

We sat down to pick Lauren’s brain about her passion for fashion, launching a fashion line and how she balances work and family life.

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The Birth of Josh + Lauren + The Podolls

Josh and I met in 2003 when I was a buyer for ab fits here in San Francisco. I had been working in the fashion world for about three years and loved buying, but secretly always wanted to design! When I met Josh, he was making t-shirts with silkscreened artwork and I bought some to carry in the store. Six months later we had our first date and immediately started brainstorming about new designs and working together. We grew the collection over time and educated ourselves about textiles, pattern making, and production. We’ve maintained our commitment to using organic and natural fibers while we’ve expanded the array of styles well beyond the original graphic tees. The line has always been sewn locally and we’re very proud of that.

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Shopping In The Store + Highlighting Other Artisans

We have been fortunate to partner with some wonderful retail stores, including local favorites like MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) and dish, and yet we always dreamed of having our own retail store for our brand. The process of opening a store and running it day-to-day has brought me full circle back to the days of working at ab fits and I’m grateful for those years of experience. The Podolls retail stores showcase our collection along with the work of independent designers we admire and who complement our line. We don’t specialize in denim or accessories so, each season, I curate pieces around our collection from the lines we sell. Over the years we’ve met so many talented designers and artisans at the trade shows we attend so it was easy to select from makers we admire.

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We designed a hangtag for items we sell in the stores that are not our label and we explain on there why we chose the item— possible categories are: made in the USA, artisanal production, natural fibers, recycled, locally produced, family-run business, philanthropic, and fair wage labor. Everything we sell hits at least one of those distinctions. Some of our favorite lines for women are: Ryan Roche, Micaela Greg, Closed Denim, Freda Salvador, Martiniano, Ampersand as Apostrophe, Marisa Mason, Reinhard Plank and Ariel Clute. We also have a children’s area of the store for our podots line as well as Bobo Choses, Mini Rodini, Cabbages & Kings and Mini & Maximus.

Right now, I’m spending a lot of time on the floor of the new SF location as we acclimate to the area and meet new customers. I love meeting new clients and introducing them to our line. The personal interactions inherent to brick and mortar retail are a big reason we opened the stores; you just can’t get that sort of intimate exchange when shopping online!

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On Professional and Personal Balance

In terms of balancing professional and personal, I just try my best at it every day. Our son is in preschool now so we have a big chunk of the day to dedicate solely to work. Then we try to put all our attention on him in the early mornings and evenings. We love morning family dance parties and reading stories in the evening. When I prioritize my yoga practice, the days and weeks are much smoother—it’s so important to find those minutes for tuning in and turning off the mind. I have also found that becoming a mother has made me more efficient— I no longer have the luxury of over thinking things so I repeat the phrase ‘Done is Better than Perfect’. That’s a good one for all of us with perfectionistic tendencies.

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Lauren’s Final Words of Advice

Cultivate experiences. Don’t settle. Strive towards your dream job. Realize that your work is your life so enjoy it.

Curious about the lovely design choices in the space? They’re just so gorgeous, especially in person!

Lauren tells all: the cash wrap/jewelry display case was made by Danny Montoya of Key & Kite, the playhouse was made for us by Jay Nelson {with indigo dyed curtains by Matt of Flint Outdoors!}, the maple and concrete chandelier was made by our LA based friends Airi and Ryan of wrk-shp and the built in cabinets, shelves and dovetail walnut bench were made by Josh. We wanted to create another light and open space like we enjoy at the Burlingame location so we painted the walls white and bleached and tinted the wood floors for a calm Scandinavian feeling!

Needless to say, it all came together perfectly! Check out the brand spanking new The Podolls San Francisco space in Noe Valley at 3985 24th Street!

original photography for apartment 34 by Charles Redding