Palmetto reopens with a meaty menu; COVID-19 cases delay Blue Willow Teaspot’s reopening

Plus: A driver smashes La Frontera’s parklet; Alice Waters auctions off a luncheon in her garden; Caffe Med space to become ramen restaurant; more.

Pork Chop with frisee, spiced carrots, refried black beans, grain mustard mojo, and shaved onions
After a mid-pandemic opening and closing, Palmetto is reopening on May 1 with big meaty meals and clever cocktails. Credit: Palmetto

Palmetto reopens in Uptown Oakland with a hearty New American menu and a rum-heavy cocktail list

When Christ Aivaliotis and Matt Reagan, the owners of downtown Oakland bar Kon-Tiki, started plotting Palmetto, an “American tropical” steak-and-chops restaurant slated for the former Flora space, it was fall 2019 and a lushly designed, 22-table restaurant seemed like a great place to linger over a slab of prime rib and a couple of cocktails.

But when Palmetto opened in May 2020, sitting down for a meal wasn’t an option. Speaking with Nosh, Matt Reagan said that they gave takeout service a try, but with protests over the slaying of George Floyd packing the streets outside the restaurant, skyrocketing food costs as “the supply lines were totally screwed up” and the inherent challenges of serving up a great to-go steak, “it just didn’t make sense to stay open.” After five weeks of struggle, Aivaliotis and Reagan shut the spot back down.

The pair turned Palmetto’s kitchen over to Jusla Eats founder Lala Harrison for regular pop-ups and food prep for World Central Kitchen, so it’s not like the spot has been dark — but Reagan said that they weren’t willing to reopen until they could seat diners indoors. “Outdoor dining doesn’t feel right with the food and experience we’re trying to do,” Reagan said. 

But now they’re ready to open the pastel-and-neon dining room (a creation of Wylie Price Design) to diners for the first time ever, Reagan said. Reservations are available via OpenTable for the restaurant’s 11 available tables, with dine-in service starting May 1 (though folks who are willing to take their chances can stop by for first-come, first-served seating on Friday, April 30). 

But unlike many restaurants that are reopening after months of closure, Palmetto isn’t opening with a limited menu. Chef Manny Bonilla “can’t be tamed,” Reagan said, and “spent the year finding his voice” and refining the menu of ambitious, meaty mains like a bone-in pork chop, shrimp crudo and “really amazing chicken … and I never order chicken in a restaurant.”

“We’re definitely not dialing it back,” Reagan said. “We want to show everyone that we’re still on our feet, and we’re still making a run at it.” Palmetto, 1900 Telegraph Ave. (at 19th Street), Oakland

Car crash destroys La Frontera’s outdoor dining setup

La Frontera’s International Boulevard outdoor dining parklet was destroyed by a driver last week. Credit: La Frontera/Facebook

Quesabirria destination La Frontera Mexican Restaurant opened last February and — despite the pandemic — the place has done so well that owner Valentino Carrillo was able to fund and open LGBTQ+ nightclub Que Rico. That success might be one of the reasons why he was so sanguine when he spoke to Nosh this week about La Frontera’s outdoor dining setup, which was completely destroyed by an allegedly intoxicated driver, Carrillo said.

“We’re still waiting for the police report,” Carrillo said of the incident, which went down in the early hours of April 17, just days before a similar crash in San Francisco. He still doesn’t know if he’ll be able to rebuild the seating area, which he said was the only dining parklet along International Boulevard. “I don’t think insurance would even cover it, and if they did they’d probably triple my rates.” 

He says the lack of seating has had a noticeable impact on La Frontera’s business, as indoor capacity is still limited to 50%. “We’re already getting really good feedback from neighbors, and some even say they’ll help us rebuild,” Carrillo said. “So, we’ll see.” La Frontera Mexican Restaurant, 4481 International Blvd (at 45th Avenue), Oakland

alaMar celebrates its 7th anniversary with botanical vodka and live music

Chef-owner Nelson German, then-Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and others at alaMar’s 2014 ribbon cutting. Credit: alaMar

It’s been seven years since Uptown Oakland seafood spot alaMar opened its doors, and what a seven years it’s been for chef Nelson German. He’s opened (and reopened) a second restaurant, Sobre Mesa, weathered a pandemic and joined the 18th season of cooking competition show Top Chef.

On Thursday, April 29, German will compete on the show’s fifth episode of the season, and on Saturday, alaMar will celebrate seven years in the game with live music and a special patio bar intended to promote vodka brand Grey Goose’s new line of “botanical vodkas.” The celebration runs from 5-8 p.m., May 1. alaMar Kitchen & Bar, 100 Grand Ave #111 (near Valdez Street), Oakland

2 COVID-19 cases will delay Blue Willow Teaspot’s reopening

Fans of Blue Willow’s Asatsuyu green tea will have to wait a bit longer than expected for a fresh cup. Credit: Blue Willow/Instagram

Ali Roth, the owner of Blue Willow Tea and Berkeley tea shop The Blue Willow Teaspot, had hoped to reopen her Kickstarted restaurant on May 1, but those plans were put on hold after her husband and 2-year-old child tested positive for COVID-19. 

“I’m fully vaccinated,” Roth wrote on Instagram, “and need to stay home with them to take care of them until their quarantine is over and follow CDC guidelines.” According to Roth, a Pennsylvania-based colleague of her husband’s who visited Bay Area last week “refused to get tested before his flight, quarantine after, or wear a mask while he was in the shop,” and it “turns out he had covid the whole time.” Now, she wrote, “I need to put work on hold right now and just be here for my family until we’re all safe.” She hopes to reopen the Teaspot on May 7, but asks that patrons “cut us some slack, this is a really stressful time right now.” Blue Willow Teaspot, 1200 10th St. (at Harrison Street), Berkeley

Three upcoming events offer the chance to dine out for a good cause

A sign for inclusive practices at Edible Schoolyard.
A sign for inclusive practices at Edible Schoolyard Project, a 25-year-old food education program that was started in Berkeley by Alice Waters. On May 6, Waters and Edible Schoolyard host a virtual fundraiser. Credit: Melati Citrawireja

Sunday Bakeshop will depart Alkali Rye for a permanent Rockridge location 

Sunday Bakeshop’s hard-to-get pastry boxes are about to get far easier to score. Credit: Sunday Bakeshop/Instagram

Elaine Lau’s Asian-inspired Sunday Bakeshop pop-up has been a fixture at 8-month-old specialty bottle shop and tasting room Alkali Rye, which pivoted to host weekly pop-up events as the pandemic raged on. But now Lau is taking her bakery in a more permanent direction, the SF Chronicle reports, with a plan to open a permanent spot in Rockridge within the next few weeks.

According to SF Gate, Sunday Bakeshop’s next pastry box, which is available for pickup on Sunday, May 2, will offer a sneak peek at the new restaurant’s menu. That peek includes a hojicha chocolate croissant, a coconut jasmine rice pudding topped with mango pudding and a caramelized rice crispy treat with masago arare and roasted sesame seeds. All are available for preorder here. Sunday Bakeshop will be at 5931 College Ave. (near Chabot Road), Oakland

The Lede is hosting a one year anniversary shindig for Edith’s Pie

Pop-up bakery Edith’s Pie is celebrating one year in the game. Photo: Edith’s Pie/Instagram
Pop-up bakery Edith’s Pie is celebrating one year in the game. Credit: Edith’s Pie/Instagram

Baker Mike Raskin began Edith’s Pie (it’s named after his mom) as a Thanksgiving pop-up, but by this time last year it had expanded to a weekly operation serving up buttery fruit pies and eggy savory dishes. 

After a year in the game, they’re celebrating the milestone with a one-day event at The Lede, chef Carlo Espinas’s pop-up turned permanent spot in North Oakland. Via Instagram, Edith’s promises “slices, hand pies, quiches, & cocktails” from 1-4 p.m., May 1. (Disclosure: The Lede’s owner, Joaquin Alvarado, is a Cityside board member.) Edith’s Pie at The Lede, 308 41st St. (near Emerald Street), Oakland

Sojo Ramen will open in the former home of Caffe Med

Hot pot spot Boileroom has been replaced by a new ramen restaurant. Credit: Sarah Han
Berkeley hot pot spot Boileroom (what once was Caffe Mediterraneum), has been replaced by a new ramen restaurant. Credit: Sarah Han

When Berkeley’s iconic coffee shop Caffe Mediterraneum closed in 2016, the space’s new owners announced a plan to open a restaurant called Boileroom. After years of construction, Boileroom opened with a menu of rolled ice cream and Chinese hot pot in January 2020, just weeks before the pandemic shut the two-floor venue (and every other restaurant in the Bay Area) back down. 

The subsequent year appeared to be too much for Boileroom, as what began as a temporary closure appears to be permanent. The Boileroom signage is gone, replaced by one for Las Vegas-based chain, Sojo Ramen. Efforts to reach Chien Yu Lee, the owner on record for Sojo Ramen, who is also behind the Fremont location, have not been responded to as of publication time, so its opening date and menu information remains a mystery. Sojo Ramen, 2475 Telegraph Ave. (near Haste Street), Berkeley

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Eve Batey is Berkeleyside's interim Nosh editor. Email: eve@berkeleyside.org.