From the start, restaurant goers and food critics dug the low-key, west Berkeley breakfast, lunch, and brunch spot serving stylish takes on classic American fare with quirky names like The Demon Lover (spicy fried chicken and buttermilk waffles).
900 Grayson, an unassuming corner restaurant with a maple pink facade, quietly attracted a following for its menu of comfort cuisine made from quality ingredients – like the natural beef burger with applewood smoked bacon and house-made BBQ sauce — as well as its fresh seasonal fare with Asian undertones like the Ladyboy (a Vietnamese inspired dish with lemongrass prawns, mango, daikon, rice noodles, toasted rice powder and micro greens).
Not long after it opened six years ago, though, the business started by four partners hit some snags. First came the fast departure of chef-partner Sophina Uong (now behind the stoves at Oakland’s Pican). Eighteen months later her former life and work partner, Josh Pearl, followed suit.
A legal dispute over money followed: The two ex-partners were pitted against brothers Anthony and Christopher Saulnier, who stayed on to run the restaurant. Add to that wranglings with Berkeley’s zoning department over dinner hours — the city had concerns about noise and congestion from the restaurant, which is in a residential area that fronts busy Seventh Street — and the restaurateurs had their hands full.
But the Saulniers weathered that early rough patch and now boast a loyal breakfast crowd, which mostly hails from Berkeley, and a steady lunch-time clientele, thanks largely to nearby businesses such as Pixar, Bayer, Novartis, and a host of smaller companies. These days the kitchen is run by committee, with two chefs, Eric Larson and Nick Spelletich, in charge. Larson was featured serving up 900 Grayson grub on an episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” show for the Food Network.
Berkeleyside spoke with co-owner Chris Saulnier, 43, after the lunch rush last week. … Continue reading »