Tag Archives: Berkeley dining

Smoke’s Poutinerie opens first U.S. store in Berkeley

Smoke's Poutinerie, which has just opened in Berkeley. Photo: Shelby Pope
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By Shelby Pope/Bay Area Bites

The Canadians are coming, and they’re bringing poutine. Smoke’s Poutinerie opened on Durant Avenue in Berkeley on Monday, Dec. 8 (as first reported on Berkeleyside in September). The first U.S. location of a popular fast food chain with over 100 stores in Canada, the restaurant only sells poutine, the gloriously nap-inducing Quebec dish of fries tossed with gravy and topped with cheese curds.

Why Berkeley for the first U.S. store? Ironically, it’s all because of a few enterprising Southern Californians. Los Angeles-based film producers Robert Parada and Danny Rodriguez went out drinking one night during a visit to Berkeley, and when they left the bar, they were struck by the amount of people — and potential customers — out late in Berkeley. Along with a third partner, they approached Smoke’s founder and CEO Ryan Smolkin with the idea of opening a Berkeley location of the chain, which they had tried and loved during a visit to Winnipeg. … Continue reading »

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Vegan deli to open in old La Farine spot on Solano

The retail space at xxxx Solano Ave. that, until July, housed La Farine, is likely to have a new food tenant soon. Photo: Trachtenberg Architects
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The space at 1820 Solano Ave., left vacant by La Farine bakery in July, is to be filled by a new-concept vegan deli-style food retailer, The Butcher’s Son, opening around mid-February 2015.

Peter Fikaris and his sister, Christina Stobing, will be running the new business which is partially funded by their father, Michael, well-known for his eatery, Michael’s American Vegetarian Diner, a popular ’50s-style eating spot on Telegraph Avenue in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We will offer specialty vegan cheeses and meats, sausages, salami, fresh mozzarella, salads, sides, and sandwiches,” said Fikaris. The deli will have a pizza oven, making baked thin-crust pizza and a raw deep-dish pizza will also be on the menu.

“It will be all vegan, raw and cooked, and made in house,” he added. … Continue reading »

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Solano Avenue: The pressure is on for North Berkeley shopping district to up its game

The Oaks on Solano, as of September 2014. Photo: Mary Flaherty
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When French-style bakery La Farine abruptly closed up shop on Berkeley’s Solano Avenue this summer, there was an outcry from local residents. Its departure also created another empty storefront on a street that has its fair share of them, particularly in its easternmost stretch, near The Alameda.

But La Farine owner Jeff Dodge said he misses the North Berkeley commercial district and is actively looking for a way to return there. And Gina Gould, the landlord of the building Dodge vacated, at 1820 Solano, said she’s confident she will sign up a new, likely food-related, business for the space before Christmas.

The new store will join a cluster of new businesses that have opened, or are about to, on the wide shopping street that stretches 2 miles east to west through Albany and Berkeley.

Will they bring new energy to a street that is known for its gigantic annual Solano Stroll event, but which, unlike Berkeley’s Elmwood or Gourmet Ghetto neighborhoods, retains a slightly folksy feel? … Continue reading »

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Bites: Iron Pan, The Branch Line, La Marcha, more

Gather Restaurant is celebrating its fifth birthday with a special menu that will benefit . Photo- Gather
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Openings, closings…

ÑORA SPANISH CUISINE TO BERKELEY A popular pop-up and catering operation featuring Spanish food looks like it’s aiming to open a new shop in Berkeley at San Pablo and University avenues. The folks behind Ñora Spanish Cuisine, which has previously popped up at La Peña Cultural Center for special events, are seeking an on-sale beer and wine license in the former Tomo’s Japanese location at 2026 San Pablo under the name of La Marcha. (Tomo’s closed earlier this year.) Sergio Monleon and Emily Sarlatte are listed as La Marcha’s officers, as per the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC. Berkeleyside will find out more and report back. La Marcha is set to open at 2026 San Pablo Ave., in Berkeley. Connect with Ñora on Facebook and on its website.Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

85C Bakery Cafe opening in San Diego
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LONGBRANCH SALOON San Pablo Avenue’s Longbranch is now open, according to tipster Amanda Fox. The restaurant, which took over the old Sea Salt location, describes itself as a “New American Restaurant/Gastro Pub.” It serves a range of comfort-food-style dishes and has an extensive list of beers, whiskeys and cocktails. Some dishes have a distinctly British-sounding spin, including potted pork trotter, the goat cheese and leek tart, and bangers and mash. Also on the menu: toasted farro and roasted cauliflower salad, pan-seared black cod and bone-in ribeye with béarnaise sauce. Longbranch is located at 2512 San Pablo Ave. (at Dwight Way) in Berkeley. Connect with the business on Facebook.Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Cocktail invention at food mecca Corso

Justin Sutton making cocktails at Corso. Photo Corso
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At the height of service, it’s not always easy to get into a conversation with a bartender, even when you are a person who calls herself Ms Barstool. So we set up a pre-cocktail meeting with bar manager Justin Sutton and bartender Matt Bruns prior to hopping on a barstool at Trattoria Corso in Berkeley.

We wanted to hear about some changes the trattoria has undergone, including a new bar program, and what happened when they took the TVs away.

Sutton, a former Marine, had jobs in several local dining establishments, including Absinthe in San Francisco and Revival in Berkeley, before finding his way to Corso. Bruns went to culinary school, worked in several restaurants in Atlanta, then moved here and started a new business in town.

Both Sutton and Bruns were delighted to have the chance to talk about what they do, and to share some of their behind-the-bar techniques. A dedicated bartender will tell you that what one orders off the cocktail menu is often the result of several tries at getting the drink just right. Bruns said he likes to put a “modern-day twist” on the cocktails he creates. (Bruns also creates at Shrub & Co based at Berkeley Kitchens, producing a variety of shrubs: a blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar—originally intended as a way to preserve fruit in Colonial times, now enjoying a second career as tasty additions to cocktails.) … Continue reading »

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Go slurp: 6 Berkeley, Oakland spots to eat ramen

Ramen Shop. Photo Ramen Shop
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If you’ve noticed the new wave of ramen places opening lately, you’re not alone. But like everything else, not all ramen restaurants are created equal. Ramen lovers are a discerning bunch, and not every bowl of noodles in fatty broth passes muster. We did the work for you so you can just go slurp and enjoy. Below are six that are worth checking out, though, as always, we’d love to hear about your favorites if they’re not mentioned.

1. Ramen Shop

“Mind Blown.” “Mouthgasm.” Such words don’t come easily from Ramen lovers on Yelp, but since Ramen Shop (pictured top) opened in late 2012, the Rockridge spot has become the gold standard for ramen in the East Bay. Whether it’s the Chez Panisse pedigree, the Japanese noodle machine or the expertly paired cocktails, these guys are doing something right, as evident by the long lines to eat there. In August, it was reported that they’re taking over the former luggage shop next door, and expanding both the dining and bar space. Appetizers include salads, a much-raved about squid and pork fried rice and house-made pickles; ramen usually comes in three types, with one being vegetarian, often a meyer lemon that is so savory and rich that you may not miss the meat. Yelpers give high praise for its chashu (braised pork belly) and shoyu-marinated eggs, not to mention its black sesame ice cream sandwich for dessert. Ramen Shop is at 5812 College Ave., Oakland. Hours: Mon., Weds., & Thurs. 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Fri., 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sat. 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sun., 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Connect with Ramen Shop on Facebook.Continue reading »

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Bites: Cat Town Café, Boss Burgers, Zella’s soul food

Cat Town Cafe
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Openings, closings…

CAT TOWN CAFE A new café where cats reign has opened in Oakland in in the heart of the city’s historic Auto Row. Co-founded by Ann Dunn and Adam Myatt, Cat Town Café gives cat lovers the chance to grab a coffee and a bite in the company of feline friends, and also acts as a cat adoption center. “The café part is going to be completely self-contained within the larger property. You’ll walk in, get your goodies, then go in to the Cat Zone,” said Dunn, also the founder of Cat Town, a non-profit that has been rescuing at-risk shelter cats in partnership with Oakland Animal Services since 2011. The menu includes bagels from the Authentic Bagel Co., sandwiches from S+M Vegan, and coffee from Bicycle Coffee Company, as well as catnip tea, for people and cats. There’s also Cat Macaroons from Shades of Sugar and other treats from Oakland’s Kitchener Collective. Once in the Cat Zone, patrons can purchase dehydrated treats from RAWR, an Oakland-based raw cat food purveyor. Guests are welcome to walk-in to the Cat Zone for a free visit limited to 60 minutes, or, for a small donation, be able to guarantee entry via an online reservation system. It’s believed Cat Town Café is America’s first permanent cat café. The Cat Town Café is at 2869 Broadway, at 29th St. Opening hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday; the Cat Zone is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. More information can be found at Cat Town Café’s website. … Continue reading »

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A Dora Pie opens in former Slow spot in Berkeley

The type of offering we can expect at A Dora Pie, which has just opened in downtown Berkeley. Photo: A Dora Pie
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The row of cafés and storefronts on the 1900 block of Berkeley’s University Avenue has seen a few abrupt closures this year, including the much-loved Slow restaurant and Bittersweet Café. But these have also opened up room for a new vision from Christopher Blue and his wife Jess Steeve, owners of the Chocolatier Blue shop in that same block, and its sister stores. Their new pie and coffee shop, A Dora Pie, had its soft opening on Sunday, Oct. 26, in the space that, until last month, housed Slow, run by chef Kyle Anderson.

Chris Blue was an investor in Anderson’s restaurant and a friend. Both chefs, who met at Charlie Trotter’s and are fellow Nebraskans, share a vision of serving accessible, honest gourmet food. When Anderson and his family decided to head back to their home state after four successful years with Slow, Blue didn’t want to replicate someone else’s inspiration. It was Anderson’s kitchen, and Slow wouldn’t be the same without him. … Continue reading »

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Farm Burger brings Southern flair to East Bay scene

Farm Burger did a popup grill serving burgers at the grand opening of Gilman District recently. Photo: courtesy Farm Burger
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Think the East Bay has its fair share of burger restaurants? Think again.

Starting early next month, West Berkeley will welcome the fifth location of Farm Burger, a grass-fed burger franchise from Atlanta, Georgia. Farm Burger will join Philz Coffee, Doughnut Dolly, and Whole Foods in the brand-new Gilman District development at 10th and Gilman.

Farm Burger started with a stroke of luck. Founders George Frangos and Jason Mann originally met when Frangos ran a reference check for one of Mann’s old employees. At the time, Mann was at the helm of the Athens, GA farm-to-table restaurant, Farm 255, and Frangos was managing restaurants in Atlanta, GA and Portsmouth, NH. After meeting, Mann hired Frangos to consult on his restaurant.

“He and I were just sitting around one day looking at the business model for his restaurant and we realized that what really sold were a lot of burgers,” said Frangos. “At one point I thought, ‘We should just open up a grass-fed burger place, raise all the cattle, and call it a day.’ The idea stuck with me.” … Continue reading »

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Josephine: Creating home-cooked meals, community

Julie Hotz for the photo of Charley & Tal
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On Thursday evenings, a black clapboard sign sits outside Terry Betts’ West Berkeley home. A steady trickle of people stops by to fill their own containers with Greek-style chicken cooked with honey, cinnamon, tomatoes and garbanzo beans, rice pilaf and a cucumber salad on the side.

While there, they can choose from a few add-ons, like home-made granola, fresh juices and a plum cake for dessert. Some sit around the living room and chat for awhile before leaving.

Betts is a talented home cook who is making additional income each week through Josephine, a new start-up offering home-cooked meals for sale. On another night, she offered Vietnamese tamarind chicken with rice noodles, and on another, it was Polish stuffed cabbage. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Tia’s, Longbranch, Descanso, Plank and more

Dana Zumot, the new owner of Tia's, a cafe that has replaced Levant, which was only open a few weeks. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Openings, closings…

TIA’S A new café called Tia’s is set to open imminently at the spot once occupied by the short-lived Levant Organic Café on the corner of Kittredge and Oxford streets in downtown Berkeley. The owner, Dana Zumot, has previously worked as a restaurant manager and her love of cooking led her to open her own place at 2177 Kittredge St. Tia’s will be a casual café serving salads and panini sandwiches, as well as coffee and tea. With its location close to the Cal campus, and its light-filled atmosphere, Zumot is hoping Tia’s becomes a popular hang-out space. Telephone the café at 510-647-9863 to confirm it is open before venturing out. … Continue reading »

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9 new Berkeley, Oakland spots to eat and drink beer

Photo: Trappist Provisions
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1. Hog’s Apothecary

Hog’s Apothecary just passed its one-year anniversary in Temescal, and it already seems like a neighborhood fixture. With 33 local craft brews on tap — some may come from as far away as the Pacific Northwest — and a Cicerone (beer sommelier) on staff, this place takes its beer seriously. (There are also bottles, and a few wines and sodas). Chef-owner John Streit has designed a menu that is pork-heavy (with a name like that, is that a surprise?) offering charcuterie, sausages and lard-fried potato chips, but there are plenty of non-pork and vegetarian options, too. Communal tables encourage conversation, especially about what beer you’re drinking. Tip: Though a casual place, it’s extremely popular, and those in the know make reservations on OpenTable. Also, while you may discover your new favorite beer there, don’t count on it to be there the next time you go; taps change constantly, as does the menu. Follow the business on Facebook to learn what new beers are being poured. Hog’s Apothecary is at 375 40th St., Oakland. Hours: Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight. Closed Tuesdays. Continue reading »

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