Author Archives: Kate Williams

Sweetgreen: Bringing salads to downtown Berkeley

Apple, pear and cheddar salad from Sweetgreen. Photo: Sweetgreen
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It may no longer serve hamburgers, but the Oscar’s building on Berkeley’s Shattuck Avenue will retain its retro image when it opens in spring 2016. That’s because the new tenant, Washington D.C.-based Sweetgreen, is keeping the building’s signature arches, as well as its distinctive signage, even though it is transforming the space from a burger joint to a healthy, vegetable-focused fast-casual restaurant.

“We want to keep Oscar’s history alive,” Sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet told Nosh in a sit-down interview Tuesday. “It was an incredible business to last for over 60 years.”

But, Jammet said, Oscar’s represented the tail-end of a different era of dining. “It’s exciting to see a new chapter for the space.” … Continue reading »

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The Ivy Room in Albany is returning to its roots

Summer Gerbing (left) and Lani Torres are the new owners of Albany's Ivy Room. Photo: Kate Williams
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The Ivy Room‘s iconic neon shines like a welcoming beacon as you drive north on San Pablo Avenue into Albany. The bar is the first of a few in the half mile-long stretch of the avenue between Solano and the El Cerrito border — Club Mallard, the Hotsy Totsy Club and newcomer Albany Taproom all share this space — but it has, for the last several weeks, been closed.

Don’t miss the Nosh Guide to Drinking Around Berkeley!

If you manage to peek behind the butcher paper taped on the windows, you will see a transformation taking place. Again.

Over the last decade, the Ivy Room has shifted hands — and identities — three times. Throughout the 90s and early 2000s, the bar was a small music venue and neighborhood watering hole run by Dot MacBeath and, later, her son Bill. In 2006, the MacBeaths sold the space to the owner of Kingman’s Lucky Lounge (now The Libertine), who transformed the dive bar into a lounge-like club. It continued to putter along in this way until 2012, when Tanya and Ronaldo Colli took over, decked out the space in reclaimed wood and rebar, and started pouring scratch-made cocktails. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Nick and Aron’s closes, Craft Beer Cellar, more

Photo: Nick and Aron's
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Openings, closings

NICK AND ARON’S IS NO MORE After being open for only seven months, Nick and Aron’s has closed. The Temescal restaurant announced the closure on Facebook, and its last day of service was Nov. 16. Nick and Aron’s was the second restaurant from Aron Ford and Nick Yapor-Cox, who also own Nick’s Pizza on Shattuck Avenue. The full-service restaurant built upon Nick’s pizza menu, serving dishes like wood-roasted chicken and meatballs in addition to Nick’s signature “Oakland-style” pies. Nick and Aron’s also served a killer breakfast and baked goods menu, and will surely be missed by the neighborhood. According to the Facebook post, the restaurant was “no longer able to pay the high costs of running a large operation.” Ford and Yapor-Cox did say that they have “been so welcomed by the neighborhood, and it breaks our hearts to stop service.” Nick’s Pizza will remain open. Nick and Aron’s was at 4316 Telegraph Ave. (at 44th Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook. Nick’s Pizza is at 6211 Shattuck Ave. (at 62nd Street), Oakland. Connect with Nick’s Pizza on Facebook.Continue reading »

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La Marcha: A mostly delicious work-in-progress

Wild boar meatballs, creamy tomato sauce, shaved manchego, English peas at La Marcha. Photo: Kate Williams
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Spanish food may be getting ready to have its moment — again.

It was the cuisine to eat in the early 2000s. Where I lived in Portland, tapas restaurants seemed to open up every week. We all learned about patatas bravas, chorizo and Rioja. Diners got a taste of small plates and hedonistic, hours-long meals at late hours. And then something happened.

“Tapas” became fusion-ized. New restaurant “concepts” claimed to serve “Japanese tapas” or “Scandinavian tapas.” Small plates became the trend du jour; its roots became stuffy and forgotten.

But here we are at the tail end of 2015 and tapas are suddenly relevant again. Duende in Uptown has been going strong for three years. Shakewell in the Lakeshore neighborhood proved popular as soon as it opened last year. Barcelona’s Teleféric is getting ready to open its first U.S. location in Walnut Creek. And West Berkeley is now getting in on that action.

Earlier this month, the owners of the mobile catering outfit Ñora Spanish Cuisine opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, La Marcha. The small dining room at the corner of San Pablo and University avenues is a love letter to Spain, a celebration of the casual, exuberant cuisine that we fell for a decade ago. … Continue reading »

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Bites: T-Rex BBQ, Café Gratitude, Firebrand, more

Photo: T-Rex BBQ/Facebook
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Openings, closings

T-REX BBQ TEMPORARILY CLOSED We received several tips that West Berkeley’s T-Rex BBQ has closed. A sign posted on the door reads: “T Rex is closed for the near future due to management changes. We appreciate your patronage, and hope to see you again in the near future.” We confirmed with the restaurant owners that the closure is temporary. It will re-open this afternoon at 4 p.m. For now, T-Rex will only serve dinner on weeknights. It will remain open for brunch through dinner on Saturdays and Sundays. The restaurant, which serves an array of barbecue styles, had an ownership shuffle in 2012. The original owners, Haig and Cindy Krikorian, of the K2 restaurant group (Lalime’s), sold the business to Matt Sturm, of Fly Bar and Solstice in San Francisco. T-Rex BBQ is at 1300 10th St. (at Gilman Street), Berkeley.Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Café Gratitude closing by end of 2015

A bowl full of gratitude at Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley. Photo: Danielle Torres-Molinski
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After nearly 10 years of operation in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, Café Gratitude is closing.

The restaurant will cease operations by the end of 2015. Owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart told NOSH that they intend to focus on “farming and the six Southern California restaurants.”

“We have enjoyed serving the East Bay community,” they continued, “and thank them for their loyal patronage, and our employees for their years of service and dedication.” … Continue reading »

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Anvil Brewing taking shape in West Berkeley

Test batches of beer in progress at the future Anvil Brewing site. Photo: Sean Wells
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The newest West Berkeley brewery will likely open in spring 2016 on Gilman Street.

Anvil Brewing, a small craft brewery started by home brewers Sean Wells and Tim Sellmeyer, is beginning construction on the brewery site in the coming days. (We broke the news on the brewery, to be located at 912 Gilman St., in May.)

Wells told NOSH this week that Anvil has plans for a two-phase build-out that will include not only a 762 square-foot tasting room, but an adjacent quick-service restaurant as well. Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved Anvil’s use permit for both phases during its Oct. 22 meeting.

Wells says that there is not much improvement work necessary for the brewery and tasting room, so construction will move quickly. They will likely begin work on restaurant, which will be located at 916 Gilman St., later in 2016. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Passione Pizza truck, Park Street Grill

Photo: Passione Pizza
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Openings, closings…

PASSIONE PIZZA NOW HAS A FOOD TRUCK Berkeley-based pizza company Passione Pizza debuted its first fully functional food truck in October in Sacramento. The truck will make its first East Bay appearance next week. Passione has been selling pre-made pizza dough and par-baked pizzas using high-quality wheat and gluten-free flours since 2013. The company had operated a mobile pizza oven for catering events since its beginnings, but owner Fabrizio Cercatore, who also runs Hot Italian in Emeryville, says on the company website that the demand far exceeded the capacity of the small oven. Hence, the new food truck. Passione has been very well-received so far. Yelper Michael M. said, “Passione Pizza tastes exactly like the fresh bread served in the trattorias in Rome.” Dave F. called the crust “amazing.” And Nana D. said of the pre-made dough: “It is by far the best pizza dough I have ever tried making it at home!” Passione Pizza is at 2326 5th Street (between Bancroft and Channing ways), Berkeley. Connect with the pizzeria on Facebook and Twitter.Continue reading »

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Bancroft Way food trucks’ days are numbered

Photo: Dojo Dog/Facebook
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Berkeley’s Bancroft Way won’t have food trucks for much longer.

The permits that authorize Dojo Dog, Healthy Heavenly Foods and Kettle Corn Star, which are currently parked at the intersection of Bancroft and College Avenue, will expire March 31, 2016. The city does not plan to renew any of the permits. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley group opening Oakland spot Tap & Snack

A original rendering of the new development. Image courtesy: Joel DiGorgio
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Farm League Design and Management Group, the company behind popular Berkeley drinking and eating establishments Tigerlily, East Bay Spice Company, Westbrae Biergarten, and the recently opened Herb n’ Chicken, is opening a new fast-casual restaurant right next to the MacArthur BART station.

Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack will be a part of a large, mixed-use development complex at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 40th Street. The hope is that it will “act as an annex of sorts” for the BART station, Joel DiGiorgio of Farm League told NOSH. … Continue reading »

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Mark Bittman joins Purple Carrot, Josephine board

UC Berkeley's Philip Stark (left), Mark Bittman and UC Berkeley's Tom Carlson foraging in West Oakland.  Photo: University of California
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The news broke Monday morning that cookbook author and former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman, who recently relocated to Berkeley, is joining the Boston-based meal kit company The Purple Carrot as its chief innovation officer.

Bittman also has his hands in the East Bay start-up scene, however. As of today, Bittman has joined the board of Oakland-based Josephine, the self-described “Etsy for food” that connects enterprising home cooks to hungry eaters around the East Bay and San Francisco. Bittman has been a friend of the Josephine founders since moving to the Bay Area in early 2015. … Continue reading »

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Bites: La Marcha, Mamacitas Café, Novel Brewing

Paella at La Marcha. Photo: Phi Tran
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Openings, closings…

LA MARCHA OPEN IN WEST BERKELEY We knew that La Marcha, the brick-and-mortar location for Ñora Spanish Cuisine at 2026 San Pablo Ave., was getting close to opening last month. Today the restaurant is open. La Marcha’s name is a reference to to the typical late-night Spanish bar crawl, where patrons stroll from place to place and enjoy small plates and drinks throughout the evening. The Spanish-inspired restaurant is serving around 25 tapas and eight to nine paella dishes, plus dessert. These paella dishes range from traditional preparations 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 is featuring 20 different sherries, plus 30 Spanish wines by the bottle, 3 wines on tap, Spanish-style ciders and Bay Area craft beers. La Marcha is at 2026 San Pablo Ave. (near University Avenue), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.Continue reading »

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Wood Tavern owners taking over Bay Wolf space

Photo: Bay Wolf
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Oakland’s iconic Bay Wolf space is not going to stay empty for long. The 40-year-old Piedmont Avenue restaurant, which closed Aug. 30, is going to be in the hands of another pair of well-known Oakland restaurateurs — Rich and Rebekah Wood.

The Woods, of course, own Rockridge’s Wood Tavern on the Oakland-Berkeley border, a favorite of neighborhood diners and critics — so popular in fact that snagging a table there can prove difficult. The couple — who also own sandwich spot Southie, next door to Wood Tavern, opened in 2011—  announced on Monday in the Mercury News that they were taking over the lease of the Bay Wolf space.

The Woods are following in the wake of a local culinary institution. Michael Wild opened the warm, wood-paneled Bay Wolf restaurant in a Craftsman house at 3853 Piedmont Ave. with partners Michael Phelps and Larry Goldman in September 1975, three years after Chez Panisse opened in Berkeley. Like Alice Waters’ celebrated, and similarly styled, restaurant, Bay Wolf was known from the start for its locally sourced, seasonal menu. … Continue reading »

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