The Smokehouse commissions a mural of itself
After a two-year closure, nearly 70-year-old Berkeley burger spot The Smokehouse reopened last fall during some of the toughest months of the pandemic, with general manager Shakaib Shaghasi telling Nosh contributor Joanna Della Penna that he hoped the restaurant will “serve our community for many decades to come.”
For years, Shaghasi told Nosh editor Sarah Han, the family has hoped for a graffiti-blocking mural on the wall at the True Value Telegraph Hardware store across the street, and when Oakland’s Good Mother Gallery reached out to The Smokehouse for a partnership, all the pieces fell together. Now, artists Jerry A.J. and Pierre LaDouché have taken a photo of The Smokehouse from 1961 and have turned that into a massive outdoor painting of the restaurant on the wall of the hardware shop (with the store’s permission, of course). The artists are expected to finish the composition by the end of the week. The Smokehouse, 3115 Telegraph Ave. (at Woolsey Street), Berkeley
Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved a plan to permit home cooks
At its regular board meeting Tuesday, Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors voted to approve a plan to offer permits to what they call Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations (MEHKO) — that is, folks who cook food in their kitchens at home, then offer it for sale to others via pop-ups or online sales.
That type of business was illegal in California for decades, and instead, aspiring food industry entrepreneurs were forced to find commercial kitchen space to create their wares — that, or to operate under the health department’s radar and hope they didn’t get caught. A 2018 law at the state level has the potential to change all that, allowing individual counties to permit chefs to operate businesses from their homes.
So far, only a few counties in the state permit these at-home operations, and the city of Berkeley, which has its own health department, is very close. Berkeley has opted in to allow MEHKOs, but hasn’t yet finalized the application and permitting process. The pandemic prompted more jobless chefs to start at-home operations, and since October, Alameda County supervisors have been discussing legislation to permit home chefs, eventually mulling a $696 annual permit plan for businesses that fulfill a slew of health and safety qualifications.
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, public comment was unanimously in favor of the program, with several advocates from the local restaurant industry calling into the meeting to say that the legislation is long overdue. Of the supervisors, only District 4’s Nate Miley expressed misgivings, grilling Supervising Environmental Health Specialist Jackie Greenwood on plans to enforce the program, permitting fees and powers to revoke permits from bad actors.
Ultimately, Miley voted to approve the plan, saying that he believed it would be in the public good and that “I want to see how it plays out.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the county hopes to have a permitting system in place by July 1.
Matt Jorgensen, the co-founder of Oakland home cook advocacy group COOK Alliance, tells Nosh that “this is a lonnnnngggg time coming and we’re so thrilled.” There are still a number of details to work out before the program is implemented, so don’t quit your day job to launch your artisanal marshmallow business just yet — but according to Jorgensen, while “there is still lots of work to be done to roll this out smoothly and accessibly,” he says that his “deep conviction is that home cooking will help us all heal and rebuild after such a challenging year.”
Comic book bar First Edition reopens this week
First Edition, that comic-themed craft cocktail bar in Uptown Oakland, had only been open for a few months when the pandemic shut everything down. After months of reopening and reclosing, owners Cory Hunt and Javier Ortiz opted to close the bar down completely, instead launching a YouTube channel and offering cocktail supplies and classes via Instagram. Hunt and Ortiz are moving from the virtual world back to the meatspace this week, and will reopen First Edition on Friday, May 7, at 50% indoor capacity. Hours will be 3-9 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays. First Edition, 1915 Broadway (neat 19th Avenue), Oakland
Badan has opened inside the Berkeley Organic Market and Deli
Hafez Alsaidi’s dad owns Berkeley Organic Market and Deli, so it makes sense that with partner Omar Tores he’d open his plant-based and organic restaurant inside the popular Elmwood neighborhood corner store. The spot, called Badan (it means “the body” in Arabic and is the name of his family’s village in Yemen, Alsaidi told Nosh editor Sarah Han) is intended to be a place where customers can place an order, do their shopping on the grocery side, then pick up their meal when they’re done.
Badan’s soft opening menu only has two items: a vegetable, grain and bean soup and manakeesh, Middle Eastern flatbreads that come with za’atar, house-made hummus, tomato, cucumber and greens (both priced at $4.50). As the partners gain their footing in the space, the plan is to change the menu regularly based on the seasons. One thing that will remain consistent, Alsaidi said, is that everything must be affordable, and the ingredients must remain high quality. For Badan, that means produce from Earl’s Organic and flour from Oakland-based Community Grains. Hours are currently 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Badan at Berkeley Organic Market and Deli, 2642 Ashby Ave. (near College Avenue), Berkeley
As BAMPFA reopens, so does Babette
When the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive closed to visitors during the pandemic, Babette co-owners Joan Ellis and Patrick Hooker told Nosh contributor Lauren Bonney that they “didn’t think we had an option to go back to our kitchen because the museum said we couldn’t.” They remained shut out until they petitioned UC Berkeley chancellor Carol Christ, when they were then allowed to reopen with delivery service only.
With those limitations, “we just don’t know if there is a future at Babette or not,” Ellis said then — but the future has arrived and it’s apparently bright for Babette. BAMPFA officially reopened on May 2, but first, it opened its doors to the Cal community and frontline workers on April 30, and so did Babette (here’s a photo of their first customer), offering limited-capacity indoor dining for ticketed museum patrons. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays through Sundays. Babette, inside the BAMPFA, 2155 Center St. (at Oxford Street), Berkeley
Cinco de Mayo happens twice at the Fruitvale Public Market
While in past years, the Cinco de Mayo holiday might mean packed bars and taquerias, this year’s commemoration of the Mexican army’s Battle of Puebla victory will be a bit pandemic-subdued — but that won’t stop the Fruitvale Public Market from hosting multiple commemorations.
On Wednesday, May 5, from 2-7 p.m., handmade ice cream spot Nieves Cinco de Mayo will pass out free ice cream as local band Los Bahianatos entertains the crowd. Then on Saturday, May 8, the Fruitvale Business Improvement District is throwing a combined Cinco de Mayo/Mother’s Day party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Expect food from local businesses, mariachi and more. Fruitvale Public Market 3340 E 12th St. (near 33rd Avenue), Oakland
Bryant Terry has founded a publishing imprint
Oakland food activist and chef Bryant Terry has had a relationship with Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House for a bit: the company published his latest book, Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes, as well as a number of his other plant-centric cookbooks. Now the longtime Oakland resident is formally joining Ten Speed/Penguin as a publisher, Terry announced on Instagram, founding an imprint called 4 Color Books to work with “the most forward-thinking and groundbreaking BIPOC chefs, writers, artists, activists, and innovators to craft visually stunning nonfiction books,” its website says. Terry will serve as editor-in-chief, and the imprint’s first release will be Black Food, a Terry-curated book that “explores the interweaving of food and culture through original poetry and essays,” and can be pre-ordered here.
The Uptown Nightclub is for sale
Oakland’s Uptown Nightclub permanently closed in September 2020, after a decade-plus of live music and good beer. Now the venue is for sale, realtor Michael Chidambaram confirms. The bar is available to an aspiring publican with “existing experience (or team members with experience) operating a music venue and/or bar,” an ad on Craigslist reads. “With its reputation and industry relationships as well as full liquor license and entertainment permit, a new owner can step in and operate as-is,” the ad reads. Its asking price has yet to be disclosed.
It might not be that simple, however, as its prior owners have said they’ve lost thousands as they tried to keep the operation afloat long before the pandemic made nightlife a far more complicated endeavor. Broke-Ass Stuart, which was first to report on the advertisement, notes that the business has closed and reopened with new owners a few times before, and that “we hope that’s what happens again here this time.”
Coffee Cultures will soon open its first East Bay location
Alameda natives Jason Paul, David Burke and Luigi Di Ruocco opened their first location of Coffee Cultures in downtown SF back in 2013, but now they’re returning home with a soon-to-open spot inside the new Park Esquina complex. According to Tablehopper, in addition to full coffee service, patrons can expect Straus soft-serve and parfaits as well as pastries from Berkeley’s Starter Bakery. Coffee Cultures, 1926 Park St. (at Blanding Street), Alameda
Your weekly roundup of other East Bay food news to know. Heads up: We sometimes link to sites that limit access for non-subscribers.
- San Leandro tortilla company, which opened in the East Bay in 1939, is moving to the Central Valley and laying off much of its workforce. (East Bay Times)
- New Fruitvale barbecue spot Ruby Q Smoke Fusion takes inspiration from the Southern U.S. as well as Jalisco. (KQED)
- The Oakland Assembly food hall appears to have lost almost all of its expected restaurant tenants. (SF Chronicle)
- John Paluska, the founder of downtown Berkeley’s Comal restaurant, says the pandemic “reminded me why I opened Comal in the first place.” (SF Business Times)
- Japanese noodle chain Marugame Udon will open a second East Bay location in San Ramon’s City Center Bishop Ranch. (East Bay Times)
- Matt Kreutz, the owner of Oakland’s Firebrand Artisan Breads, says they’re hiring, with preference given to people who are “formerly homeless or formerly incarcerated, or otherwise have barriers to employment.” (ABC 7)
Nosh editor Sarah Han contributed reporting.