Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

THE JINX CONTINUES   Origen, the farm-to-fork restaurant that opened with great fanfare last October in the troubled restaurant spot at 2826 Telegraph, has shut its doors. Calls to the owners, Tracy Leighton and Daniel Clayton, went unanswered, but the restaurant’s voicemail stated June 23 that the restaurant would be closed that night because of a family emergency. Now there is just a sign on the door saying “Origen Restaurant is closed.” This brings to seven the number of restaurants that have been at that location, including Casa De Eva, Mazzini’s, Lucio’s, Zax Tavern, Maritime East and Locanda de Eva (which only lasted four months).

FROM COOL TO HOT   After three years in business, Creations, the frozen yogurt shop at 2370 Shattuck Avenue, has shut its doors. In line to take its place is Red Buffalo: cheese steaks and buffalo wings. The name says it all. This place, which has a popular outlet in Oakland, serves up hot, hot hot, spicy, smokey chipolte, jalapeño cheddar and many other types of buffalo wings.  The restaurant still has to go through design review, so the opening is a few weeks off.

HUNGRY NO MORE  Although the gleaming Ed Roberts campus opened its doors 15 months ago, there has not yet been a café at 3075 Adeline Street, right by the Ashby BART station. Many would-be proprietors were put off by Berkeley’s living wage law. But now Nomad, which has operated in a location on Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, has moved in. It has opened a kiosk in the Ramp Lobby that serves coffee, bagels, and sandwiches.

STILL ROARING, BUT FROM A NEW LOCATION  Griffin Motorwerke, which has been servicing Porsche, Audi, and Volkswagon automobiles for more than 30 years, opened in June in a new location at 1146 Sixth Street in West Berkeley. The high-performance auto shop, owned by Terry Griffin, takes care of everything from everyday commuter cars to cars ready for the race track. With 16,200 square feet, 10 lifts, two alignment racks, and 10 mechanics, Griffin Motorwerke is now the largest independent auto shop in the city. Griffin said he moved because the newly installed parking meters on San Pablo Avenue were hurting his business.

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 All the News.

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  • TN

    It’s a bit misleading to include Casa de Eva in the list of failed restaurants which followed it at that location. Casa de Eva was there for a long, long time. It served fairly plain, moderately priced Mexican food. Not hype. I ate there many times.

  • Meliflaw

    In fact, I believe that makes 7 restaurants that have inhabited 2826 Telegraph within living memory: six brave but sometimes rather brief tries since Casa de Eva, which had a pretty good run. I agree with previous commenters that perhaps an inexpensive, family-friendly place might do better. That and some actual capital and some p.r. And, given the building’s blandness, a little presence: sidewalk tables, banners, plants–stuff announcing that there is a There there.

  • Bryan Garcia

    Yep, I agree with your suggestions. They should also try to make it an affordable lunch spot, as there’s several large office buildings nearby. Owners keep trying to go too high-end in this spot and it is just not the right location for that.

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

     You are correct. I miscounted. Seven it is.

  • Just sayin’

    The exterior and name of Maritime reminded me of bilge water, and a friend recalls me that Origen listed on the menu an ingredient “Slovenian pumpkinseed oil.” Zax was great though.

  • BBB

    not surprised about Origen.  The one time I went the service was almost non-existant.  The food was interesting, but bad service will kill a business.  

  • wing junkie

    finally berkeley will have a good place to get chicken wings!  i like red buffalo but rarely venture out to their west oakland location

  • http://www.caviarcommunism.us/ West Bezerkeley

    …Origen listed on the menu an ingredient “Slovenian pumpkinseed oil.”

    Well there’s the problem. Everyone knows that Pumpkinseed Oil from South Styria in Austria is what should have been on the menu. The nations of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire try to emulate the standards of Austria, but tend to come up a little short.

    I just chalk it up to 50 years of Communism. Give the Slovenians another couple of decades and they might catch up to the quality standards (they do serve a fantastic fish & beer dinner Maribor though…it’s worth crossing the border/river from South Styria into Slovenia for that if you find yourself in the region)

  • Amy

    Absolutely the ill-fated restaurant spot on Telegraph should be repositioned as a family style, family oriented restaurant. There are many families in the neighborhood and we don’t have a restaurant we can just stop in when we don’t have time or energy to make a family dinner. Please, please, let someone interested in opening a family-style restaurant see this comment and act on it. Don’t go for fancy, just down  home and comfortable. I live 1.5 blocks from this restaurant space yet in all the years since Casa de Eva I have only eaten there once. I will say, however, the paint jobs over the years have been interesting, with two of my neighbors taking inspiration and painting their homes to match the paint job of the year.

  • MH

    Being fair to the location, I don’t think Zax Tavern failed in the traditional way. It was often hard to get a reservation, and eating there was a delight – food and service.

  • Bots

    Maybe something like the Kensington Circus Pub?

  • Berkeleyfarm

    I shop at Animal Farm for my pets and take my computer in to the little shop nearby and I have to say that those parking meters are a real annoyance and very small-business-unfriendly.  It was never hard to find a spot when it was unmetered 1 hour parking. 

  • Berkeleyfarm

    Yep – fast good lunch would bring in the local workers in.  Keep it family friendly at dinner time and you have the residents.   Fatapples would be a good model.   If they could stay open a hair later than most restaurants around here, the second shift at Alta Bates would *love* them. 

  • Flatland Homeowner

    Re new parking meters on San Pablo, Adeline, and other less-than-hopping parts of town: what is the City’s rationale for installing meters?  To ration high-demand parking so that customers can find a spot? to raise revenue wherever possible? to chase service businesses off the thoroughfares, despite an abundance of empty storefronts? 

  • Longgone

    That part of telegraph has always been a dead zone. There’s hardly any foot traffic and most of  the area is  family orientated. Besides ,who wants to go  to a fancy restaurent there days.

  • Guest

    There seems to be lots of votes here for a “family style” diner at this location.  But Berkeley really does not support too many such restaurants.  We used to take our kids to Fat Apples which is positioned as a family style restaurant and I was amazed how easily we could end up dropping $80-$100 when all was said and done (including the tip).  Granted, if you order sparingly and judiciously with an eye towards economy or sharing dishes, you could get by for closer to $50 (depending on the size of the family and kids ages and appetites).  Hell, even a decent Chinese take out for a family of 4 or more from Kirin can easily set you back over $50.

    So, given the somewhat seedy Telegraph location of these failed restaurants, how about we aim even lower and try to create a “homeless friendly” eatery?  Not exactly a classic soup kitchen, but somewhere which welcomes all sorts who have SSI $$$ to spend or cash they hassled local residents for.  If you could combine this with a liquor license, I see a possibly lucrative enterprise.  Escargot a la People’s Park w/ a Malt 45 sauce, anyone?

  • Johnecakeswife

     what is the City’s rationale for installing meters? To ration high-demand parking so that customers can find a spot? to raise revenue wherever possible? to chase service businesses off the thoroughfares, despite an abundance of empty storefronts?

    That’s what it sure looks like.  Chalk up two more empty store fronts from San Pablo with Griffin Motorwerke moving to 6th Street.

  • Guest

    Sadly, It’s B.  And isn’t it ironic that a ‘progressive, green city’ would be so dependent on vehicle-centric revenues?

    I had the same reaction when Black Oak (bravely) reopened on San Pablo Avenue where that almost-never-open night club used to be.  The (tin-eared) City almost immediately installed parking meters in front of the store (and elsewhere, of course.)  The people in the store said they had requested bike racks that never materialized.  I haven’t been by in a while.  Perhaps they are installed by now?

  • Bryan Garcia

    Have you even been to that area? Yes, UPPER Telegraph is pretty seedy these days, but anything south of say Derby is fine.

  • DK

    Another closing worth mentioning: It looks like Cole Coffee on College across from the Safeway has closed (done in by competition from the new Peets at Alcrataz@College?). I know that’s techinically Oakland, but worth noting.

  • Charles_Siegel

     “isn’t it ironic that a ‘progressive, green city’ would be so dependent on vehicle-centric revenues?”

    No more ironic than the fact that progressive environmentalists back a carbon tax. 

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    No thank you.  I live in that area and I would not welcome such an establishment, though I suspect you are probably joking.  Also, while the City found it expedient to close Willard pool to residents, it still operates as a shower facility for the homeless and lifestyle transients, not to mention a parking area for shopping carts and baggage.  I guess you do have to be homeless or lifestyle transient to get the full benefit of City services.

  • BerkeleyCitizen

    Greed.

  • DK

    There are a host of things that could do very well in Origen’s location, by catering to the demographics of the area (college students, families, and other people who are likely to prefer something more moderately priced than most of what’s been in there).  Let’s see: Fat Apple’s, Picante, Lanesplitter.  And those are just the three that pop right to mind.  Of course, I hear the landlord isn’t paying for any of the costs to remodel or repaint, so he/she/they make a mint every time someone goes in there and fails, which gives no incentive to help the tenant.

  • Daniel Gies

    Something like peninsula chain Pluto’s would probably do well here.  It’s sort of Intermezzo-meets-Thanksgiving-dinner.  These are student friendly and would have good appeal for neighboring office workers, including the possibility of selling take-out at dinner.

  • Tf45

    II’d like to see a  shawerma-style restaurant like Zankou Chicken in LA move in instead of some pretentious eatery  with a sign showcasing  a pitchfork and a dinner fork . 

  • Culatello

    I agree that some sort of unpretentious, family friendly bistro style menu w/a lot of salads, apps, burgers, good beer and wine, at reasonable prices, would do well. No one wants to see a restaurant fail unless the operator operates with hubris and arrogance (Locanda da Eva’s insufferable owner). There is a wood burning oven and that is grandfathered into the lease, so a new restaurant should take advantage…what about burgers roasted in a wood oven? And a nice cold beer.

  • http://berkeleyside.com Tracey Taylor

    Happy to report this is not true — a Berkeleyside team member who lives nearby and is a Cole regular says it is just temporarily closed for renovations.