Bites: What’s new in East Bay food XXXIV


Sliders at SliderBar. Photo: SliderBar

Openings, closings…

SLIDERBAR SliderBar, the small-burger place with locations in Palo Alto and San Francisco, will be opening its third restaurant, at 2124 Center St. between Oxford and Shattuck, in the former location of the Green Earth Café, according to Inside Scoop and the restaurant’s Facebook page. The opening is about two weeks away, and the owner, Ashwani Dhawan, is promising to give away 1,000 sliders on Aug. 24. The beef sliders are all Niman Ranch or Kobe beef. There will be some new flavors offered in Berkeley, including a “concoction of corned beef, gold sauce, and sauerkraut,” dubbed the Red and Gold, according to Inside Scoop. No, that title is not named for Cal’s nemesis, Stanford, but the San Francisco 49ers.

The Sandwich Shop. Photo: Eden Teller

The Sandwich Shop. Photo: Eden Teller

NEW SANDWICH SPOT The Sandwich Spot, run by siblings Bill and Andrea Armanino, opened Thursday at 2126 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, right near Center Street. It features dozens of sandwiches with colloquial local names like Bezerkeley, the Yellowjacket, the Golden Bear and the Shattuck Express. The Sandwich Spot has a full Italian espresso bar serving Verve coffee of Santa Cruz, and a cold press juice bar, which Armanino says “is the Rolls Royce of juicing.” There are several Sandwich Spots in the Bay Area, but this is the first in the East Bay. See photos on the Berkeleyside facebook page.

Fred and Elizabeth Sassen, co-owners of Homestead, a new restaurant coming to Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Photo: Homestead

Fred and Elizabeth Sassen, co-owners of Homestead, a new restaurant coming to Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Photo: Homestead

HOMESTEAD Homestead, a new restaurant under the helm of co-owners and husband-and-wife team Fred and Elizabeth Sassen, opened its doors Aug. 7 in a 1920s Julia Morgan building at 4029 Piedmont Ave. (between 40th and 41st streets) in Oakland. It takes over the old Zatis space. Sassen, formerly of Camino and Farallon in San Francisco, will run the kitchen, and he is planning an “upscale farm-to-table menu.” His co-owner and wife, Elizabeth, a former sous chef at Farallon and Waterbar, will oversee the entirety of the Homestead experience. Abigail Reser, former co-manager at Bay Wolf in Oakland, will run the front of the house. The menu includes starters ($9-$14) such as baked ricotta with bitter greens and red walnuts, and grilled asparagus with spicy coppa and preserved Meyer lemon. Main dishes ($18-$24) include spit roasted leg of lamb with spiced baby fava beans, green garlic and Strauss yogurt, and Petrale sole with morels and grilled pea tendrils. For dessert, diners can enjoy a rhubarb and wild strawberry tart with crème fraîche ice cream, or bittersweet chocolate mousse with malted milk shortbread cookies. The beverage menu includes craft beers and an international wine list compiled in consultation with sommelier and beer connoisseur Stephen Laborde of The Trappist Provisions in Oakland. The wine list offers more than 25 vintages, with about 15 available by the glass. Dinner hours will be Tuesday through Saturday, 5-10 p.m.

greatchinaGREAT CHINA Construction is continuing on the site of the new Great China restaurant at 2190 Bancroft at Fulton, but the opening has been delayed until October. When renovation work began in April, Tai Yu, the architect whose family owns the restaurant, was optimistic Great China might open its doors in August. But there have been some unexpected delays, he said. Great China closed its doors in January 2012 after a kitchen fire gutted the space. The new Great China space, at 4,600 square feet, will be much larger and will have a modern look. The food and extensive wine list will remain the same.

Photo: Shakewell

Photo: Shakewell

SHAKEWELL Two Scala’s Bistro — and Top Chef — alums are teaming up to try to raise $100,000 to open a new restaurant in Oakland. Jen Biesty and Tim Nugent, formerly the executive chef and executive pastry chef at Scala’s, have started a Kickstarter campaign to help build Shakewell Bar & Kitchen. They hope to open near Grand and Lakeshore in Oakland, and have raised more than $37,000 so far, with their campaign set to run through Aug. 22. For the last five years, Biesty has been executive chef at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel; Nugent has been executive pastry chef at hotel for the last seven years. He also has ties to Berkeley; he worked as the general manager at Café Rouge in Berkeley for three years. They describe the new eatery as “a new ‘Americlectic’ restaurant and bar with its roots in Mediterranean cuisine.”

What else is going on…

A cup of joe is also a work of art at Local 123.

A cup of joe at Local 123.

LATTE FIGHT The Bay Area Coffee Community is continuing the second season of its latte art competition Thursday, Aug. 8. The event starts at 6 p.m. at Local 123, 2049 San Pablo Ave., and the buy-in to pour is just $5. Competitors in the Latte Art Series get points that, for winners, carry over from month to month. The series finale takes place in December at Four Barrel Coffee. The next East Bay event in the series will take place at Timeless Coffee Roasters on Piedmont Avenue in October. Follow BACC on Twitter (@HelloBACC) and keep up with with group on Facebook for updates. Read about last season’s competition on Berkeleyside. Learn more about the events on Sprudge.

BAGEL ANNIVERSARY Coming up Aug. 25, Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood will celebrate its one-year anniversary. Owners are planning to have live music, free small bites and possibly mimosas, and perhaps even some t-shirts available for sale at a discounted rate. Speaking of Beauty’s, a new pop-up endeavor is underway every Monday in August from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s called Augie’s Smoke Meat, and features Montreal-style cured and spiced brisket.

laure;Picture 18

LAUREL STREET FAIR About 8,000 people are expected to attend the 14th annual Laurel Street Fair in Oakland on Aug. 10. In addition to lots of good entertainment, there will be numerous food booths featuring all sorts of cuisine, from vegan to African. The fair runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m, on Saturday on MacArthur Boulevard between 35th and 38th avenues.

POLLINATE FARM CLASSES A couple classes coming up this month from Oakland’s Pollinate Farm & Garden shop include home mead making on Aug. 11 and a “Know your Farmer: Farm Talk and Tomato Tasting” on Aug. 15. Alameda County Beekeepers Association swarm list manager Jonathan Zamick will teach the mead session; participants will taste some samples and receive a kit including local honey and all the supplies needed to ferment a gallon batch. (Must be 21 at the time of the class.) The “Know your Farmer” event will features Nigel Walker of Eatwell Farm, which offers a weekly veggie box for sale year-round. Walker will “introduce us to his farm and tell us what it takes to fill a CSA box 50 weeks a year. After the talk, we will taste heirloom tomatoes, many of which are from seeds Nigel saves year after year. This event is free with registration.

bacon-wayne-SFBACON AND BEER The group behind Boston’s extremely popular Boston Bacon and Beer Festival is starting one in San Francisco in collaboration with Berkeley microbrewer Bison Organic Beer. Last year, the 1,200 tickets for the Boston festival sold out in three minutes flat. The San Francisco Bacon and Beer Festival will be held Aug. 25 from 2:30-5 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. A number of Bay Area restaurants, including Haven, Tacolicious, Nojo, Avedano’s, Hopscotch and Fatted Calf will be serving up their bacon-infused delicacies, and local breweries, including Bison Organic Beer, Speakeasy, Lagunitas, Knee Deep, Sierra Nevada, and Drakes will serve craft beers to compliment the snacks. Zoe’s Meats will provide the bacon. A portion of the $50 ticket price will be donated to Sprouts Cooking Club.

Recent Nosh stories (in case you missed them):
Contest: Name that Nosh (08.07.13)
Desco’s restaurant opens in Oakland (08.06.13)
Demolition begins at Safeway on College Avenue (08.06.13)

Bites is Nosh’s round-up of restaurant openings, happenings and closings in the East Bay. Some of these items will have first appeared in Berkeleyside’s Shop Talk column. Got a tip or scoop? Send it our way to Catch up with previous Bites columns.

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  • Guest

    Any update on the Westbrae (Northbrae?) beer garden? I thought I remembered them aiming for a late July opening, but maybe it was August…still on track?

  • Chris in Berkeley

    Doesn’t look like much progress on the site. Still pretty much empty. They were working on some wiring for lighting or something when I walked by the other day.

  • emraguso

    We have it on our list to find out the status. Will definitely report back when we know more!

  • DisGuested

    Maybe Phil’s Sliders will stop letting its staff play music at deafening volume now that they have some competition in the neighborhood. Phil’s food is great, but the staff can be really inhospitable.

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    Slider war in downtown!

  • Guest

    Re: Shakewell: Is Chef Jen Biesty or Beasty as she is referred to in that blurb?

  • B2B

    I love Phil’s, and I know the owner has been working on improving the staff. I haven’t been in a while, sorry to hear there’s still issues with the staff.

  • Stephanie Allan

    If restaurants in Berkeley got their heads out of their …., we could have the best sliders, hands down, here in town from WhipOut Food Truck. Unfortunately, for those of us like their food, the restaurants have successfully shut out food trucks, who serve mostly different groups of people, younger, with small children, more modest budgets, etc. In this case, the food snobbery and elitism of this town is a real disservice.

  • Tizzielish

    How could this list fail to include Berkley SPARK?! Isn’t that happening on Saturday?

  • Tizzielish

    The prices at the new slider place are much higher than Phil’s Sliders and Phil’s offers a damn near perfect slider. The size of the new sliders will have to be significantly bigger to justify the significantly higher price. If not bigger at the new place, no slider war, imho.

  • Tizzielish

    Stephanie — is there a food truck selling quality local beef, medium rare, on a small bun with lettuce and tasty sauce for less than $2.50? If folks with small children and more modest budgets can’t afford $2.50 for a small slider, even McDonald’s stuff costs that much or much more. Your critique re pricing and modest budgets is unfair. Many restaurants downtown are modestly priced.

    The food trucks, in my experience, are never cheaper, and I often wonder why I stand in line, often in the rain, to sit outside in a chilly air when I could eat inside at table, chair and warm.

  • emraguso
  • emraguso

    Apologies — it is Biesty. That was my fault and I have fixed it.

  • Chris J

    I don’t think of food trucks as any kind of cheap meal. Not speaking about quality, just price. Almost like going to a decent sitdown resto… Except you’re served in paper plates and get to sit outside in the cold.

    Not a big fan.

  • Chris J

    I don’t get Kickstart campaigns. I mean, I understand how it works– if enough folks sign up, your investment of $5 to over $100 or whatever gets a return of such things as a jar of fruit, maybe a dinner for one or two, but often the value for the ‘donation’ is hardly worth it.

    With this Shakewell deal, a $100 gets you a dinner for two…which seems a reasonable return for the investment. Ordinarily…$5 or $25 gets a ‘thank you’ on a website.
    BFD, you know?

    Seems like in ‘my day’ you…I dunno…saved your shekels, asked a rich uncle or aunt if available, or….well, maybe went to a bank? Not trying to pick on Shakewell specifically, it just strikes me a little like Internet begging.

    Maybe banks and s&l places aren’t lending? These two have history and cred–you’d think they could get a loan…or maybe banks still see restaurants as a risky business venture. Huh,

  • Tired

    There is an AWESOME new Mexican retaurant at 2021 University called El Burro Picante! I hope Berkeleyside does a write-up on it on the next Ins and Outs feature. They just opened but appear to already have a following. We have been in need of a good Mexican burrito/taco place on University. Everything appears and tastes freshly made. They have 7 different salsas and 8 different meat options.

  • Chris J

    I only go downtown for the bookstores…Pegasus or Half-Price. I’ve had Phil’s…they’re good. I do recall their music was pretty loud the one time. When I had free movies at the California due to a business connection, I’d hit the theater. Dont’ go to the movies there–parking problems abound.

    Yah, I don’t go to downtown much if I can help it.

  • Mbfarrel

    Glad that Great China will eventually open, but to call it a renovation is an understatement. It appears that the building was gutted and onto the shell remained.
    Very expensive, it appears someone has made a major investment.
    Of course the site has Berkeley gold; a parking lot.

    The need to put serious money into a site is probably why no one has wanted to touch the not so recently departed Sparse.

  • Mbfarrel

    Only & Spats

  • Thanks for the tip. We will check it out.

  • Guest

    Huh. I only went to Phil’s once — I remember the food being delicious, but seeming a little pricey for what it was (by the time you added everything up and for how full you came away feeling). Maybe im misremembering and should try then again.

    The trouble with sliders, for me personally, is that no matter how good they are, they’re still sliders and there’s a ceiling to how much I’m willing to pay for that type of food. Many of the ‘gourmet’ food trucks turn me off for simar reasons, although I enjoy their food.

  • batard

    In defense of Phil’s, I made sliders for a party once using similar ingredients. Remember the ground beef is Marin Sun Farms grass-fed, and the buns are locally sourced from a bakery in Oakland (not telling which one).

    Point being, if you actually add up the cost of materials and burden that with labor, rent and overhead then the prices are actually pretty reasonable.

    Now — if you wanted to open some competition with factory ingredients and crap beef .. folks like yourself would have a “value” alternative. But then they would be competing with McDonalds and already have one of those.

  • Mark Haas

    I guess sliders are the new cupcakes. How long will this fad last? Be careful walking around Berkeley after this place opens and all these students start stumbling around after experiencing sticker shock. Going to have to eat at least three of these babies (about $13.50) for the equivalent of a regular hamburger, plus fries ($3) and a beer ($5), plus tax and tip and you’re north of $27.

  • emraguso