By Tracey Taylor and Emilie Raguso
Think the East Bay food scene is calming down? Think again: 2014 was Nosh‘s second year covering the beat, and it’s absolutely hopping! Before 2014 recedes in our collective memory, we are pausing to look at some of our best stories and biggest happenings in East Bay restaurants last year. (Click any of the links below to see complete past coverage of places you want to learn more about.) And be sure to sign up for NOSH Weekly, the free email that arrives in your inbox on Thursdays and ensures you stay up-to-date with the latest restaurant news in Oakland, Berkeley and beyond.
The year in East Bay booze
Before we get to food, let’s talk about how bonkers we continued to be last year about beer, with the opening of, in Oakland, The Good Hop Bottle Shop, the Fruitvale Fermentation Factory from Ale Industries, Parliament bar, Woods Bar & Brewery and Diving Dog Brewhouse. In Berkeley, the Westbrae Biergarten which, with its Brazil Café food, was an immediate neighborhood hit; The Rare Barrel, specializing in sour beer; and The Daily Pint on Euclid, which brought a new option for the Northside neighborhood. Craft distillery Sutherland Distilling Company opened in Livermore. And there are more in the works, including 21st Amendment in San Leandro, and Fieldwork Brewing Company in Berkeley (the latter had its soft opening last week). Speaking of San Leandro, Cleophus Quealy Beer Company also launched in 2014. (See our early 2014 round-up of great East Bay beer spots.)
Read more about hot drinking spots in the East Bay.
As for wine, 2014 saw the opening in the East Bay of Justice Grace Vineyards, a winery with a passion for social justice, that joined Eno Wines and Lusu Cellars on Camelia Street in Berkeley. Not far away witnessed the welcome arrival to Berkeley’s “Drinks District” of Covenant Wines, a kosher winery that moved its operation from Napa to Sixth Street.
Wine shop and gathering spot Bay Grape opened on Grand Avenue, and Downtown Wine Merchants set up shop in the heart of downtown Oakland on Broadway next to Frank Ogawa Plaza.
For those who would add cocktails to their beer and wine repertoire, the Alchemy Bottle Shop opened on Grand Avenue, and Cask took over the liquor store on the corner of College and Alcatraz. (Looking for a place to enjoy a cocktail? Browse Ms Barstool’s reviews for Nosh.)
And let’s not forget about Mosswood Distillers, which moved from Treasure Island to West Berkeley in 2014. It can be found at bottle shops around the East Bay, as well as in San Francisco. Building 43 Winery opened in December in Alameda.
The year in eats: Berkeley openings
DOWNTOWN BERKELEY In January, Paris Baguette opened opposite the entrance to Downtown Berkeley BART bringing French desserts and pastries with a slight Asian twist to the heart of the city. Later in the year, A Dora Pie opened in the former Slow restaurant spot on University Avenue. Sushi restaurant Seasons of Japan opened in the space formerly occupied by Mexican taqueria Casa Bernal, and Trappist’s owners launched Perdition Smokehouse, a BBQ-craft beer spot, at 2050 University.
The New York Times noticed the arrival of Botella Republic, a wine shop and tasting studio at 2055 Center St. brought to us by husband and wife team Christopher Clarke and Lauren Brody-Clarke. Eureka! Burger also did its bit to bring a little hipness to downtown with its smart burger restaurant/bar — its burgers quickly made their way into the “best lists.” And the much-loved Caffe Venezia, which closed in 2013 after several decades of serving Berkeley, was replaced with fashionable bar and small-bites spot Townie, at 1799 University.
Downtown Berkeley got a new fishmonger in 2014 — not something many cities can boast these days. Bonita Fish Market at 1941 University Ave. is owned and operated by Hong Nguyen working with commercial fisherman Truc Vuong who supplies the market with fresh seafood daily.
Also now in the neighborhood: Sushi Secrets at 2110 Shattuck; Tandoori Nite at 2160 University; Tia’s, which replaced Levant Organic Café on Kittredge at Oxford; Imm Thai on University; Kaze Ramen on Shattuck; Bobo Drinks on Shattuck; Tamon Tea on Center; and Amazing Crab on Shattuck.
GOURMET GHETTO Vegans rejoiced with the opening of Source Mini in the Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Garden at 1511 Shattuck Ave. It snagged the spot formerly occupied by Flavor Mediterranean Food. Mission Heirloom, Berkeley’s first “Paleo diet” restaurant, opened on Vine Street. In the same neighborhood, Kamado Sushi took over from Bel Forno which closed after 23 years at 1400 Shattuck Avenue. (Not in the neighborhood but, speaking of hot vegan news, Republic of V — one of just a handful of vegan shops across the nation — opened on University Avenue.)
Read more about East Bay vegan food options.
SOUTH BERKELEY Mark Jones and Ramone Smith opened 44 Restaurant & Bar in the space that used to be Addie’s Pizza Pie, and was, for a short while, Next Door Restaurant. In the same area, Hoi Polloi Brewpub & Beat Lounge threw open its doors; and Thai restaurant Giin Thai Canteen opened at 3278 Adeline St. just south of Ashby BART. After raising money through crowd-funding, Rasa Sun Mott, the son of two high-profile Black Panther activists, opened Rasa Caffe at 3192 Adeline St., serving coffee, chai and pastries. Fans of Berkeley’s Breads of India were ecstatic when the restaurant re-opened after being shuttered by a fire in September 2012. Los Cilantros opened a breakfast and lunch restaurant at La Peña Cultural Center. Kate McEachern, founder of the popular Cupkates trucks opened Stateside Bakery in the minuscule space next to much-contested Starbucks on Telegraph Avenue at Ashby, opposite Whole Foods. And Mollie Rose Baking Company set up shop on Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
THE ELMWOOD Giuseppe and Michele Manzone opened Cugini Manzone in the former Fillipo’s spot in the Elmwood neighborhood. Norikonoko, the much-loved gem of a Japanese restaurant, at 2556 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, re-opened after it was shuttered by a fire in October 2013. After years standing vacant a former taqueria in the Claremont ‘hood opened up as casual burger joint The Station. Nearby, the much anticipated Fournée bakery finally opened its doors on Domingo Avenue in the old Bread Garden space after months of build-out. Locals say it was worth the wait.
SOUTHSIDE New spots catering primarily to the student crowd, but also helping to rejuvenate the Telegraph Avenue area in 2014: Pacific Cookie Company at 2309 Telegraph Ave.; Pieology at 2468 Telegraph; Seniore’s Pizza on Durant; ShareTea on Bancroft; Cupcakin’ Bake Shop on Durant; Muracci’s Japanese Curry & Grill on Telegraph; Dumpling Express, on Bowditch; and Smoke’s Poutinerie on Durant. There’s also Luna Tea Company, which opened in December, offering house-blended teas on Telegraph. Chengdu Style Restaurant took over the former Le Petit Cheval location.
WEST BERKELEY The blossoming Gilman District exploded with openings, including a brand new Whole Foods (encompassing an Allegro coffee spot), Southern chain Farm Burger, and new outposts for Doughnut Dolly and Philz Coffee. Sanctuary Bistro, a vegan restaurant described by owners as a “fine dining, plant-based bistro,” took the place of longtime local favorite Sushi Banzai. The Whole Cake, a boutique cake design shop, opened on San Pablo Avenue. Roland Robles, of Fivetenburger fame, opened Handlebar on University Avenue. Berkeley Kitchens, a revolutionary hub for artisanal food manufacturing, also opened in West Berkeley. Also in the neighborhood: Nine Thai Eatery at 1267 University Ave., which is run by the daughter of owner of the former restaurant at the same location, Your Place Thai Cuisine. Alembique Apothecary, a store selling herbs and botanicals for the kitchen and for the body, opened over the summer. Longbranch took over the former Sea Salt space at 2512 San Pablo Ave.
MORE COFFEE KLATCH Starbucks spent much time fighting significant community opposition to a new coffee shop in the Telegraph Gardens development on the corner of Telegraph and Ashby. Much discussion and debate later, the Frappuccinos started flowing in the latter half of 2014. Speaking of coffee, Catahoula Kaffeegarten opened up in the space vacated by Sketch ice cream at Fourth and U. Also notable, Supersonic coffee, a roaster with all the right credentials, opened in West Berkeley on Fifth Street. And Coffee Conscious in Berkeley’s Westbrae neighborhood had a management change and began offering vegan-organic donuts from Pepples Donuts, vegan pastries and organic coffee. (Read more local coffee news on Berkeleyside Nosh.)
IN OTHER NEWS Away from the restaurant world, 2014 was the year the Berkeley schools cooking and gardening program was in crisis mode, and had to figure out how to continue to operate despite the withdrawal of federal funding. Meanwhile King Middle School’s famous Edible Schoolyard got a visit from British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who was shown around by the garden’s patron saint Alice Waters.
In business news, the biggest story in Berkeley was that TCHO Chocolate was moving in lock, stock and barrel, from San Francisco. And a food-related issue dominated the 2014 elections with Berkeley living up to its reputation as a pioneering city by passing the nation’s first soda tax at the local level.
Read more about dining in Berkeley.
The year in eats: New in Oakland
In January, Tierra Mia Coffee opened for business on the ground floor of the historic I. Magnin & Company building at the corner of Broadway and 20th Street, next to the Oakland 19th Street BART station. Cult third-wave coffee purveyor Blue Bottle got a $25.75 million investment money in early 2014 which would fuel the company’s expansion, including the opening in February of a beautiful new store in Oakland’s historic W.C. Morse Building on Broadway. Coloso Coffee, serving Sightglass beans, opened in a quiet part of Uptown Oakland in May, and Modern Coffee opened a second location, on 19th Street, in August.
It wasn’t the only new coffee spot for Oakland. Kilovolt Coffee, co-owned by Ethan Ashley opened at 1829 Mandela Parkway not far from Tanya Holland’s much-loved Brown Sugar Kitchen. And Black Spring Coffee Company arrived on Telegraph Avenue on the edge of Pill Hill, serving a Monsoon Medley brew.
Seafood spot alaMar opened on Grand Avenue in April; tiki-style tropical cocktail bar Longitude opened on 14th Street downtown in August. Downtown, The Hatch gastropub opened in November. And longtime Mission District favorite Bissap Baobab, serving Senegalese fare, opened earlier in the year. Broadway’s Auto Row got the East Bay’s first cat-centric eatery, Cat Town Café (yes, you read that right).
Off The Grid launched a new food-truck market in Uptown Oakland, and Taiwan Bento took off in the same area. Lost & Found, featuring pingpong, cornhole and hula hoops, opened last summer. Gail Lillian, owner of the Liba Falafel food truck, opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant of the same name in Uptown.
Oakland’s only Michelin-starred chef, James Syhabout, opened The Dock at Linden Street in West Oakland. (His other 2014 opening, Box and Bells, was not as successful, however, and closed in early 2015.)
Swan’s Market in Old Oakland saw the arrival of The Cook and Her Farmer from cookbook author and former Berkeleyside contributor Romney Steele and her partner Steve Day, and B-Dama. (According to its website, restaurant tenants include Breads of India, Coobi Yogurt & Wraps, Cosecha, Miss Ollie’s, Periscope Cellars, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Sincere Seafood and Taylor’s Sausages.)
Nearby, Galeto Brazilian Grill opened as a traditional Brazilian steakhouse with Italian influences, and La Snackeria launched featuring Chino Latino beverages, snacks and lunch “to a busy area filled with hungry workers and residents.”
Michel Bistro, a gastropub-style restaurant run by French owners Germain Michel and Jean-Michel Fabregon, arrived at 3343 Lakeshore Ave. Mediterranean food spot Shakewell also opened on Lakeshore to seemingly instant success. Nearby, on Grand Avenue, Modigliani Café moved into the former Day of the Dead coffee shop, BarLago moved into what used to be Zza’s, and JJ Burger opened in the former location of Kung Pao Kitchen.
Sausage-and-beer joint The Half Orange from restaurateur and San Diego transplant Jay Porter, got going in the Fruitvale Public Market. Peter’s Kettle Corn opened in The Laurel.
Temescal continued to be a foodie hotbed with the openings of Cholita Linda, Vanessa Chavez and Murat Sozeri’s airy restaurant with patio whose fish tacos have quickly developed a following, and Curbside Creamery, the brainchild of Tori Wentworth who had until then been selling her ice cream sandwiches from a specially outfitted tricycle with a freezer. Bowl’d BBQ Korean Stone Grill opened at 4869 Telegraph, replacing Copan. Bole Ethiopian Restaurant opened on Telegraph at 28th. Also in Temescal, Iron Pan opened in the old location of Aunt Mary’s Café, which moved up the street.
Underwood, billed as a “new-school café, dedicated to catering to all those who work from home,” opened at 308 41st St. (at Broadway) in North Oakland — an up-and-coming foodie ‘hood. it was joined by artisan butcher and restaurant, Clove & Hoof (read our review) at 4001 Broadway later in the year, as well as a second, long-awaited, TrueBurger location in the old Carpet & Linoleum building at 4101 Broadway.
Speaking of expansions, Homeroom launched Homeroom To Go just up the block (west on 40th), to offer easier take-out options, as well as space for larger groups and classes. Up the street, on College Avenue, High Peaks Kitchen came in with a stellar new choice for those seeking Indian and Pakistani fare.
Rockridge saw the arrival of Smitten in April, just in time for the spring and summer crowd. The company’s unique selling point? Ice cream frozen to order using liquid nitrogen, at -321 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting product was an immediate hit with lines out the door.
Kouzina opened in Montclair, and Camber expanded into the neighborhood too. And Chowhaus took the place of Montclair Bistro after a 10-year run.
Jack London Square continued to thrive with the opening of Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House, and entertainment and restaurant behemoth Plank, a 50,000-square-foot interactive entertainment venue.
Honorable mentions: Grand Fare on Grand Avenue which plans to grow into a Ferry Building-style project; Fist of Flour Doughjo; Monster Pho; BBQ Hut on Shattuck; Crossburgers on Frank Ogawa Plaza; The Growlers’ Arms on Park Boulevard; Obelisco at 3411 East 12th St. in Fruitvale; See’s Candies in Rockridge; Encuentro moved new digs on Second Street; Kushido on Telegraph; Descanso and Judoku on Piedmont; Zella’s Soulful Kitchen in West Oakland
Read more about Oakland dining.
Beyond Berkeley and Oakland
938 Crawfish, Boss Burger and Oori Rice Triangles opened in Albany. In Kensington, Country Cheese opened a new outpost and Ele Thai opened in the former Sugar Cone Café spot. Emeryville saw the opening of Scarlet City Espresso and Bacano Bakery, as well as a new Off the Grid market. In Alameda: Capone’s Speakeasy, Cinema Grill, Banh Mi Shop and Sakura Sushi & Grill.
Farewell, adieu, arrivederci
Closed in Berkeley in 2014
Aficionados of Le Petit Cheval in Berkeley had to bid goodbye to the Vietnamese restaurant at 2600 Bancroft Way — which has been something of an institution for UC Berkeley faculty and students for the 15 years it was in business. Many were heartbroken to see Slow shutter suddenly in September, closely followed by Bittersweet Café in the same block of University. Taiwan Restaurant, at 2071 University Ave., shut its doors at the end of December after 42 years in business. And soft-scoop favorite Sketch closed its Fourth Street store for good.
The La Farine bakery at 1820 Solano Ave. in North Berkeley abruptly shut its doors in July after failing to reach a lease agreement after a protracted battle with its landlords.
In March, food truck orchestrator extraordinaire Off The Grid pulled the plug on its Southside Berkeley market, explaining that it had not proved financially viable for the vendors. That left just one OTG market in the city — at the North Berkeley BART station — after the original Gourmet Ghetto one closed in 2012.
Ice cream lovers greeted the arrival of Bootleg Creamery with glee. After our story ran, “churner-in-chief” Jessica Rollison was inundated with orders. She has since relocated the biz to SoCal so no more Goat Cheese and Blackberry ice cream for us.
Also shuttered: Flavor Mediterranean; Levant Café; Tomo’s Japanese Cuisine; Thalassa (reopened as Berkeley Public Food and Billiards); The Pho Bar; Ryowa; Sushi Banzai; Padi Restaurant; Next Door Restaurant; Zensen Sushi Express; ; and Yolo Berry Yogurt.
Closed in Oakland in 2014
Remember that time Daniel Patterson‘s Uptown Oakland restaurant Plum became Ume, and then became an expansion of Plum Bar? Yeah, that happened in 2014, and we’re not sure exactly how to categorize all the changes, but you can read about it here.
In the Temescal neighborhood, Jamal Zahid reopened Tanjia as Moroccan restaurant Doukkala, but closed it later in the year. Nearby, Barkada on Telegraph — which morphed from a bakery to a full-service restaurant — also closed in 2014, along with tapas restaurant Barlata. Also shuttered: Olde Depot Public House; Centouno in Jack London Square; Marzano; Marrow; Montclair Bistro; Captain & Corset; Q’s Falafel House; Drunken Fish; Good Bellies; One International Café
Jodie’s Restaurant in Albany announced it would shutter after about 25 years, citing ongoing problems with its landlord as well as insurmountable infrastructure upgrades. (The restaurant has said it hopes to find a new location.) Also closed in Albany: Sophia Café on Solano and longtime family-run favorite Zaki Kabob House.
On the horizon
Sometimes projects take longer than planned, and there are a few restaurants we tipped you about in 2014 that have yet to open: Salsipuedes in North Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhood; Egbert Souse on Piedmont Avenue is slated for an overhaul — The Lodge — by the owner of Oakland’s Bar Dogwood; and Grange Hall plans to open in February where Barlata formerly was located. And Rosamunde Sausage Grill announced plans to take the place of Good Bellies in Temescal. OK Falls aimed to open at 15th and Broadway by February.
The Port Bar, a gay bar hoping to open in Uptown Oakland, is still working with the city on getting its building permits, as of early February. And then there’s KronnerBurger, which is working to open a new location on Piedmont Avenue. Chris Pastena has a number of plans in the works, including a new project called Calavera at the Hive at 2335 Broadway.
In Berkeley: Tupper & Reed is set to open in the short term in downtown Berkeley (in the former location of Beckett’s and, later, Bec’s.) La Marcha (from catering and pop-up operation Ñora Spanish Cuisine) is working to open on San Pablo Avenue at University. And 85°C Bakery Café, the Taiwanese chain with a firm following for its affordable cakes, pastries and breads, has a location planned on Shattuck Square.
The owners of buzzy downtown restaurant Comal spent most of 2014 in a “will it, won’t it happen” bid to open a second eatery in the city — having chosen a site in the old Wright’s Garage in the Elmwood. After a lawsuit, appeals, and many meetings, John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman were finally given the all-clear in September. The new restaurant is now being built out with an expected opening date in April.
Work is also underway to improve offerings at the Emeryville Public Market, and Alameda Island Brewing Company has reported that a conditional use permit has been approved (the buildout is ongoing). Angela’s Kitchen had hoped to open last year but was the victim of a fire; fundraising efforts have been ongoing. Wolfhound bar, on San Pablo Avenue, is reportedly on the verge of opening, according to our friends at The E’ville Eye.
Did we miss a new favorite spot of yours, or has the status changed on any of the places we’ve mentioned? Please let us know in the comments. We always welcome tips about East Bay food news via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hot East Bay restaurants, food news of 2013 (Nosh)
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