In this photo from 2018, community members gather in support of Hasta Muerte, an Oakland coffee shop that has taken a principled and consistent stance against systemic oppression. Credit: Hasta Muerte/Facebook

Nosh’s 2021 in review
· The East Bay’s most reliable bar and restaurant destinations
· The East Bay’s best restaurant experiences
· The best outdoor dining in the East Bay
· The East Bay’s saddest restaurant closures of 2021

At the end of every year, East Bay Nosh surveys staffers across Cityside’s newsrooms as well as its regular writers and columnists. The goal: to bring you an overview of the region’s food and restaurant scene from our diverse group of contributors. Please keep checking back every day until the end of the year for answers to 2021’s set of dining questions — and if you’d like, add your own answers in the comments at the bottom of this article.

Today, our respondents were asked: What is your biggest hope for East Bay bars and restaurants in 2022? 

I’ve really enjoyed the creative outdoor dining solutions I’ve seen this past year and a half, but I’ve also seen some ugly competition when private business butts up against public right of way. When a restaurant and a homeless encampment come into conflict over sidewalk space, and pedestrians step into traffic to get around. When another restaurant works around a bike lane in a way that puts diners, servers and cyclists all at risk of collision. 

Having said that, what I’m about to say will sound odd. I would love to see more outdoor dining in the streets. Not along them, but actually in them. Many streets were made wide to accommodate street cars — Shattuck, Adeline, San Pablo, Sacramento, Telegraph, Broadway. But when the streetcars were removed, the extra side lanes were given over to cars, either driving or parking. I would love to see a discussion on whether in pedestrian rich areas, such as Temescal and downtown Berkeley, the number of active traffic lanes and parking spaces could be reduced and the asphalt given over for restaurants to operate additional dining.

To give an example, I’ve been very impressed with the outdoor seating Saul’s has installed and think it could serve as a good model for Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, between Durant and Hearst, or along Telegraph Avenue in Temescal between 43rd and 51st streets. That exact solution may not be possible everywhere (there is no bike lane, for example, for Saul’s to negotiate) but it is a good start in thinking what change could benefit a small, local business while making a neighborhood a place customers want to stay and explore, rather than as a space for drivers to get through and get out. The worst that could happen is drivers might have to park one block over. — Cirrus Wood, Nosh contributor and freelance photographer

There are obvious hopes that apply beyond the restaurant industry — that people remain safe and financially sustainable as the pandemic continues, that human beings restrain their nastier and more entitled impulses when seeking service, general betterment of all mankind stuff like that. I also hope that bars and restaurants remember the promises they made in 2020 and 2021 when it comes to commitments to social justice, diversity, and opposition to racism and gender-based harassment and misconduct, and I hope they deliver.

I hope diners vote with their dollars and avoid places that have committed wage theft and/or that have ownership and management with track records of bigotry and bias. And I hope more places like Hasta Muerte, an Oakland coffee shop that has taken a strong stance to oppose historic and systemic systems of oppression, will open and thrive.

Finally, I’d love it if we can find a way to safely go back to allowing reusable coffee cups at every spot that serves coffee to go. I hate paper coffee cups (waste, drippiness, expense to businesses) and have so many cool, insulated containers that are just languishing on my shelves. — Eve Batey, East Bay Nosh Editor 

It’s my biggest hope for everyone — that we stay healthy and afloat, that we keep our spirits and senses of humor, and that we get to really enjoy the fruits of all these dreams. Two years is a long time to struggle and worry. We should all relish the nourishment and hospitality our local restaurants and bars provide. Joanna Della Penna, Nosh openings/closings columnist

I just hope that all my favorite spots survive into 2022, and even thrive. I hope people tip generously (as I am doing), so that restaurants can attract and keep staff. I loved going out in the Before times, and hope we can return to dining out again in the future without feeling like we are taking a mortal risk. I also look forward to the day when we can give an order to a live waiter (rather than our cell phones), and that substitutions will be allowed once again. And oh, yes — I look forward to eating indoors, especially when the weather is cold!  Daphne White, Berkeleyside and Nosh contributor

My biggest hope is that everyone associated — restaurant and bar owners, managers, staff, guests, vendors — that we all remember each other’s humanity and that that drives our interactions with each other — not just our hunger for good food and drink. — Shirley Huey, Nosh contributor

We’re able to get back to more safe dining-in experiences. Lance Knobel, CEO and co-founder, Cityside

I know everyone loves a good pastry, but my hope in 2022 is for more healthful, fun and creative fast-casual lunch spots like Fava. We’re doing great on dinner, let’s get lunch right, too. Flora Tsapovsky, Nosh contributor and culture writer

I hope that our dine and bar scene make a total recovery from the nightmare of the past almost two years. I also hope that local city ordinances allow them to set up better outdoor spaces that don’t take up parking or sidewalk space which greatly affects people who are not able-bodied.  Azucena Rasilla, Reporter: Arts & Community, The Oaklandside 

I so look forward to the community being able to dine in and take out from our local favorites with more comfortability in the coming year! Fingers crossed!! Colleen Leary, Vice President, Client Partnerships, Cityside

We are spoiled here; we have so much great cuisine and restaurants and bars to choose from. One of my hopes is seeing elimination of all plastic containers for takeout. 

I also think that now restaurants are competing with really great home cooks who may have become pickier (speaking for myself) since the pandemic. On the other hand, it is a very tough business. It’s harder to hire and keep employees; the high rent, overhead costs, increase in prices of materials and food; and just the overall workload for everyone to remain competitive. So on the one hand, we have customers with high expectations, and on the other, we have burned out workers and owners. The pandemic has taken a huge toll emotionally, financially, mentally, on this industry. 

I’d like to see more discussion of how this is a sustainable industry, in all aspects, from an environmental standpoint, to taking care of workers and owners. Many of our restaurants here are owned by local people and families. They also need to be able to rest, spend time with their loved ones, and live a balanced life. At the same time, seeing the power dynamic shift where workers may have more power now, in theory, because of supply and demand; that is exciting because the restaurant industry is grueling and has had many issues for decades. Only time will tell if this will change the industry. Momo Chang, Nosh contributor and Oakland-based freelance writer

I hope that they will be able to find — and pay! — more staff so they can offer the kind of service we knew and appreciated in the Before Times. Risa Nye, Nosh contributor and memoirist 

In the words of Issa Rae “I’m rooting for everybody Black.” I am loving the renaissance of Black-owned businesses and restaurants that I’m seeing. I’m hoping that we can continue to expand the palette and support small pop-ups when we see them. Brandy Collins, Berkeleyside, Nosh and The Oaklandside contributor

Since it seems that COVID isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, I hope they can slog through. Restaurants are such a vital part of a city. I also hope they can learn to deal with the customers whose expectations are so high, as well as with the people who don’t like the mask or vaccination rules (though how do you learn to deal with people who are difficult? I don’t know). Alix Wall, Nosh contributor and Oakland-based freelance writer

That legacy restaurants continue to stick around for years to come, and new establishments opened by Oakland natives will create their own lasting legacies. Ricky Rodas, Reporter: Immigrant Small Business, The Oaklandside