When Nosh posted its list of February openings and closings this time last year, there was very little hint as to the looming pandemic lockdown and ongoing months of crisis soon to come. Looking back now, it is remarkable to note that despite the year’s unparalleled challenges, only three of the 18 East Bay food and drink businesses that opened last February have since closed.
Hard-won resilience stories from that February 2020 list include the resurrected Persian restaurant Alborz in downtown Berkeley; U :Dessert Story, still treating folks on Shattuck Avenue; Oakland’s Shawarmaji, that has since morphed from a pop-up to a popular brick-and-mortar; Nibs, a former El Cerrito favorite now slinging pancakes and burgers in West Oakland; and Arizmendi Emeryville, that overcame more than a year of repairs after an accident, only to reopen right before the pandemic hit. It now features a socially distanced line down the block for vegetarian pizza and baked goods on most days.
Whether they’ve been around for months or decades, all East Bay food-related businesses holding strong today should be appreciated — for their sacrifice, service and pivots, and above all for their sustenance. Please continue to support the local restaurant industry, and send any food news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CASA BAROTTI Italophiles might recognize the wares and counter-service format of this new focacceria, modeled on similar street food shops found across Italy. Casa Barotti’s tempting menu of regional nibbles includes many types of fresh, housemade focaccia — served plain (bianca); stuffed with cheese; topped with sauce; or layered with ingredients such as thinly-sliced potato, or prosciutto passed through a vintage-red, manual flywheel slicer — but there is also vegan-friendly farinata (chickpea “pizza”), panzerotti (small, fried calzones), and other fried bites such as suppli and arancini. Beverages include imported Italian soft drinks; wine is coming soon. The eatery is co-owned by Turin native Daniele Carsano, who also co-owns 54 Mint Forno Italiano in Walnut Creek, and two other partners, Italo Pacini and Fabio DiGilio, who are currently “stuck” in Italy due to COVID restrictions. Casa Barotti, 3204 College Ave. (at Alcatraz), Berkeley
CUPCAKIN’ BAKE SHOP At last, in a sweet finish to a long wait, the third location of Cupcakin’ Bake Shop has softly opened inside the former Virginia Bakery property on Shattuck Avenue. Baker-owner Lila Owens’ spacious, inviting bake shop features a vast menu of standard and mini cupcakes, many of which are on display. There are also customizable full-sized cakes, cookies and other freshly-baked treats unique to this location, including occasional homages to Virginia Bakery’s 65-year-long legacy. Seems like a neighborhood opening worth celebrating… with a cupcake. Welcome, Cupcakin’. Cupcakin’ Bake Shop, 1690 Shattuck Ave. (at Virginia Street), Berkeley
THE HIDDEN KITCHEN The Hidden Cafe has hosted this new community kitchen concept for a little while, but we wanted to spotlight the small food businesses currently operating from it that may be new to some of our readers. The list includes fish-and-chips shop Cod Damn; Hella Bagels bagels and sandwiches; Isaan Thai food from Intu On; the well-publicized Michoz; Sweet Love’s healthful sweet treats (gluten-free, vegan and free from refined sugar); and coffee and tea drinks (and Pepples Donuts) from Rasa Caffe. All are available for menu browsing and takeout ordering. The Hidden Kitchen at The Hidden Cafe, 1250 Addison St. (near Bonar Street), Berkeley
TACOS EL RULAS Luke Tsai at Eater featured this new-to-Berkeley taco truck that has been parking in front of Yen’s Auto Service on San Pablo Avenue for the past three months. Tacos El Rulas, run by father-son team Raul and Angeles Rodriguez, were selling primarily in Richmond for the past four years before this new stint in Berkeley. Popular menu items include quesabirria, quesatacos, mulitas and tortas. Tacos El Rulas makes its own tortillas and cooks its pastor the traditional way — on the trompo, or vertical spit, with a pineapple on top. Tacos El Rulas, 1299 San Pablo Ave. (at Gilman Street), Berkeley
EL TINY CAFE We have been patiently waiting for this pint-sized cafe from former Sconehenge employee Lili Vizcaino to open, but somehow missed when it did in early January. El Tiny is making a big impression on locals with its “Latino-inspired” menu of hot and cold drinks, including its own house blend of coffee from Chiapas, Mexico, and agua frescas and light eats, such as bagels, pastries, sandwiches, salads and rice bowls. It even has a Tiny kid’s menu. El Tiny Cafe, 3219 Adeline St. (near 63rd Street), Berkeley
FRUIT T This closure news is a little dusty, but Fruit T shuttered some time early in the pandemic. Though that feels like a lifetime ago, we are still marking it here. Fruit T was at 2466 Bancroft Way.
LADLE & LEAF We reported this soup and salad franchise location temporarily closed back in November, but word is it has since cleared out of the Bancroft space completely. (Also of note, most Ladle & Leaf shops are now marked temporarily closed on the local chain’s main site.) Ladle & Leaf Berkeley was at 2512 Bancroft Way.
ASHA TEA HOUSE Downtown Berkeley favorite Asha Tea House has softly opened an Oakland location at Grand and Broadway. The pretty new space features Asha’s menu of artisan teas, including black, fruit, herbal and milk teas, as well as matcha drinks, with most beverages served either hot or iced to-go. Also available are specialty loose teas sold by the ounce, and bottled brewed teas in large and personal serving sizes. Asha has a third location in San Francisco, though it is temporarily closed during the pandemic. Asha Tea House, 80 Grand Ave. (at Broadway), Oakland
THE ALICE MARKET The Tablehopper first reported on this new concept now open within The Alice Collective, whose usual cafe, drag brunches and community-building events are on pause during the pandemic. The Alice Market now features wares from several small businesses on Thursdays and Saturdays, including The Pleasure Principle, Edith’s Pie and Cafe con Pan. Watch Instagram for menus, and dates and times to place online orders for safe pickup. The Alice Market inside The Alice Collective, 272 14th St. (at Harrison Street), Oakland
LOS KINJAS FUSION EATERY Bites had the scoop on this new Adams Point eatery from the team behind temporarily closed Japanese restaurant Kinja, still undergoing repairs from a fire at 357 Grand Ave. Now open across the street, the new Los Kinjas offers a streamlined version of Kinja’s sushi menu, with plans to test out some playful Japanese-Mexican fusion flavors over time. Los Kinjas Fusion Eatery, 366A Grand Ave. (between Perkins Street and Staten Avenue), Oakland
OAKLAND FOOD HALL New takeout and delivery-only businesses inside this conglomerate ghost kitchen, formerly known as Jingletown Eats and comprised of roughly 50 small food enterprises (the list is fluid), include pan-African soul food restaurant The Bussdown, profiled this week by Nosh editor Sarah Han; Malaysian and Southeast Asian fusion eatery Genghix Next; and cheap sushi roll delivery outfit Origami. Look for updates to Oakland Food Hall residencies in our monthly openings and closings going forward, and feel free to spotlight your favorite from the ghost kitchen via comments and tips. Oakland Food Hall, 2353 E. 12th St. (at Miller Avenue), Oakland
LA PERLA PUERTO RICAN CUISINE One of Oakland’s most anticipated openings for the new year came appropriately on Valentine’s Day, when heartfelt Puerto Rican eatery La Perla opened the doors onto its first brick-and-mortar restaurant. The family-owned-and-operated food business has served its wares out of a Dimond District convenience store since 2017, garnering many fans, and finally has a home of its own. For a close look at La Perla’s journey, read The Oaklandside contributor Ricky Rodas’s feature on chef “Cheo” Ortiz and his family, and their vision for the new space. Open for lunch and early dinner to-go, Wednesday to Sunday. La Perla Puerto Rican Cuisine, 3409 Fruitvale Ave. (between Bienati Way and MacArthur Blvd.), Oakland
SANDBAR In a year without travel, why not create your own tropical escape? That seems to have been the inspiration behind Oakland’s breezy new Sandbar, now softly open on Auto Row, as first reported in Hoodline. The Caribbean-themed cocktail bar, from the team behind Oakland bars Drexl, the Miranda and Fort Green, is extremely beachy, down to the sand-covered floor, though patrons can’t really linger and lounge just yet: Tropical cocktails and snacks are available to-go for now, Thursdays through Saturdays. (Already reviewers recommend escaping with a Gorilla Milk, a potent blend of rum, coffee liqueur, creme de cacao and banana liqueur.) Sandbar, 2418 Broadway (between 24th Street and 25th Street), Oakland
VINE KITCHEN It’s time to hold a seance: A new ghost kitchen from San Jose-based restaurant group Vine Dining Enterprises is now operating alongside the Oakland Food Hall ghost kitchen. Vine Kitchen features cuisine from the group’s well-known South Bay restaurants: Left Bank Brasserie, LB Steak, Mac’n Cheese Shop and Skewery by Meso. To browse the various menus that range from fancier French to casual kebabs, visit the group’s order site. Vine Kitchen, 2352 E 12th St. (between 23rd and Miller avenues), Oakland
YILAN FOODS Look to this feature from contributor Momo Chang to learn more about this Taiwanese popup, operating since October out of former Ninna Restaurant (see Closed, below) on Piedmont Avenue. Yilan Foods, 4066 Piedmont Ave. (between Glen Avenue and 41st Street), Oakland
DOSIRAK SHOP Friendly little Japanese-Korean takeout spot Dosirak Shop closed during the pandemic, and has been transformed into Los Kinjas Fusion Eatery (see Open, above). Dosirak opened in April 2018, and was known for affordable, nourishing bowls, bento boxes, banchan and other Korean- and Japanese-inspired fare, and will be missed by the neighborhood. Dosirak Shop was at 366A Grand Ave. in Oakland.
NINNA RESTAURANT Sadly, despite assurances earlier in the pandemic that this notable closure was only temporary, Piedmont Avenue’s Ninna Restaurant has shuttered after 22 years. The Thai restaurant was first opened in 1999, by chef Ponnarong Nimearmon and his wife Ninna; young chef Itthisak Rampaiyakul took over in 2013, and maintained the restaurant’s steady popularity until the pandemic forced closure. The good news, Nosh contributor Momo Chang tells us, is that Taiwanese pop-up Yilan Foods now operates out of the former Ninna kitchen to great success, and includes Rampaiyakul among its founders. Yilan Foods is open on Sundays only for now. Ninna was at 4066 Piedmont Ave.
GOLDEN GATE BISTRO Opened Feb. 6, in Richmond near the Ferry Terminal, is new Golden Gate Bistro (not to be confused with previous tenant, the similarly named Golden Gate Grill). The bistro marks the first solo venture for chef Victor Viera, formerly of San Rafael’s temporarily closed Terrapin Crossroads, where Viera cooked for 18 years, the last seven as executive chef. Viera’s menu includes the type of fast-casual, picnic-friendly American food — breakfast sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips, an appealing kid’s menu — that goes well with a waterfront view. Open for breakfast and lunch weekdays starting at 7 a.m. and Saturdays beginning at 8 a.m. Golden Gate Bistro, 803 Wright Ave. (near Harbor Way South), Richmond
KARA’S CUPCAKES BAY STREET A February stroll around Emeryville led to the discovery that Bay Street anchor Kara’s Cupcakes has returned, though the property was closed and available for lease back in September. Check-ins with the owner went unanswered, but according to staff on-site, the location reopened in January. Kara’s Cupcakes Emeryville, 5615 Bay St., Emeryville
LOCAL KITCHENS A friend sent over this tip calling it “restaurant-ish,” and she’s right — “restaurant-ishes” are flourishing in today’s rapidly evolving food industry (see The Hidden Kitchen, Oakland Food Hall, Vine Kitchen and The Alice Market, all above). Local Kitchens is another new ghost kitchen, this time for Lafayette, featuring cuisine from five notably popular Bay Area eateries: Señor Sisig, Proposition Chicken, Mixt, Wise Sons and Curry Up Now. Given this list, maybe it should be called “Addictive Kitchens?” The outfit has a second location serving San Jose. Order through the main website for pickup or delivery only. Local Kitchens, 3455 Mt. Diablo Blvd. (at Second Street), Lafayette
SUSHI MATSU El Cerrito has been keeping this new sushi establishment all to itself since December, but word is starting to spread. The family-owned restaurant on San Pablo Avenue near Moeser Lane replaces three-year-old Hoshi Sushi, which quietly closed early in the pandemic. Reviews for Sushi Matsu’s sushi and other Japanese fare are enthusiastic so far. Sushi Matsu, 10561 San Pablo Ave. (near Moeser Lane), El Cerrito
TELLUS COFFEE We learned about this one from Diablo Dish: Walnut Creek has a new cafe in Tellus Coffee, featuring sustainably sourced and house-roasted beans, and a food menu of small plates, breakfast options, pastries and desserts. Tellus Coffee, 1410 N. Main St. (between Cypress Street and Lincoln Avenue), Walnut Creek
VIET KITCHEN San Leandro has a new, family-owned Vietnamese restaurant that is garnering good reviews for its flavors and portion sizes. The eatery opened in December, and features appetizers, rice and noodle plates and pho. Viet Kitchen, 967 Manor Blvd. (between Andover and Fleming streets), San Leandro
CAMPO DI BOCCE Mellow, fun and family-friendly Campo Di Bocce in Livermore has permanently closed after 15 years because of the pandemic, taking with it the promise of long afternoons with friends, eating, drinking and playing bocce ball. (Never has that sounded more appealing.) According to the Campo Di Bocce website, the Fremont location has also closed for good, leaving only the Los Gatos branch, though that one is also temporarily closed for renovations. Campo Di Bocce was at 175 E. Vineyard Ave. in Livermore.
COFFEE SHOP WALNUT CREEK Diablo Dish informed us that Coffee Shop has closed its Walnut Creek location, but a quick confirmation with the Coffee Shop crew tells us that the shop will reopen soon, five minutes across town at 1470 Broadway. Coffee Shop was at 1321 Locust St. in Walnut Creek.
GOLDEN GATE GRILL This promising spot in Richmond’s Marina Bay neighborhood near the Ferry opened and closed during the pandemic, and is currently seeking a new home. Meanwhile, its former space has reopened under a new team as the unrelated Golden Gate Bistro (see Open). Golden Gate Grill was at 803 Wright Ave. in Richmond.
BAR CESAR Piedmont Avenue cocktail and tapas destination Bar Cesar hopes to reopen next month after a recent temporary hiatus. Bar Cesar is at 4039 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland.
BERKELEY FACULTY CLUB Academic types please note: The Berkeley Faculty Club’s dining options are closed temporarily, but according to a representative the current plan is to relaunch outdoor dining in March. The Berkeley Faculty Club is on Minor Lane at UC Berkeley.
BOILEROOM Telegraph Avenue has had to-go without rolled ice cream and Taiwanese hot pot during Boileroom’s temporary shutter, but according to sources, a reopening is planned, though details and timing are unconfirmed. We’ll keep you posted. Boileroom is at 2475 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.
MENCHIE’S FROZEN YOGURT Berkeley family destination Menchie’s has been quietly closed since December, and according to neighbors on Euclid Avenue (and the occasional hopeful post on Facebook), every passing month brings the promise of a potential reopening… but it hasn’t happened yet. (Not surprising: The Northside sure is quiet right now.) Stay tuned, kids, summer’s coming. Menchie’s is at 1862 Euclid Ave. in Berkeley.
NORTHSIDE CAFE Speaking of the Northside neighborhood, the NorthSide Cafe, keystone corner property and anchor to the Euclid Avenue row of eateries and cafes, has been on break since December — and according to partner Soosh Nassar, it might be several months before it reopens. The good news is that the team’s other property, Brewed Awakening, located across the street at 1807 Euclid Ave., successfully reopened two weeks ago after a three-month dormancy. NorthSide Cafe is at 1878 Euclid Ave. in Berkeley.
TELEGRAPH BEER GARDEN (BEERYLAND) Whew: The Beeryland folks have let Nosh know that they plan to reopen as soon as it’s financially feasible, hopefully later this spring. Telegraph Beer Garden is at 2318 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
YUZU RAMEN Emeryville’s four-year-old
Nosh Editor Sarah Han contributed reporting.