China Center took over the former Guacamole 61 outpost in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Joanna Della Penna



CHINA CENTER Taking over from short-lived Guacamole 61 on Center Street near Cal is China Center, with a menu of Cantonese-style lunch and dinner specials aimed at students and groups. Dishes include Mongolian beef, honey-walnut prawns, Kung Pao chicken, sizzling plates and a dim sum menu on weekends. The interior is much unchanged since its predecessor — the spacious dining room, glassy full bar and ample sidewalk seating remain — with the addition of some new décor touches (a bamboo room divider; Chinese-style lanterns). For lunch, many head to the steam table near the register in back, where prices range from one item for $5.99 to three for $10.99. China Center, 2142 Center St. (between Shattuck and Oxford), Berkeley

GORDITOS AMIGOS According to the Daily Cal, chef-owner James Liu warmly refers to himself as the “gordito amigo” for which this new counter-service Mexican eatery on Telegraph Avenue is named. Still in its soft-opening phase (though open daily for business), Gorditos Amigos caters to student budgets with well-priced burritos and tacos, but Liu’s goal is a focus on high-quality ingredients and freshness and creativity in his sauces. Gorditos Amigos, 2404 Telegraph Ave. (at Channing), Berkeley

LAVENDER BAKERY & CAFÉ Re-sweetening the Berkeley end of Solano Avenue is Lavender Bakery and Café, in the long-dormant, former La Farine space. The pretty, roomy cafe is bright and clean-lined, featuring a handful of indoor tables and several al fresco, and, of course, the draw — a lavish, well-manned pastry counter. Temptations include a wide variety of elaborate cakes, cupcakes and cookies along with European-style pastries and petit fours. Mr. Espresso fuels the coffee drinks; look for sandwiches, salads and vegan options in the near future. Lavender celebrated its grand opening on Oct. 21, and is the third property owned by the same family — the team also owns Cupertino’s La Patisserie and Sunnyvale’s Sugar Butter Flour. Lavender Bakery & Café, 1820 Solano Ave. (at Colusa), Berkeley

Sweet treats at Lavender Bakery & Café in Berkeley. Photo: Lavender Bakery & Café

PYEONG CHANG TOFU One of the more fitting Berkeley openings this month — just in time for soup season — is the second location of Temescal’s well-loved Pyeong Chang Tofu House (though the Berkelely location drops the “House”). For the uninitiated, Pyeong Chang is known for Korean soft-tofu stews ranging from vegan to heavy on the beef and seafood, in flavors from mild to super spicy. Stone-bowl bibimbap may be the restaurant’s runner-up favorite, also available with meat or vegetarian, though the extensive menu features noodles, rice, barbecue, casseroles and other savory Korean specialties. With room for close to 50 diners, this new location, officially opened Oct. 22, is a bit slicker, a bit more contemporary than the old-school, steamy flagship and with some new dishes unique to Berkeley, including a Spam and cheese tofu soup and a spicy chicken bibimbap. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Pyeong Chang Tofu, 1269 University Ave. (near Chestnut), Berkeley


FARM BURGER As reported by Nosh, Berkeley’s outpost of Farm Burger (1313 Ninth St.) closed on Oct. 29. Farm Burger Berkeley, which opened in 2014 in Gilman Village, was acquired by Marin Pizza, a North Bay-based farm-to-table build-your-own pizza restaurant, which plans to open in late November. Marin Pizza’s VP of operations, Michael McGuan was previously with Farm Burger and had helped the Atlanta-based chain to expand into the West Coast, first in Berkeley, then in San Anselmo. Earlier this year, McGuan joined founder Tom Wyman to open Marin Pizza, which has a similar ethos of using local, humanely raised, and sustainably sourced ingredients for its pizza and salad offerings.

Goodbye, Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto! Photo: Joanna Della Penna

SPENGER’S FRESH FISH GROTTO Topping the area closure news this month was the abrupt and farewell-free shuttering of Spenger’s on Oct. 24, after no fewer than 128 years. Opened as a chowder and fish house in 1890, the cavernous space at 1919 Fourth St. became a full-service restaurant in the 1930s, luring seafood lovers, revelers and even the occasional visiting celebrity to its vintage-kitsch nautical “grotto.” Be it ownership change or changing times, the quality of food and service had grown, ahem, fishy towards the end, but the historic venue endured as a Berkeley institution for special occasions, graduation celebrations and Father’s Day. It might be missed more for its nostalgia than its oysters Rockefeller, but it will be missed.



Octopus ceviche at an Abstract Table dinner. Photo: Abstract Table/Facebook

ABSTRACT TABLE  The fanciful creations of chef-artists and long-time friends Andrew Greene and Duncan Kwitkor are both food and art at Abstract Table, a new dinner series at the Gastropig. The duo behind previous pop-up Fine Dining on Paper hopes to offer “conscious fine dining” without pretense at this new series, offering two seatings every Friday and Saturday night for a choice between five ($50) or seven ($70) courses. Dishes favor fresh fish, top-quality seasonal ingredients and “unexpected global flavors,” with an aesthetic that is part-Japanese-inspired, part modern art, and all Californian. Reservations are offered a month out. Abstract Table at The Gastropig, 2123 Franklin (between 21st and 22nd), Oakland

BARDO LOUNGE & SUPPER CLUB As Berkeleyside’s Alix Wall noted in her review of new Bardo Lounge, owners Jenni and Seth Bregman have taken the mid-century modern aesthetic to chic heights in their new space, with every last glass and wall sconce sourced to fit the theme. Food from chefs Anthony Salguero and Brian Starkey, formerly with the location’s previous tenant Michel Bistro, is anything but dated, however. Modern takes on retro-style dishes — fondues, shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs — are updated with top-tier local ingredients and playful flavor combinations. A long list of cocktails helps guests get in the swing. Bardo Lounge & Supper Club, 3343 Lakeshore Ave. (at Mandana), Oakland

The new downtown Oakland location of Beauty’s Bagel Shop. Photo: Beauty’s Bagel Shop/Instagram

BEAUTY’S BAGEL SHOP The artisan, Montreal-style bagels at Temescal’s Beauty’s Bagel Shop — hand-shaped, bathed in honey water and wood-fired into denser, more rustic versions than their New York-style cousins — are in such high demand, owners Blake Joffe and Amy Remsen opened a second, downtown Oakland outpost on Oct. 24. Look for the same variety of elevated bagel flavors (salt and pepper, wheat everything), high-end spreads, toppings and sides for breakfast and lunch, along with hearty full sandwiches, including two new downtown choices, a hot roast beef and an open-faced tuna melt. Beauty’s Bagel Shop, 1700 Franklin St. (at 17th), Oakland

Kensington’s Benchmark Pizzeria opened a second location in Old Oakland in October. Photo: Benchmark Pizzeria/Facebook

BENCHMARK OAKLAND Six-year-old Kensington standout Benchmark Pizzeria has a shiny new second location in Old Oakland as of Oct. 4. The pretty corner space (formerly Desco) features a more expansive kitchen than the original, helmed by executive chef Peter Swanson and chef de cuisine Jennifer Moffitt, as well as a new weekday lunch and a full bar with a focus on Amaro. Otherwise, chef Swanson and his wife, co-owner Melissa Swanson aim to maintain the same dedication to wood-fired, naturally leavened pizza; fresh house-made pasta, doughs and breads; and high-end, locally-sourced ingredients as at their first location. Benchmark Oakland, 499 9th St. (at Washington), Oakland

DOGTOWN SAUSAGE Originally, Dogtown Sausage had intended to open its first location in the Dogtown neighborhood of West Oakland, but construction on the restaurant was delayed when the building became a historical landmark. So, Dogtown moved to East Oakland instead, where it’s been serving a menu of creatively topped hot dogs and sausages on housemade buns since it soft-opened in September. Yelp reviewers note the fresh buns here are a big draw. Baked daily, Dogtown uses a recipe based on a Japanese milk bread recipe, but made in a New England-inspired split-top style. Its menu of dogs features a variety made with beef, chicken, lamb and a vegetarian-friendly chipotle style, as well as some uncommon signature composed sandwiches, like the Steakhouse Dog (a Wagyu beef hotdog, grilled peppers and onions, roasted red potato, blue cheese crumble) and the Chicken-fried Chicken Sausage (spiced panko and potato flake-crusted chicken sausage with spicy rainbow slaw and sriracha mayo). Fittingly, Dogtown boasts a side patio it calls the Dog Yard. Dogtown Sausage, 5916 International Blvd. (at Seminary), Oakland 

FIG & POE A little shout out to Fig & Poe Coffee Bar, opened since August, that is giving Old Oakland a pretty space in which to sip Ritual Coffee drinks and Par Avion teas, and eat artisan nibbles — including a specialty, the two-bite Liege waffle. Fig & Poe Coffee Bar, 396 11th St. (at Franklin), Oakland

GURU CURRY HOUSE Guru Curry House is owned by chef Ngawang, who was the head chef at High Peaks Kitchen, the former iteration of this Grand Avenue neighborhood Indian restaurant. Fans of High Peaks will be relieved to find the expansive vegetarian and omnivore-friendly menu and its Tibetan decor pretty much unchanged here, but for those diehard HPK diners, there’s still a restaurant on College Avenue. Guru Curry House, 391 Grand Ave. (between Staten and Ellis), Oakland

ONE ZO The boba revolution continues with this new Taiwanese bubble tea brand, made in a sleek, modern space softly opened in Oakland’s Chinatown. The streamlined café features milk tea layered with fresh, house-made tapioca in creative flavors such as beet, honey, matcha, taro and caramel. Though already open for business, a grand opening weekend is planned for the shop Nov. 18-19. One Zo also has a location in Los Angeles, and according to its website, New York is next. One Zo, 362 8th St. (between Webster and Franklin), Oakland

Tiger’s Taproom in Jack London Square boasts 16 taps. Photo: Tiger’s Taproom/Facebook

TIGER’S TAPROOM Open Oct. 14, and already getting plenty of Oakland love, is Tiger’s Taproom, a local craft beer haven in Jack London Square from co-founders Daniel Gutierrez and Brian Chan. Yelp reports boast 16 taps, a thoughtful menu of fresh, well-sourced ales, a carefully stocked fridge of bottles and cans to go, and no-frills, all-inclusive warmth. Regular special events include guest food purveyors, trivia nights and Q&As with notable Oakland personalities. Chan’s older dog, Tiger, often presides over the comfortable room. Note: Tiger’s Taproom is 21 and over only. Tiger’s Taproom, 308 Jackson St. (at 3rd), Oakland

SPICES 3! Downtown Sichuan go-to Spices 3! shuttered its location at 369 12th St. last month and has since reopened at… 370 12th St., directly across the street. It is uncertain whether or not the move is permanent — a quick check in with a representative says it “depends on the owner,” as the former space needs some love — but for now the restaurant is operating out of the new location with cash-only dining and delivery (through third-party services Caviar, Grub Hub and Door Dash) as usual, and the phone number remains the same. Spices 3!, 370 12th St. (between Franklin and Webster), Oakland


Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland. Photo: Brown Sugar Kitchen/Facebook

BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN It had been quietly closed for a number of weeks before Eater SF broke the news that the original Brown Sugar Kitchen (BSK) at 2534 Mandela Pkwy. was no more. Fans of chef Tanya Holland’s soulful cooking can watch for the future opening of her San Francisco Ferry Building outpost, or the upcoming Uptown BSK at Broadway and West Grand, opening date TBD. On Nov. 8, Holland will debut a menu of beer-friendly bites for Floodcraft Taproom, a bar inside Oakland’s Whole Foods (230 Bay Pl.).

CHOW OAKLAND After less than eight months in business, grand experiment Chow Oakland at 3770 Piedmont Ave. has already shuttered. The eatery-slash-market from the beloved San Francisco-based comfort food mini-chain was long-anticipated (construction and permitting took four years); Chow’s San Francisco location Park Chow was a casualty before the Oakland opening, and then Chow Danville shuttered in May, so this announcement hits that much harder. A letter from the team on Chow’s website explains, “We want to thank you for allowing us the opportunity of trying to establish ourselves in Oakland. To the long, long list of participants that are a part of the undertaking of feeding folks well — we are sorry, we have fallen short of the requirements necessary for survival.” Surviving Chow locations remain on Church Street in San Francisco, and in Lafayette.

Husband-and-wife owners Fred and Marji Barzin at College Point Café. Photo: College Point Café/ Facebook

COLLEGE POINT CAFÉ Rockridge-area bagel-sandwich lovers said goodbye to small but reliable College Point Café  (5254 College Ave.) on Oct. 12. Husband-and-wife owners Fred and Marji Barzin, provided friendly counter service and fresh-made baked goods for nearly a decade, and closed the space to pursue other work. The café first opened in 1981. No word yet on its replacement.

CYBELLE’S ON PIEDMONT The always gracious staff at Cybelle’s at 3762 Piedmont Ave. were almost apologetic in their confirmation that the restaurant closes Oct. 31. The reason? Rising costs of both labor and good ingredients. The pizza, burger and chicken restaurant has been a staple since 1981, with the same family ownership for those near 40 years. When asked if there any plans for the space, co-owner Mohammed replied, “it might be a restaurant, but it won’t be ours.” Though each is independently and locally owned, the Cybelle’s franchise operates five additional locations across the Bay Area, including three in Oakland.

HOLY GELATO OAKLAND Despite high ratings for its gelato — including many vegan and unusual options — San Francisco-based Holy Gelato closed its Oakland outpost this month at 815 Washington St. The San Francisco location remains open and popular in the Inner Sunset.

Lanesplitter closed its Lakeshore location — the second to shutter in Oakland — at the end of September. Photo: Lanesplitter/Facebook

LANESPLITTER PIZZA LAKESHORE Lanesplitter Pizza lost its Lakeshore “pitstop” location at 536 Lake Park Ave. at the very end of September, the second closure this year for the East Bay mini-chain (established in 1998). When the full-service Lanesplitter restaurant in Temescal closed this spring, co-founders Dan Rogers and Vic Gumper cited personal reasons for the downsize and said they foresaw no further closures. It is unclear if the most recent casualty stems from the same or other issues, but it’s worth noting that Lanesplitter moved towards a tip-free model of pricing in 2015, with the best intentions for its staff, thereby upping costs for customers. Two full-service locations in Berkeley and Emeryville remain in full swing, including for delivery.



Small-batch handmade gelato and ice cream from Alameda Scoop. Photo: Alameda Scoop/Instagram

ALAMEDA SCOOP We missed this “scoop” last month — open late September, Alameda Scoop, from husband-and-wife owners Calvin Ton and Linda Phung of Monkey King and Monkey King Pub & Grub, offers small-batch, handmade gelato in classic and more exotic flavors (taro, mangonada, durian), as well as Straus Family Creamery soft serve. Gelato tasting flights are available, and additional concoctions include a tempura-fried banana split, fried Chinese bun with gelato topping and a churro sundae. For a little pick-me-up, try the “Revival,” a double espresso topped with a scoop of sweet milk gelato. Alameda Scoop, 1708 Park St. (at Buena Vista), Alameda

BRITT-MARIE’S WINE BAR & RESTAURANT It was closed for several weeks for renovations, but Solano Avenue’s intimate Britt-Marie’s reopened on Oct. 27. According to server and booking manager Tony Peña, the wine bar, continental/Mediterranean restaurant and live music venue (open under the Britt-Marie name since 1981) is refreshed, but its warm, casual “neighborhood living room” vibe remains intact. Britt-Marie’s Wine Bar & Restaurant, 1369 Solano Ave. (between Ramona & Carmel), Albany

NOBILIS RESTAURANT As reported by Nosh, Point San Pablo Harbor’s Nobilis Restaurant reopened on Oct. 20 with a new chef. Stevie Neal comes to Nobilis after 12 years running his own restaurant in Japan, and for now, will retain the “finer diner” menu of seasonal and locally sourced comfort food eats, like burger, fries, oysters, clam chowder and brunch dishes on the weekend. Nobilis Restaurant at Point San Pablo Harbor, 1900 Stenmark Dr., Richmond

Baked goods galore at One House Bakery in Benicia. Photo: One House Bakery/Instagram

ONE HOUSE BAKERY Award-winning pastry chef Hannalee Pervan, formerly of Napa’s esteemed Bouchon Bakery and Los Angeles favorite Porto’s, opened a buzzy new bakery and café in downtown Benicia on Oct. 15. The enterprise is a family affair: According to Benicia Magazine, Pervan’s parents Catherine and Peter Pervan emigrated from Canada, where she was born and raised, and helped her scout, renovate and open One House Bakery. Pervan’s husband Colin Ward-Henninger also helps with the business. Pervan’s house-made baked goods use freshly milled flour and nothing artificial, and include French indulgences such as croissants and brioche; sweeter fare — tarts, scones, sticky buns, brown butter coffee cake; and fresh breads such as baguettes, ciabatta, pain de mie and country levain. Look for savory options, possibly inspired by Pervan’s time at Porto’s, such as Cuban meat pies and even a puff pastry-wrapped moussaka. Elevated café fare includes savory soups, composed salads and sandwiches on fresh breads. One might call it a destination bakery, and it’s all happening in Benicia. One House is closed on Mondays. One House Bakery, 918 First St., Benicia

PIZZA AMIGOS New Pizza Amigos franchise owner Umesh Kumar Sharma can’t say enough about his customers in the Emeryville Triangle neighborhood. “They are really helpful, good people, good families,” he said. Sharma’s New York-style pizza parlor opened Oct. 18 — his first Pizza Amigos is in Antioch — and offers pizza, pasta, salads and chicken wings. Housed in what used to be chef Preeti Mistry’s Navi Kitchen, the casual, affordable eatery with easy take out and delivery near family-trafficked Temescal Creek Park seems a good fit. Sharma expects to launch beer and wine service within the next month. Pizza Amigos, 5000 Adeline St. (at 47th St.), Emeryville

Lots of choices — 99 different bottles — at Public Bar by Blush in Public Market Emeryville. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

PUBLIC BAR BY BLUSH, NABIQ The ever-watchful E’ville Eye reported the opening of both the Public Bar and NabiQ late this month inside the still-evolving upscale food court that is the Emeryville Public Market. Joining the year-old, sake-focused Periodic Table, Public Bar gives the market a central, welcoming watering hole, and along with its craft beers (99 in the fridge, four on tap) and cocktails have come several large television screens encouraging sports fans to linger and watch the game(s). Nearby, new Korean barbecue counter NabiQ is notably owned by previous Public Market favorites, Sorabol. Soon to come to the Market: Super Duper Burger. Public Bar by Blush and NabiQ, inside the Public Market, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville

THAI HOUSE BARN The former Angkor Grill on Park in Alameda now houses Thai House Barn, with cuisine from both Thailand and Laos, including a separate menu of Laotian specialties. Thai House Barn, 1319 Park St. (between Marti Rae Court and Encinal), Alameda

Wildcard Brewing Co. Tasting Room in Albany. Photo: Wildcard Brewing Co./Facebook

WILDCARD BREWING CO. TASTING ROOM As reported in Nosh, Redding’s Wildcard Brewing Company opened its first Bay Area tasting room in early October on Solano Avenue. The family-friendly taproom from Wildcard’s co-owner and CEO Jenny Hansen and her husband, British-trained brewer and co-owner Jeff Hansen, features 10 taps, sampler flights, and cans and growlers to go. (Guests are welcome to bring outside food in.) Those with a taste for IPAs should be especially interested as Wildcard’s receive high marks, though the brewery produces a wide variety of light, dark and seasonal ales. Look for new choices to sample every few weeks. Wildcard Brewing Co. Tasting Room, 1122 Solano Ave. (between Kains and Stannage), Albany

Joanna Della Penna

Freelancer Joanna Della Penna has written about food, people and the arts in the Bay Area since moving here from the East Coast in 2001, and was Gayot's Northern California regional restaurant editor for...