Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses


TELEGRAPH EVOLVES Naan ‘N’ Curry, a longtime fixture at 2366 Telegraph Ave. and a student favorite, shut its doors last week. Sales had gone down 30% over the last three years as more and more “quick serve” restaurants opened on Telegraph, finally forcing the Indian restaurant to close, according to a press release put out by the new Telegraph Restaurant Association. There is no sign on the door announcing the closure, but all the tables and chairs have been moved out.

zensen FAST AND FRESH SUSHI One of the new restaurants coming to the Telegraph area is Zensen Sushi Express, which is moving into the old La Val’s Pizza space at 2516 Durant Ave. The restaurant is part of a chain of more than 300 restaurants started by Chin-Chou “Stanley” Chen in Taiwan in 1996. This will be its first U. S. location. Zensen Sushi Express is a play on words, meaning “vying for freshness,” according to the company’s website. The restaurant will source its food locally and from around the world. The restaurant is currently advertising for a manager and wait staff on Craig’s List, so the opening is still weeks away. Read what one mother wrote about Zensen Sushi Express on the blog of Taiwan Radio International.

dotislandFISH, SERVED FRESH Just down the street at 2431 Durant, brown paper covers the windows of what will become Dot Island Grill, a restaurant that emphasizes seafood. Patrons can pick whatever type of fish they want – salmon, mahi mahi, tilapia, trout or shrimp, and then add a variety of seasonings. Grilled ribs, chicken and katsu will also be available. No date on when this restaurant will open either. There is another branch in Davis.

garage2RUMMAGE THROUGH THIS GARAGE Mullholland, which has a retail store at 1710 Fourth St., has opened a new space called The Garage at 1445 Fourth St.. The large warehouse-like space is a showcase for what the company calls its “Rarities collection of curiosities from around the world.” The store will also sell some of Mullholland’s signature leather goods and furniture. Regina Connell, who writes for the Handful of Salt website, took a tour of the new space recently, called it “gritty,” and said “a quick spin through convinced me that it’s definitely worth a look.” The Garage had its grand opening last Sunday April 28 and will be open once a month.

PURRING NO MORE Purrfect Auto at 1809 San Pablo Ave. near Hearst, shut its doors in late March. Berkeleyside reader Judy Praglin wrote to convey her dismay, saying “love that place, good service, friendly people.” The shop was part of the Purrfect Auto franchise with around 100 independently operated locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Shop Talk is Berkeleyside’s 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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  • EBGuy

    What’s up with Sumo Grub? The signage appears to have been taken down.

  • Chris J

    While my wife and I generally eschew fast food eateries in general, the growing ubiquity of fast food chains, particularly on Telegraph, makes no never mind to me, but is Naan n Curry citing this influx as the actual cause of their closing? Might one surmise that the locals prefer their food served MORE QUICKLY rather than with the possible lag that an independent restaurant might allow for?

    If so…its kinda depressing.

  • Chris J

    Zensen Fresh Sushi (sic) sounds interesting, but the concept of quickly made sushi prepared and put on a revolving flow of water constantly circling is nothing new. Sushi Gen and a place (now gone) in downtown Berkeley (probably near to Comal’s location) had such a system, but even that is based on the model developed in Japan where it’s referred to as ‘mawari sushi’ or, more commonly, ‘hyakuen sushi’ which, roughly translated, means ‘circular’ sushi’ or ‘100yen sushi’. Such mawari sushi places in Japan were…and are…the cheapass end of sushi restaurants and were considered fast food places and, usually, not the highest end of quality…particularly at $1-3 per plate.

    Of course, even lower quality sushi at $1-3 per plate is better than NO sushi. It remains to be seen what their pricing model may be, given what local ‘pedigreed’ chefs have done with what is ordinarily cheap ‘street fare’ at Ramen Shop, Hawker Fare, and Juhu Beach Club.

  • Guest

    The vegan restaurant on Center St. in downtown Berkeley has closed due to a family illness (according to the sign on the door). I think that it was called Good Earth? It’s the one between Le Regal and Oasis Grill. There’s a “For Rent/Sale” sign on the window already.

  • Guest

    If you check out Naan n Curry’s Yelp, you can see what appear to be substantial complaint about quality and service. Rather than blaming the competition (a tact often used by companies who can’t produce a good enough product), they probably should have focused on increasing demand by improving the atmosphere/food/service/cost/etc.

  • Chris J

    I at there one time. No particular wondrous reminiscences. Same for the one I ate at in the Inner Sunset in SF. So there you go.

  • akm

    Picoso’s in Epicurious Garden also closed yesterday, surprisingly.

  • Tizzielish

    good point. Isn’t there still a Naan & Curry on College? Maybe I am confusing restaurants but I thought two restaurants in Berkeley had same name and assumed same ownership. The food and experience at the one on College was way way way better. Telegraph is much closer for me but I go to the College Ave one cause the one on Telegraph has had lousy service, skimpy portions, poor food and overall lousy.

  • Tizzielish

    Is that the Mexican joint? Well, if my patronage matters, I used to go there once or twice a month and in the past years, have not been there a single time. I fell in love with Cancun, which is mostly organic and closer to home. Sorry to see it go, tho.

  • Lhasa7

    I suspect that Nan ’n’ Curry was actually a front for a subsidized laboratory experiment studying how long a heavily used public bathroom could be operated without being cleaned or serviced. Maybe their funds for that vital research ran out.

  • Truth Sayer

    I notice that businesses are opening and closing quite often in Berkeley. The one thing that I find puzzling, is that Berkeley allows temporary competitive street and sidewalk sales to open next to brick and mortar businesses. For example, what appeared to be a farmers market opened on Rose Avenue, approximately 100 yards from a Safeway food store. And, food vendor vehicles park in the vacinity of restaurants. Frankly, I find it grossly unfair to brickmortar businesses that pay substantially more in taxes to have to compete with vendors who pay a much smaller fee. Or, is it the intent of Berkeley council to allow people to invest in a business, then strip them financially until the doors close, then wait on the next sucker? I admit that my last statement is not true, but it makes me wonder.

  • Phil

    I’ve been surprised Picoso held on as long as it did. The food was OK and the service was OK but really the best thing about it was that it was the closest burrito/taco place to where I live. I prefer Cancun or Cactus. Nothing wrong with Picoso, convenient to have it around, sorry to see it go, but since I only went there about 5x per year I guess I won’t miss it too much. The owner was nice, though, and I’m sad for him.

    As for Naan ‘n Curry, it was kind of a dump. I hadn’t eaten there since the time several years ago that I saw the cook drop a piece of chicken on the floor and then pick it up and put it back on the grill. I called him on it, and he sort of rolled his eyes and pulled it off and threw it in the trash. On the one hand, hey, it’s going on the grill, that’ll kill any bacteria from the floor so I don’t think it’s really a health hazard. On the other hand, though, who wants to eat bug parts, mouse turds, pebbles, and other floor detritus even if it is heat-sterilized?

    Turnover in retail food is a part of life. To me it’s more surprising when a place closes after 10 years than when they close after 2. New places open, old places close, that’s life.

  • Mbfarrel

    If only someone would turn the former Black Oak into a real Mexican restaurant.

  • Biker 94703

    Berkeley allows them because we, the TAXPAYERS, demand them! More fun! This town is chock-full-o-boring a lot of the time.

    Personally I wasn’t a huge fan of the food trucks (I hate waiting in lines), but I LOVED the fact that other people went out of their way to make it an event. It was a destination, and people packed it. Me, I got a pizza at the cheeseboard. So WIN-WIN.

    Rode up Telegraph last night: dirty and unappealing. If only Moe’s would move downtown I’d never have to go up by campus ever again!

  • Truth Sayer

    I can’t imagine a tax paying business owner would think that its “more fun” to conduct business on the most profitable day, Saturday, and the city issues a permit granting competitors the right to set up shop and draw customers away. Incidentally, Costco’s pizza’s is a better value and taster. As $21 bucks for a small pizza mad of potato, parsley, and cheese at cheeseboard is ridiculous.

  • GC

    Just want to put in a word for Clay Pot, at Dwight/San Pablo. Serving good Vietnamese & Korean food at reasonable prices; it’s a nice addition to the neighborhood! I’m hoping it succeeds.

  • anothernonymous

    Lack of imagination is no way to run a business.

  • Biker 94703

    No one said running a small business was easy or fun. Nationwide, according to Census statistics, 50% of all service businesses fail in the first 5 years. I don’t know Berkeley’s rate (hello Chamber of Commerce?), but I’d suspect it is higher due to higher rents, wages, and taxes.

    There are plenty of reasonable complaints about the City not being helpful to small businesses. (Personally I advocate eminent domain on any storefront vacant for > 6 months.) The City should certainly be upfront and honest about what sort of permits, street fairs, etc are allowed in a given district. But competition is an unreasonable complaint.

    Did Chez Pannise need protection from the Dale Sanford store being remodeled into Epicurious Garden? Does Safeway need protection from a once-a-week farmers market? Do we need a citywide quota on pizza and ice-cream shops?

    What you’re missing is that the City is also obliged to serve the needs and desires of their owner/occupants: the tax-paying residents. With regard to food trucks, farmer’s markets, outdoor movies; the residents overwhelmingly voted YES with their feet and pocketbooks.

    I can’t comment on the taste of a Costco pizza, but “value” is subjective. Personally I value supporting a local business. When I want inexpensive pizza, I make it at home.

  • Truth Sayer

    Tell that to the businesses.