Bites: Westside Café under new ownership, Joshu-ya quietly transforms into ramen restaurant

Westside Café in Berkeley changed hands to a new owner this month. Photo: Westside Cafe Facebook page

CHANGES AT WESTSIDE CAFÉ An end of an era has come to Berkeley institution Westside Café, which just changed ownership earlier this month. Westside Café was first opened in 1986 by chef Janice Chaplin-Wilcox, who brought her brand of “California comfort food” to the casual eatery located at Ninth Street in West Berkeley. On July 2, via Westside Café’s Facebook page, Chaplin-Wilcox wrote, “Thank you extraordinary customers and friends for 31 amazing years! I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to serve and enjoy you all these years. Hope to see you around town. Much love, Janice.” Westside was sold to Randa Ammsso on July 1, and was closed for remodeling during its first week under the new ownership. The café reopened this week on Monday, July 10 with a new look and a completely new menu. Nosh spoke with Ammsso’s husband, Al, who said they are now offering Mediterranean dishes, like shawarma, gyros, salads, and falafel sandwiches. The new iteration of Westside also offers breakfast and standard café fare, including soups and turkey freshly roasted on site. Westside Café is at 2570 9th St., Berkeley.

JOSHU-YA BECOMES KYUSHU We have reports of another change in Berkeley. One of the city’s first sushi restaurants has closed. First brought to our attention last week by Berkeleyside reader Sean Rouse, who noticed that Joshu-ya on Dwight Way quietly transformed into Kyushu Ramen. Joshu-ya originally opened in 1978 by chef Kazuo Negishi. In 2011, the restaurant was sold to celebrated chef Jason Kwon, and became Joshu-Ya Brasserie, which focused on sushi, but had a modernized California cuisine-take on traditional edo-style sushi. Kwon sold the restaurant in 2015 (as well as his other Berkeley restaurant, Bleeker Street Bistro) and moved to New York to go into commercial real estate, leaving Joshu-ya to be run by its remaining chefs. We spoke with new owner, Chae Chang, who said the switch from a sushi to ramen wasn’t just because ramen’s so popular these days, but rather, due to the high cost of offering fresh, sushi-quality fish. True to its name, Kyushu Ramen, which opened on July 6, specializes in the Kyushu-style of the Japanese noodle soup, made with a rich and creamy tonkotsu (pork bone) based broth. Chang said the broth is made on site and is brewed for about 16 hours, a recipe developed with ramen chefs in Japan. In addition to ramen, Kyushu also offers fried rice, tempura, karaage (fried chicken) and both traditional Japanese and non-Japanese dishes, including truffle parmesan fries, a tomato Caprese salad and some Korean-style rice bowls. So far, Chang told Nosh, business is good. “We sold out of ramen and had to close early on Sunday,” he said. Kyushu Ramen is at 2441 Dwight Way (at Telegraph), Berkeley.

GRAND BAKERY FINDS NEW OWNER Last December, Grand Bakery, one of the Bay Area’s few certified kosher bakeries, closed its doors on Grand Avenue. J. Weekly reported this week that the business has found a new owner: 29-year-old New York-native and Cal grad Sam Tobis. Former owner Bob Jaffe, who owned and ran Grand Bakery for 18 years, confirmed the sale to J. Weekly. Under new ownership, Grand Bakery will not retain its lease on Grand Avenue, but will instead continue making its kosher challahs and macaroons off-site in a commercial kitchen, to be sold at Piedmont Grocery, Mollie Stone’s Markets, and other retail outlets.

Grégoire Jacquet has closed his Piedmont Avenue restaurant. Photo: Pete Rosos

GRÉGOIRE OAKLAND HAS CLOSED We’re sorry to say that you can no longer get crispy potato puffs on Piedmont Avenue. Or any of specialities at Grégoire‘s Oakland location, for that matter. After 11 years in business, Grégoire closed its digs at 4001 Piedmont Ave. on June 30. When we reached out to owner Grégoire Jacquet for the reason behind the closure he explained that it was a voluntary change. “I have been wanting to reduce my workload for a longtime, I just had to find the right time.” Fortunately for Grégoire fans, the original location in Berkeley, which opened in 2002, remains open. Grégoire is at 2109 Cedar St. (at Shattuck), Berkeley.


KITCHENER GRATEFUL FOR HELP DURING OAKLAND FIRE  On July 7, a devastating four-alarm fire set ablaze a mixed-used building under construction on 23rd Street and Valdez in Uptown Oakland. The fire started around 4:30 a.m. and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents and businesses in the vicinity. Food business incubator and shared commercial kitchen space, Kitchener Oakland, located at 372 24th St., is half a block away from the fire site. On July 9, Kitchener owner Sophia Chang posted on Facebook about how the fire almost caused ruin for Kitchener, even after the flames were extinguished. Due to a forced power outage, thousands of dollars of food in Kitchener’s walk-in refrigerator and freezer were at risk to spoil. Fortunately, representatives with the City of Oakland connected Chang with a neighboring business, Gill’s Electric Company, which quickly brought a generator to Kitchener. The generator not only saved the food from going to waste, but allowed the caterers and local food businesses working at the space to continue making food and fulfilling orders. “One of our caterers was able to get a wedding order out for 80 people; two of our bakers were able to get their wedding cakes baked, decorated, and delivered; another baker was able to make 150 Japanese-style breads to feed students at a Japanese school; another baker was able to bake off his final flight wholesale order for scones, cookies, and muffins for the cafe he’s supplied for 4+ years; another baker was able to get 20 cubic gallons of dough made for a big dessert festival in SF; and our lumpia maker’s lumpia survived in the freezer and he was able to bring 300 frozen lumpia to fry up at an event Sunday,” Chang wrote.  Kitchener Oakland is at 372 24th St. (at Webster), Oakland.

DON’T MISS: CHOP BAR PIG ROAST This Sunday, July 16, Chop Bar is joining forces with Old Kan Beer for its yearly pig roast. The event originated eight years ago, in 2009, when Chop Bar first opened in Jack London Square and owner Chris Pastena celebrated opening night by roasting a whole pig. Two years later, the celebration grew in popularity, and became too large for the restaurant. It found a new home at Linden Street Brewery. This year, Linden Street Brewery moved and the space was relaunched by James Syhabout as Old Kan Beer & Co., but the tradition of the roasted pork feast will still happen here. Tickets are available on the day of the event at the door for $20 (which includes all-you-can-eat pork), with additional offerings of Old Kan beers and Fernet Branca ($5), and Oakland’s Little Giant Ice Cream ($4). Oakland’s funk-blues band Musashi Trio will provide the live soundtrack for the afternoon. The Chop Bar Pig Roast takes place from 4 to 8 p.m. at Old Kan Beer & Co., 95 Linden St. (near Embarcadero West), Oakland. 

OAKLAND WINE FEST Hey wine lovers, there’s a day-long wine event happening this weekend in the East Bay. The third annual Oakland Wine Festival will take place on Saturday, July 15, and is a chance for wine enthusiasts to meet winemakers, learn more about their favorite beverage and taste some new, premium and rare bottles. The day starts with a double blind wine tasting, when winemakers, sommeliers, along with other experts and complete novices will taste and judge 100 of the top wines from around the world. Other events include a four-course winemaker luncheon, where tables will have one well-known winemaker or sommelier sitting amongst diners; a poolside winetasting and a winemakers supper club and tasting. Tickets are $100. The Oakland Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, July 15, at The Claremont Club & Spa, 41 Tunnel Rd. (near Claremont Ave.), Berkeley.

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