New floral-themed cafe Damask Rose opens in Oakland

Rawaa Kasedah ​​opened Damask Rose with her family last month. Credit: Nancy Shaw

Damask Rose
6606 Shattuck Ave. (near 66th Street), Oakland
7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays
8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. on weekends

Until recently, there was an incredibly cute, rose-adorned spot in the Bay Area that served coffee — Instagram’s darling Son & Garden in San Francisco and Menlo Park. Starting in April, however, fans of flowers and strong beers can head to Damask Rose, the new cafe located on the Oakland section of Shattuck Avenue.

Occupying the space that used to belong to Jump ‘n Java, which is now outfitted with white and crocodile-textured faux leather booths and tables, the small cafe drowns in garlands of roses. They hang from the ceiling, which is fuchsia in color, and adorn the walls. The result is a tasteful fantasy – a stark contrast to the serious, laptop-clad Cal students that populate the tables.

The owners – Rawaa Kasedah, aided by her family – know a thing or two about pleasing the student crowd. Prior to opening Damask Rose, the family owned and operated Old Damascus Fare, a catering business that additionally operated a kiosk on the UC Berkeley campus and appeared at festivals and food events across the Bay. . “We decided to start from scratch,” said Batool Rawoas, 24, who is the company’s unofficial spokesperson, head barista and operations manager.

The pandemic, which emptied the campus and temporarily ended celebrations and gatherings, killed all Old Damascus Fare business, and although the family – who came to the United States from Syria in 2015 – tried to revive her, “things haven’t quite returned to normal yet,” Rawoas said. So after working for a specialty coffee shop for three years, after graduating from 1951 Coffee Company, a nonprofit that offers barista training and coffee education to refugees, she encouraged the family to open a cafe instead.

The small café is drowned in garlands of roses. Credit: Nancy Shaw

The search for a permanent place was unsuccessful at first, but eventually the family got lucky and came across a closed cafe on Shattuck. It was a perfectly lively and bustling place, and aligned with the Raowa’s love for Oakland, the city that welcomed them upon their arrival in the United States.

The coffee feel came together naturally. “We were very interested in the idea of ​​the roses, the flowers, so once we figured that out, we made sure the design and the menu reflected that,” Raowas said. “The rose and cardamom flavors are very popular in the Middle East, and they go well with coffee.”

Indeed, on the menu, a rose latte – the cold version a layered wonder, with pink syrup all the way down – shares the limelight with a cold brew flavored with cardamom and rose lemonade. As in 1951, Damask Rose sources its coffee from Steeltown Roasters in Pittsburgh, which roasts the beans daily to the coffee’s demand.

Damask Rose offers a large selection of baklawas in different sizes. Credit: Nancy Shaw

Food-wise, the cafe offers a selection of flatbreads, topped with cheese and parsley, vegan muhammara (a spread of red peppers cooked with tomatoes, cilantro, onions, olive oil and spices light), zaatar and the heartiest option: lahm bi ajeen, a pancake generously covered with ground lamb, vegetables and Mediterranean spices. Other goodies include vegan chia pudding, baba ganoush and a mouth-watering selection of baklawas in various shapes.

A few months ago, the family, who had not been to Syria for years, had the chance to visit Damascus, which Rawoas described as “a sad experience” given the region’s years of war. The cafe, she says, is part homage to her city’s coffee culture, part brand new venture with an emphasis on the playful floral design.

“We are not very strict on the concept of the Middle East,” she said. “We certainly have unique Syrian-style cuisine, but the coffee itself is also important.”

And the attractive design? You’ll have to believe Rawoas when she says it’s just a reflection of what they love. “It wasn’t intentional, but it’s amazing how people react to the space and how it looks.”