Who else thinks the month of March deserves its name? Seasonal indecision, no holidays off, some rough anniversaries in the mix — even for those who enjoy the month’s madness, March can be work. 

But hey, there’s the promise of spring (and asparagus!) at the finish, the beauty of Nowruz, and an impressive number of fabulous birthdays on both sides of the Ides. And let’s be honest, no month can be so bad that is decorated in wisteria and magnolias

March – it takes, but it also gives. And this year, it gave us quite a few new eateries. (And for those remaining cautious during the current pandemic idyll, it also gave us added daylight to enjoy the area’s many new and refreshed outdoor dining spaces.)

As always, please send those nosh-related tips to nosh@berkeleyside.org.

Berkeley

Imran Jafari (left) and Ali Fayez (right) opened their eponymous coffee kiosk at Berkeley’s BART plaza last month. Credit: Jenn Touli Voss/Downtown Berkeley Association

IMRAN & ALI’S COFFEE HUT Enjoy hot or cold coffee drinks and a range of fresh pastries at this reborn kiosk on the downtown Berkeley BART plaza from 1951 Coffee Company alumni Ali Fayez and Imran Jafari. Read more about their friendly (and very conveniently located) new business courtesy Eve Batey’s opening feature. Imran & Ali’s Coffee Hut, downtown Berkeley BART plaza, Berkeley

OCEANVIEW DINER The East Bay barely had time to mourn January’s permanent closure of Bette’s Oceanview Diner, founded by Bette and Manfred Kroening on Fourth Street in 1982, before a forward-thinking group of employees decided to band together to save the beloved restaurant and run it themselves. The newborn classic, now employee-owned and called simply Oceanview Diner, opened (back) up to grateful diners on March 10. On the menu: Pancakes, served with a side of Berkeley nostalgia and reclaimed joy. Nosh wishes previous owner Manfred Kroening a restful retirement; Bette herself died in 2017. Credit Nosh editor Eve Batey with sharing all the moving parts of this heartfelt story as they unfolded. Oceanview Diner, 1807 Fourth St. (near Delaware St.), Berkeley

STUDY HALL This newcomer offers downtown Berkeley a grown-up gathering place with a patio, view and ambience that feels a cut above much of the usual fare near Cal’s campus. Far above, as it turns out — the stylish, 12th-floor rooftop bar and lounge in the new Residence Inn by Marriott is the highest in Berkeley. High-end (get it?) bar bites include burgers, pork belly tacos, salads and charcuterie boards, meant for pairing with craft beers and cocktails. Study Hall in the Residence Inn by Marriott Berkeley, 2121 Center St. (near Kala Bagai Way), Berkeley  

TANE VEGAN IZAKAYA Colorful, sculptural and inventive plant-based sushi served with an upscale, Hawaiian vibe is on offer at this attractive new downtown Berkeley restaurant, meant to please the eye and palate with flavorful, 100-percent vegan takes on traditional sushi and izakaya presentations. The team also owns a Tane Vegan Izakaya in Honolulu, as well as Shizen vegan sushi in San Francisco. Tane Vegan Sushi softly opened March 16; hat tip to The Chronicle for first sharing news of the restaurant back in January. Tane Vegan Izakaya, 1956 Shattuck Ave. (near Berkeley Way), Berkeley

Oakland

The bar at Crybaby. Credit: Azucena Rasilla

CRYBABY For live music, DJs, local talent, community, positivity and drinks, head to Crybaby Oakland, opened the first weekend in March. Thanks to The Oaklandside for this deeper feature on the refresh of the enduring, independent venue space, formerly The Uptown, closed during the pandemic and now respectfully reborn as Crybaby under three local industry vets — co-owners Dominic Green, Jesse Tittsworth and Miles Palliser, with help from LA-based talent buyer Conrad Loebl — who have been plotting their dream Oakland club for several years. Seems like The Uptown landed in the best possible hands, despite the name change that ironically made crybabies out of some fans. (For the curious, the name is a tribute to the John Waters movie.) Crybaby, 1928 Telegraph Ave. (between William and 19th streets), Oakland

HIGH 5IVE It’s all about getting…above street level lately: Oakland is excited about High 5ive, the indoor-outdoor rooftop cocktail bar and lounge on the third floor of Oakland’s new Kissel Uptown hotel. Check out the smoked cocktails. A food menu of fancy bar bites includes tuna poke, roasted chicken flatbread, lettuce wraps and artichoke-spinach dip. High 5ive inside Kissel Uptown Oakland, 437 25th St. (between Telegraph Avenue and Broadway), Oakland 

KOKO CHICKEN Korean-style fried chicken and burgers are the specialties at this no-frills new restaurant in industrial East Oakland, quickly becoming known for its food, service and “best kept secret” appeal. (Sorry…) Koko Chicken, 1920 Dennison St. (between Cotton Street and Embarcadero), Oakland

LA GUERRERA’S KITCHEN  After a bit of a wait, mother-daughter phenom team Ofelia Barajas and Reyna Maldonado are now settled in their new home in Swan’s Market. One of La Cocina’s treasured success stories, La Guerrera’s Kitchen is known for the duo’s sought-after tamales, tacos, and other specialties from Maldonado’s native Guerrero region in Mexico; the mother-daughter business first opened in Fruitvale in 2019, moved to 8th Street in Old Oakland in 2020, served up pop-up tamales and other dishes at Ale Industries over the pandemic, and now the duo are happily cooking out of Swan’s Market’s former La Cosecha space. Thanks to Eater SF for first sharing the good news. La Guerrera’s Kitchen, 907 Washington St. (between 9th and 10th streets), Oakland

THE MELT – GRAND When San Francisco-based grilled cheesery The Melt closed up shop in Berkeley in early 2018, the owners hinted they were looking for another location in the East Bay for their gooey, cheese-rich Meltburgers and other sandwiches. Seems that, after a long pandemic wait, they found it in Oakland. The new location of The Melt opened March 4 at Grand Avenue and Broadway. The Melt Grand, 80 Grand Ave. (at Broadway), Oakland

OTTO’S COFFEE + DONUTS + BEER The new Kissel Uptown Oakland seems to have landed on winning formulas for its hotel dining options, including the rooftop lounge Hi5ive (see above) and this ground-level bar and cafe serving, you guessed it, coffee, beer and donuts in the hotel’s attractive lobby. Otto’s Coffee + Donuts + Beer inside Kissel Uptown Oakland, 437 25th St. (between Telegraph Avenue and Broadway), Oakland

PACHA’S AFGHAN KABAB HOUSE Family-run Afghani fusion restaurant Pacha’s opened in February in Old Oakland in the former El Gusano location. The restaurant’s halal fried chicken, kebabs, curries, pizzas, bolani and combination plates are already gathering fans who note generous portions as well as good quality and flavor. Pacha’s Afghan Kabab House, 1015 Clay St. (at 11th Street), Oakland

POMET The narrative here is one of turned tables, so to speak — a seasonal restaurant opened by someone who truly knows that space: a farmer. K&J Orchards owner Aomboon (“Boonie”) Deasy has chosen the Homestead dining room on Piedmont Avenue for her first restaurant, a location known for its simple, elegant beauty and warmth, with wide glass windows onto the street and a fireplace. Chef is Alan Hsu (Benu, Blue Hill at the Stone Barns). Many of Pomet’s New American dishes incorporate K&J pears and persimmons, but also a range of top tier ingredients at peak freshness from local sources. As Eater SF explained, Deasy’s relationships with industry locals have led to input and inspiration from a variety of Bay Area dining destinations, and so far, it seems, the evidence shows on the plate. Diners also say not to miss the wine and beverage list, consulted on by Paul Einbund (The Morris). Pomet, 4029 Piedmont Ave. (between 40th Street and Monte Vista Avenue), Oakland 

ROASTED AND RAW Chef Imani Greer’s passion project, the popular vegan spot Roasted and Raw, has matured from a pop-up to permanent, and is now open for Oakland’s 100-percent plant-based needs at 14th and Jefferson. The clean-lined space features healthful vegan bowls, sandwiches, empanadas, wraps, burgers, pastas and more. Roasted and Raw, 607 14th St. (at Jefferson), Oakland

ROJI CALIFORNIA RAMEN Piedmont Avenue has a new shop for “California-style” ramen, complete with flashing sign and funky, road-trip-themed decor. Diners are intrigued so far as noodles seem slurp-worthy and ingredients fresh and flavorful. The ramen shop has taken over the former Ninna space; Taiwanese pop-up Yilan Foods, formerly operating out of the dormant restaurant, quietly went on hiatus in 2021. Roji California Ramen, 4066 Piedmont Ave. (between 41st Street and Glen Avenue), Oakland

Beyond

Doodlecakes made these (almost) too-cute-to-eat sugar cookies in honor of National Hippo Day. Credit: Doodlecakes/Instagram

DOODLECAKES The award for cutest-named recent Alameda opening goes to Doodlecakes, the island’s newest bakery specializing in cakes, cupcakes and other treats. Doodlecakes, 647 Central Ave. (near Webster Street), Alameda

ELLIE’S BAKED EGGS Another sweet name, this time in San Leandro: Ellie’s Baked Eggs, which features a menu focused on…just that, with a range of toppings and sides, as well as soups from scratch, salads and open-faced sandwiches. Ellie’s Baked Eggs, 1865 Orchard Ave. (at Williams Street), San Leandro

GUAVA ISLAND EATS Martinez and now Walnut Creek are serving up ube, taro, avocado and other exotic ice creams, sweet drinks and desserts to eager customers at this tropical-themed shop from the same family behind Lafayette’s Hideout Kitchen & Cafe and Vic’s in Martinez. Guava Island Eats Walnut Creek, 1506 N Main St., Walnut Creek

HUMMUS REPUBLIC Livermore has a new branch of this rapidly growing, fast-casual Mediterranean chain (we missed it when it opened back in January), and it looks like Oakland might be next. Hummus Republic, 3032 W Jack London Blvd., Livermore

JOE’S COFFEE STOP Wee Joe’s Coffee Stop with the big neon sign now offers drive-thru coffee drinks and snacks in Albany near the Target and Toyota car dealership, and locals are stoked. Joe’s Coffee Stop, 1035 Eastshore Highway, Albany

KITCHENETTE 625 Nosh loves the sound of micro anything, especially a micro-kitchen, so we were interested to see this story by contributor Shirley Huey about Kitchenette (also an appealing word) 625. There, chef-owner Carrie Orth cooks up gourmet sandwiches, fresh pastries, and artisan snacks, and supplies them to hungry Ocean View Brew Works customers next door. (Orth’s daughter Veronica Davidson co-owns the brewery.) Look also for breakfastette served on Thursdays in partnership with Kaveri Coffee. Kitchenette 625, 625 San Pablo Ave. (near Castro Street), Albany

MARUGAME SAN RAMON San Ramon’s City Center Bishop Ranch now has its own Marugame Udon, complete with Marugame’s seemingly constant (but fast-moving) line of customers eager to sup. The Japanese noodle chain is also still going strong in Berkeley and in San Francisco at the Stonestown Galleria. Marugame Udon at City Center Bishop Ranch, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Rd., Suite 1200, San Ramon 

PIZZERIA MERCATO Neapolitan pizza lovers have a new option in Pizzeria Mercato, reanimating the roomy, former Hot Italian dining room at the Public Market Emeryville. Open daily for lunch and dinner, the pizzeria is already gathering enthusiastic crowds and reviews for its amiable service and good-looking pies. There are also crowd-pleasing pasta dishes, sandwiches made with Italian meats, smoked salmon or roasted eggplant, salads and desserts. Pizzeria Mercato, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville

SLIVER DANVILLE Berkeley’s Sliver Pizzeria has added another slice to its pie, with a fourth location softly opened in Danville. (Thanks to Beyond the Creek for the news.) There are also two Slivers in Berkeley and one in Oakland, and, it’s rumored, even more to come. Stay tuned. Sliver Danville, 100 Railroad Ave., Danville

WORLD FAMOUS HOTBOYS WALNUT CREEK Crispy, juicy, spicy — these famous chicken sandwiches and combos have already won over Oakland and Sacramento, now Walnut Creek is in on the action. And speaking of action, the restaurant, formerly a Mel’s Diner, has been reworked Hotboys style into a funzone of bold, streetwise graphic design, complete with playable vintage Nintendo. World Famous Hotboys Walnut Creek, 1394 N Main St., Walnut Creek

Featured image: The fare (and view) at Study Hall. Credit: Study Hall/Instagram

Joanna Della Penna

Freelancer Joanna Della Penna has written about food, people and the arts in the Bay Area since moving here from the East Coast in 2001, and was Gayot's Northern California regional restaurant editor for...