Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

The ceiling of Namaste restaurant is painted with sayings about thrift by Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and other early American leaders

CLASSY INDIAN The landmark former Citibank building at 2323 Shattuck — sitting empty for the last five years — is the new home of Namaste Madras Cuisine, a restaurant featuring food from south India. Prasad Lakireddy and his partners installed cherry wood detailing throughout the building to complement the ornate beamed ceiling designed in 1926 by architect Walter Ratcliff. The chef and owner is Venkat Yaramala, who has 20 years experience running restaurants in Roseville, Chico, and the Bay Area. Meals will be served family-style and the restaurant will be open from 11am to 10pm seven days a week.

Himalayan goods at the pop-up store Tenzing Collections

TIBETAN POP-UP For the next few months, the space at 2213 Shattuck Avenue will be the home of Tenzing Collections, a Bay Area family-owned firm that sells clothes, jewelry, home décor, prayer rugs, and other items from Nepal, India, Tibet, and Bhutan. Tenzing Jigme, whose family owns similar stores in Tiburon and San Anselmo, but who lives in Berkeley, said he has a month-to-month lease on the space. He is calling it a “holiday season” store that might stay if business is good.

HOMEMADE CRUNCH  When the construction business slowed down in the recent economic downturn, Tom Ashkenas decided to do what family and friends in Berkeley had been encouraging him to do for years: turn his homemade granola into a business. That was in November 2010 and Tom’s Best Ever Granola is now changing palates at every turn. His crammed-to-the-brim-with-dried fruit mixture is toasted longer than most granolas, giving it a crispy crunch, and it is handmade in small batches using locally sourced ingredients. It’s so popular at Monterey Market that Ashkenas had to restock supplies three times last week. (It only lasted a day at this reporter’s house.) The granola, packaged in half pound and pound compostable bags, is also sold at Star Market, the Kensington and Mill Valley farmers’ markets, Farmer Joe’s, and Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.

INDIAN GOES MEXICAN Udupi Palace at 1901 University Avenue has undergone an overhaul under owner Uday Shetty and rather than being a popular dosa vendor it is now Fresco Burrito. Fresco Burrito serves affordable Mexican food freshly cooked to order, and is offering only take-out at the moment. The fact that Fresco Burrito serves lamb but not beef burritos might be the only clue as to the restaurant’s former incarnation. Hours are 11am to 9:30pm, but are subject to change. Correction, 10.13.11: Thanks to reader Terri for alerting us to the fact that Udupi Palace is still in operation and that Fresco Burrito is in the corner space that’s been empty for some time.

New on Fourth St -- Outback. Photo: Nancy Rubin

THROWBACK Outback in The Temple of Venus, a vintage clothing boutique that has been a fixture in Point Richmond for years, is now returning to its roots and opening an outpost at 1717D Fourth Street in Berkeley. (Owner Devi’s original store was on Sacramento and Dwight several decades ago.) The new space is across the parking lot from Z Gallery and shared with the Fourth Street Studio and other artists so one can browse paintings, and see artists at work while finding fun and fabulous fashions and unusual treasures. Open every day, 12-6pm.

Shop Talk is our regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses — openings, closings, new directions, relaunches, relocations. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns here.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our recently launched All the News grid.

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  • Adam_85

    Is Namaste run by the family of Lakireddy Balireddy? Were any of them Involved in his crimes?

  • Bryan Garcia

    I was wondering the same thing, because I remember when Pasand was still open they announced plans to open another place where Namaste is now, and then it stalled when Pasand got shut down.  I’d rather not support the place if it’s the same people.

  • Bryan Garcia

    I passed by Udupi last Saturday and the burrito place seemed to have only taken over part of the location (the corner area) rather than the whole restaurant, and Udupi was still open.  I was on the bus, so I couldn’t get a close look, but that’s what it looked like, at least.  Can anyone else confirm or deny?

  • Bruce Love

    If this is not the same guy it would be nice for Berkeleyside to clear that up right quick because the association is a pretty nasty one to make.

    I don’t know if the Prasad Lakireddy of Namaste is in fact the same Prasad Lakireddy of Pasand and the son Lakireddy Bali Reddi.

    If he is that person, then he is the one who “pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to employ unauthorized aliens. In return, federal prosecutor Stephen Corrigan dropped the more serious charges that Lakireddy had raped the girls and helped place them under the control of his father.”  (Berkeley Daily Planet, “Reddy Saga Ends with Last Defendant Spared Jail Sentence”, June 8, 2004.)

    “Prasad Lakireddy is the fifth and final member of his family to be sentenced following the death of 17-year-old Chanti Prattpati, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning Nov. 24, 1999 in a Berkeley apartment owned by the Reddys.

    “The girl’s 15-year-old sister survived the gas poisoning, caused by a blocked heating vent, and ultimately told federal authorities that she and her sister were flown to the United States and forced to have sex with members of the Reddy family. In all, prosecutors alleged the family had illegally brought at least 33 men, women and children into the country. ”

    He was, in 2004, sentenced to “five years probation, one year under house arrest and a $20,000 fine for his role in his family’s plot to smuggle girls into the country for sex and cheap labor.”

  • yikes!

    yes, i have the same worries. I’d prefer not to give any business to a conviced slumlord, child trafficker and sex offender.

  • Vdeer

    Yeay for Tom’s Best Ever Granola! It gets this artist-night-owl mama up in the morning, equal billing with my morning cup of joe( not wanting to say which local brand at the moment…. we use 3 though!)…

    and best wishes to Outback on 4th Street! welcome back to Berkeley!

  • yikes!

    thanks Bruce.

  • Alina

    Ouch.  Sad that this d-bag hurt so many for so long… Even sadder that he operated hidden in plain site in progressive Berkeley out of all places.  And now he’s free… The punishment does not fit the crime.

  • Bryan Garcia

    So assuming Berkeleyside knew it was the same guy, I find it a little questionable for them to be promoting his business.  Hopefully they didn’t know.

  • Andrew

    I hope that is true. I love Udupi but have not been there in a while.

  • Bryan Garcia

    I hope so too.  Their dosas are second only to Vik’s and they are in a much more convenient location than Vik’s.

  • Anonymous

    I believe Passand has had a sign in the window of the now closed restaurant saying it is being relocated across the street, so I believe it really is the same folks.

    I can’t find the original Yellow Jacket story but these two links should be reviewed by the BSide folks for more info on the story they apparently missed:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/examiner/archive/2000/01/21/NEWS13537.dtl
    http://www.bhsjacket.com/features/ten_year_anniversary_celebrated_jacket_story

  • chip

    I just walked by there and Udupi appears to be very much still in business.

  • Bored

    Thank god they opened another Tibetan-themed souvenir shop in Downtown Berkeley.

    The shops at 2037 University, 2018 University, and 2168 Center Street just weren’t offering enough variety to fulfill my everyday Tibetan souvenir needs.

  • Bryan Garcia

    Neither were the numerous shops on Telegraph!  Thank goodness we have yet another option!

  • Berkeley resident

    Better than an emtpy store front at least through the holidays and if business is not good, they will not stay open long.  Meanwhile hopefully they will do well and stay long term and we can focus on filling in the other many many empty spaces. 

  • http://radar.oreilly.com/2007/09/local-recycle-reuse-hits-a-bur.html The Sharkey

    Berkeley has a quota on everything except quotas.
    And Tibetan gift shops.

  • Heather W.

    Speaking of quotas, why isn’t liberal Berkeley putting a moratorium in Lakireddy’s businesses? Haven’t we had enough of these nefarious people? I for one will not be dining at this restaurant and will tell everyone I know to avoid it. I will NOT give that family any of my money. 

  • Heather W.

    Yet another Tibetan trinket shop never to shop at. Woot! 

  • BerkeleyBorn

    It is the same family, this time the Son who cut the plea deal.  Very disturbing – never will I eat there.

    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/but-he-was-just-taking-orders/Content?oid=1074379

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the editors can clear this all up as it may be a case of mistaken identity as that name is similar to many others, though I find it all too familiar.  Btw. they are firmly entrenched in the rental business here still and they brought in a fellow may years ago to answer the phones and to do business with who speaks English with a N. American accent, so you might never know.  My eyebrows shot up when I was transferred to his ‘sister’ and I recognized her name when I heard her voice mail and started asking hard questions.  He told me it was true, that they were one and the same.  Let’s see what the Berkeleyside editors come up with regarding all of this all too unfinished business : No way will I take my friends and business associates there until I know what is what and whom is who:  http://www.wassusa.com/pages/VijayandPrasad%20Lakireddy.html

  • Gracie

    If this is the same family it’s a shame, they should be deported or in jail, instead they have a permit to open another restaurant…

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

    I have held off responding to the questions about Prasad Lakireddy because I did not think it was relevant for Shop Talk. I did Google the name before writing the piece, and discovered that a Prasad Lakireddy had been convicted of visa fraud in connection with the infamous Lakireddy Bali Reddy case. That Prasad Lakireddy is the son of Lakireddy Bali Reddy and he served one year house arrest for his role in the crime.  I am not sure if it is the same person I wrote about because I did not ask. He is the owner of the building, not the owner of the restaurant. Clearly readers have understandably strong feeling about the patriarch who brought in young girls and exploited them. But even if this is the same Prasad Lakireddy, I felt it was legitimate to write about this restored bank building and the new restaurant that will go in there.

  • EBGuy

    FrancesD,
    Thanks for clarifying.  Is it possible to pull the business license to verify that there is indeed a clean split between the owners of the building and the chef/owner of restaurant?

  • Bob

    My understanding is that the Pasand family owns many properties and many businesses in Berkeley. It would be great to get a list of these businesses some time so I could avoid shopping/eating in them.

  • Suzanne Yada

    Yes, Frances, thanks for clarifying. Though with hindsight being 20/20, I thought this item should have been its own story given the complexities of its history, not just a bullet point in the Shop Talk column. I adore Berkeleyside but felt like I should have found out about their background from a fully reported article rather than links in the comments. 

  • http://francesdinkelspiel.com/ Frances Dinkelspiel

    Suzanne, I don’t disagree but really they are two different stories. Shop Talk is meant to be a series of vignettes about local business. Berkeleyside does plenty of in-depth stories and has written numerous times about the Lakireddy controversies. If we had to stick to that standard, every time Berkeleyside mentions Tom Bates we would have to write that he took 1,000 Daily Californians off the street because the paper endorsed Shirley Dean. Is it a publication’s obligation to always point out the negatives in a person’s life? I think there is a time and place for both types of reporting. Shop Talk just wasn’t the place to do it.

  • Gracie
  • http://www.suzanneyada.com/ suzanneyada

    Just an update: It looks like the mayor will be there today at noon for Namaste Madras’s grand opening. https://www.facebook.com/downtownberkeley/posts/188462824563340