Bites: Souvenir Coffee opens in Albany; North Light in Oakland; Route 123 food truck marketplace update

Souvenir Coffee Co.’s new Albany café on opening day, Jan. 14, 2019. Photo: Sarah Han

AN ALBANY SOUVENIR On Monday, Berkeley-based Souvenir Coffee Co. opened its second location. Found on Solano Avenue in Albany, the new café is in the former Squeeze Juice Bar space. Although it’s smaller than Souvenir’s original Claremont Avenue location, it affords plenty of inviting seating (and a standing bar) for customers who want to stay a while to leisurely enjoy their coffee. For now, the café serves coffee, teas and other drinks, as well as baked goods from Oakland’s Batch Pastries, but owner Jeremy Bled said customers should expect a new food menu, featuring sandwiches, toasts, quiches, waffles, salads and eventually, soups. The new space will allow Souvenir to prepare many of its menu items to order. Bled said he plans to keep the menu affordable, with meals costing $10-$15 or less. For now, he’s just excited to finally be open in Albany. This week, Souvenir is inviting customers in for a free cup of coffee in celebration of its opening. Souvenir Coffee, 1114 Solano Ave. (at Kains), Albany

MORE COFFEE NEWS San Francisco’s Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters is heading to North Berkeley. The new coffee shop, co-founded by Nick Cho and Trish Rothgeb, will be a second location for Wrecking Ball, which will take over the recently closed Philz space on Shattuck Avenue. According to Eater, Cho and Rothgeb were deliberate in opening in the Gourmet Ghetto because of the neighborhood’s diversity and progressive values, but also because they’re sensitive to gentrification issues in other parts of the East Bay. “I wouldn’t feel good about dropping something in West Oakland or some other East Bay neighborhoods,” Cho told Eater. Wrecking Ball plans to offer not only coffee, but a food menu and various non-coffee drinks. The café will open as soon as early May. Wrecking Ball Coffee will be at 1600 Shattuck Ave. (at Cedar), Berkeley

FOR THE RECORD A new bar inspired by Japanese jazz cafés is coming to the historic Latham Square Building in Uptown Oakland. As reported by Eater, Bar Shiru will be run by first-time bar owners, Daniel Gahr and Shirin Raza. Modeled after listening establishments in Japan known as hi-fi bars, Bar Shiru’s focus is specifically homed in on recordings on vinyl. According to the Bar Shiru website, guests will hear “records played in their entirety on a beautiful analog sound system in a space built with acoustics as a priority.” Of course, it is a bar, so drinks will also be a priority. Gahr and Raza have tapped Farm League Restaurant Group to create its beverage program, which will offer beer, sake, highballs and whisky, along with low-ABV cocktails and refreshments for teetotalers too. As there will not be a kitchen on the premises, eats will be limited to light bar snacks. Bar Shiru plans to open for business in mid-February. Bar Shiru will be at 1611 Telegraph Ave. (near 16th), Oakland 

FEELING BOOKISH If reading a book while sipping a beer is more your speed, you’ll want to know about North Light, an all-day restaurant and bar opening this week in Temescal where literature lovers fear not tread. Co-owners Dan Stone and Lee Smith said of North Light, taking over the former Marc 49 space, “After contemplating our shared love of books and bars — and reading books in bars — we decided to open a place of our own.” Yes, the bar will serve beer, wine and cocktails, but the co-owners hope the neighborhood will see their new spot as a cozy, family-friendly neighborhood hangout (it’ll even sell a curated selection of books and music by their favorite artists). The kitchen, helmed by chef Ronnie New (formerly of San Francisco’s Alamo Drafthouse), will serve coffee and light breakfast items like English muffins, granola and yogurt and egg sandwiches from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.; lunch fare, including salads, wraps and sandwiches from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and an all-day menu featuring toasts, a grain bowl and patatas bravas. For the kiddos, there’s grilled cheese, hummus and veggies, and meatballs served with Amatriciana sauce and bread. North Light will test the waters with a soft opening this week; it’ll be open 3-10 p.m., Thursday to Sunday. The following week, starting Jan. 22, it will be open 7 a.m. to midnight (daily, except Mondays) for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. North Light will be at 4915 Telegraph Ave. (near 49th), Oakland 


Picnic, a women-owned business from Albany, won a 2019 Good Food Award for its chicken liver mousse. Photo: Picnic

IT’S ALL GOOD Over the weekend, the Good Food Awards announced its 2019 winners. From more than 2,000 entries, 220 winners were chosen as the best sustainable food crafters in America. Congratulations are in order for the 11 East Bay food makers that took home awards. Three local businesses won for meaty products: Berkeley’s Fra’Mani Handcrafted Foods for its Salametto (a dry Piemontese-style salame); Albany’s Picnicfeatured recently on Nosh, for its chicken liver mousse; and Richmond’s Incontro Cured for its Jamón Mangalitsa. While Concord’s boutique caviar company, Tsar Nicoulai Caviar received its second Good Food Award for its smoked sturgeon (it won its first in 2017). Several makers won for drinks-related products: Oakland’s Purely Drinks for its Chai Spice Pear Shrub; Richmond’s Far West Cider Co. for its OB Amarillo Cider and Falcon Spirits Distillery for its Botanica Spiritvs Barrel Finished Gin; San Leandro’s Cleophus Quealy Beer Company for its Strawberry Rhubarb Sour beer; and Livermore’s Workhouse Rye for its Salted Cacao Bitters. Akka’s Handcrafted Foods, which makes Indian condiments in Fremont, clinched the award for its Tomato Chutney. And, finally, Jackrabbit California Olive Oil from Berkeley won accolades for its Frantoio Variety olive oil.

CHECKING IN ON ROUTE 123 Last March, we broke the news of plans for Route 123, a food truck marketplace coming to 2609-2613 San Pablo Avenue. We checked in with developers NX Ventures to see where the project stands. According to project manager Ann Simmons, Route 123 is still happening, but it will be a scaled-back version of the ambitious original plan. When we first reported on the project, Route 123 had hoped to be a large indoor-outdoor gathering space, with a dining hall, bar and space for 14 food trucks (five rotating vendors and nine permanent trailers) — inspired by similar food truck convergences like Spark Social and SOMA StrEat Food Park in San Francisco. Simmons said plans were changed after the City of Berkeley required the developers to conduct a noise study and a parking study, which required them to reduce the size and scope of the site. The new plans, which will be submitted on Thursday, will call for three permitted food trailers on site and two rotating food trucks. Simmons named a few vendors that have signed on so far: Pappy’s Seafood from chef Mark Furr (chef at Tiburon Yacht Club); Boriqua Kitchen, a Puerto Rican operation by Oakland chef Darren Anthony Lamboy; and Halal Bites of Chicago out of San Ramon. Aside from the smaller cadre of food vendors, some of the hoped-for amenities — like a bocce court — have been scrapped, but NX Ventures says that if they get the go-ahead, Route 123 could open as soon as late spring.

Agnolotti di Zucca being prepared at Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails in Alameda. Photo: Trabocco

ALAMEDA EATS The second annual Alameda Restaurant Week kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 17 for 11 days of feasting on the East Bay island at 40 participating restaurants. Alameda takes pride in being a little different, so it’s not surprising that there event is a little looser in structure than its sisters Restaurant Weeks in Oakland and Berkeley. Instead of prix fixe menus at set prices, expect a variety of discounts and promotions including set menus, happy hour promotions, buy-one-get-one offers, and free desserts, cocktails or appetizers. A few Alameda newbs are taking part, including Town Tavern, which serves a cocktail and a choice of bar bite for $20, and Thai rolled ice cream and poke place Roll & Bowl, which offers a curated menu of their most popular snacks and desserts for a discount. But plenty of neighborhood favorites are on the docket too: there’s Lolo’s Chicken Shack, offering a $10 meal with a choice of chicken tenders, Southwestern Chicken Burger, Cabo Chicken Sandwich, Pesto Chicken Sandwich or Asian Citrus Salad with fries or a side salad and fountain drink; seasonal Italian go-to Trabocco, with a $28 three-course lunch (main entree choices include housemade pasta, wood-grilled chicken breast salad and house-marinated ahi tuna salad) and a $40 three course-dinner (entree choices are wood-fired chicken, grilled salmon or Agnolotti Di Zucca, a pasta filled with butternut squash, walnuts brown butter sage and Parmesan). Our favorite deal of the bunch is from old-school Mama Papa Lithuania — two $12 three-course meals, featuring soup, handmade dumplings or wild caught cod, a cup of tea and dessert.

MUNCH INDIA CLOSED FOR NOW We just got word that Munch India has currently closed its food truck and restaurant in Berkeley until further notice due to a family emergency. The restaurant was one of our 12 top picks for Berkeley Restaurant Week, but it’s possible that it will not reopen for the event at all. Munch India urges customers to check its Twitter page for an update on its reopening.

Sweet cheesecakes from Berkeley’s Crumble & Whisk. Photo: Crumble & Whisk

SAY CHEESECAKE Berkeley’s Crumble & Whisk, a wholesale and catering business specializes in seasonal artisan cheesecakes. Baker Charles Farriér, a La Cocina graduate, founded the company in 2013, and sells his 3″ personal-sized cheesecakes at Bay Area farmers markets. Crumble & Whisk uses organic produce sourced, appropriately, from farmers markets, which means the available flavors depend on the season. Most of Farriér’s cheesecakes are sweet, even ones that include more savory ingredients, like his corn and blackberry cheesecake or beet and berry cheesecake, but  starting next week, he’ll launch a new line of savory cheesecakes at his stands: Herb and goat cheese; mushroom and mascarpone, and one with aged cheddar, scallions and lardon. All three flavors will be crustless (and therefore, gluten-free) and are meant to be paired with foods (fruits, nuts, raw vegetables) and wine. Farriér said he tested his savory flavors last year at farmers markets and after a positive response, decided to bring them onto his permanent lineup. Find Crumble & Whisk at East Bay farmers markets: Old Oakland on Fridays, Grand Lake on Saturday and soon to be in Walnut Creek on Sunday. Farriér will also bring his cheesecakes to the upcoming Soul of the City Wine Festival, an event celebrating African American winemakers, taking place Feb. 17 at the California Ballroom (1736 Franklin St., Oakland).