Usually at this time of year, coworkers, family and friends don their sparkliest outfits and gather to indulge in a holiday drink or festive meal at a local venue, often at a table or private event space booked weeks in advance.
Instead, December 2020’s widespread COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have led to a near-statewide stay-at-home order, as well as a provisional end to outdoor dining that has restaurants fighting to survive. Denied indoor service for most of the year, eateries across California poured funds into parklets, tenting, heat lamps, table guards and staff training for the safety and comfort of al fresco patrons, only to see outdoor dining officially struck down this month at least through early January 2021. And of course, the lockdown doesn’t just affect restaurants — food trucks, pop-ups, bars and breweries are hurting, too.
Support of a favorite business, even only through takeout or delivery, has never been more desperate — or delicious, as the holidays still bring out the best in area cooking, baking and imbibing. (Why not wear that sparkly top at home?) Special gratitude to venues maintaining transparency in the time of peak COVID transmission — how a business handles and shares news of a positive case speaks volumes about staff and customer care at this difficult time.
The following highlights East Bay eateries that are brand new, have permanently closed or are taking an indefinite break. (Some are not closed, but will pivot permanently into new business models.)
CHOCOLATERIE In a new start for a long-loved Berkeley business (open since 2008), chocolatier Christopher Blue has dropped the “Dora’s” pies from his University Avenue shop and re-homed his focus on artisan chocolates. He and his wife, co-owner Jessica Steeve, have also renamed the shop from Blue’s Chocolates to Chocolaterie, and some new flavors and products are in the works. Fun fact: Blue was once chocolatier to Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. Chocolaterie, 1964 University Ave. (between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Milvia Street), Berkeley
KOKOLO DONBURI BERKELEY Fans of fast-casual Japanese take note: New to downtown Berkeley is KoKoLo Donburi, opened mid-December in the spacious corner spot that was the Bear’s Food Court. The local mini-chain features Japanese small plates, rice bowls, curries and other specialties for takeout and curbside pickup. KoKolo Donburi also has locations in Alameda and Pleasanton. KoKoLo Donburi, 2237 Shattuck Ave. (at Kittredge Street), Berkeley
LAS DELICIAS SALVADORAN RESTAURANT This new eatery in the former Tharaphu space brings a fresh choice for savory Salvadoran and Mexican cooking to an otherwise (currently) quiet downtown Berkeley stretch. The menu features hearty pupusas, empanadas and other Salvadoran specialties as well as Mexican fare such as burritos and tacos. Las Delicias Salvadoran Restaurant, 2037 Shattuck Ave. (between Addison Street and University Avenue), Berkeley
BEAR’S FOOD COURT This longtime former Burgermeister became Bear’s Food Court in mid-2019, and made our temporarily closed list in November but we’ve learned this month it is definitely closed for good. It is now new Japanese restaurant KoKoLo Donburi (see Open, above). Bear’s Food Court was at 2237 Shattuck Ave.
LA CAPILLA You can blame the pandemic for the closure of this University Avenue gem, a Mexican juice bar and cafe that served Nosh Editor Sarah Han’s favorite crispy tacos filled with fried potatoes. Its last day of service is Dec. 27 before it calls it quits for good. La Capilla is one of several local Mexican restaurants owned by Juan Romo, and the restaurant tells Nosh it will be adding its beloved kale tacos to the menu at sister business Taqueria Monte Cristo.
JUNE TAYLOR COMPANY For 30 years, June Taylor’s jams, butters, candied peels, syrups, fruitcakes and other small-batch fruit preserves and confections were among the finest in the Bay Area, and garnered impressive national media attention and devotees. This month, Bites filled us in on the British expat’s plans to retire and cease operations at the end of 2020, but there is some good news: Taylor’s Berkeley shop The Still-Room will stay open for a bit through the new year while the last of her inventory is sold. (The Still-Room is at 2207 Fourth St.)
MA LA ZUI TASTY WOK As with many now-closed establishments in and around downtown Berkeley, this restaurant closed so quietly within the last few weeks that it’s unclear when it happened — but trust us, Tasty Wok is very much closed. Ma La Zui Tasty Wok was at 2017 Shattuck Ave.
THARAPHU BURMESE STREET FOOD Nosh noted this downtown Berkeley Burmese spot’s temporary closure back in August, and are sad to report Tharaphu is indeed gone for good. In better news, the space has since reopened as Las Delicias (see Open above). Tharaphu Burmese Street Food was at 2037 Shattuck.
CHARM THAI BISTRO When Kronnerburger closed in 2018, it left an angular, white void at the tip of the building that was once a train station on Piedmont Avenue. Nosh is happy to announce that the restaurant has now reopened as Charm Thai Bistro, reanimating the notable space, and offering Thai street food for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch to go. Owners are Anchalee and Chuck Natasiri, who have drawn devoted customers to their Berkeley restaurant Anchalee Thai since 2007. Charm Thai Bistro, 4063 Piedmont Ave. (at 41st Street), Oakland
GAY4U VEGAN EATS We’re late to this party, but a tipster let us know that Gay4U moved its vegan pop-up operation during the pandemic to a tiny eatery at 1327 Peralta St., bringing generous vegan cuisine (and ensuing lines) to West Oakland. As always, trans people of color eat free at Gay4U. (The pop-up’s former home, Garden House, is temporarily closed.) Gay4U, 1327 Peralta St. (at 14th Avenue), Oakland
LA GUERRERA’S KITCHEN Old Oakland’s former Tamarindo Antojeria space is the new home of La Guerrera’s Kitchen, owned and operated by the mother-daughter team of Ofelia Barajas and Reyna Maldonado. The pair are alumnae of La Cocina, and their former Fruitvale eatery inside the Aloha Club was an instant sensation when it opened in May 2019, before closing as the lockdown hit the following March. After months of operating as a pop-up, the pair will now serve up Guerrero specialties — pozole, their famed tamales, barbacoa, and harder to find dishes such as tacos al vapor and tacos dorado — to-go from their new space, just in time to make holiday wishes come true all over Oakland. La Guerrera’s Kitchen, 468 Eighth St. (between Broadway and Washington Street), Oakland
MALIBU’S BURGERS The stacked vegan burgers and other rich, 100% plant-based indulgences from this former Oakland food truck’s new brick-and-mortar that opened on Piedmont Avenue Dec. 5, is already culling a line of hospital professionals from Kaiser Oakland down the street. That’s how you know it’s good for you. See you there. Malibu’s Burgers, 3905 Piedmont Ave. (between Montell Street and Monte Vista Avenue), Oakland
NICK’S PIZZA Now open for sourdough pizza, salads and, new to the menu, deli sandwiches is the second incarnation of Bushrod neighborhood favorite Nick’s Pizza, as the eatery has moved down the block from 6211 to 6400 Shattuck Ave. Expect more menu developments in the coming weeks, including an expanded bakery menu and added vegetarian options. Nick’s Pizza, 6400 Shattuck Ave. (at Alcatraz Avenue), Oakland
ORBIT COFFEE A third Orbit Coffee cafe has opened in Oakland, this time in East Oakland at 1924 35th Ave. On offer are Orbit’s famed Vietnamese coffee, donuts and…wait, what’s that? Yes, please. Orbit Coffee, 1924 35th Ave. (at Foothill Boulevard), Oakland
SHAKE SHACK Even in a normal year, East Coast burger chain Shake Shack’s first-ever East Bay location would be a big deal. But in a year when people want all the comfort foods, it has hit Oakland like a polestar. Here’s the menu (try the Christmas cookie shake). Shake Shack, 1954 Telegraph Ave. (at Thomas L. Berkeley Way), Oakland
T&T SEAFOOD #2 “You buy, we fry,” is the charming slogan at this new counter seafood eatery, opened at the end of November inside the former Chopsticks Express. Look for generous portions of fried fish, oysters, shrimp and fries to go. The location of a possible T&T Seafood #1 remains unclear by press time. T&T Seafood #2, 4104 MacArthur Blvd. (at 39th Avenue), Oakland
EL GUSANO Hoodline was among the first to report on the closure of El Gusano in Old Oakland. The popular, seven-year-old Mexican bar and restaurant was a sister property to Tropisueño in San Francisco. El Gusano was at 1015 Clay St.
GOURMET DELIGHT The phone has been disconnected and the windows are papered over at this 15-year-old Chinatown dim sum restaurant. Gourmet Delight was at 701 Webster St.
JULES THIN CRUST Nosh tipster Lola B. and her family let us know that Jules Thin Crust pizza has permanently closed. The College Avenue location of the East Coast chain opened in 2013, and was a family-friendly stop for healthful (and tasty) slices of organically topped thin-crust. The Jules Thin Crust website now only lists shops in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Jules Thin Crust was at 5804 College Ave.
JULIE’S OAKLAND This cozy tea and coffee shop and wholesome cafe in Temescal has shuttered after three years. The original Julie’s in Alameda remains open and nourishing. Julie’s Oakland was at 4316 Telegraph Ave.
MAGPIE Magpie, from the owners of Oakland’s Brozeit Lokal Biergarten, had a short but heartfelt tenure inside the former Hog’s Apothecary space. It closed in November after 11 months, many of them spent dark because of the lockdown. Brozeit remains open for takeout. Magpie Taproom was at 375 40th St.
SOUL PROVISIONS As reported by Eater SF, this Uptown Filipino-Thai restaurant announced on Instagram that it was closing because it was too difficult to remain in business during the pandemic. Soul Provisions was at 1629 Broadway.
WOODS BAR & BREWERY SFGate was first to report that Woods Bar & Brewery’s Uptown location closed on Dec. 23 as the business was unable to renegotiate a lease with its landlord. Woods Beer’s five other Bay Area locations remain open. Woods Bar & Brewery was at 1701 Telegraph Ave.
ALLEY & VINE One of this month’s hottest openings — and yes, they still happen in pandemic — is this new farm- and sea-to-table restaurant in Alameda. The restaurant comes to the island from three well-known industry vets in San Francisco — chef Jason Ryczek, most recently executive chef of Farallon; Francisco Bazo, former beverage director at Waterbar; and Casey Hunt, whose maitre d’, administrative and event management resume includes Rubicon, Masa’s and and Waterbar. Along with an intriguing menu of California cuisine (with plenty of seafood), wine, cocktails and desserts, the team has forged a very pretty dining room and patio, but of course are focusing on higher-end takeout only for now, including curbside. Break out the good tableware, Alameda. Alley & Vine, 1332 Park St. (between Central and Encinal Avenue), Alameda
JAYNA GYRO Even in pandemic, the Public Market Emeryville is doing just fine, and seeing new openings to boot like this fresh kiosk from the team behind Napa’s Tarla Mediterranean Grill. Jayna Gyro offers Greek and Turkish specialties such as dolmas, various dips such as hummus and tzatziki, spiced chickpea pita sandwiches, chicken and beef gyros, and Greek salads. The eatery celebrated its soft opening on Dec. 2. Jayna Gyro, Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St. (at 64th Street), Emeryville
JOY SUSHI Peninsula mini-chain Joy Sushi has opened a location in San Leandro’s Bayfair shopping center, featuring a fairly sizable menu of sushi, rolls, bento boxes, donburi (rice bowls), poke bowls and more. Joy Sushi, 15555 E. 14th St., Suite 318 (between Bayfair Drive and 156th Avenue), San Leandro
MOUNTAIN MIKE’S PIZZA RICHMOND Richmond now has a new location of this crowd-pleasing West Coast pizza chain. Mountain Mike’s Pizza Richmond, 2171 Meeker Ave. (near Marina Bay Parkway), Richmond
PIZZA AMERICANA Folks seem to enjoy this new, family-friendly, take-and-bake, small pizza business in Walnut Creek, that opened in November. Pizza Americana, 1557 Palos Verdes Mall (near Camino Verde), Walnut Creek
VIET KITCHEN San Leandro’s new family-owned Vietnamese restaurant serves a large menu of appetizers, noodles dishes, rice plates and more. Viet Kitchen, 967 Manor Blvd. (at Zelma Street), San Leandro
ALBANY BOWL Please don’t tell my kid, but local bowling alley, arcade, pool hall, diner and all-around beloved old-school local family establishment Albany Bowl is closing for good after 71 years. (Those who wonder why this is included in a food roundup clearly never had one of its Little J’s corndogs, fish sandwiches and other diner-style fare.) Thanks again, COVID, for robbing us of yet another favorite Bay Area gathering place. Most of us are longing for 2020 to end; not if it means Albany Bowl goes, too. Albany Bowl was at… oh what does it matter, it’s TOO SAD.
COOKIEBAR SCOOP SHOP ALAMEDA Nosh was bummed to learn that Cookiebar was forced to shutter its Alameda location due to a landlord dispute. Luckily the Oakland location is doing just fine. Cookiebar Scoop Shop was at 647 Central Ave. in Alameda.
AUGIE’S MONTREAL DELI Berkeley’s Montreal-style Jewish deli closed its doors at 875 Potter St. on Dec. 24, but plans to reopen at 700 University St., the former Brennan’s location, in the new year — a reopening date has yet to be determined. Expect the same menu and free parking (!) at the new location.
BIERHAUS This beerhall’s location in Oakland has been closed since March, and now Bierhaus’s Walnut Creek biergarten is also temporarily closed through the end of January. Bierhaus Walnut Creek is at 1360 Locust St. in Walnut Creek.
CAFE BLUE DOOR The phone is no longer connected at Cafe Blue Door and despite cafe furnishings, there’s no one inside. We’re marking this one temporarily closed until we get confirmation that it’s closed for good. Cafe Blue Door is at 2244 Bancroft Way.
CORNERSTONE A cheerful phone recording alerts customers that downtown Berkeley bar and restaurant Cornerstone is temporarily closed due to December’s lockdown, and will remain so until mid-January when patrons should check back. Cornerstone is at 2367 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
COSECHA Old Oakland Mexican eatery Cosecha, opened since 2011 from chef Dominica Rice-Cisneros, will “go into hibernation” indefinitely after holiday tamale orders are picked up this week. Hang in there and be well. Cosecha is at 907 Washington St. in Oakland.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY Opened just before the pandemic, it’s hard not to think of this Oakland hangout as the little cocktail bar that could. As of Dec. 19, though, Friends and Family will be closed until outdoor dining is once again allowed. As with all other favorite pubs, bars and restaurants, customers can purchase gift cards to help support the bar in the interim. Friends and Family is at 468 25th St. in Oakland.
GARDEN HOUSE This salad eatery, home to pop-ups including Gay4U Vegan Eats, is temporarily closed, but owner Terry Sok Wolfson told Nosh it will reopen in the new year when it is safe to do so. Garden House is at 380 15th St. in Oakland.
JUANITA & MAUDE According to trusted sources, Juanita & Maude provides some of the area’s best upscale pandemic take-out, which is why so many fans were bummed when the Chronicle reported it temporarily closed this month. Luckily it wasn’t for long — the restaurant hosted a holiday pop-up Dec. 21-24, and then after a tiny rest will reopen Jan. 5. Juanita & Maude is at 825 San Pablo Ave. in Albany.
MELOMELO KAVA BAR Melo Melo’s Berkeley location at 1701 University Ave. — the first kava bar in the Bay Area — is currently closed for renovation, but the Oakland location at 3264 Grand Ave. is still open for those who need to “melo” out.
MEZZO This dormancy has been a long one — Mezzo, fka Cafe Intermezzo, has been shut since the pandemic lockdown in March. Yelp shows folks are still driving over there hoping for large salads and soft hunks of fresh bread, only to meet with a dark doorway of disappointment. We’ve reached out to the owners for an update, but have yet to hear back. We’ll keep you posted on signs of life. Mezzo is at 2442 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.
MISS OLLIE’S Not closed, but in transition, is Miss Ollie’s, chef Sarah Kirnon’s eight-year-old downtown Oakland destination for Caribbean eats and fried chicken. Kirnon plans to morph her establishment into a not-for-profit bastion for Black chefs and creators, called Sanctuary, to be opened in January. Food from a rotating array of guest chefs will be just one of many highlights of the new spot that will also harbor artists, musicians and community events. Expect a possible temporary closure before the upcoming launch. Miss Ollie’s is at 901 Washington St. in Oakland.
SEA WOLF The Jack London district pub abruptly closed earlier this month for unforeseen building repairs. Sea Wolf aims to reopen soon, but will be moving forward cautiously given new lockdown restrictions. Keep an eye on Sea Wolf’s Instagram page for updates. Sea Wolf is at 350 Fourth St. in Oakland.
SPATS Smoke Berkeley’s Texas-style barbecue is still in operation for takeout and delivery out of the Spats space, but the bar itself is temporarily closed due to the December lockdown. Spats is at 1974 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
VENUS Another long Berkeley dormancy — the downtown location of Venus has been temporarily closed since March. Fans of the restaurant’s California cuisine have probably already discovered the restaurant’s second location at the Berkeley end of Solano Avenue remains open for takeout and delivery. Owner Deepak Aggarwal told Nosh that the restaurant is only temporarily closed, but he doesn’t not know when it will reopen. For now, he could offer these encouraging words: “we will be back when times get better.” Venus Downtown Berkeley is at 2327 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
Sarah Han contributed reporting.