Duo to open Creekwood restaurant in South Berkeley

A photo simulation of Creekwood, a new restaurant in development on Sacramento Street. Image: The Kastrop Group, Inc.

An early photo simulation of Creekwood, a new restaurant in development on Sacramento Street. Image: The Kastrop Group, Inc.

Two lifelong friends have teamed up to renovate a former bike shop in South Berkeley to create a new neighborhood restaurant in an area that’s undergone a revival this year.

Creekwood Café & Catering — still at least six months from opening — is the brainchild of Greg Poulios and Mark Louie. Both are 44-year-old California natives who met as pre-school students in Oakland. They stayed friends through high school and college, then later worked at the same restaurant in San Francisco. Their lives continued to be interwoven in the decades since.

“We’ve always talked about doing something of our own,” said Poulios. “We were looking around and we finally found the spot.”

The duo spent three years scouring the area for the right location. They searched College and Shattuck avenues, but found them “already super developed” with restaurants, said Poulios. They were looking for a place that would work as a “family, neighborhood kind of restaurant.” And they wanted to own it so they wouldn’t have to worry about a lease or rent hikes.

Via Greg Poulios.

Greg Poulios

The place they found, at 3121 Sacramento St., spans 1,700 square feet, with enough room for 48 seats inside, and sidewalk seating beneath an awning for 16-20 people. Poulios — who’s worked in a range of Bay Area restaurants, from 1 Market, Farallon and Zuppa in the city, to Rick & Ann’s in Berkeley — said he liked that the property has a wide sidewalk, big windows and “a lot of sun in the afternoon.”

(Poulios has lived in Berkeley for 22 years and runs the catering operation for International House at Cal.)

Mark Louie

Mark Louie

Said Louie, who teaches fourth grade in West Oakland: “It’s just really exciting to find a neighborhood that we think is on the rise and to be able to provide something to add to the community. It just feels like there is a lot of positive movement and a good mix of a wide spectrum of people.”

The Creekwood vision, he added, is “basics, but done well, using locally sourced, good, fresh food.”

Neighborhood momentum on the rise in South Berkeley

The block where Creekwood is slated to open — on the western border of the city’s historic Lorin District — hasn’t been much of a restaurant destination in recent years, but that appears to be changing. In April, Moxy Beer Garden opened across Sacramento at 66th Street, with a focus on craft beers and grass-fed burgers. Earlier this month, Take 5 Café opened right across the way, serving Bicycle Coffee and a variety of pastries, with handcrafted salads and sandwiches planned.

Several blocks southeast, also in the Lorin, Alchemy Collective, Easy Creole and Next Door restaurant are up and running as of this year, with a slew of others planned: Hoi Polloi Brewpub, Lemat Ethiopian, Domino’s Pizza, a new Thai restaurant and Rasa Caffe. Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, which opened in 2006, is seen by many to have started the trend. The relocation of the farmers market, from Derby to Adeline Street last year, also brought more people to the area.

(View NOSH: Lorin District Restaurant Guide in a larger map.)

Though much of the activity has centered on Alcatraz near Adeline, merchants and residents have also been organizing on Sacramento north of Ashby Avenue to address local blight, build connections and boost the economy. The city is playing a role, too: Thursday, Oct. 24, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Office of Economic Development staff will meet with stakeholders at San Pablo Park, 2800 Park St., to come up with an action plan for neighborhood improvements in the Sacramento corridor.

Much in planning stages, but ideas abound

The Creekwood team is working with Laura Martin Bovard Interiors — the firm that helped create Southie and Wood Tavern in Oakland — to design the new space. The restaurant is slated to feature tile, reclaimed wood and polished concrete floors. A panel of Japanese-style burnt wood siding, called shou-sugi-ban, will spruce up the stucco outside. The lot is already zoned for restaurant use, but must go through the city design review process before construction can start.

Initially, Creekwood will serve breakfast and lunch, with dinner to be added if all goes well. The menu will emphasize egg dishes and “a lot of baked goods” made in-house (including doughnuts). Vegan and gluten-free items are planned. Lunch could include salads, handmade pasta, fish and grilled meat. Don’t expect burgers — a specialty of Moxy across the street — but there will be beer and wine. An open kitchen and counter seating will promote interaction between customers and staff.

Poulios said he’ll focus on bookkeeping, strategy and catering, while Louie — who has no plans to stop teaching — will do front-of-the-house management, and menu and wine-list development. “He’s great with food,” said Poulios. “He won’t be in the kitchen, but he’s a really good cook.”

This former bike repair shop on Sacramento Street is slated to become Creekwood restaurant. Photo: Emilie Raguso

This former bike repair shop on Sacramento Street is slated to become Creekwood restaurant. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Poulios described the restaurant industry as challenging, but worth the sacrifices.

“It’s so time consuming. You’re working when other people are off,” he said. “But it’s fun to try to help people have a good time, to serve people. There’s something intrinsically rewarding about that.”

He said he liked the idea of opening Creekwood in the East Bay for a range of reasons, citing better weather, the preponderance of families and the slightly slower pace.

“I used to love working in San Francisco, but I loved coming home to the East Bay,” he said. “In terms of the food scene, it’s always been a very progressive spot, with great places to eat that aren’t super expensive.”

He noted the East Bay’s “great markets,” such as Berkeley Bowl, and the wide range of restaurants, from institutions like Chez Panisse, to smaller spots around town. (Some of his favorites include La Burrita near campus, Manpuku on College Avenue and Little Star Pizza.)

Poulios said he knows Creekwood will be stressful and expensive, but believes the perks — such as building relationships with customers and having control over the operation — will make it worthwhile.

“I’ve managed a lot of places. I’ve done it for other people before. I’ve just never done it for myself,” he said. “I had an opportunity and I thought, ‘I’ve got to go for it.’ Otherwise I’m going to regret not taking the chance.”

Sacramento Street mural honors history, brightens area (08.16.13)
Partners to open Take 5 Café as new Berkeley hub (07.31.13)
South Berkeley neighbors ask city for help to improve (04.19.13)
New beer garden, burger spot for South Berkeley (03.15.13)

Berkeleyside’s Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas is two days of provocative thinking, inspiring speakers, workshops and a big party — all in downtown Berkeley this weekend. Register here.

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  • Westside Neighbor

    Would be great to have another option for breakfast around here! Hope it’s not too pricey.

  • southwestberkeley

    I was sad when Recycle Bicycle closed right after I moved to the neighborhood, but this looks like a great replacement. Just the kind of restaurant I would love to take my family to. Good luck with the opening!

  • Adrian Reynolds

    Restaurant sounds very dull…

  • MrsLeopold

    Congrats on the new venture! We are super excited for a neighborhood restaurant within walking distance, that also plans to be family friendly and focuses on doing the basics right. Creekwood will be a welcome addition to a neighborhood on the rise.

  • bgal4

    The Brick Hut was a wonderful breakfast and lunch spot on Adeline St. The Hut was one of the first restaurant to come into a crime ridden area. Unfortunately crime forced the collective to move to San Pablo. The hut was always buzzing with great folks, music and terrific food. I was very sad to see them move and eventually close. Here is a history of the Brick Hut collective.


  • fud

    I remember having dinner with my wife at Brick Hut shortly after they opened on San Pablo. I ordered a glass of wine and the server forgot to take the Trader Joe’s price tag off the bottle before she poured it .. $4.99

  • Charles_Siegel

    There is some excellent wine at Trader Joes for $4.99. If you like a full-bodied red wine, I recommend Epicuro Primitivo and Salice Salentino.

  • 94703 Neighbor

    I have lived in South Berkeley for 5 years, and it’s exciting to have an increasing number of walkable food-and-drink options in the neighborhood. Creekwood sounds like a great addition to the Sacramento Street corridor – I look forward to its opening!

  • RIP recycle cicycle

    Recycle Bicycle was often very busy. It was useful to the neighborhood. It seemed to cater mostly to lower income folks unlike boutique bike shops. It provided several jobs. It helped local people live frugally and pursue a healthy habit. It was very supportive of people taking a self-help approach to maintaining their bikes. I doubt that it could have afforded to pay a high rent and I guess that’s what counts more than anything else.

  • southwestberkeley

    South Berkeley could really use a bike shop. It’s often logistically hard to get a bike across town for maintenance. I’m glad sportsbasement is coming, but a new local bike shop would be even better.

  • David D.

    What would you rather eat for breakfast? *confused look*

    I’m looking forward to this potential addition to the neighborhood. I frequently drive down Sacramento Street on my way to Oakland, and it would be nice to have another reason to stop along the way.

  • mr chow

    This place looks like a home run. Can’t wait for it to open!

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    Nice. I hate how many vacant building store fronts are around here, and the fact something is opening other than a drug store gets my full support!

  • This is great – so fantastic to see this neighborhood bloom!

  • Jacob Lynn

    I bought my bike there when I moved to town 4+ years ago for grad school. Very reasonably priced, and I ride it every day — I haven’t even had to replace the tires. Too bad they shut down.

  • fud

    Thanks for the recommendation, full-bodied reds and Puglia are two of my favorite things.

  • kinglet749

    Except that it sold bikes for way more than they were worth.

  • kinglet749

    Kinda cringing. I hope these folks make it.

  • Prinzrob

    For repairs and classes (but not sales) try Biketopia on Alcatraz near Adeline. It’s a great local resource that many people don’t know about (any super inexpensive): http://biketopia.heroku.com

  • gregm123456

    Sounds like you’re looking for Biketopia on Alcatraz:

  • bgal4

    There are at least two liquor stores nearby which both create nuisance street activity, the city desperately needs to adopt enforceable operating standards particularly for off-sales alcohol outlets if they intend to support businesses being successful in an area with a history of social disorder near these liquor stores.

    i.e. Sat mid day while heading to friends on 62nd St I was treated to the scene of a drunk male drinking from an open beer right outside the front door of the liquor store at California/Alcratraz whipping out his dick to piss on the utility box. Typical.

  • This is awesome. Not sure why they are starting with breakfast and lunch instead of dinner – but I hope it goes well. Will definitely try it out once it’s opened.

  • fud

    Okay I tried both the Primitivo and the one from Salice Salentino and IMHO they taste like $5 wines. The Primitivo is the slightly better of the two, and both are a little better than Charles Shaw. Still, I think you can do a lot better for a couple dollars more. Right now my favorite shop for the $10 and under category is Odd Lots on San Pablo, and maybe Wine Thieves up by the Claremont. Morgan at Odd Lots has mostly French, and Wine Theives often has some surprisingly good California, French and Italian picks. Even Berkeley Bowl does a good job in the same space, particularly on the California stuff. Berkeley Vintage was a nice when they first opened, but less interesting now.

  • nicole

    anyone know why it’s not open yet?

  • emraguso

    We just heard from Creekwood, actually: “We hear from Mark Louie, co-owner with Greg Poulios of Creekwood Café & Catering — which Nosh broke the news of last October — that the team is heading for its final permit submittal to the city after running into some unforeseen issues with the water, sewage and electrical systems on the property at 3121 Sacramento St. Louie promises to keep Nosh in the loop.” We had this in our Bites column a couple weeks back: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2014/09/05/bites-capones-speakeasy-open-ramen-shop-grows/

  • nicole spooner

    So crazy how long it takes to get permit approval. This has been in the works for, what, two years? Still no restaurant movement in sight.

  • emraguso

    We last checked in with Greg Poulios in March. He told us, “We are still waiting for our building plans to be approved and to get the building permit. Seems like it has been a long time already! But we are hopeful that we will start construction sometime this Spring and if we are lucky – be open late summer or early Fall.” Hope this helps!