This Oakland brunch spot was losing $25,000 a month; Berkeley Bowl drops its masking rules

Police arrest a suspect in a taqueria robbery; barbecue spots you need to know; more Quick Bites.

During the pandemic, sales of Portal’s brunch dishes — like this Benedict — slowed to a crawl. Credit: Portal
  • Kevyn Johnston, the owner of Portal, an Oakland restaurant popular with the brunch crowd, says the restaurant was losing as much as $25,000 a month during the pandemic-related winter shutdown. The Lake Merritt-adjacent spot used to boast 90-minute waits on the weekend, and Johnson hopes to return to those days as the COVID-19 crisis wanes. (New York Times)
  • With two locations in Berkeley and one in Oakland, Cupcakin’ Bake Shop is already approaching East Bay baked goods domination. Now owner Lila Owens, an Oakland native, is expanding to downtown Walnut Creek, with a rotating menu of 12-15 cupcakes, iced coffee and soft serve ice cream. Opening at the 1388 N. Main St. shop is slated for July 3. (East Bay Times)
  • Local and national reporters headed to a slew of East Bay food and beverage businesses Tuesday, gathering reactions to the overnight change in social distancing expectations and masking protocols. Here’s a whirlwind tour: Speaking with the East Bay Times, the co-owner of Albany’s Ivy Room says that the spot is “going to ease into” live music, with some bands booked for “early August and potentially late July.” The New York Times headed to Berkeley Bowl, which dropped its masking requirements Tuesday but was still filled with masked shoppers. (That phenomenon wasn’t exclusive to Berkeley Bowl, however — at Safeway Tuesday evening, I didn’t see a single unmasked person, either.) Oakland Korean barbecue Gogi Time, which operates under a communal model made difficult by health orders, told the SF Chronicle that it’s back to its pre-pandemic hours and service. Finally, Sergio Monleón, the owner of Berkeley tapas spot La Marcha, told SF Gate that he won’t expect customers to remain masked. “I think that if I have to put my staff in a position to police that it’s going to make a lot of really uncomfortable situations and confrontations that none of us want to deal with,” he said. So if California lifts the mandate on masks, I don’t feel like we have a choice but to allow people to do whatever they want. … Customers are entitled already.”
  • San Pablo police say they’ve arrested a suspect in a robbery at Taqueria El Mezcal, a San Pablo Avenue restaurant known for its weekend birra specials and excellent micheladas. Police say that a restaurant worker was robbed at gunpoint by two suspects as they walked through the taqueria’s parking lot, and that the second suspect remains at large. (KPIX)
  • Here’s a rundown of three East Bay barbecue greats, just in time for this week’s heat wave. (SF Gate)
Eve Batey is the Editor of East Bay Nosh Email: eve@eastbaynosh.org. Twitter: eveb.