Photo by Jeremy Chiu, courtesy of Hi Felicia

InterviewsOaklandSan Francisco

Hi Felicia Unveils an A La Carte Menu. Here’s Why


Starting this first week of May, Oakland supperclub Hi Felicia is reinventing itself, shifting from a communal menu structure to a new format that adds the diner an option of a la carte service.

Launching on May 4, there will be about 10 shiny, new dishes on the a la carte menu, allowing diners to pop in casually if they don’t want to opt for the full seasonal tasting menu. But do note that the tasting menu option remains: six-plus courses for $120, including dishes not available for a la carte. We chatted with Hi Felicia owner Imana to learn more about her big shift, her first year in the books for Hi Felicia — and much more.

Resy: So, you’re switching up the restaurant. What are you changing?

Imana: So much is switching. From small things like replacing the cacti with nice small tree to repainting the bright orange parklet to a deep olive green. I just feel more mature right now. I feel like I’ve learned so much during my year open, and I honestly can’t even believe I’m here right now.

The choice to change from tasting menu only to a hybrid of a la carte and tasting menu is the biggest change I’ve had to date. So I’m just really excited to push myself out of my comfort zone, while still really maintaining the fine dining brand I’ve worked really hard for.

How do you describe the food at Hi Felicia?

I describe the food as California comfort. California is this big giant melting pot, and it’s my home. I’m born and raised in Los Angeles, and it’s a fever dream of dishes that I love. The spring menu is green. Lots of green. Big herbs, big flavors, and very seafood focused.

What’s the impetus for the menu format change?

Change baby. Spring cleaning emotionally. I want to reach more people. I want more people to be able to experience the magic we are creating. I also have been doing tasting menus for such a long time, and don’t ever want to become stagnant.

It’s a fever dream of dishes that I love. The spring menu is green. Lots of green. Imana, Hi Felicia

Speaking of reflecting, there was that recent Bon Appetit article that said the Bay Area dining culture is in a “bad place.” What do you think of that assertion?

That piece was like … I don’t know. I love Bon Appetit, and I’m always so inspired by how deep they dig to really represent the restaurant community. I, of course, agree in some ways with what was said, but in many ways disagree. The Bay Area will continue to evolve and change the face of dining, and there’s a million and one examples, and the low [number of] James Beard nominations aren’t the only thing that matters. There are so many business owners with investors and without, all pushing and fighting every day to protect their restaurants, and continue expressing their passions. That matters a lot. I feel like the main takeaway from the article is how hard it is to operate a business in the most expensive city in the country.

And you recently opened a wine bar, Sluts. How’s that going so far? 

Sluts is so f—ing fun. I don’t even have the words; it has surpassed all of my wildest expectations. I am not a pole dancer, I don’t have the upper body strength [laughs]. But the craziest and coolest thing for me to realize was what a gift I have provided for the pole dance community in the Bay. I had no idea the impact and weight of what I was providing with a pole that people can use freely. It’s been unbelievably inspiring and cool to get to know some of these artists personally, and really create a special bond between the bartenders, guests, and dancers.

Last question: What’s made you happiest about Hi Felicia?

The people I have met along the way.

Dish By DishSan Francisco

Five Dishes That Show Why There’s No Restaurant Quite Like Hi Felicia

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