Evan Cross (left) and Cyrus Cross (right) at Herb n' Chicken, which is now open in the Gourmet Ghetto. Photo: Kate Williams
Evan Cross (left) and Cyrus Cross (right) at Herb n’ Chicken, which is now open in the Gourmet Ghetto. Photo: Kate Williams

Openings, closings…

HERB N’ CHICKEN OFFICIALLY OPENS TODAY We’ve got more details on the restaurant moving into the former Source Mini location in Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Garden. Called Herb n’ Chicken, the new spot has been in soft opening this week. Its grand opening is today. Herb n’ Chicken will offer a substantial salad bar, organic Rosie’s rotisserie chicken with eight dipping sauces, and a few other items like French fries with lemon verbena, macaroni and cheese, and marinated tempeh. Herb n’ Chicken is a project from Farm League Design and Management, the team behind TigerlilyEast Bay Spice Company and the Westbrae Biergarten. Farm League’s Joel DiGiorgio told NOSH that the restaurant will offer both grab-and-go signature salad options, including a “Vegan Kitchen Sink” option, as well as a build-your-own menu. Full rotisserie chickens as well as eat-in chicken plates will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Farm League has brought over Tigerlily sous chef Josh Gjersand to manage the kitchen. Herb n’ Chicken is at 1511 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine Street), Berkeley. 

Spats in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Spats in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

SPATS RETURNS TODAY It’s taken longer than they anticipated, but the Berkeley institution that is Spats reopens today. The bar, at 1974 Shattuck Ave., is very recognizable to all its former loyal patrons. This is a deliberate move by the guys behind the reopening, who wanted to retain all the elements that people loved  rather than launch a new business. That includes the eclectic “Alameda flea market” decor and the iconic Fog Cutter — a tiki-style drink that’s served with dry ice. There is a smart new bar, however, and the place has been spruced up. There are house cocktails and a selection of beer and wine options (see drinks menu). And expect freshly cooked bar snacks and comfort food like shrimp cocktail, chicken wings, mac n’ cheese, burgers, and sandwiches (see full menu). Spats is at 1974 Shattuck Ave. (between University Avenue and Berkeley Way), Berkeley. Open: 5 p.m.–2 a.m., Mon to Fri, Sat–Sun., noon–2 a.m. Weekend brunch service expected soon. Connect with the bar on Facebook.

Photo: Grand Fare Market/Facebook
Photo: Grand Fare Market/Facebook

GRAND FARE OPENING NEXT WEEK Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood will soon have a new shopping destination. Grand Fare Market, a project of restauranteur Doug Washington, will finally open its doors Tuesday, Oct. 6, reported Inside Scoop. The open-concept market will be most similar to Rockridge’s Market Hall, with several different stations selling items like oysters, produce, cheese, charcuterie and sandwiches. Washington also converted the adjoining parking lot into a “tree-lined, Parisian-style patio-garden where customers can sit and enjoy the food,” said the Scoop. What else can you expect at Grand Fare? Eight beers on tap, a “wine corner” selling a mix of California and old world wines, an ice cream and coffee trailer, and a flower shop run by Washington’s wife. All of the prepared food production is being overseen by Ben Coe, formerly of James Syhabout’s Box & Bells restaurant. It has all been quite a production; Grand Fare has been in the works for over two years, and it was enough work that Washington dropped his plans to open a restaurant, OK Falls, this springGrand Fare Market is at 3265 Grand Ave. (between Santa Clara and Elwood avenues), Oakland. Connect with the market on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo courtesy: Lindgren's
Photo courtesy: Lindgren’s

LINDGREN’S CAFE FOR SALE Eric Lindgren has put the café he opened in February 2013 up for sale. Lindgren’s Coffee and Café has proved a popular destination for good coffee, pastries and a good selection of brunch and lunch options — from scrambles and omelets through paninis and salads. However Lindgren says he recently got married and he and his husband have new plans for their lives. He said it was a positive move and he has already had several inquiries about buying the business. He’s hoping that his employees might be able to retain their jobs with a new owner. The 1,200 sq ft space is being marketed with a key money price of $225,000. Lindgren’s Coffee and Café is at 2120 Dwight Way (at Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley. Connect with the café on Facebook.  

Margherita pizza at Croll's. Photo: Croll's/Facebook
Margherita pizza at Croll’s. Photo: Croll’s/Facebook

CROLL’S PIZZA IS CLOSING IN ALAMEDA The thin-crust pizza and craft beer joint on the corner of Webster and Central in Alameda will not get its lease renewed. Croll’s Pizza has been open since 2007; owner Lorenzo Puertas plans to close for good Oct. 24, reported Inside Scoop. The pizzeria’s landlord is handing over the space to neighboring 1400 Bar & Grill. On Croll’s Facebook page, Puertas said he had tried to find a new Alameda location, but has “found nothing. Sadly, this is the end of Croll’s in Alameda. … Rents are very high, and the only spaces we’ve found available in Alameda are not built as restaurants, so building a new commercial kitchen is a $200,000 proposition. For a little neighborhood pizzeria, it just doesn’t make economic sense.” The new tenants plan on opening up a similar restaurant, reports the Scoop. Croll’s Pizza & Beer is at 705 Central Ave. (at Webster Street), Alameda. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

Arepas from Venezuelan Café. Photo: Venezuelan Café/Facebook
Arepas from Venezuelan Café. Photo: Venezuelan Café/Facebook

CAFÉ V TRANSFORMING TO VENEZUELAN CAFE Berkeley’s Café V has been playing host Venezuelan Cafe, to a morning and afternoon pop-up, since May. Cook Juan Polanco has been getting such rave reviews for his extensive list of arepas (15 strong) and other Venezuelan offerings that Café V owner Hamei Hamedi will be turning over the entire kitchen to Polanco. The East Bay Express had the scoop, and reports that the restaurant will transition at some point in the next few weeks. Venezuelan Café will be at 2056 San Pablo Ave. (between University Avenue and Addison Street), Berkeley. Connect with the café on Facebook and Instagram.  

BLUE BAY BAR AND GRILL NOW OPEN The former Dorsey’s Locker location has made its full transition to Blue Bay Bar & Grill. The restaurant now has an active Facebook page, as well as an active liquor license. Blue Bay owner Joseph Santini purchased Dorsey’s this spring and took control of the restaurant at the end of May. Santini is serving Brazilian-inspired soul food, plus a few of Dorsey’s favorite dishes. The restaurant hosts karaoke Thursday nights and live music Fridays, Sundays and Mondays. Blue Bay Bar & Grill is at 5817 Shattuck Ave. (between 58th and 59th streets), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

Daniel Wright (left) and Earl Brown (left) of Wright & Brown Distilling. Photo: Wright & Brown
Daniel Wright (left) and Earl Brown (left) of Wright & Brown Distilling. Photo: Wright & Brown

OAKLAND IS GETTING A WHISKEY DISTILLERY Wright & Brown Distilling Company will be the first company to (legally) distill whiskey in Oakland since Prohibition. Owners Daniel Wright and Earl Brown have begun distilling brandy, and will be adding whiskey, rum, and unaged moonshine to the line-up, reports the East Bay Express. While whiskeys typically require years of barrel-aging, Wright to EBX that by working in very small batches, he and Brown will be able to start selling their whiskey, brandy and rum in six months. The pair plans to follow a traditional approach to distilling. As they write on the Wright & Brown website, “the heart of our process is a classical American made artisan copper whiskey still which we use to handcraft each small batch. We seek out the most flavorful malted grains and carry out every step of the process in house, from milling the grain to mashing, fermenting, distilling, barreling and bottling. We are a true grain to glass distillery.” Joining Wright & Brown in the East Bay spirits scene will be a gin distillery, Oakland Spirits Distillery, from the folks at Two Mile Wines, which we reported on in June. Connect with Wright & Brown on Twitter and Instagram.

In the kitchen at Steel Rail Café. Photo: Steel Rail/Twitter
In the kitchen at Steel Rail Café. Photo: Steel Rail/Twitter

STEEL RAIL CAFÉ COMES TO JACK LONDON We last brought you news of Steel Rail Café, an affordable sandwich-centric eatery in Jack London Square, last March. According to Inside Scoop, Steel Rail is now open. The café is the brainchild of Grand Tavern and Lungomare‘s Temoor Noor, O.co Stadium’s Effie Speigler, and Steve Sparkes. In addition to sandwiches, Steel Rail is offering soups, salads and Jamaican-influenced food, plus local craft beers on tap. Steel Rail also has a service-oriented bent; Sparkes is the founder of the non-profit My Yute Soccer, which runs sports and mentorship camps for Oakland youth. Sparkes intends the café to be both a gathering spot for participating families as well as a source of employment for program alumni. Right now, Steel Rail is serving a limited breakfast and brunch menu. Starting in mid-October, Steel Rail will expand its hours until 8 p.m. and offer dinner-ish items like a cheese plate, a charcuterie plate and oysters. Steel Rail Café is at 439 Water St. (at Broadway), Oakland. Connect with the café on Twitter.

Donut Savant: fresh-baked in Uptown Oakland. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Photo: Emilie Raguso

TIDBITS We hear on Twitter that Uptown Oakland’s Donut Savant is in trouble. The building in which it is housed sits on the site that has recently been sold to developer Seth Hamalian, who plans to build a 33-floor condominium building on the lot. In somewhat happier news, Berkeley’s Nabolom Collective Bakery has posted a sign on its window stating, “Nabolom is trying to reopen in Dec. ’15 or by Jan ’16. Keep hope alive!” The almost 40-year-old bakery shuttered Aug. 2. We will keep you posted as we learn more. Finally, this week is the first for the new location of the North Shattuck Farmers Market. Citing safety concerns, the city of Berkeley proposed moving the market to the frontage road that runs along CVS pharmacy earlier this year. The market will feature the same farmers and vendors. Berkeley’s Ecology Center, which manages the market, will hold a re-opening celebration on Oct. 15.

What else is going on…

Guests at last year's Oaktoberfest. Photo courtesy: Oaktoberfest
Guests at last year’s Oaktoberfest. Photo courtesy: Oaktoberfest

OAKTOBERFEST IN THE DIMOND The eighth annual “family-friendly” Oaktoberfest is set to take place Saturday, Oct. 3 across four blocks of Oakland’s Dimond district branching out from the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Fruitvale Avenue. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf will kick of the festivities at 10:45 by tapping the first keg of beer. The day-long street party will include plenty of local craft brews as well as tasty snacks from restaurants and mobile vendors like Chop Bar, Kenny’s Heart and Soul, Oaktown Jerk and Prickly Pig. Kids and teetotalers will have plenty to enjoy at the “Rootbeir Garten,” and music from the likes of Blow Musik, FLO and Planet Booty will keep just about everyone entertained. Oaktoberfest is free to attend; food and drinks are available for purchase. Find more information here. 

MLK Cafe parklet. Illustration: Lawrence Wight
MLK Cafe parklet. Illustration: Lawrence Wight

MLK CAFE PARKLET FUNDRAISER The Longfellow neighborhood Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant is currently raising funds through Indigogo for a street car-themed parklet outside of its restaurant. MLK Cafe received one of 15 Oakland-sponsored permits for the parklet this January. MLK Cafe owner Asmeron Ghebrimicael and local urban designer Yuriko Jewett are running the campaign, which is looking to raise $3000. They aim to provide a neighborhood gathering space as well as a play space for kids. “During the community outreach process, residents voiced that more young families are moving into the area and that having a nearby place for children to play is desired. With this in mind, the parklet will feature train conductor play areas containing navigation equipment for children to enjoy (note: mustaches will not be included),” write the two on their website. Learn more about the parklet campaign here. MLK Cafe is at 3860 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (at 38th Street), Oakland. Connect with the cafe on Facebook.

Tacos Oscar. Image: Tacos Oscar
Image: Tacos Oscar

TACOS OSCAR AT DOÑA TOMÁS A former line cook is returning to Doña Tomás to host his Tacos Oscar pop-up event Monday, Oct. 5. Chef Oscar Michel will be serving up a small menu of tacos (all made on freshly-pressed tortillas), beans and guacamole. His specialty fried egg tacos will be on offer, plus a few other options. Pop-Pop Paletas will make an appearance for dessert, and Doña Tomás will also serve a limited bar menu featuring margaritas. The pop-up will run from 5:30 until 10 p.m. Connect with Tacos Oscar on Instagram. Doña Tomás is at 5004 Telegraph Ave. (between 49th and 51st streets), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.

cold brew

JOYRIDE AND RITUAL COFFEE GIVEAWAYS  For the second weekend running, Tigerlily in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto has partnered with Ritual Coffee and Joyride Coffee for a free nitro cold-brew coffee giveaway Saturday Oct. 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Joyride, a local coffee distributor that kegs cold-brewed Ritual Coffee with pure nitrogen and sells to restaurants, will have a coffee kegerator on the sidewalk of Shattuck Avenue giving away 4 ounce servings during Tigerlily’s weekend brunch (no purchase necessary). Tigerlily currently offers Joyride and Ritual cold brew on tap at its bar, which can be enjoyed on its own or in a Shaken Cold Brew Latte consisting of cold brew coffee, whole milk and a touch of condensed milk served tall on crushed ice with a sprig of mint. All shaken cold brew lattes will be 20% off at the bar as well. Tigerlily is at 1513 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine Street), Berkeley.

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Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...