Nature’s Express closes, Pal’s crosses the bay

Nature's Express shut its store on Solano Avenue on July 16 and announced that it is moving nearby soon. Photo: Nature's Express
Nature’s Express on Solano Avenue is now permanently closed. Photo: Nature’s Express

Openings, closings…

NATURE’S EXPRESS GONE FOR GOOD The last time we checked in with Nature’s Express, the owners had closed shop at its location at 1823 Solano Ave., but promised to return “close by.” Unfortunately for fans of the vegan fast food restaurant, those plans have fallen through. According to the Nature’s Express Facebook page, the restaurant is officially closed for good. The announcement hinted at continuing financial troubles for the restaurant: “Nature’s Express is done and done. Ownership would like to express hearty thank-yous [sic] to all of those who stuck in, but the fact is Berkeley seems unable to sustain another vegan eatery. Our significant losses in the last year tell us this even though the place was run lean and mean. We tried. Fade to black, roll the credits, and support your favorite restaurants!” Nature’s Express later commented that, had it raised prices to the $12 to $16 range for its sandwiches, it may have been able to continue operations. No word yet on the new tenant for the restaurant.

Shrimp sandwich from Pal's Takeaway. Photo: stu_spivak/Flickr
Shrimp sandwich from Pal’s Takeaway. Photo: stu_spivak/Flickr

PAL’S TAKEAWAY HEADED TO THE HIVE Famed San Francisco sandwich shop Pal’s Takeaway is making the move across the Bay to Oakland, where it will operate in conjunction with the Firebrand bakery in Uptown’s Hive complex. Pal’s owner Jeff Mason will run the entire sandwich-making operation for the bakery, according to Inside Scoop. Mason has currently been operating out of a makeshift kitchen space inside Tony’s Market at 24th and Hampshire streets in San Francisco’s Mission district, and he will make the move to Oakland when Firebrand opens later this fall. Pal’s specializes in creative tweets on classic deli sandwiches. Current menu items include a Lao sausage sandwich with roasted Jimmy Nardello peppers, cucumber-cilantro relish, house-made mayonnaise and greens; an American Kobe roast beef sandwich with spicy slaw, cheddar spread, mayonnaise and heirloom lettuce; and a dill-miso roasted salmon sandwich with haricort vert, fennel slaw, avocado, mayonnaise and heirloom lettuce. Expect more of the same when Pal’s heads across the bay. Pal’s Takeaway inside Firebrand will be at 2343 Broadway (between 23rd and 24th streets), Oakland. Connect with the sandwich shop on Facebook and Twitter.

Strawberry crêpe. Photo: Brittany Crêpes
Strawberry crêpe. Photo: Brittany Crêpes

BRITTANY CRÊPES AND GALETTES TO UNIVERSITY Another crêpery is headed to Berkeley. Brittany Crêpes and Galettes has been running farmers market stands and a catering operation for several years, but now the crêpery is settling down into a brick-and-mortar location at 913 University Ave. (Former tenant Wrap N Roll closed at the end of August.) Chef-owner Laurent Le Barbier learned how to make crêpes from his grandmother while living in the Northwest region of France, but didn’t start selling his creations until launching Brittany Crêpes with his wife in 2006. The menu will include an expanded selection of crêpes from Le Barbier’s current catering menu, plus vegetable soup, onion soup, salads, a charcuterie plate and ice cream-based desserts. Brittany Crêpes has received rave reviews on Yelp: Maria C. says, “The crepes left a lasting impression. Everything was perfect!” Jose L agreed, “The crepes were awesome!!!!!” Le Barbier says that he hopes to be open at the beginning of November.  Brittany Crêpes and Galettes will be at 913 University Ave. (at 7th Street), Berkeley. 

Victory Point Café during a special Kickstarter event. The café is now open. Photo: Victory Point/Kickstarter
Victory Point Café during a special Kickstarter event. The café is now open. Photo: Victory Point/Kickstarter

VICTORY POINT CAFÉ NOW OPEN Berkeley’s first board game café is now open on Shattuck Avenue. Victory Point Café held its grand opening this past Wednesday, Sept. 23 and is now up and running from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. In addition to an impressive 750 board games encompassing everything from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan, Victory Point is offering up a full menu of snack bowls (think Teddy Grahams and gummy bears), sandwiches, pretzels and pastries, plus coffee and tea. Once its ABC license goes through, Victory Point will also sell beer and wine. A pass to play one (or many) of Victory Point’s games is $5 per visit. Discounted pass packages are available for $20 (5 visits) or $35 (10 visits). Victory Point Café is at 1797-A Shattuck Ave. (between Francisco and Delaware streets), Berkeley. Connect with the café on Facebook and Twitter.


BEAR’S LAIR BAR ALSO OPEN We reported over the summer that the renovated Lower Sproul Plaza would be getting a full line-up of restaurants and a bar, including a revamped Bear’s Lair bar. We hear from Christina Yan, the Catering and Brand Director for ASUC Student Union Dining that Bear’s Lair is now open. Bear’s Lair is serving traditional bar foods featuring local specialties and organic ingredients, plus (obviously) beer, wine and liquor. The bar will hold a grand opening party in a couple of weeks, says Yan. Bear’s Lair is in Sproul Plaza (near Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue), Berkeley.

Paella from La Marcha. Photo: Ellipses PR/La Marcha
Paella from La Marcha. Photo: Phi Tran

LA MARCHA AIMS FOR OCTOBER Last fall, we brought you news of a brick-and-mortar location for Ñora Spanish Cuisine at 2026 San Pablo Ave. The restaurant, which will be called La Marcha, will open sometime in October, according to its Facebook page. La Marcha will serve around 25 tapas, eight to nine paella dishes, and Spanish-inspired desserts. Owners Sergio Monleón and Emily Sarlatte plan to offer a range of different paellas, from traditional recipes like paella Valenciana (rabbit, duck, snail, sweet peppers, rosemary, saffron and bomba rice) to California-inspired twists using seasonal ingredients. On the drinks side, La Marcha will feature 20 different sherries in tasting flights and as part of occasional pairing dinners on Monday evenings. Its wine list includes around 30 Spanish style wines, plus 3 wines on tap; Spanish-style ciders and Bay Area craft beers will also be available. “At La Marcha, we are passionate about creating a dining experience that is fun, memorable and inviting, just like a traditional tapas stroll in Spain. I want our guests to feel an instant sense of community when entering our restaurant,” said Monleón in a prepared statement. In the spirit of that tradition, La Marcha will also serve complementary tapas with the purchase of a drink during its 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour. La Marcha will be at 2026 San Pablo Ave. (near University Avenue), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.

What else is going on…

Oakland restaurant owners gathered by its city hall steps to protest a sharp rise in compost fees. Gail Lilian, owner of Liba Falafel and organizer of the protest, speaks. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
Oakland restaurant owners gathered by its city hall steps to protest a sharp rise in compost fees in July. Gail Lilian, owner of Liba Falafel and organizer of the protest, speaks. Photo: Seung Y. Lee

WASTE MANAGEMENT AND CITY OF OAKLAND COMPROMISE ON COMPOST After a group of restauranteurs protested against sharply increased compost fees in the city of Oakland, the Oakland City Council and Waste Management have come to an agreement to lower compost fees, reports the East Bay Express. According to EBX, the City Administrator’s office will release a proposal to significantly lower the commercial composting rates in the city. Oakland City council will consider the proposal Sept. 29. While the official numbers have not yet been released, EBX says that changes to the contract will likely lower composting rates to 70% of trash rates through July 2016, and then raise them to 80% of trash rates for the rest of the contract. (EBX reporter Sam Levin calculated these new rates to be about 42% lower than what restauranteurs and other businesses are paying today.) Even with these reductions, the new compost rates will still be higher than they were before Waste Management took over the garbage contract with Oakland in July. We will keep you posted on any changes as the city council considers the proposal.

Enchiladas suizas montadas are on the brunch menu at Calavera. Photo: Calavera
Enchiladas suizas montadas are on the brunch menu at Calavera. Photo: Calavera

CALAVERA ADDS LUNCH AND BRUNCH Uptown Oakland’s ode to Oaxacan food has now expanded its service to include weekday lunch and weekend brunch. Calavera‘s lunch offerings are similar to dinner, but the larger dinner entrees are replaced by tortas made with Firebrand Bakery bolillo rolls. (Firebrand will be moving into the Hive later this fall; see above.) The sandwiches sound generous and filling — check out the Puerco Con Huevo torta, which mixes braised pork shank, tomato, avocado, over-easy egg, black beans and salsa mucho chilies. Lunch runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The brunch menu (served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) replaces those tortas with dishes like enchiladas suizas montadas (Chihuahua cheese stuffed tortillas, salsa verde, 63- degree egg, and smoked black beans), chilaquiles rojos (nixtamal totopos, chipotle morita salsa, Chihuahua cheese, chorizo rojo, and a sunny side up egg), and a Pozole rojo (pork-guajillo chile broth, shredded pork, and pozolero hominy). Special brunch cocktails are available in addition to the regular drinks list, which is available all day. Calavera is at 2337 Broadway (between 23rd and 24th streets), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Two Mile Wines. Photo: Granate Sosnoff
Photo: Granate Sosnoff

OAKLAND URBAN WINE TRAIL Attention Oakland wine drinkers: Visit Oakland has formally organized a walking (or public transport-ing) tour of Oakland-based wine companies, called the Oakland Urban Wine Trail. Encompassing about 10 miles of the city, the wine trail includes stops at some of NOSH’s favorite spots, like Campovida on Linden Street, Rosenblum Cellars, Two Mile Wines and Urban Legend Cellars. Visit Oakland has put together a handy map of the wine trail, plus a guide to neighboring hotels (helpful for anyone who indulges in too many glasses of California pinot). Find more information at Visit Oakland.


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