Sweet and Savory in the Bay
Eggs and Pancakes in Emeryville
The ‘Deuces Wild’ breakfast—bacon and eggs, served with the sugary kick of pancakes or Challah French toast—is served all day at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe in Emeryville, California. A diner and restaurant founded in 2002 with a punk pedigree, Rudy’s is part-owned by Mike Dirnt of Green Day, and named after the Clash song, “Rudie Can’t Fail.”
Emeryville is a small city of around 10,000 wedged into the East Bay between two larger siblings, Oakland and Berkeley. For centuries before the Spanish got there in 1776, Native Americans would discard the shells of local clams and oysters in a single place, over time creating a large shellmound that still forms the base of the city. Emeryville went from being a small wharf town to a center of industry known for its paint factories and tanneries, until the 1960s when businesses started moving elsewhere and the city stagnated somewhat. But it has been recovering, slowly but surely, with city redevelopment plans and businesses returning.
Emeryville is lousy with lots, company headquarters and malls (one of which, the Bay Street Shopping Center, was built over an old Native American burial ground). For years, Emeryville’s population would swell on weekdays, but on weekends, the workers chose to play elsewhere—until Rudy’s set up shop with late opening hours and started bringing people in from around the East Bay and beyond.
I first visited Rudy’s in 2010, when a born-and-bred East Bay friend took me there on a grey October afternoon. Working in London as an editor at the time, I was on a flying California visit. The two dozen customers—including two leather-clad bikers propping up the bar—seemed to make up the largest gathering for miles. I returned to Rudy’s late in 2014 while on a visiting fellowship in Berkeley, because I remembered the fried eggs fondly. Long an enthusiast of sweet and savory together no matter the meal (salted caramel, pork and apple, strawberries and balsamic vinegar, salt and vinegar chips and Kit-Kats), I was sold on the Deuces Wild—and it came with the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever tasted.
The crowds at Rudy’s aren’t likely to die down anytime soon. Attracted by the convenient placement and lower prices, many companies have headquarters in Emeryville: Bayer, Novartis, Jamba Juice, Clif Bar, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, AAA. Across the street from Rudy’s is Pixar Animation Studios (some of their movies include sneaky references to Emeryville locations). As the Bay Area continues its inexorable march towards ‘center of the universe’ status, Emeryville’s proximity to San Francisco has brought the city its own boom: where once there was mainly business and retail, there are now more places to live and more to come, and restaurants and bars have followed—but Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café was there before it was cool. And in 2011, it opened a second location, in Oakland.