A “very preliminary” rendering of the restaurant that has been approved for 2635 Ashby Ave. (at College) by the owners of  Comal. Image: Abueg Morris Architects

Openings, closings…

John Paluska

NEW ELMWOOD RESTAURANT IS A GO The folks behind buzzy downtown Berkeley restaurant Comal were last night given the go-ahead to open a second restaurant in the Elmwood at 2635 Asbhy Ave. (at College) (pictured above). Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board heard from Comal co-owner John Paluska (left) about the proposal and the extensive outreach he and his partner Andrew Hoffman have done in the community to try to address neighbors’ concerns about parking, traffic, trash and loading trucks. Parking was the principal worry, and Paluska conceded that immediate neighbors on Benvenue would likely see an impact from the new 100-seat restaurant. However there was broad support for the project among the 30 public commenters, with a handful who were fiercely opposed. Even some locals who thought they would be negatively impacted on the parking front said they would patronize the restaurant which is slated to serve Californian cuisine (a “talented local chef” is talking to the owners right now), have a full bar, including a menu of craft cocktails, and have late closing times. Watch for a build-out soon with design likely by Berkeley’s Abueg Morris Architects.

Great China
The ‘new’ Great China at 2190 Bancroft Way in Berkeley opens for lunch on Monday Dec. 16. Photo: Tracey Taylor

GREAT CHINA OPENS DEC. 16 The much anticipated opening of the ‘new’ Great China — the old one was shuttered by a fire in January 2012 — is happening Monday, Dec. 16, at 11:55 a.m. After opening day, the hours will be 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5-10 p.m. for dinner, Monday through Sunday, according to beverage director Mark Yatabe. The alcohol license is still pending but is expected early in the new year, Yatabe said. The menu is largely unchanged but there are some additions, including a new dessert menu and tea program. Read our scoop on Great China’s comeback. Great China is at 2190 Bancroft Way (at Oxford), Berkeley.

Verbena, the new restaurant from the owners of Gather in Berkeley, will have its soft opening this weekend on Polk Street in San Francisco. Photo: Abueg Morris Architects

VERBENA It’s in San Francisco, not in the East Bay, but given that Verbena (above), which is set to have its soft opening this weekend on Polk Street, is the brainchild of the crew behind Berkeley’s Gather, and there are other local connections, we feel justified in including it here. It’s the second restaurant for Eric Fenster, Ari Derfel and chef Sean Baker. Baker will helm the kitchen at the new Russian Hill eatery. Berkeley architects Abueg Morris Architects (who worked on Comal) are behind the design, and several other Berkeley names crossed the bridge to inject their creativity into the project, including Metro Lighting and Jered’s Pottery. By the way, that wall of pickle jars in the photo above was made by Baker, who is well-known for his in-house fermentation program. Verbena is at 2323 Polk St., between Union and Green, San Francisco.


GOGI TIME We brought you the news back in August that Korean barbecue and hot pot restaurant Gogi Time would be opening in Oakland. It had its soft opening Dec. 4. at 2600 Telegraph Ave. and is now serving lunch and dinner. The idea is you choose from its “delectable selection of top quality beef, pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetable,” then grill it all up on its table-side charcoal grills, or simmer it in their homemade hot pot broths. To drink, there’s a variety of draft and bottled beers as well as fresh fruit soju cocktails. Gogi Time is at 2600 Telegraph Ave. (at 27th Street), Oakland, 94612. Tel: 510-834 5757.


TIERRA MIA COFFEE Tierra Mia Coffee is about to open in Uptown Oakland (it’s currently hiring staff). It’s the Californian coffee chain’s second Bay Area store — it opened on Mission Street in San Francisco last July. This one is on the ground floor of the historic Magnin & Co. building at the corner of Broadway and 20th Street, next to the Oakland 19th Street BART station. The founder is Ulysses Romero, a 1999 UC Berkeley alum. Tierra Mia roasts its own micro-lot coffee and its baristas are a dab hand at latte art. Signature drinks include the Mocha Mexicano, Horchata Latte, Coco Loco Latte, Cubano con Leche, Horchata Frappe and Mojito Mint Tea Lemonade. Visit Tierra Mia Coffee online for more information.

Barrel Room

THE BARREL ROOM This new Rockridge spot, an outpost of the San Francisco wine bar of the same name, had to put back its opening date (it originally hoped to open Dec. 5) and will now, all things going well, open Friday, Dec. 15. Sommeliers Sarah Trubnick and Carolyn Johnson are behind the venture, which will serve a selection of 50 wines available by the glass, with 200 choices by the bottle. Regionally focused flights will be available, with the region changing monthly. Chef Sam Paulding (ex-Oliveto), will offer a full menu of small plates and entrées. The Barrel Room is at 5330 College Ave., Oakland. Tel: 510-655 1700.

News nibbles…

Vietnamese restaurant Pho Huong Nam at 938 San Pablo Ave. in Albany has closed its doors. In its place, there’s an application in for a new spot called Crawfish. Looks like a new wine bar called, of all things, The Wine Bar (or maybe that’s a working title), will open at 2212 Broadway in Oakland (between Franklin Street and Grand Avenue), replacing The Punchdown which is shuttered. We’ll bring you more details when we have them.

What else is going on…


THE MEAD KITCHEN AT URBANO CELLARS The Mead Kitchen and Urbano Cellars Winery, both West Berkeley businesses, are celebrating the holiday season by serving ham, latkes, wine and “Tasty Mead” (the four food groups) on Sunday, Dec. 15, 1-5 p.m., and all are invited. Urbano Fred is making the ham. Urbano Bob is making one million latkes. The wine and mead will be flowing freely. You can even pick up a bottle (or two) of Tasty Simcoe Mead in refillable growlers to take home with you. Urbano Cellars is at 2323B 4th St. in West Berkeley.


MONSTER CABERNETS AT VINTAGE BERKELEY Vintage Berkeley Wine Shop is pouring a dozen “awe-inspiring” West Coast Cabs from Napa, Columbia Valley, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Lake County and beyond, at a “Monsters of Cab Tasting,” Friday, Dec. 13, 5:30-6:30 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. at both its Vine Street and College Avenue stores. For full information and tickets visit Vintage Berkeley online.

Recent Nosh stories (in case you missed them):
New Elmwood restaurant seeks city approval
Great China to open in new Berkeley spot within days
Nosh on the town: FuseBOX launches Sunday brunch
Contest: Name that Nosh
Egg nog cream pie for a scrumptious season
Holiday turkey: Chop it up before cooking it, it tastes better!

Bites is Nosh’s round-up of restaurant openings, happenings and closings in the East Bay. Got a tip or scoop? Send it our way to nosh@berkeleyside.com. Catch up with previous Bites columns.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...