North Light in Temescal. Photo: The Savage Bureau



BERKELEY BURGERS After barely one month in operation, Farm Burger’s replacement Marin Pizza took a mulligan and was re-reborn the first week of January as Berkeley Burgers. The menu at the new-old, fast-casual, family-friendly eatery has reverted to grass-fed hamburgers with customizable toppings a la Farm Burger, with a few pizzas and build-your-own salads left over from its Marin Pizza moment. According to owner Tom Wyman, the speedy reversal was driven by customer demand. Berkeley Burgers, 1313 Ninth St. (at Gilman), Berkeley GAI BARN THAI SOUL FOOD The Elmwood District’s recently-closed Burger Joint swiftly reopened in early January as Gai Barn Thai Soul Food, from owner Bill Sitinatsakul (also a co-owner of Gecko Gecko and Giin Thai Canteen). Soulful is a good term to describe the refreshed vibe of the narrow, full-service eatery that features high windows, clean lines and natural wood. Hinted at in the restaurant’s name (gai is Thai for chicken) is an emphasis on the current Thai dish-du-jour, khao mun gai. The aromatic chicken-and-rice dish is served here three ways — poached, crispy or the “triple,” featuring enough poached, fried and Thai barbecue-style chicken over rice for two people. Gai Barn’s focused menu also includes savory Thai small plates, soups, salads, vegetable dishes and noodles. Look for added seafood dishes in the coming months, as well as a chef’s specialty lamb curry. Gai Barn Thai Soul Food, 2985 College Ave. (between Ashby and Webster), Berkeley

A pear tart from La Bedaine in Berkeley. Photo: Anna Mindess

LA BEDAINE Berkeleyside is happy to report that small French storefront La Bedaine on Solano is gently back up and running, after the return of chef Alain Delangle from an extended medical leave. Delangle opened La Bedaine in 2009, to provide much-appreciated “hospitality to working families.” Look for continued additions to his counter of French exquisites and pre-prepped meals as he regains his strength. La Bedaine, 1585 Solano Ave (between Peralta and Tacoma), BerkeleyMUNCH INDIA As of Jan. 25, Munch India’s food truck and brick-and-mortar restaurant at 3015 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley have both reopened after temporary closures due to a family emergency. We welcome their return and will stay tuned. Munch India, 3015 Shattuck Ave. (at Emerson), BerkeleyPASSIONE CAFFE WINE BAR Opened since December for Italian-style coffee drinks and light bites by day, Passione Caffe’s new evening wine bar launched on Jan. 9, featuring a selection of Italian wines by the bottle or glass, and artisan salumi, cheeses and breads. The Italian-style happy hour runs every night from 5-7 p.m. Passione Caffe Wine Bar, 91 Shattuck Sq. (at Addison), Berkeley

The Crunchy Bird sandwich at Red Door Eats. Photo: Sarah Han

RED DOOR EATS Opened Jan. 24 in the former Kono Pizza storefront (and named for the location’s red front door), Red Door Eats is a new sandwich and salad shop with counter service. Choices include eight cold and four hot sandwiches, including two vegan options, all of which can be turned into salads featuring either spinach and kale or lettuce. A variety of house-made sauces include the curry dressing served atop “Steph’s Chicken,” (sprinkled with Golden (State) raisins, naturally), and the Korean-style barbecue sauce on the “Straight Out of Seoul,” a Korean-style pulled pork sandwich. Ingredients and produce are local wherever possible, and bread choices are from Semifreddi, with a gluten-free option from Mariposa Bakery. The restaurant calls itself zero waste, and provides reusable or recyclable dishware wherever possible. Red Door Eats, 2282 Fulton St. (between Kittredge and Bancroft), BerkeleySLIVER PIZZERIA One year after Sliver’s closure at 2132 Center St., Cal and Berkeley High students joined local office types and families in celebrating the pizzeria’s new downtown grand opening (with free slices!) on Jan. 7. The new Sliver is a roomy fast-casual restaurant that opens nicely onto the patio of the freshly-revamped Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. Lines are consistently long but quick for Sliver’s vegetarian-only, sourdough-crust slices and pies, notably modeled after Cheese Board pizza, with only one kind served per day. Sliver has two other locations, on Telegraph in Berkeley and Broadway in Oakland. Sliver Pizzeria, 2174 Shattuck Ave. (between Center and Allston), Berkeley

Sliver returned to downtown Berkeley on Jan. 7. Photo: Sarah Han


GIO’S PIZZA & BOCCE Gio’s December closure was the quiet end to a long restaurant story that began when Giovanni “Johnny” Schipani and his family opened Mr. Pizza on Shattuck in 1961. In 1963, the family renamed their restaurant Giovanni and moved it to a large, former muffler shop at 2420 Shattuck Ave., where it thrived for decades as a classic Berkeley destination. The Schipanis sold the restaurant in 1987, reclaimed it in 2010, and three years later when financial difficulties nearly forced Giovanni to close, the community rallied and investors kept it afloat. Even in 2015, when a fire all but destroyed the space, it was finally reborn under new ownership but with the family’s blessing in late 2017, as Gio’s Pizza & Bocce. This new incarnation had potential, with pizza, cocktails, indoor bocce ball and a hidden dining room that transported diners back to the original Giovanni — but it never quite gathered interest. Addio, Gio.

MARIN PIZZA Pizza? What pizza? See Berkeley Burgers, above.

Longtime Cal hangout, Nefeli Caffe on Northside, closed in December. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

NEFELI CAFFE A cozy Cal hangout on Euclid Avenue near campus since 1993, Greek eatery and European-style coffee shop Nefeli Caffe (known for decades for its skylit, study-friendly back room) served its last affogato in December. Nefeli owner Naso Eleftheriadis told The Daily Cal there were a variety of reasons he closed the 26-year-old business, but it was mostly financial. “We lost revenue the last few years progressively — some of the high costs, rent and couldn’t recover the new people. A lot of the clientele was leaving,” Eleftheriadis said. Fortunately, students can find many of the same Mediterranean panini and Italian-style Portioli coffee drinks at V&A Café in Etcheverry Hall, run by the Nefeli Caffe team since 2017.

NOAH’S NEW YORK BAGELS The debate that has boiled for decades and left many bagel-lovers steamed — whether or not Berkeley-born franchise Noah’s New York Bagels are the real deal — is toast once and for all at 2344 Telegraph Ave., where Noah’s third original storefront closed this month. For those who may not realize, the real Noah, Berkeley entrepreneur Norman “Noah” Alper, sold his kosher bagelry more than 20 years ago (and it was in turn sold again, and now, under Coffee & Bagel Brands, is on a growth kick.) Meanwhile, to bring things full circle, the location of the first Noah’s at College and Alcatraz is set to become Boichik Bagels sometime this spring. And another Noah’s will open in UC Berkeley’s Berkeley Way West Building (1919 Shattuck Ave.) as soon as May or June.

THE ORGANIC COUP A small flurry of winter closures on Telegraph includes chicken-sandwich slingers The Organic Coup, that closed both their Telegraph Ave. location this month and one in Pleasant Hill, possibly marking a bit of a local trend for the West Coast fast-food outfit. (Both stores opened in 2016.) That said, multiple locations still exist in San Francisco, as well as Oakland, Pleasanton and Sacramento, and the company’s website lists several new locations (USF, Amazon HQ) as “coming soon.”

PHILZ COFFEE Though it originally announced a mid-January closing date, Philz Coffee abruptly shuttered its Shattuck location Dec. 30, breaking Gourmet Ghetto hearts and scattering coffee fans to the many nearby cafés. Luckily, community-focused Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, based in San Francisco, will recaffeinate the space when they open their first East Bay outpost in the old Philz sometime in May.

TAMMY’S CHICKEN IN WAFFLES It was a great story that didn’t quite last — radical food entrepreneur Tammy Powers has split from her business partner and shuttered her standing-room-only Berkeley waffle shop, taking with her the recipe for chicken IN golden, fluffy waffles, rather than on them. As far as Berkeleyside can tell, both the Berkeley storefront and Treasure Island window are permanently closed.



ALMOND & OAK As profiled by Berkeleyside’s Alix Wall, Penrose is now softly opened as Almond & Oak, featuring the Italian-inspired cuisine of new chef-owner Rico Rivera. Rivera cures his own meats, enjoys open-flame cooking (the restaurant is named for the woods in his fireplace), and his brunch menu looks well worth checking out. Penrose’s beautiful, dramatic interior from Eric Pankonin remains untouched. Almond & Oak, 3311 Grand Ave. (between Elwood and Santa Clara), OaklandDUNKIN’ DONUTS Unleash the East Coasters — Oakland got its first Dunkin’ Donuts (or Dunkin’, as it’s now simply called) this month. Located near the Oakland Airport (other East Bay locations are in Concord and Walnut Creek), it’s open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Dunkin’, 451 Hegenberger Rd. (at Edgewater), Oakland ELEPHANT SUSHI Elephant Sushi opened its first East Bay location in Downtown Oakland in mid-January, taking over the old Togi’s Mongolian space. The San Francisco mini-chain’s three city locations are popular for its extensive menu of rolls, sashimi and nigiri; the sushi restaurant’s first few weeks in business in Oakland have garnered similar enthusiasm. Elephant Sushi, 352 14th St. (at Webster), OaklandLAO TAE This Thai-Lao restaurant in Montclair Village took over from former pan-Asian restaurant Camber this month. According to Yelp reviewers, the management has changed, but many of the former Camber chefs and staff have remained. Also different is the menu, including four different rice bowls topped with such au courant fare as khao mun gai, braised pork belly, five-spice duck or a medley of veggies. Some remnants of Camber’s Southeast Asian offerings, including its version of a Burmese tea leaf salad, remain on the new menu. Lao Tae, 6516 Moraga Ave. (at La Salle), OaklandMERRITT RESTAURANT & BAKERY Open since 1952, this Oakland old-timer sure isn’t new, but the location is. Along with the Kwik Way window at 500 Lake Park Ave., Merritt Restaurant & Bakery’s address since 2014, after a fire felled its original dining room at 203 East 18th St., the restaurant now has a fresh new sit-down location softly open at 3355 Lakeshore Ave. (The space formerly housed Moroccan Palace.) Check it out for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Merritt Bakery, 3355 Lakeshore Ave. (near Mandana), Oakland

North Light in Temescal offers cocktails at the bar and a curated collection of books and music for sale. Photo: The Savage Bureau

NORTH LIGHT Calling all old-fashioned bookworms, families, day drinkers, night drinkers, food and vinyl lovers, North Light is the new part-coffee shop, part bar, part book and record store, heated-patio-having, all-day Temescal café you’ve been waiting for. Library shelves filled with local and recommended authors line one wall of the narrow space, and a bar anchors the back. Wide windows let in plenty of natural light… from the east. Look for separate kids, café and cocktail menus, it’s that kind of place. Open 7 a.m. until midnight; closed Mondays. North Light, 4915 Telegraph Ave. (near 49th), Oakland PRIMA MATERIA WINE Eater has a taste of what this new Temescal Alley tasting room is all about, featuring the wines and Roman-inspired small plates of Italian winemaker and chef Pietro Buttitta. Open 1-6 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 1-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Prima Materia Wine Tasting Room, 482 49th St., Ste. B., OaklandREDFIELD CIDER BAR & BOTTLE SHOP Cider, cider everywhere, and lots to drink, either at the friendly bar or to-go from the bottle shop. Redfield carries more than 100 standouts, treats and rarities from the hard cider world from national and international purveyors, and 10 types on draft (as well as a few wines and beers). Married owners and cider connoisseurs Olivia Maki (18 Reasons) and Mike Reis (Abbot’s Cellar, Monk’s Kettle) are happy to answer all questions, expand horizons and direct interests. Berkeleyside’s Cirrus Wood profiled Redfield’s many unique offerings back when it opened Jan. 6. Redfield Cider Bar & Bottle Shop, 5815 College Ave. (at Oak Grove), Oakland

The Smoked Brisket sandwich (front) and The Butcher from Stay Gold Deli in Temescal. Photo: Sarah Han Credit: Sarah Han

STAY GOLD DELI Temporarily closed for several weeks due to a “seating issue” with the health department, Stay Gold Deli’s Temescal location is once again safely slinging Italian subs and potato salad as of Jan. 17. Stay Gold Deli, 4935 Shattuck Ave. (at 51st), OaklandTAPS AND TAKEOUT The Oakland hills got a new neighborhood spot where locals will find soups, salads and sandwiches for lunch and larger entrees of cozy comfort fare for dinner. Taps and Takeout is awaiting its full liquor license, but for now, you’ll find coffee, beers on tap and red wine to drink. So far Yelp reviewers are impressed with the vibe, hearty portions and modest prices, as well as nice touches, such as housemade chips. Taps and Takeout, 5736 Thornhill Ave. (near Mountain), Oakland


CAMBER (UPTOWN AND MONTCLAIR VILLAGE) Both locations of Camber — the Pan-Asian sports bar in Uptown (1707 Telegraph Ave.) and restaurant in Montclair Village (6516 Moraga Ave.) — closed this month. The original Uptown location was opened in 2013 by husband-wife duo Irfan Jaffery and Linda Saechaoan. The couple came up with the restaurant’s moniker by combining the names of their kids — Camrin and Amber. And they also blended their different cultural backgrounds (Mien, Burmese, Pakistani) to inform Camber’s menu. In 2014, they opened the Moraga Ave. location, which just switched gears to a new Thai-Laotian spot called Lao Tae (see openings).

OSMANTHUS As January ends, so will Osmanthus’s tenure at 6048 College Ave. The former Asian-fusion darling, opened in Rockridge to much fanfare in 2013, had been in somewhat of a decline in recent months, and the owners have finally called it quits. A new restaurant specializing in Bangkok home-cooking from the owners of Imm Thai Street Food in Berkeley will bring Yimm to the space. Expect an opening in mid-March.

TARA’S ORGANIC ICE CREAM TEMESCAL The East Bay Express broke the news that Tara, of Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, has found a serendipitous replacement for her former Temescal storefront that closed on Dec. 30: I Scream Donuts, from owner Katie Wages, who shuns the cone as an ice cream conveyance in favor of the warmed glazed donut. (For those attempting to go there right now after reading that description, please be patient.) In the meantime, lovers of Tara’s Organic Ice Cream can still find her wares at 3173 College Ave. in Berkeley.

WALLY’S WORLD MARKET Boasting somewhat mysterious signage to the outsider, Wally’s World Market, purveyors of so-called “Crazy Cream,” closed this month after a long, beloved tenure at the corner of Claremont Avenue and Forest Street. The quintessential neighborhood corner store was known as much for its food counter — quality breakfast bagels, deli sandwiches, and gyros — as for carrying every snack and supply a convenience store should carry. A Yelp review from 2007, the market’s first, proclaims, “Wally’s. The neighborhood wouldn’t be the same without it;” its final, recent review appreciates its community-minded service as, “one of the last-standing local spots.” All the more bittersweet now that it has closed.



ATELIER COLIBRI San Leandro’s walking away with all the bakeries lately — Atelier Colibri, meaning “hummingbird workshop” in French, specializes in a short menu of French pastries made with organic ingredients from baker Lori Hawkins. Atelier Colibri, 138 Pelton Center Way, San Leandro

Israeli burger chain Burgerim has come to El Cerrito Plaza. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

BURGERIM Based in Israel with an ever-growing international presence, fast-food chain Burgerim opened in El Cerrito Plaza on Jan. 11. The roomy, family-friendly space features plenty of booth and counter seating and a menu that offers patrons either two ($8.99) or three ($11.99) sliders made from a variety of proteins, buns and toppings. Choices are bountiful in all departments, with proteins ranging from veggie to salmon to lamb to dry-aged beef, and topping “styles” that include the “caliente,” with pepper jack, jalapenos, cajun spices, lettuce and habanero mayo, and the “cowboy,” featuring cheddar cheese, bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce. There are also chicken wings, salads and customizable French fries (that are cut round like chips, rather than long like sticks), sweet potato fries and onion rings. A kids option offers a burger or chicken strips, fries and a drink for $6.99. Burgerim, 174 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito

The Tran family — (from left to right) Jeffrey, Jennifer, Hung L.,Jenna, Misu, Hung T., and Jessica — at H&J’s in El Cerrito. Photo courtesy of the Tran family
The Tran family — (from left to right) Jeffrey, Jennifer, Hung L.,Jenna, Misu, Hung T., and Jessica — at H&J’s in El Cerrito. Photo courtesy of the Tran family

H&J’S RESTAURANT Fans (and there are many) of Inn Kensington’s addictive biscuits and savory egg dishes can now experience the same homestyle fare at H&J’s in El Cerrito, in the space that used to be Nibs. The connection between the sunny new restaurant (with a parking lot!) that opened Jan. 11, and the 38-year-old Kensington standout up the hill could hardly be closer or more charming — the H in H&J’s stands for Hung, the coincidental first name of both married owners (last name Tran) who have helmed Inn Kensington since 1993; the J is for Jennifer, Jessica, Jenna and Jeffrey, the Trans’ four children, who together own and operate the new El Cerrito restaurant. As expected, many of H&J’s recipes are the same ones used for decades by their parents. Look for lunch on weekdays only and breakfast every day, with rotating daily specials. The restaurant closes at 2:30 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends. (Note: Eggs benedict and florentine are only served on Sundays. Please plan your weekend accordingly.). H&J’s Restaurant, 10841 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito THE SLANTED DOOR SAN RAMON Charles Phan’s famous Vietnamese restaurant needs no introduction, and now lucky San Ramon gets to enjoy the restaurant’s newest, spacious, modern location in a Renzo Piano designed glass building with a Lundberg Design crafted interior. The Slanted Door San Ramon is only the second outpost of the restaurant outside of the San Francisco Ferry Building flagship, though The Slanted Door Las Vegas is coming soon. The Slanted Door San Ramon, City Center Bishop Ranch, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Rd., Ste. 1300, San Ramon

Baristas Justin (left) and Ben at Souvenir Coffee’s new Albany café. Photo: Joanna Della Penna
Baristas Justin (left) and Ben at Souvenir Coffee’s new Albany café. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

SOUVENIR COFFEE After some lengthy permitting delays, Souvenir Coffee celebrated the grand opening of its second location on Jan. 14. The bright, clean-lined space at the San Pablo end of Solano Ave. is warmed by friendly baristas pouring rich coffee drinks, as well as teas, chai and Batch Pastries. The first Souvenir is at 3084 Claremont Ave., in Berkeley, and owner of the growing chain is Berkeley native Jeremy Bled. Souvenir Coffee, 1114 Solano Ave. (at Kains), AlbanySUSHI VALLEY Alameda’s newest sushi restaurant takes over the space last occupied by Black Bull Tacos y Cerveza. Along with nigiri, sashimi and rolls, Sushi Valley serves udon, ramen and various other cooked Japanese appetizers and entrees. Sushi Valley, 1635 Park Ave. (near Pacific), Alameda TORSAP THAI KITCHEN Yet another restaurant that opened after our late December deadline was Walnut Creek’s Torsap Thai Kitchen, that launched with a party on New Year’s Eve. The restaurant is from chef Lalita Souksamlane of the Osha Thai chain, found in several locations in San Francisco and, most recently, Bangkok. Torsap Thai, in the long-closed Sunol Ridge space, features a lounge-like vibe throughout its main dining room and separate cocktail bar, and serves upscale riffs on traditional Thai flavors such as lemongrass sea bass, garlic lamb, noodle and curry dishes. Torsap Thai Kitchen, 1388 Locust St. (at Cypress), Walnut Creek


Albany’s nearly year-old Mexican restaurant Cantina Del Sol closed on Dec. 24. Photo: Sarah Han
Albany’s nearly year-old Mexican restaurant Cantina Del Sol closed on Dec. 24. Photo: Sarah Han

CANTINA DEL SOL As Nosh reported earlier this month, Tex-Mex restaurant Cantina Del Sol closed on Dec. 24, just shy of a year in business. The restaurant was the second attempt from the group behind Little Star Pizza to find the right fit for the keystone space at 1175 Solano in Albany — the first was Café Eugene, a Northwest-themed restaurant that had good reviews but a similarly short lifespan. Here’s hoping the next compass turn for the space points true north.

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...