Town Crier: Music adds dose of magic to street scenes

Oakland’s Agave Uptown, 2135 Franklin St., is celebrating its first anniversary specializing in Oaxancan cuisine.

MONTCLARION: February 21, 2018

I saw the world through the eyes of a child this week, and it was pure joy. Four little girls, all dressed in pink, were dancing to the music of a farmer’s market busker.

The street performer, Chaz, was a master at karaoke, adding his own guitar, flute, sax and singing to favs like Santana’s “Oye Como Va.” When he busted out Pharrell William’s “Happy,” folks went into festival mode with the ballerinas bouncing in a circle.

To quote the Monkees, it was “Just another Pleasant Valley Sunday” in Montclair Village. Mike had the barbecue going at Lucky’s … tangy smoke wafting through the air as he played country music and took requests from his fans.

“Save me a big, juicy tri-tip, OK, Mike?” “You got it,” he replied.

And the beat went on. The man outside Rite Aid played his ancient string instrument, giving Montclair Village a Chinatown flair. The high-pitched notes rose above the normal rhythms of the village, yet somehow they blended in the hodgepodge of Sunday activities.

The takeaway is that music is precious. It lightens our collective mood. We need to celebrate it. Support it. Promote it and let it wash over us.

Foodie news: Oakland’s Agave Uptown, 2135 Franklin St., is celebrating its first anniversary and owner/chef Octavio Diaz is clearly pouring his heart into his endeavor.

“I love the opportunity that was given to our family,” he says, “creating jobs for the local community and really working with people who have no idea about Oaxacan food.”

I was one of those people. I’d read the articles about the extraordinary food coming out of Oaxaca, Mexico, but never tried it until our visit to Agave Uptown. It was as if chef Diaz had opened his home, spreading the gospel of Oaxacan cuisine and tantalizing mezcal cocktails.

And oh, the mole negro … so good, his family is now selling it for take home. “It’s a family-owned recipe and it’s a story,” says Diaz, who says his mom learned it from his grandmothers, but the flavor profiles go back to when the Spanish came in big ships, bringing spices. “We have a lot of African and European influence in the moles. Mole is a melting pot of all those cultures, including Mexico.”

Diaz, his parents and six siblings, run five restaurants — two in Oakland and three in Sonoma County. The mole is made in their kitchen in Healdsburg, from no fewer than 20 different ingredients. “My mom and dad have verbal agreements through people that they know, so most of the ingredients come from local farmers in Oaxaca,” Diaz says.

The mole is sold in their restaurants and on the website The site also has more about Agave Uptown and the family’s other restaurants.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web at



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