BBQ Chicken with papaya salad at Thai Taste Kitchen in Oakland. Photo: Sarah Han



BBOX Folks may have noticed a new cart serving cups of Highwire Coffee within UC Berkeley’s Berkeley Way West building. Most noticeably, the simple lobby kiosk fronts a large, enclosed build-out that’s currently under wraps. What’s in the box? A buzzy, tech-forward café project, coming soon. In the meantime, Bbox’s Highwire coffee table is open weekdays, 8 a.m. until noon. Bbox, Berkeley Way West Building, 2121 Berkeley Way (between Shattuck and Walnut), Berkeley

MATIKI ISLAND BBQ & BREW Hawaiian-themed barbecue restaurant franchise Matiki Island BBQ opened Dec. 1, on Euclid Avenue near Cal, featuring a fast-casual menu of island-style meats and sides in rib-sticking portions, and plenty of craft beer in a comfortable, pub-like space. (Read more about the offerings in our recent coverage.) Matiki Island BBQ & Brew, 1828 Euclid Ave. (near Ridge), Berkeley

Modern Coffee’s new coffee counter is in downtown Berkeley’s Center Street Garage. Photo: Joanna Della Penna
Modern Coffee’s new coffee counter is in downtown Berkeley’s Center Street Garage. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

MODERN COFFEE A sharp-eyed reader alerted Nosh that downtown Berkeley’s brand-new Center Street Garage holds a petite secret: a Modern Coffee counter, complete with handy sidewalk window for busy commuters. The Oakland mini-chain’s first Berkeley location, in the same part of the garage as the brand spanking new bike station, provides the same menu of coffee drinks, teas and chai as at its three other cafés, met with pastries from Firebrand bakery. From Modern Coffee’s website: “We think getting a delicious cup of coffee shouldn’t be complicated and it shouldn’t cost a fortune.” Sounds refreshingly old-fashioned to us. The Berkeley location is currently open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Modern Coffee, 2023 Center St. (between Milvia and Shattuck), Berkeley

PASSIONE CAFFÈ Local pizzaiolo and restaurateur Fabrizio Cercatore is keeping a lot of twirling dough in the air these days. Current projects include Passione Pizza, Hot Italian, the upcoming Passione Emporio, and his most recent opening, Passione Caffè, launched Dec. 12. For now, Cercatore’s refreshed, two-level European-style café and patio — formerly PiQ — is open daily for coffee drinks and breakfast pastries and light lunch fare such as pizza, panini and a soup of the day. Within the next few weeks, look for new evening hours and the addition of two very Italian passions: gelato and wine. Passione Caffè, 91 Shattuck Sq. (at Addison), Berkeley


KONO PIZZA Kono Pizza, the international franchise featuring rolled, stuffed “pizza cones,” rolled up its Fulton Street shop in late November after only five months. The novelty food may have had a lackluster local response, but the closure also seems part of a larger company move away from bricks and mortar and towards a roll-out of…rolling carts.

STARBUCKS As reported by Berkeleyside, the Starbucks at 3001 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley will close Dec. 30.



THE AMPLIFIER As Hoodline reported, Uptown has a welcoming new cocktail bar with a music-heavy, industry vibe in The Amplifier, from the good people behind Heart & Dagger Saloon. Officially opened Dec. 8, the cozy, cash-only bar next door to the New Parish music venue has room for 40, with cocktails topping out around an attractive $9. The Amplifier, 1741 San Pablo Ave. (at 18th), Oakland

Beef empanada from Javi’s Cooking in West Oakland. Photo: Javi’s Cooking
Beef empanada from Javi’s Cooking in West Oakland. Photo: Javi’s Cooking

JAVI’S COOKING Taking over where LocoL fell short, Buenos Aires-born Javier Sanders has permanently parked his mobile food business Javi’s Cooking at the storefront on Market Street in West Oakland. The Argentinian cook specializes in meat and vegetable empanadas, rich alfajores and sells jars of chimichurri as well. Catering is also a specialty here — Javi is a frequent vendor at the Oakland Coliseum, among many local venues, where his portable, budget-friendly empanadas make great game food. Javi’s Cooking, 3446 Market St. (at 35th), Oakland

TACOS OSCAR Four years to the month since Oscar Michel’s first official taco catering gig, his now-beloved Tacos Oscar pop-up has its very own ‘ship’-and-mortar. Owned and operated by Michel and business partner Jake Weiss, the Tacos Oscar shipping container storefront, opened Dec. 6 in an alleyway on 40th Street, features a service window and a homey, light-strewn, heated outdoor patio. Michel’s fresh, hand-pressed masa tortillas are creatively stuffed with a changing array of flavorful meats and fish, eggs, beans, seasonal vegetables, cheese and vegan options, and inventive salsas. Try all the tacos, and don’t miss his quesadillas a la plancha. In true Temescal form, taco stalkers will also find plenty of high-quality craft beverages at the eatery. Note: Tacos Oscar is open for dinner Thursday through Monday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday. (Don’t miss our recent Nosh story about Tacos Oscar). Tacos Oscar, 420 40th St. (at Webster), Oakland

THAI TASTE KITCHEN Replacing Shalimar Garden on Piedmont Avenue is Thai Taste Kitchen, in a space one Nosh contributor calls, “deceptively cavernous” — a narrow entryway belies three spacious dining areas and an outdoor patio. The menu of Thai street food includes noodles, curries, fried rice, and a wide variety of chicken dishes including khao mun gai, barbecued, basil or Thai fried chicken with rice and sides. For now, the restaurant asks that diners order at the counter, but says there’s a possibility of full service down the road. Favorable early Yelp reports mention flavorful, generous portions and prices. Thai Taste Kitchen, 3814 Piedmont Ave. (between Rio Vista and Yosemite), Oakland


The hearth burns no more at Camino. Photo: Camino/Facebook

CAMINO Oakland has lost its hearth: Ten-year-old Camino’s farewell dinner party happened Dec. 20, and this Saturday will bring the restaurant’s final cocktail party. Chef-owner Russell Moore and manager-owner Allison Hopelain’s passion project was a hot ticket from the start, thanks to the couple’s well-known restaurant pedigree (both are Chez Panisse alumni, Moore cooked there for two decades and was Chez Panisse’s produce buyer for many years), and their singular menu of wood-fired cuisine that was carefully sourced and whole-animal based. Camino’s picturesque brick and wood interior — church-pew chairs, redwood tables stretching for 30 feet, and Moore’s famous open-flame fireplace kitchen for which the restaurant was named — provided a rustic setting for hundreds of celebratory dinners, brunches and weddings over the decade. (Read more from Nosh about Camino’s closure here.) The space’s successor —  Zachary’s Pizza —  will open in 2019.

El Saborosito at 333 Broadway, Oakland. Photo: El Saborosito/Facebook

EL SABROSITO The East Bay Express reported that Salvadoran food truck El Sabrosito will close after its last gig on Saturday, Dec. 22. The three-year-old business, which specialized in pupusas, was run by sisters Maria and Claudia Zavala, who are ending the operation for a “change of careers.” Your last chances to snag a pupusa from El Sabrosito are coming up fast: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., today at 333 Broadway, Oakland, and 1- 8 p.m., Saturday at Temescal Brewing (4115 Telegraph Ave., Oakland).

SHALIMAR GARDEN Opened in January to replace Vegan & Tikka Masala, north Indian and Pakistani eatery Shalimar Garden, tucked on lower Piedmont Avenue, didn’t quite make it to the end of the year. The space found a quick successor in Thai Taste Kitchen (see Oakland openings, above).

TOGI’S MONGOLIAN Togi’s Mongolian at 352 14th St. closed in late November after only two years, leaving behind unsatisfied cravings for chef Togi’s goulash, buuz (beef and lamb dumplings), tzu van (stewed and pan-fried noodles), dumpling soup, milk tea and other authentic Mongolian dishes. The space will soon become a new location for San Francisco-based Elephant Sushi.



COCINA HERMANAS It’s not open quite yet, but Diablo Dish tells us that Danville Mexican restaurant Cocina Hermanas is set to open the weekend after Christmas, just in time for New Year’s Eve, in the former Basil Leaf Café space. The owner is Darren Matte, who also owns Danville Harvest and is a managing partner of San Francisco’s Per Diem. Cocina Hermanas, 501 Hartz Ave. (at Church), Danville

IT’S A GRIND COFFEE HOUSE Quickly following its East Oakland opening in September, the Long Beach-based, international coffee shop franchise It’s A Grind has opened another East Bay location, this time in San Leandro. The location promises future live music and other entertainment to go with its coffee, espresso drinks and iced blends. It’s A Grind Coffee House, inside Gate510, 1933 Davis St. (between Phillips and Beecher), San Leandro

MARLEY G’S PIZZERIA The energetic team behind Scolari’s Good Eats in Alameda may have closed up their Black Bull Taco Y Cerveza brick and mortar this summer (now operating as a vintage Airstream pop-up), but as one door closed another opened for the group, this time onto new East Coast-style pizzeria Marley G’s on Park Street. Along with New York-style pies loaded with toppings such as pepperoni, sausage and peppers, and meatballs, Marley G’s classic Italian-American offerings include Italian subs, chicken and eggplant parm sandwiches, antipasto salads and Scolari’s well-known stromboli. Bring the whole family and mangia bene. Marley G’s Pizzeria, 1330 Park St. (between Alameda and Marti Rae), Alameda

The lounge at Marshawn Lynch’s new restaurant, Rob Ben’s in Emeryville. Photo: Joanna Della Penna
The lounge at Marshawn Lynch’s new restaurant, Rob Ben’s in Emeryville. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

ROB BEN’S RESTAURANT & LOUNGE The former Scend’s space on San Pablo in Emeryville was reborn Dec. 14 as Rob Ben’s, under the ownership of Oakland native, Raider, businessman and first-time restaurateur Marshawn Lynch. The restaurant’s cozy, old-school interior (currently decked out for the holidays) is divided into a casual sit-down restaurant and separate lounge by a central bar. Sports are shown on several screens and a warm, community-minded vibe dominates the space. (Lynch has even famously requested that diners keep their meals cellphone-free.) Cocktails and heaping plates of wings, pork chops, burgers, po’ boys, seafood and fixings come courtesy of a friendly staff, and yes — the Beast Mode Platter features possibly enough food for a whole football team. The restaurant also serves breakfast starting at 10 a.m., brunch and lunch. Rob Ben’s Restaurant & Lounge, 3627 San Pablo Ave. (between 36th and 37th), Emeryville

Town Tavern in Alameda. Photo: Town Tavern/Facebook

TOWN TAVERN After years of anticipation and a couple of weeks softly open, Town Tavern held its grand opening in Alameda on Dec. 18. The modern cocktail bar from owner and Alameda native Stan Yee (the space is his family’s former gift shop) features high-end spirits from local distilleries, local brews on tap and a short menu of rich bar bites such as chicharrones, sliders, poutine and pierogi. Town Tavern, 1437 Park St. (at Santa Clara), Alameda

Temporarily closed

Arizmendi Emeryville has been closed since Dec. 11, when a car crashed into the store and caused a fire and gas leak. Photo: Arizmendi Emeryville/Instagram

ARIZMENDI EMERYVILLE The E’ville Eye first reported the story of Arizmendi Emeryville’s indefinite closure due to a car crash into the eatery’s electrical closet. The collision caused not only physical damage but led to a gas leak, vehicle fire and water damage inside the bakery from the triggered sprinkler system. Luckily, no one was hurt, and somehow the driver reportedly suffered only minor injuries. However, repairs and clean-up will keep the popular bakery and pizza cooperative closed at least through the holidays and possibly for many weeks. As neighborhood fans wait nervously for their beloved scones and pizza of the day to return, the Arizmendi community has politely requested some space to process, recoup and recover. (It may be worth noting that strangely this is not the first such crash to temporarily take out an Emeryville business this year.)

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...