Cafe Ohlone is the only Ohlone restaurant in the world; we want every meal we have in this unique space to reflect our culinary traditions with dignity and elegance.
On the south side of the UC Berkeley campus, on the ancestral homeland of the Chochenyo speaking Ohlone people, a red brick courtyard has recently been transformed into a jewel box landscape of native California grasses and trees. Reclaimed wood tables and hand-hewn stools await visitors for lunch and dinner.
But this cafe is much more than a beautiful place to eat. It’s a sensory immersion that draws you in, holds you, and sends you off with a deeper understanding of the Indigenous food, languages, and stories of this region of California—which has been home to the Ohlone people for thousands of years, and still is today.
The cafe is the brainchild (and heartchild, too) of two Ohlone cultural leaders and language teachers, Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino. It’s no coincidence that they chose to build the restaurant here, in the courtyard of the UC Berkeley Museum of Anthropology. The museum has been the site of historic acts of attempted Ohlone erasure, and still contains many artifacts that belong to them. In 1925, one of the museum’s noted anthropologists publicly declared the Ohlone people extinct, which led them to lose federal tribal recognition and rights to their native land.
So here in front of the museum, the cafe stands as a place for healing and repair—not just symbolically, but through the ritual of each meal here. The drinking glasses are etched with the Chochenyo word 'oṭṭoy—which means mend or repair. Seated on local wood and large rocks, diners listen to Vincent tell stories of the Ohlone culture. The voices of elders and children speaking Native languages play through a recorded soundscape. Landscape firm Terremoto helped design shellmounds that mirror the larger ones a few miles away, which are a sacred Ohlone burial site.
And this is where Heath intersects with the Cafe Ohlone story. The multi-course menu—served on Heath dinnerware—presents Ohlone foodways through ingredients gathered nearby—bursting with the colors, textures, and flavors of this region, in this season. There are wild-foraged greens like watercress and sorrel and California bay laurel; huckleberries, gooseberries, and blackberries; acorns and quail eggs and mushrooms; and sometimes local venison or trout.
We were honored to donate all of the dinnerware and serving vessels for the restaurant. When Vincent and Louis approached us and described their vision, we were immediately inspired to support them. We feel privileged to play a small part in the beautiful experience they’ve created, and it’s fitting that California clay is the material that connects us.
It felt like the stars aligned for us to meet Vincent and Louis. We share many connection points in terms of values, creativity, and intentionality. We were happy to donate dishes—it was a timely detail we could offer—but the relationship for us is about much more than ceramics. It’s been an opportunity to support the Ohlone community and the vibrant, original approach of Cafe Ohlone. The reality of our history is important to recognize—and not from a distance. In the cafe, you’re taking stories in through your senses.
That sense memory is a route to creating lasting change in the visitors who come through. Beyond the act of repair, Vincent and Louis also speak of the cafe’s role in raising awareness of Ohlone people and culture, and increasing representation. Their focus is on the living culture of today, and the ways that ancestral traditions can manifest in modern life. In many ways, this place is a radical creative act, using food to teach, to build understanding, and to generate greater respect for a culture that has been here all along. “When people know,” Vincent says, “they can’t unknow.”