Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

brazil cafe

The Brazil Café, a food stand towards the top of University Avenue, will open a new restaurant a few blocks down the street in the space currently occupied by Brasa which is closing at the end of July. Photo: Camille Baptista

OUT: BRASA / IN: BRAZIL CAFÉ Brasa, the Peruvian restaurant at 1960 University Ave., next to Slow, is closing in late July. Brasa, which specializes in rotisserie chicken, opened in early 2012 after owners Christopher and Veronique Laramie closed their original restaurant in the same location, eVe, and re-opened as Brasa. A staffer at the restaurant said the owners have no immediate plans to open another restaurant, but that the concept is not dead, just “on hiatus.” The space has been snapped up by Brazil Café which will open a new brick-and-mortar spot there on Aug. 1. Brazil Café runs the popular food shack near the top of University. The vibe is relaxed and island-themed, decorated with hanging lanterns and a menu painted onto an old standing surfboard. It also plans to serve up the same much-loved sandwiches and salads — and of course its famous mango smoothies — as at its parent shack.

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Amadeus: opening at 2050 University Ave. soon.

AMADEUS Craig Larsen’s idea to open Amadeus (2050 University Ave. near Shattuck, in the former Meridian space) came from his desire to create “something really different.” When it opens, the café-grill will offer a simple, affordable menu served in a casual environment, where customers will be welcome to sit all day and drink coffee on one of the antique couches, or come for dinner and order a full meal. Larsen wants to serve food that is easy to eat and not too elaborate, with only gentle music playing in the background so there will be an “emphasis on talking and eating.” He plans to have a daily changing menu with certain grill staples like hamburgers, grilled vegetables and flatbread pizza. The kitchen has been equipped with a pizza oven and dough mixer so the restaurant can make all its own bread and baked goods — including cupcakes, Larsen’s favorite sweet. His pièce de résistance is a custom-built grill that combines the designs of Argentinian and American grills. While American grills typically place a fire directly under the metal grate, in an Argentinian design the burning wood is placed behind the grill in a structure called a brazero, which allows the charred coals to fall underneath the grill once they are hot. Larsen’s one-of-a-kind grill has a brazero and tray for wood below the grill, along with a circular crank that allows the chef to move this lower tray up and down, essentially combining the effects of the two designs. Larsen plans to open Amadeus in July or August.

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Naia out, Sandwich Spot in at 2106 Shattuck.

THE SANDWICH SPOT Siblings Bill and Andrea Armanino are opening their own Sandwich Spot branch at 2106 Shattuck Ave., where Gelateria Naia closed in September 2012. The Sandwich Spot has a number of shops in Sacramento and the San Francisco peninsula, but this will be its first location in the East Bay. Bill Armanino is especially excited about the two features that he says make it unique among other Sandwich Spot stores: a full Italian espresso bar serving Verve Coffee of Santa Cruz, Calif., and a cold press juice bar, which Armanino says is the “Rolls-Royce of juicing.” Cold press involves a special method of pressing and pulverizing fruits such that the product is richer in vitamins and minerals. Armanino will bring in juice merchant Serum to sell the bottled juices at his store. He hopes to open the doors July 22.

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Broc Cellars: moving to new location in West Berkeley.

BROC CELLARS  Berkeley winery Broc Cellars is moving from 805 Camelia St. to a larger space about one block away, at Fifth and Gilman streets. Chris Brockway, who owns and runs Broc Cellars, is hoping his new building will become known as the “Broc building.” In addition to having high ceilings and more natural light, the new space boasts a bigger tasting room, which will allow Brockway to host more visitors and extend tasting hours to include Friday afternoons. He says that one of Broc Cellars’ “core wines” is Carignane, an Italian varietal that Brockway buys from 100-year-old vines in Alexander Valley. Neighboring wineries in Berkeley’s “Drinks District” include Donkey & Goat WineryEno Wines and Urbano Cellars. The new Broc Cellars building is set to open July 1. (Read our feature story on Broc Cellars, which includes tasting tips, published June 13.)

OUT: CASA BERNAL TAQUERIA / IN: SEASONS OF JAPAN Casa Bernal Taqueria, which took over from Amanda’s Fresh Food restaurant at 2122 Shattuck Ave. in June 2011, is closing up shop. In its place will be a branch of Seasons of Japan, a chain of traditional Japanese and sushi restaurants that currently operate mainly in the South, although they also have an opening slated for Irvine, Calif. The restaurant’s website describes its offering as “genuine Japanese and all Hibachi styles cuisines that are cooked to order.”

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Tea Leaf: now an indy

TEA LEAF Tea Leaf is the newly independent bubble tea spot at 2110 Shattuck Ave., next door to the space where the Sandwich Spot will soon open. Until recently, Tea Leaf was a branch of the Tapioca Express franchise, but the owner decided to break away from the chain. Inside, little has changed — while the classic black teas are still their most popular drinks, the beloved crispy chicken remains the real draw.

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A Togo’s is coming to Shattuck Ave.

TOGO’S As tipped in last week’s Shop Talk, Sandwich chain Togo’s, which reaches across the West Coast and has a successful location in Emeryville, is opening a Berkeley store at 2172 Shattuck Ave. CEO Tony Gioia hopes it will be a convenient place for busy students to buy “big, fresh, meaty sandwiches,” but you’ll also find vegetarian sandwiches and salads. “Our roots, you know, from 40 plus years ago, are in the university scene,” Gioia said, referring to the first Togo’s location near San Jose State University. “We always wanted to be in Berkeley.” Gioia added that the new store will add to the community economically, opening up 15-20 jobs within the store itself plus those involved in the construction process, and likely generating $15,000-17,000 in sales tax per year. Gioia said they hope to open the Shattuck store in the first week of August.

MenchiesMENCHIE’S We brought you news back in September that frozen yogurt chain Menchie’s would be moving into 1862 Euclid Ave. in the foodie row north of UC Berkeley. Now Berkeleysider Doug Ng tells us that the fro-yo spot is due to open its doors June 22.

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. Check out also our weekly Bites column which provides food news for the whole East Bay.

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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  • The_Sharkey

    The avocado & cheese sandwiches at Togo’s are pretty rad.

    Best wishes to Seasons of Japan, but they’re going to have trouble in that location the same as most other businesses. The BART stairwell there is basically an open-air toilet and reeks of urine and fecal matter so badly that nobody wants to eat at any establishment within smelling distance.

  • Alina

    I love Brasa. Sorry to see them go :(

  • Bill N

    I thought Brasil has a space around the corner on Shattuck, next to Zatar’s?

  • Bill N

    Call out the PC troops!! Togo’s is a chain and chains are bad even if they’re good – or something like that.

  • Chris J

    Restaurants live and die for many reasons, I suppose. Cash management, bad food, bad location, and general bad management.

    I have had fantasies of opening my own restaurant but with no practical restaurant experience, pushing 60 and realizing how much physical work is required in the kitchen, not to mention the risk….nah.

  • Oggie

    Shows what you all know. One of the first franchise spots for Togo’s, way back in the day, was here in Berkeley. It was on Bancroft Way, across from Sproul Hall. So it seems ironic that the Togo’s guy says something about always wanting to be in Berkeley, when, in fact, they already were. “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” and eat it.

  • Ed_S

    CASA BERNAL TAQUERIA – There is a regular group of us from Freight and Salvage Open Mic that eat at this establishment before we play. We’ll be sorry to see it close.

  • Tom

    I was thinking the same thing

  • Adrian Reynolds

    I worked there in 1989…memorable experience!

  • EBGuy

    Good for the Bread Workshop I suppose.
    Half chicken, sweet potato fries and mixed veggie salad out on the back deck is a sublime experience. Sigh…

  • Luminous Learning

    I’m sad to see Brasa go, but excited for Brazil Cafe! Will they have two shops now?

  • Renae Scott

    Togo’s upcoming Berkeley location is the company’s first location in the area under the new franchisor ownership team. A previous location in Berkeley operated under the old ownership group was closed many years ago. The new ownership team has remodeled the restaurant, brand, menu and much more, which continues to fuel the brand’s growth in California and along the West Coast. We’re looking forward to the grand opening of Togo’s Berkeley restaurant in August.

  • Rob Selover

    Sample Prices @ Amadeus:

    Coke $5
    Hamburger $15

    Plan to see them in the “Out” column sometime in November.