BERKELEY’S FIRST ALCOHOL-FREE BAR? Nosh has the scoop about a business that hopes to be Berkeley’s “first and only alcohol-alternative bar.” It’s called MeloMelo Kava Bar and is aiming to open on University Avenue at McGee. The owner is Berkeley resident Nicolas Rivard, according to a permit application posted on the city of Berkeley website. Rivard says in the application that “We will be serving Kava, tea, and kombucha in a relaxed, yet enticing, setting.” For those not in the know, kava is a Polynesian plant, the roots of which are “used to produce a drink with sedative and anesthetic properties,” says Wikipedia. The business is seeking a parking waiver for two spots, given its proximity to transit, bike-friendly features (vertical wall-mounted bike racks), and an employee bus pass program. Writes Rivard, “Although we anticipate this to be a wild success, being the first and only Kava bar location in the Bay Area, we will ensure that the impact on the convenience for the community will be kept to a minimum.” The business does not plan to serve food “or any coffee bean related products.” MeloMelo has asked for operating hours of noon to midnight seven days a week, has proposed seating for 27 in the 1,200-square-foot space, and expects to have three employees. According to a brief business profile on gust.com, Andrew Procyk is a co-owner, and Anneliese Valery is the manager. The trio says MeloMelo will “provide an alternative to coffee houses and alcohol bars. We aspire to nothing less than changing the way Americans work — and how they spend their leisure hours in more productive and healthy ways.” MeloMelo Kava Bar hopes to open at 1701 University Ave. in Berkeley. Update, Sept. 12: Learn more about MeloMelo on its website.
CAPONE’S SPEAKEASY OPENS WITH A BANG If you like the idea of a restaurant and lounge where you can score modern American cuisine and cocktails while partaking of music and dancing with a 1920s vibe, the newly opened Capone’s Speakeasy in Alameda is for you. Housed in a former Wells Fargo branch, the chef is Damien J. King-Kostelac (formerly at San Francisco’s Town Hall and Eureka, among others), and he’s whipping up mainly small plates using the required organic, local ingredients. The menu includes spicy smoked paprika French fries, seared ahi tuna Niçoise salad, sizzling pork belly with seared scallops, and a beef filet with lobster mashed potatoes. For dessert, there are chocolate strawberries and crème brûlée. Cocktails include the Al Capone (Templeton rye whiskey, Grand Marnier, Champagne and bitters) and the Bonnie & Clyde (gin, beer, passion fruit purée, agave). The expansive bar seats more than 50 people. What differentiates Capone’s from a traditional restaurant is the live music (jazz and light rock on Saturdays), DJ entertainment (Thursdays and Fridays), a dance floor, and staff adorned in period dress (think flappers and men in vests). And there’s more: A friend of a principal investor in the restaurant is the owner of Al Capone’s 1932 V-12 Packard (restored to original mint condition and with a pink slip bearing Capone’s name) and Capone’s 133-foot yacht that was custom built in 1930. The vessel, docked in Alameda, will be used to host parties and Bay excursions. As the East Bay Express reports, the fact that the restaurant’s owner was arrested on opening night on suspicion of public drunkenness, resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer, while hardly commendable, is still somehow fitting. Capone’s Speakeasy is at 1400 Park St., at the corner of Central Avenue, in Alameda. Visit its website and connect on Facebook and Twitter.
OVO TAVERN & EATERY: IN THE WORKS Just spotted on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland: a “coming soon” sign for a new spot called Ovo, Oakland’s Very Own Tavern & Eatery. If the signs can be believed, the new restaurant will open in what had been Bottom of the Ninth Bar & Grill. The bar opened a year ago in a space that, before that, housed Looney’s BBQ (after it left Berkeley). There were at least two shootings in January at the sports bar — one of which had a victim — although it is not known whether that was why it shuttered earlier this year. No further details were available about Ovo, but we’ll keep you posted as we hear more. Ovo could open at 5319 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland.
TRUEBURGER NEAR OPENING? We hear from Trueburger it’s getting close to opening its new North Oakland location on Broadway. (Its original spot is at 146 Grand Ave. in Oakland.) The company said in April last year it would take over the old Anderson Carpet & Linoleum building at 40th Street to open a second location. An owner said at that point that the business hoped to open by winter 2013, but the space has remained vacant. A Trueburger staffer said last week she’d been told the new outlet would finally open in mid-September, but she hypothesized that October but might more realistic, given the time line up to this point. The company website promises “Broadway hours coming soon.” Trueburger is planning to open at 4101 Broadway in Oakland. Connect with the business on its website, Facebook and Twitter.
COMING SOON AT SWAN’S Piedmont Avenue Japanese restaurant B-Dama is close to opening its second Oakland location, this time in Swan’s Market. (Nosh tipped you about it last year in September.) The website for the historic marketplace, at 538 Ninth St., says B-Dama is opening this summer, and the East Bay Express reported in June that the business hoped to open in July, according to its owner. The East Bay Express said street food would be the focus at the new location, and that it’s possible the owner might even close the Piedmont Avenue shop to focus on the Swan’s endeavor. In the meantime, don’t miss all the other bustle going on at Swan’s. According to the market website, other restaurant tenants include Breads of India, Coobi Yogurt & Wraps, Cosecha, The Cook and Her Farmer, Miss Ollie’s, Periscope Cellars, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Sincere Seafood and Taylor’s Sausages. Connect with B-Dama on Facebook.
SACRAMENTO STREET UPDATES Some news on two anticipated openings coming to South Berkeley’s Sacramento Street corridor. 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. (Read more about their plans on Berkeleyside.) Also in the neighborhood, Bettina Limaco, who wants to open Berkeley’s first “shipping-container village” nearby at 3017 Sacramento, said she has submitted construction drawings to the city’s building department and expected to hear back in early September. She said there was likely to be extensive feedback from the city to sort through, but added “at least it is in the process.” Stay tuned to Nosh for details.
LEMAT ETHIOPIAN BEGINS BUILDOUT An Ethiopian restaurant that had hoped to open in Berkeley by July is moving forward after working its way through the city permitting process. Nosh broke the news last September about Lemat Ethiopian Restaurant and Café’s planned opening in South Berkeley’s Lorin District. Owners Gezahegn “GZ” Mengistu and Ejigayehu “EJ” Berhanu want to open a casual eatery that will offer a variety of vegetable and some meat dishes. Dishes will include thick stews, called wat, and grilled sautéed meats (tibs) along with vegetables served on injera. Mengistu told Nosh he’s planning to offer all-you-can-eat vegan dishes on Wednesdays, Fridays and during Lent in the spring. He said last Friday by email that “The city permit process has been too long, to put it mildly,” but said the project had been approved and “the appeal period ended today. We hope to start construction soon.” Lemat plans to open at 3212 Adeline St. in Berkeley.
A BIT OF MYSTERY AT THE LODGE Alexeis Filipello, owner of Bar Dogwood and Stag’s Lunchette in Oakland, is busily planning two more openings. According to Tablehopper, along with working on Darling’s, a sister bar to Dogwood, Filipello is partnering with Matt Eiseman to open The Lodge, a bar with classic cocktails and bar food/small plates. Expect Bay Area classics like oysters on the half shell, fish fries, crudo, chowder and salads. The location has not been revealed yet, but Tablehopper, who’s in the know, describes it as “pretty fantastic, with a nice lodge setting and a patio; there are about 60 seats in all.”
SMOKE’S POUTINERIE GETS LOCAL As reported on Berkeleyside’s Shop Talk earlier this week, if the talk is to believed, Southside Berkeley will soon be home to the first U.S. location of Smoke’s Poutinerie, a Canadian chain specializing in poutine, a national favorite that originated in Quebec. Poutine is french fries covered with gravy and/or meat or other toppings. Reader David Yee said he stopped by the spot on Durant Avenue that used to house Manhattan Roast & Grill before it shuttered, and chatted with the owners of the forthcoming Smoke’s Poutinerie, which has hundreds of stores in its native land. Smoke’s Poutinerie is slated to open at 2518-A Durant Ave. (just east of Telegraph). Visit its website and connect on Facebook and Twitter.
RAMEN SHOP GROWS Fans of the Ramen Shop in Rockridge will rejoice to hear that the often packed-to-the rafters restaurant is expanding. Owners Jerry Jaksich, Rayneil De Guzman and Sam White told Tablehopper they have secured the luggage shop space next door (Rockridge Luggage & Leather Goods at 5816 College Ave.), and will be creating “an intimate cocktail bar” in the space. Aside from a few bar snacks, the new area won’t serve food but rather be a waiting room for the main restaurant. The expansion will allow the current front bar area to be dining space with 15 additional seats. The extra room will also allow the owners to add another kitchen, have their office there and gain more storage space. Once it’s all in place, probably within about 6 months, the owners say they hope to open seven days a week (they are currently closed Tuesdays) and offer lunch on weekends. Ramen Shop is located at 5812 College Ave. in Oakland. Connect with the business on its website, Facebook and Twitter.
What else is going on…
YUMMY SUPPER LAUNCH Erin Scott is holding a launch party Sunday for her new book “Yummy Supper,” which showcases 100 gluten-free recipes with beautiful photographs by the Berkeley-based writer and photographer. The book was born from Scott’s blog of the same name — read our recent interview with Scott. Co-hosted by Omnivore Books, the party is open to all, including kids, and will be held at the Edible Schoolyard on Sunday, Sept. 7, from 2-4 p.m. There’ll be a book signing and free blueberry froyo popsicles (until they run out). Edible Schoolyard is at King Middle School at 1781 Rose St. in Berkeley.
WHOLE FOODS GIVES BACK As Whole Foods counts down to its opening in West Berkeley in November, the store is offering to donate $1 to the Berkeley Public Schools Gardening & Cooking Program for every new “Like” on its Facebook page (up to $1,000) from Sept. 4-17. Additionally, Whole Foods Market on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley will host a “5% Community Support Day” on Sept. 17, where 5% of total store sales will benefit the program. As Berkeleyside has reported, the BUSD program certainly needs support having lost a chunk of federal funding. You can “Like” the new West Berkeley Whole Foods Facebook page here.
SOUR BEER + COFFEE Berkeley’s sour beer brewery The Rare Barrel is on its third batch of “All Systems Go,” a “red sour beer aged in an oak barrel with Sightglass Coffee beans.” The company says that “In making this single barrel release, we added 5 lbs. of whole Guatemala Antigua Peaberry beans to the oak barrel and let the beans steep in there for about 2 days. In the past, we’ve used a dark sour as the base for this beer, so this is a fun twist on our coffee sour.” All Systems Go will be available in 5-ounce pours starting Friday at 4 p.m. The Rare Barrel is located at 940 Parker St. in Berkeley. Connect with the business on its website, Facebook and Twitter.
BAY GRAPE LAUNCH PARTY We told you last week about Bay Grape having just opened its new Grand Avenue wine shop, now it’s time to celebrate. Saturday from 5-9 p.m., four local winemakers will pour “a white, a red, a rosé AND an orange wine–for just $20 at the door.” Attendees will meet reps from Donkey & Goat, Broc Cellars, Dashe Cellars and The Scholium Project. At 8:30 p.m., Bay Grape will be “raffling off goodies including a holy-guacamole magnum of Knoll Riesling, Gabriel-Glas sexy-as-all-getup stemware, a party-your-pants-off porrón, and a make-your-in-laws-jealous private wine class for four.” Bay Grape is open at 376 Grand Ave. in Oakland. Connect with Bay Grape on its website, Facebook and Twitter.
Check out these other recent Nosh stories:
Judge changes Berkeley soda tax ballot language
Nosh on the Town: Townie in Berkeley
100 yummy recipes from a gluten-free omnivore
Bites: New local distillery, Scarlet City Espresso live
Family, heritage infuse dishes at Cholita Linda