Bites: Tribune Tavern’s return; Berkeley Philz closes; Sliver opens

Chris and Jana Pastena in front of the Tribune Tavern, which they will reopen. Photo: Chris Pastena/Facebook

THE TRIBUNE’S RETURN In 2013, Tom Henderson and restaurateur Chris Pastena opened the Tribune Tavern, a restaurant at the base of the iconic Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland. The pair parted ways in 2014 under contentious circumstances. Pastena sued Henderson, but they settled out of court and Henderson ended up with the restaurant. But it all fell apart in 2017, when allegations of fraud were brought against Henderson by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Shortly after, the restaurant closed. Today, Pastena, who also owns Chop Bar, Lungomare and Calavera, announced on Facebook that he and his wife, Jana, will be reopening the Tribune Tavern. Pastena wrote in his post, “We were soon contacted by the new ownership, Harvest Partners. They saw and understood the creative and artistic vision we had for the original Tribune Tavern. Harvest has been a great partner and put together a fully financed package to get us back our beloved treasure!! We are incredibly happy and enthusiastic to announce that we will be re-opening the Tribune Tavern in all its original glory in the Fall of 2019!!!”  

Philz closed its Shattuck Avenue location in Berkeley on Dec. 30. Photo: Naoto Sato

AN EARLY FAREWELL In October, Nosh reported that the Gourmet Ghetto location of Philz would close on Jan. 13, but the café at 1600 Shattuck Ave. (at Cedar) ended up making an early exit; it shut its doors for good on Dec. 30. Philz owner Jacob Jaber told Nosh back in October that the company decided to close the location because the store’s multi-level layout made it difficult for workflow and a good customer experience. When we stopped by the café this morning, workers were inside packing up the store; several customers who had not yet gotten word of its closure attempted to go inside and were confused and disappointed by the shutter. Fortunately, there are two locations not too far, for those who need their Philz fix: 1313 Ninth Street (at Gilman) in Berkeley and 6310 College Ave. (at Claremont) on the Berkeley-Oakland border.   

SUNSET FOR CANTINA DEL SOL Over in Albany, Cantina Del Sol quietly closed its doors on Christmas Eve. The sit-down Mexican restaurant at 1175 Solano Ave. (at Stannage) was operated by the 1100 Group (which also runs Little Star Pizza, The Star and Boss Burger). It opened in early 2018, following the closure of the restaurant group’s Pacific Northwest-themed restaurant Café Eugene, and as recently as November, had brought on Armando Navarro as co-owner and executive chef. We spoke with 1100 Group media director DJ Letemps, who told Nosh that the company decided to close Cantina Del Sol because they “couldn’t give it the attention and focus it needed.” He said it had always wanted Cantina Del Sol to go beyond the typical taqueria that diners are used to in this area, but felt “spread too thin” to execute it well. Letemps said that although there are no plans for what’s next, the group is “actively looking to partner with someone” to help them open something new in the space.

Sliver in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Sliver Pizzeria

SLIVER RETURNS DOWNTOWN In December 2017, Sliver Pizzeria closed its Center Street location in downtown Berkeley, and in 2018, opened two new restaurants in Southside, Berkeley and  in Rockridge. When it opened the Telegraph Avenue spot, it reassured fans that Sliver would be returning to downtown Berkeley, opening another location at 2174 Shattuck Ave., in the new downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. That day has finally come. This morning, Sliver took to social media to announce its soft opening today. But, if you’re looking for freebies, make a note to come back on Jan. 7, when Sliver will host a “welcome back to downtown Berkeley” event, when it will give away one free slice per customer from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sliver Pizzeria, 2174 Shattuck Ave. (between Center and Allston), Berkeley


MERRITT BAKERY ON LAKESHORE Signs for Merritt Bakery have gone up in the former Moroccan Palace Restaurant on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland. The bakery was established in the Eastlake neighborhood back in 1952 and is best-known for its fried chicken and giant hamburger-shaped cakes. It moved to the former Kwik Way at 500 Lake Park Ave. in 2015, where it operates as a take-out window. We were unable to get comment about the new location from management but spoke with an employee on the phone, who confirmed the new location on Lakeshore Avenue, but could not tell us an opening date. The restaurant is currently hiring for this location. Although Merritt Bakery had originally planned for the Lake Park location to be a temporary outpost, the Kwik Way spot is still open, and the employee we spoke with said there are no plans to close it. Merritt Bakery will be at 3355 Lakeshore Ave. (near Mandana), Oakland

Left to right: Mario Tejada, his daughter, Rosalinda, daughter Margarita and Mario junior at the Mario’s La Fiesta farewell event in 2011. Photo: Tracey Taylor

R.I.P. MARIO We received some sad news the other day about the passing of a Berkeley icon — Mario Tejada, founder of Mario’s La Fiesta, passed away on Dec. 28. Tejada and his wife Rosalinda opened the sit-down Mexican restaurant on Telegraph Avenue near the Cal campus in the 1950s and operated the business for 52 years, until it closed in 2011. Many generations of Berkeleyans and Cal alumni have had many meals at Mario’s, where the plates of food were generous and affordable, and the vibe was friendly and festive. But aside from being a favorite local restaurateur, Tejada was also respected for his work helping those in need in the community. Lupe Gallegos-Diaz, director of Chicanx/Latinx Student Development Division of Equity and Inclusion at Cal, wrote a loving tribute to Tejada in a Facebook post, which mentions that he had “helped many people in the community over the years — from quietly feeding the homeless and students, to donating and working for St. Augustine’s in Berkeley, to providing food for wedding receptions for almost nothing and just donating to various community events and to friends and familia.” With Tejada’s family, the Chicanx Latinx Student Development office has started the Mario and Rosalinda Feeding the Bears Scholarship fund, which will be given out annually to address student food insecurities.

Nautical memorabilia from Spenger’s on its way to Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland. Photo: Bart Schultz

SPENGER’S SOUVENIRS Superfans of Spenger’s, which closed in October, take note: you can buy a piece of memorabilia from the 128-year restaurant, what was once Berkeley’s oldest eatery. Alicia Spenger, the great-granddaughter of longtime owner Frank Spenger, who ran the restaurant in its heyday, from about 1940-1998, told Nosh, “Our families restaurant artifacts are going to be auctioned off at Clars Auction House January 19, 20 and February 16, 17.”  The first two auctions will be solely dedicated to Spenger’s Maritime Collection, which includes maritime-themed objects, including pilot ships’ wheels, dive helmets, ship signs, ship bells and scale ship models. If you’ve ogled the taxidermy hanging in Spenger’s main room and bar, you’ll also want to note that these items will also be for sale at his auction. The second two days will be dedicated to other Spenger’s heirlooms, like the Star of Denmark 34.2 carat canary diamond, which Frank Spenger was known to carry in a specially tailored pocket and show off to bar patrons. After he died, the diamond was placed in a special viewing case in the Diamond Bar. Other items for auction will be a six-foot Japanese cloisonné case created for display at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the last of the maritime artifacts. A complete catalog of items will be available two weeks prior to each sale and will have complete lot descriptions and estimates.

OHLONE EATS  Next Tuesday, Jan. 8, Berkeley’s Café Ohlone will start its weekly tawwa-sii Tuesdays, an evening tea hour. (Tawwa-sii means “tea” in the Chochenyo language.) The event costs $10 and will take place 5:30-6:30 p.m. every Tuesday, featuring seasonal East Bay-gathered Native teas and small bites. For more substantial eats, Café Ohlone hosts a weekly Thursdays Tastings event, where diners can enjoy a lunch of seasonal eats and locally gathered teas. Thursday Tastings take place 1-3 p.m. and cost $20. Café Ohlone by Mak-‘amham, University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way (between Dana and Telegraph), Berkeley

ICE CREAM DONUTS TO TEMESCAL Sweet lovers in Temescal may be disappointed to hear that Tara’s Organic Ice Cream shop closed its Telegraph Avenue location on Dec. 30, but will be relieved to hear another shop will continue the ice cream tradition, with a twist. East Bay Express reported that Sacramento’s I Scream Donuts will open in the space, serving ice cream served inside a hot glazed donut. I Scream Donuts, operated by Katie Wages, hopes to open sometime this month. As for Tara’s, although the Temescal locale shuttered, its Berkeley location on College Avenue remains open. I Scream Donuts will be at 4731 Telegraph Ave. (at 48th), Oakland