The Original Grinder sandwich from the Butcher’s Son vegan deli in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

BUTCHER’S SON INTO MAKER’S COMMON SPACE On Saturday, Berkeley vegan deli, The Butcher’s Son, announced some big news over Instagram: it’s moving to a new location. The new spot happens to be right across the street, at 1954 University Ave., in the space recently left vacant when cheese store-restaurant Maker’s Common closed in March.

Owner Peter Fikaris told Nosh that he had been looking for a new location for more than a year, as well as a second location and/or a production kitchen. “When we found out Maker’s Common was going to be available, we jumped on it immediately,” he said. “It’s an ideal space for not only our current needs, but will allow us to do more of what we had initially envisioned doing with the Butcher’s Son, which includes a larger market/retail space with a wider variety of meats and cheese, grab n’ go items, take n’ bake items and collaborative food items from other local vegan businesses.”

The move will also solve some growing logistics problems. Fikaris said the location at 1941 A University Ave. has been challenging due to its smaller size. The Butcher’s Son has been a mecca for Bay Area vegans since it first opened two years ago. Vegetarians and vegans with a hankering for meat and animal-product-free brunch on the weekends and deli sandwiches in the afternoon have flocked to the restaurant since day one. Fikaris said that keeping up with the demand in the current space has been difficult, as the restaurant makes all of its vegan meats, cheeses, sauces, dressings and many desserts in-house, which requires round-the-clock production and an off-site storage space.

“We’ve definitely lost a lot of our earlier customer base over time as people just don’t have time to wait in our lines, we can no longer offer phone or online orders or food delivery services, no catering or special orders and no longer take any new wholesale accounts,” said Fikaris. “Our neighbors are friendly but I can tell they are getting a little tired of the weekend madness. Sidewalks are blocked and seating is a ridiculous situation of its own… It’s time to move.”

Along with the large retail market area, it has a bigger kitchen, more indoor seating and prime back patio seating. The Butcher’s Son has been spending the last two months developing new recipes and a new menu for the new space.

Fikaris took possession of 1954 University Ave. at midnight on Sunday and says he hopes to be operational within a few weeks. The Butcher’s Son will remain open at 1941 A University Ave. (at Bonita) during the transition phase, except for two days, for the staff to get familiar with the new set up and new menu items. Stay tuned on Nosh for more details.  

FAREWELL, MEAL TICKET Another Berkeley bombshell dropped on Saturday, when longtime diner Meal Ticket closed. Owners Jimmy and Carolyn Carter sent a newsletter to customers over the weekend explaining the closure: “After almost 25 years of serving up some mighty fine food, it is time for Meal Ticket to retire… It is with some sadness but also excitement as to our next chapter that we now leave Meal Ticket to be remembered as that ‘weird place on San Pablo Avenue with the irascible Scottish chef and grumpy, brash New Yorker in the front of house where the food was really tasty and affordable.'”

The news isn’t too surprising if you recall that in 2016, Nosh heard from the Carters that they were looking to retire and had put the restaurant on the market. Meal Ticket got its start in Berkeley in the early ’90s on Blake Street, but moved to its current location on San Pablo Avenue in 2001. While the writing may have been on the wall, Meal Ticket’s shutter is a blow to fans of the restaurant, who’ll miss its homefries, buckwheat pancakes, oyster po’boys and other reliable and affordable breakfast and lunch offerings.

There is a bright side to this story, though. A new tenant is already lined up to take over at 1235 San Pablo Ave., and it’s a Berkeley business from just down the way. KC’s BBQ, which has been closed since a fire in February 2017 severely damaged its storefront at 2613 San Pablo Ave., will re-open in the space. (As Nosh reported last month, the former KC’s space is part of plans where developers hope to create a huge food truck marketplace, that if approved, will also take over 2609 and 2611 San Pablo Ave.) In their goodbye newsletter, the Carters emphasized their support for KC’s BBQ, which they called “another small, family run independent restaurant” that will “continue to provide much needed character in our increasingly soulless world.”

KRONNER 2.0 On Friday, chef Chris Kronner announced his newest endeavor — he’ll be taking over the kitchen at Henry’s, the 100-seat restaurant inside The Graduate Berkeley, the 1920s hotel formerly known as the Hotel Durant. Along with a name change when the hotel was bought by The Graduate chain, the building has undergone major renovation, and this new reboot of Henry’s — a popular game day haunt for Cal students — is one of the hotel’s most recent steps to modernize the grounds.

Kronner, who currently runs KronnerBurger on Piedmont Avenue is collaborating with a few of his culinary friends on this latest project, including members of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery, chef Jeffrey Hayden (formerly of Del Popolo) and several KronnerBurger staffers to create an approachable, but elevated take on American comfort food. The menu will feature bar snacks to enjoy with drinks, baked goods from Tartine and a menu of larger shared dishes, which will be prepared with seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients, including sustainable meat and seafood. Henry’s will offer a good number of vegetarian and vegan choices, but — good news for those who love a good, bloody burger — Kronner will most definitely include his signature burger on the new menu. Henry’s will also serve brunch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

As for drinks, Tartine alum Julian Cox is in charge of the bar, which will focus on natural wines, local beer and craft cocktails made with quality spirits, fresh juices and custom carved ice. There will be two happy hours daily, from 3 to 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Along with the changes to the menu and bar program, the restaurant itself has undergone some aesthetic changes under the direction of Ashley Hildreth and Luke Foss. Inside, you’ll find furniture and interior design choices that are meant to complement the hotel’s original architectural details. The new Henry’s at The Graduate Berkeley will open on April 12. Henry’s, Graduate Berkeley, 2600 Durant Ave. (at Bowditch), Berkeley

SMOKE ‘EM WHILE WE GOT ‘EM Nosh got a tip from reader Karen Hata over the weekend that BBQ joint Smoke Berkeley is in danger of closing, as the property owners are planning to build a new car wash on the property (Smoke is currently in the same lot as the Solar Car Wash). Nosh spoke with Smoke owner and chef, Tina Ferguson-Riffe, who confirmed the news. She told us that she found out about the plans a few months ago, when a sign went up at the restaurant from the Berkeley planning department announcing the plans for a new drive-through car wash. “We’re not being evicted, they’re just demolishing the building,” Ferguson-Riffe said.

When Ferguson-Riffe spoke with the property owners about the plans, she was told the new plans did not include Smoke. Instead the owners would build an office in the space.

Smoke Berkeley has been at the space 2434 San Pablo Ave. for the last six years and continues to do good business with its Texas-style BBQ and beer garden. Ferguson-Riffe grew up in the Lone Star State, but attended California Culinary Academy and the Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School in Paris. Her gourmet pedigree comes through at Smoke, as do her Bay Area sensibilities for using fresh, local, organic and natural ingredients, and for social justice. Ferguson-Riffe has made it a point of hiring formerly incarcerated individuals, single mothers, low-income and others who’ve fallen on hard times.

Ferguson-Riffe has been searching for a new space for Smoke Berkeley as soon as she found out the plans for the car wash, but finding a new place has been a struggle. “We’re not sure what’s going to happen,” said Ferguson-Riffe.

In the meantime, Smoke is currently open. Ferguson-Riffe said she thinks they’ll be in the space for another six months to a year. So, if you’re looking for a place to get some great BBQ in Berkeley, make sure to stop into Smoke while it’s still around. Smoke Berkeley, 2434 San Pablo Ave. (near Channing), Berkeley

ANZU IS CLOSED Last week, Nosh got a tip from reader Tilia Bell that Anzu Restaurant in Berkeley was closed. Bell said it has been closed for at least a couple of weeks without any notice or posting about the closure. Nosh has made several attempts to contact the owners at the Japanese restaurant, at 2433 Shattuck Ave., but have been unable to reach anyone for comment.

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Sarah Han was the editor of Nosh from 2017 to 2021. Previously, she worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In 2020, Sarah won SPJ NorCal's...