When Oakland’s Historic Fox Theater reopened several years ago, following a forty-plus year hiatus, it sparked a renaissance in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood. The area quickly filled with new bars, restaurants and its nightlife came to life.
In this new fertile ground of progress, a group of pals envisioned a restaurant. The team included a band manager, an accountant, a commercial builder and a famous rock and roll bassist.
“Welcome to the Can’t Fail Café, otherwise known as Rudy’s,” says co-owner Mike Dirnt -– one-third of the legendary Oakland band, Green Day.
With shocking blond hair slicked back, and a black jacket with fur collars concealing armfuls of tattoos, he looks more like a guy who pulled the short straw on who would deliver this media preview. But Dirnt is gracious, homey –- and as down-to-earth as a favorite corduroy coat.
“Here’s our Barbie dolls,” he says pointing to a wall case of dolls stretching 20-feet. “It’s a bit of an homage to everyone and everything.”
Among the hundreds of dolls hovering over diners: Heath Ledger as the Joker; a Mr. Clean doll (near the bathrooms of course); and a MC Hammer doll (a tribute to another famous Oaklander).
“We’ve had really great parties where we take our collection of odds and ends and toys -- and strange stuff, and we put them together,” says Dirnt showing off the dining tables that populate the generous space.
Each table is filled with a collection of oddities, all sealed in resin. Dirnt explains the group of owners hosted table-making parties, which resulted in the eclectic décor. His favorite is a table filled with rusty scissors and razor blades. His wife’s collection, he explains.
A long dining counter circles the center of the restaurants with shelves of liquor sitting in the center. Co-owner Jeffrey Bischoff reveals a little secret: if you lay your head on the counter and look at one set of shelves, it appears as the Black Flag logo.
It’s another funky detail in a room that includes a fabricated airline diner serving as a special event room.
Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café -- named for a Clash song -- is the second restaurant for Dirnt and his partners. The first Rudy’s opened nine years ago in Emeryville and is still going strong. Dirnt who was born in Oakland, and like the rest of Green Day still lives here, says he wanted a place where he could share a late night beer and some fries with friends.
“I remember growing up there were great diners,” says Dirnt. “You could go and have a pint with friends afterwards… after a show.”
Dirnt lamented the closing of restaurants like San Francisco’s legendary Hamburger Mary’s, where he and band mates would turn-up after gigs.
But Rudy’s is more than the story of its celebrity co-owner. It’s the tale of a group of pals who pooled their skills and rolled the dice on Oakland’s progress. Tucked into a corner of the historic Fox Theater in Oakland, the owners are hoping to be part of the neighborhood’s revival.
"What’s happening in downtown Oakland is, we want to be part of it,” says Rudy’s co-owner Jeffrey Bischoff. “And the Fox Theater of course is kind of the cornerstone for what’s happening here in Uptown.”
Dirnt, who’s often on the road with Green Day, says he’s happy to play a part in the hometown revival.
“The Bay Area’s a special place,” he says, just before scooting off to band practice. “Fortunately I get to appreciate it because I’m gone a lot. When I leave I come back, I’m really happy because I don’t always get to be here.”
When he is here, at least he can be sure that a taste of home, comes with a side of fries.