Bites: KoJa opens, Bel Forno closes after 23 years

KoJa

KoJa Korean BBQ Tacos made especially for this year’s Eat Real festival. KoJa Kitchen, until now a food truck, has just opened a brick and mortar restaurant on Telegraph Avenue. Photo: KoJa Kitchen

Openings, closings…

KOJA KITCHEN OPENS We told you about Korean-Japanese fusion food truck KoJa Kitchen opening a brick and mortar place last month. Now it’s here. The restaurant, on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, is designed to appeal to nearby Cal students and anyone on the lookout for their signature comfort-food menu items, according to Eater SF. These include kamikaze fries (crosscut fries topped with Korean BBQ Beef, kimchi, green onions, and drizzled with signature sauce and Japanese sweet mayo); beef burger with a pressed rice bun; short rib koja; chicken with pineapple koja; and mochimisu dessert. KoJa Kitchen is at 2395 Telegraph Avenue (at Channing); Tel: 415-992 7394.

belForno-01BEL FORNO CLOSING After 23 years in the Gourmet Ghetto, Bel Forno will be shutting up shop on Dec. 31 as owner Fred Shokouh is retiring. Locals are already mourning its loss. “I’ve been picking up my morning coffee there for over 20 years. I will particularly miss Juan,” said one. A new owner has taken over the space at 1400 Shattuck Ave. and, we are told, may well open it up again as a café, possibly in February. As always, we’ll keep you posted. [Hat tip: Adam Schwartz.]

Nature's ExpressNATURE’S EXPRESS CLOSING As we reported on Shop Talk this week, Nature’s Express at 1823 Solano is closing Dec. 31 after four years on the Berkeley street. The healthy/vegan fast-food business failed, according to owner Carl Myers, who wrote a long note on the restaurant’s Facebook page. “When ventures fail, it comes down to leadership, so I am painfully aware that the failure has been mine,” he wrote. “I apologize to the employees who have put heart and soul into this venture and the customers who have supported us for our failure to serve them in the future.” Ironically, Myers also salutes McDonald’s who, he writes, “do a lot of things right,” including customer service, locations and advertising. Judging from the response from many loyal customers on Facebook, it will be missed. [Hat tip: Kenneth Goldberg]

FlavorFLAVOR CLOSED Flavor Mediterranean Food has closed its take-out restaurant in Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Gardens at 1511 Shattuck Ave – but it’s good news for fans as it wants to open a sit-down restaurant instead. Flavor took over the space from the shuttered Picoso Taqueria this summer. Flavor’s owner and chef Ezra Malmuth says the closure is temporary as the business is relocating to be able to offer “a one-of-a-kind sit-down dining experience.” We will keep you posted on where that turns to be so you can once again enjoy Flavor’s famous cauliflower salad with date syrup, tahini and mint.

What else is going on…

save-a-cup-logo-super-draftMUGCYLING Here’s a novel green idea from the people behind Actual Café and food justice non-profit Planting Justice. They have collaborated to launch a new program called MugCycling which has two goals: waste reduction, and fundraising. Here’s how it works: each time an Actual Cafe customer gets coffee or an espresso drink in any reusable mug, Actual Café will donate $.25 to Planting Justice. For customers who do not have mugs of their own, Planting Justice has sourced 100% upcycled mugs from Berkeley’s Urban Ore. These mugs are then fitted with a campaign sticker and branded Ugly Mugs. Ugly Mugs are available to Actual Café customers in return for a $5 donation to Planting Justice. Stickers will also be available for a $1 donation, for those who want to add them to their own mugs. “Planting Justice is a partner we really want to support, and this campaign allows us to do that while we educate customers and have fun,” said Actual Café owner Sal Bednarz. Actual Café is at 6334 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland. Tel: 510-653 8386 .

Recent Nosh stories (in case you missed them):

Dream job? I was a chocolate taster for the day
Where to eat, celebrate in Berkeley and Oakland on New Year’s Eve
Reopened China Village in Albany is still firing on all cylinders
Egg nog cream pie for a scrumptious season

Holiday turkey: Chop it up before cooking it, it tastes better!

Bites is Nosh’s round-up of restaurant openings, happenings and closings in the East Bay. Got a tip or scoop? Send it our way to nosh@berkeleyside.com. Catch up with previous Bites columns.

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  • mira

    I’m sad to see Nature’s Express go. I went there frequently and it always seemed busy.

  • Elizabeth

    Very sad to see Bel Forno go! I loved their muffins, and friendly staff (Juan!). Glad I saw this. I will try to make it in one last time this week so I can get my pistachio muffin and say farewell to a really nice little cafe.

  • Chris J

    I’m glad to hear that folks with restaurants can actually be open for 23 years and then retire!

  • guest

    I agree — their carrot muffin was the best thing on earth!

  • Biker 94703

    Carl Myers is being too hard on himself. Certainly a proprietor might wish for a 23-year run, but the truth is that most small businesses don’t survive a year. That Myers did 4, in this particularly challenging market, is a success not a failure.

  • caturday

    Just FYI – Nature’s Express is no longer going to be closing, the owner made the announcement on FB earlier today. Vegans, and non vegans, rejoice!