Business

Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Kaffa Ethiopian Restaurant
Kaffa Ethiopian Cuisine: a newly opened restaurant on Sacramento Street from a popular farmers market regular. Photo: Kate Williams

NEW: KAFFA ETHIOPIAN CUISINE Kaffa, the popular Ethiopian vendor who sells vegan food at the South Berkeley farmers market, now has a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Sacramento Street. Open Tuesday to Sunday, Kaffa has a short menu, selling nothing but a large, medium and small plate, and a side dish called sambusa. But in the very short time it has been open, Kaffa and its owner have received high marks on Yelp: “It’s as if you’re sitting down in her kitchen and she cooks you up a meal,” says Elli N. describing the experience of eating there. Kaffa Ethiopian Restaurant is at 2987 Sacramento St. (at Ashby Avenue).

By Hand space Image Google Images
Mountain Mike Pizza is moving into the space vacated by By Hand at 1746 Solano Ave.  Image: Google Images

COMING SOON: MOUNTAIN MIKE’S PIZZA Mountain Mike’s Pizza is set to take the place of By Hand, the 41-year-old clothing business that closed its doors recently at 1746 Solano Ave. — according to the letting agent Red Oak Realty’s Patrick Leaper. Mountain Mike’s Pizza is a 150-restaurant chain that started in Palo Alto in 1978 and is run by a franchise network. It describes itself as a family-oriented, casual dining environment that also offers delivery and carry-out. It has several East Bay locations already, including Alameda and El Cerrito and, according to its website, is planning another Berkeley restaurant on San Pablo Avenue. A company spokesman said he didn’t want to make a comment on the Solano Avenue deal until all the permits are in place. Leaper, who didn’t foresee any problems with the permits, said the Solano Avenue Mountain Mike’s may do a patio out front of the restaurant. He said he had had other offers for the space, but no one could match the rent Mountain Mike’s was prepared to pay, and the landlord had already come down in price, he said. The lease starts July 1 if the permit process runs smoothly. Mountain Mike’s will join other Solano Avenue pizza-focused eateries such as Zachary’s Chicago Pizza, Little Star Pizza, Cugini and Domino’s Pizza. [Gill South contributed this item.] Mountain Mike’s Pizza will be at 1746 Solano Ave. Connect with Mountain Mike’s on Facebook.

Alex Market
Alex Market on Sacramento. Photo: Seung Y. Lee

NEW: ALEX MARKET A mom-and-pop grocery store owned by an Egyptian family that hails from Alexandria, Alex Market opened three weeks ago on Sacramento Street under the moniker of its baby boy, Alex. Adel Ibrahim purchased the property, which has been vacant since a liquor store was kicked out in 2006, last December — the same time he and his wife Marianne had their child. Countering what the Ibrahims saw as a saturation of liquor stores around Sacramento Street, Alex Market mainly sells groceries, including healthy foodstuffs such as vegetables and fruit. “That’s why we took the challenge to do something different and good for the neighborhood,” Ibrahim said. Alex Market is at 2440 Sacramento Ave. (at Dwight Way).

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Berkeley Gas & Smog. Photo: Sean Rouse

NEW: BERKELEY GAS & SMOG Opened last Wednesday by one of the owners of Spats, Berkeley Gas & Smog aims to be a better-serviced and more environmentally friendly successor to the old US Smog & Gas that was at the 3000 Shattuck Ave. site. The gas station, which has energy-efficient LED lights and recycling bins, has a smog check test-only section with a waiting area. Customers coming outside of open hours from 6 a.m. to midnight will have to pay at the pump. The gas station plans to run discounts once it is fully launched, according to owner Nathan George. Berkeley Gas & Smog is at 3000 Shattuck Ave. (at Ashby Ave.).


CLOSED: SIZZLER As reader Bondolo points out, Sizzler on San Pablo Avenue in Albany has closed after being in business since at least the 1990s. Yelp reviewer JW posted a photo of Sizzler’s closure, with an announcement taped to the front door recently. Many Yelp reviewers spoke positively of the salad bar when it was open. Not so much praise for the rest of the menu, however. Sizzler was at 665 San Pablo Ave. (between Garfield Avenue and Castro Street). 

Zip Lines Photo: Siciliana Trevino
Zip Clips Photo: Siciliana Trevino

ZIP CLIPS Zip Clips, which opened about eight months ago, provides budget haircuts for UC Berkeley students and non-students alike on Telegraph Avenue. Offering $15 haircuts and a stylish interior, Zip Clips has received favorable Yelp reviews from customers, with many plaudits for stylist Jenn. “Jenn is wonderful, both in skill and in conversation,” says reviewer Christine C. Zip Clips is at 2383 Telegraph Ave. (between Durant Ave. and Channing Way).

Seung Y. Lee is a journalist who has previously worked at the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and the Daily Californian.

Shop Talk is our regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses. 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, and check out Bites for the latest East Bay restaurant news.