Bites: Oyster Bliss returns to Kermit Lynch, Comal Next Door update, Smokey J’s is now catering-only

Oyster Bliss XXI will take place at Kermit Lynch on April 21. Photo: Gail Skoff

AW, SHUCKS! It’s hard to believe that for some in the Bay Area, eating raw oysters was still a novelty in 1991. That was the year that Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley hosted its very first Oyster Bliss event, serving plates of raw oysters, along with grilled Bourdeaux-style sausages and glasses of crisp white wines. According to Lynch, for that initial event, he had to cajole skittish eaters to give the slimy bivalves a try. And although by the end of that first event, there were many untouched oysters, Lynch was apparently successful at turning skeptics into converts, as Oyster Bliss became one of the Berkeley wine shop’s most popular events. After a seven-year hiatus, the annual shellfish fête is back. Chef Curt Clingman will once again join the fun, shucking oysters and grilling sausages (There’ll also be packaged raw sausages by Old Fashioned Butcher, Christopher Lee, for sale at the event). Co-hosts and next door neighbors Bartavelle will be pouring wine, and special guest vigneron André Chatenoud from Château de Bellevue in Bordeaux will be on hand. The event is free to attend, but food and wines will be available purchase, a la carte. Oyster Bliss XXI will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 21 in the parking lot. Kermit Lynch, 1605 San Pablo Ave. (at Cedar), Berkeley

Comal Next Door will offer burritos, tacos and other standard taqueria fare. Photo: Charlie Villyard

[Updated, April 11, 2:30 p.m.] TAQUERIA TALK Comal fans will have to wait a little bit longer than expected for its new all-day taqueria, Comal Next Door, to open. The restaurant was undergoing final inspections, which not surprising to hear, delayed the opening that was originally planned for last week. We just got word today that it will now open Friday, April 13. As Nosh reported last June, Comal owners John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman, snatched up the space next door to their popular downtown Berkeley California-Oaxacan restaurant when Phil’s Sliders closed. Unlike its full-service sister restaurant, the much smaller Comal Next Door will be a counter service operation, serving burritos, bowls, tacos and tortas for dine-in or take-out. Refreshments will include agua frescas, frozen margaritas and beer. Once open, Comal Next Door’s hours will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Comal Next Door will be at 2024 Shattuck Ave. (near University) Berkeley

Eight-year-old Smokey J’s Q House in Berkeley has closed. Photo: Sarah Han

ON Q Over the weekend, Nosh tipster Karen Hata noticed changes were afoot at Smokey J’s Q House in Berkeley. Hata saw kitchen equipment being removed from the eight-year-old Texas-style BBQ mainstay at 3015 Shattuck Ave. A sign on the door written by owner Josh Kemper explained the restaurant closed on April 4 and would be a catering-only venture. Smokey J’s has been a favorite with locals for its slow-smoked meats, house-made sausages, southern sides and Frito pie. Kemper was born in Texas, but grew up in Berkeley. After working abroad as a chef for several years, he returned to his childhood stomping grounds and set his focus on his southern culinary roots. He opened Smokey J’s Q House in 2011, where he featured family recipes and made almost everything in house. We reached out to Kemper for comment on the closure, but had not heard a response at time of publication.

MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE In other Shattuck Avenue news, Revival Bar + Kitchen has recently added the Impossible Burger to its menu. It is now the first restaurant in downtown Berkeley to offer the popular vegan “burger that bleeds.” The faux-meat product comes from Oakland-based Impossible Foods, which just won an award at the Sixth Annual East Bay Innovation Awards for its sustainably made, plant-based product that looks and (almost) tastes like real ground beef. Chef Amy Murray told Nosh that Revival buys Impossible as a loose ground product, which it then forms into 5-ounce patties on site. Revival’s Impossible Burger is vegetarian, but not vegan. It comes topped with grilled onions, bread and butter pickles and Espelette pepper aioli, and is served on house-made challah buns. Revival Bar + Kitchen, 2102 Shattuck Ave. (at Addison), Berkeley


Glazed, raised donuts at Pepples Donut Farm in Oakland. Photo: Pepples

ON THE RISE Speaking of veg-friendly eats, we got word from Josh Levine, owner of Oakland’s Pepples Donut Farm that his flagship vegan donut shop/diner is now offering its popular raised donuts every day. Since opening in 2010, Pepples has offered an assortment of its uniquely flavored cake donuts (like Candycap, Orange Creamsicle and Szechuan Chai)  on a daily basis, but its glazed yeast-raised donuts, twists and apple and banana fritters on weekends only. Now, we raised donut fans don’t have to wait for the weekend. All of Pepples donuts are 100% vegan and made with organic ingredients. Pepples Donut Farm,  6037 San Pablo Ave. (near 61st), Oakland

KASPER’S PLAZA UPDATE Last week, the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District (TTBID) held the first of two community feedback sessions this month for its proposal to create a pedestrian plaza surrounding the Kasper’s building on Shattuck Avenue near 45th Street. The project is a collaboration with landscape architecture firm Groundworks Design and the Temescal Neighborhood Council, which will transform the triangular-shaped plaza and surrounding sidewalks into a more usable and safe community gathering space. The iconic Flatiron building, however, will remain shuttered. The former hot dog joint is owned by Harry Yaglijian, the grandson of the eponymous Kasper Koojoolian who opened Kasper’s on Telegraph Avenue in 1943. Yaglijian closed Kasper’s in 2003, with various plans over the years to reopen. Most recently, Yaglijian had been working on a deal to sell Kasper’s to the owner of the nearby Kingfish Pub, but the deal fell through and at this time, Yaglijian has no further plans to do anything with the building.

With Kasper’s in limbo, TTBID decided to move forward by working on designing the area surrounding the landmark, to improve car, bike and pedestrian safety and to create a functional but aesthetically pleasing public plaza. At the April 3 meeting, which took place at Hawk and Pony, Groundworks presented three design concepts for the plaza, which includes greenery, bike lanes, public art, play structures, seating and a dedicated area for its current event programs like food truck markets and movie nights. TTBID executive director Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner said the association has applied for funding from the city and some improvements will hopefully begin by the end of this summer, but the project cannot move forward without support from the community. Aside from feedback on the design plans, TTBID is asking residents and area businesses for volunteers and donations to implement the changes. The next community feedback session will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. April 18 at Faith Presbyterian Church, 430 49th St. (near Webster), Oakland 

Redfield Cider Bar and Bottle Shop owners Mike Reis and Olivia Maki. Photo: Brenton Gieser 

HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES? Hard cider fans will want to head to Rockridge in Oakland, when a new cider-focused bar and bottle shop opens later this year. Redfield Cider Bar & Bottle Shop takes over the space last occupied by See Jane Run on College Avenue and will focus on high-quality apple-based brews from France, Spain, England, as well as small-batch products from American cidermakers. Owners Olivia Maki and Mike Reis hope Redfield will be a welcoming place for both aficionados and newbs to the drink, where they can learn about the history, cultural practices and terroir of ciders, or just find an interesting bottle of fermented, alcoholic apple juice to enjoy. Maki, who has a background in communications and marketing in the food and agriculture world, also has hands-on farming experience in California and Vermont. Reis, a cicerone, was the co-director of the beverage programs at San Francisco beer havens Monk’s Kettle and Abbot’s Cellar. Both Maki and Reis were part of the launching of the cider category of the Good Food Awards. Redfield Cider and Bottle Shop will be at 5815 College Ave. (near Chabot), Oakland

TUCKER’S ICE CREAM UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP Alameda’s 77-year-old Tucker’s Super Creamed Ice Cream just got new owners. Alameda residents Erika Zimmerman and Joshua Cook (who are married to Stephen Zimmerman and Lauren Zimmerman Cook, respectively, the CEO and COO of Alameda senior care community, AEC Living) are the fourth owners of the local, independent ice cream parlor that first opened in 1941. Tucker’s will celebrate the transfer of ownership with a ribbon-cutting and free baby scoops for guests at 1 p.m., Sunday, April 15. Tucker’s Super Creamed Ice Cream, 1349 Park St. (near Central), Alameda