Emeryville’s Bay Street mall wants to be the East Bay’s hottest dining destination

Five new restaurants, an ice cream shop and a mini-golf bar are all opening at the mall this year.

A rendering of Bay Street Emeryville’s planned dining terrace. Courtesy: Bay Street Emeryville

Bay Street Emeryville
5616 Bay St., Emeryville
According to a Bay Street spokesperson who spoke with Nosh, the new restaurants listed in this story are expected to open “between August and October 2022,” with exact dates TBD.

You can be forgiven for checking the publish date on this story after you read what I am about to say: The mall — yes, the shopping palaces romanticized throughout 1980-90s pop culture — might be back. At least when it comes to dining, the new(ish) owners of Bay Street Emeryville hope.

This observation that Bay Area malls are becoming destinations to dine (and not just for hot dogs impaled on sticks) isn’t an original one: Writing for Eater SF, Becky Duffett first noted that local malls were attracting big-name restaurants in early 2022. SF Gate, and (just last week) the SF Chronicle followed her lead, noting that San Francisco’s Stonestown Galleria and San Jose’s Santana Row were becoming legit food scenes. 

Now Emeryville’s Bay Street shopping mall is hopping on the trend, announcing that under its new ownership, seven new restaurants will open across an outdoor space it’s calling the “Bay Break” terrace by this fall. (Bay Street’s press release on the openings was first reported on by the E’ville Eye.) The terrace, Bay Street says in its announcement, will be “an open-air community gathering area with plenty of varied seating for events and will include fire pits, bar games, programmed lounges and a robust audio-visual system.”

Then there are the restaurants. True to the new thinking around food courts, all but one of the new spots have strong local ties. And even the restaurant that’s most on-brand for a mall (that is, a fast food chain) is one with a loyal following that will wait in line for hours for a burger and fries.

These restaurants are opening in Bay Street Emeryville later this year

Arthur Mac’s pizza and wings. Credit: Arthur Mac’s/Instagram

Arthur Mac’s Little Snack You know Oakland-based beer garden Arthur Mac’s, the craft brew and pizza spot at 4006 Martin Luther King Jr Way. This will be its second location (a third is planned for Hayward).

A Secret Breakfast sundae. Credit: Humphry Slocombe/Instagram

Humphry Slocombe The San Francisco-based ice cream brand already has scoop shops in Berkeley and Oakland, and by this fall it’ll have one in Bay Street too. That means you can lick a scoop of Secret Breakfast (bourbon and corn flake ice cream) as a shaky-handed teen centers an ear-piercing gun on your lobes at Claire’s. (Yes, there’s a Claire’s Boutique at Bay Street. Yes, I’m as surprised as you are that the company continues to exist.)

Sababa’s SF pita bar. Credit: Sababa/Instagram

Sababa This is the first East Bay outpost of the hot pita bar founded by Israeli-born, Boston-raised SF chef Guy Eshel. His falafel is a go-to for SF Financial District diners in the know, so this feels like a solid play for Bay Street.

A Flybird sandwich. Credit: Flybird

Flybird Chicken Flybird is also an Eshel joint, one that serves up fried chicken sandwiches and salads in SF’s Union Square and in the Marin burg of Tiburon. I don’t dine on fowl, but have had good luck ordering their salads free of bird.

Burgers and spicy cheese fries from Shake Shack. Photo Shake Shack
Various burgers and spicy cheese fries from Shake Shack. Credit: Shake Shack

Shake Shack East Bay Nosh Daily subscribers already knew about this one (what, you didn’t know I include exclusive items in our daily newsletter? Well, now you do, so if you haven’t signed up, now’s the time). Are there better smashburgers in the East Bay? Absolutely: Smish Smash springs to mind first, and you probably have your own local fave. I have a theory that this now-ubiquitous New York chain is the East Coast version of In-N-Out Burger — it’s not a popular fast food chain because it’s good, it’s a popular fast food chain due to a mix of local pride and nostalgia. Don’t @ me.

A bowl of Uchiwa’s ramen. Credit: Uchiwa

Uchiwa Ramen This is the first new location for this nearly 16-year-old San Rafael ramen spot. Its owners, Ben Yang and Kevin Fong, are proud sons of Chinese immigrants who made mid-life career changes (from health care to restaurant ownership, per KQED) in 2014, when they traveled to Japan to learn their craft. The spot is a regular on Marin’s best-of lists.

This photo from another NorCal Flatstick might give a hint of the vibe it’ll serve at Bay Street. Credit: Flatstick Pub/Instagram

Flatstick Pub This mini-golf and beer spot, which also goes by Tipsy Putt, got its start in Washington, but it’s now known as a Sacramento and Tahoe place to hit the bar and some balls. At Bay Street, it’ll occupy a 14,000-square-foot space, plenty of room to putt putt and get lit. Per Bay Street, the spot will also have a “speakeasy” called Trophy Club that’s “hidden in plain sight,” but unless the place is actually operating without a liquor license and is serving liquor made in a bathtub, I don’t know that I’m going to buy into that terminology.

There’s also a grocery store

Last fall, not that long after SoCal-based development firm CenterCal Properties first acquired Bay Street, the new owners petitioned Emeryville’s Planning Commission and City Council to allow them to convert the large space that used to house Old Navy and Elephant Bar into a grocery store. (Yes, that’s the same place where a roller rink opened and swiftly closed last February, after which CenterCal gave the E’ville Eye an ominous-sounding statement about expectations for its tenants.)

According to Bay Street, the grocery store plan is now full speed ahead, with planned bike parking and pedestrian walkways to make access to the store that much easier. What’s still up in the air is what grocery store will move in, and when it will actually open, as the Bay Street spokesperson would only say that “we have nothing further to share on the grocery store at this time.”

What grocery store would you like to see open in Bay Street? Let us know in the comments.

Eve Batey (she/her) is the editor of East Bay Nosh. Email: eve@eastbaynosh.org. Twitter: eveb.