BBOX Robot baristas have arrived in Berkeley, joining a growing fleet of Jetsons-style A.I. coffee servers in the Bay Area. Taking orders via app and tablet are robots “Bev” and “Jarvis,” that prepare Highwire Coffee drinks in a short, mesmerizing production-line ballet of whirring arm motions within a “robot terrarium.” For more details, read Berkeleyside contributor Cirrus Wood’s feature story — and see the robots in action — at this futuristic coffee window from Nourish. Bbox, Berkeley Way West Building, 2121 Berkeley Way (at Shattuck), Berkeley
1951 COFFEE COMPANY KIOSK Lending interesting contrast to Bbox, 1951 Coffee Company has opened its third retail location with the very human cause of providing training, jobs and support for refugees, asylum-seekers and those with special immigrant visas. The nonprofit’s shiny new coffee kiosk at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza is open weekdays, offering coffee and espresso drinks beginning at 7 a.m. 1951 Coffee Company kiosk, 2160 Shattuck (between Center and Addison), Berkeley
WINE SO CRU Nosh filled us in on this new sophisticated wine bar and tasting lounge in West Berkeley from sommelier Nu-Beer Putthongvilai. The welcoming, elegant space features local and international varietals by the glass, flight and bottle, as well as a (faux) fireplace, cush settees and a retail area. Oenophiles might want to check out the weekday happy hour from 3-6 p.m., when wines by the glass are $2 off. Wine So Cru, 800 University (at Fifth), Berkeley
CRUNCH Korean-fusion fast-casual restaurant Crunch at 2144 Center St. is papered over with a sign announcing “temporary” closure for maintenance, though for how long is unclear. Stay tuned for further details as they (and the windows) are uncovered.
THE SMOKEHOUSE The Smokehouse’s small roof-vent fire the evening of Valentine’s Day was at first only supposed to require a brief closure and minor fix. But repairs, reconstruction and permitting mean the 68-year-old East Bay roadhouse will probably stay dormant for at least six months. A Berkeley summer without Smokehouse burgers, fries or milkshakes? I guess we’ll survive… somehow. Good luck beloved grill team, and come back soon.
JUICE BAR COLLECTIVE After more than four decades of history on Vine Street, between Shattuck and Walnut, The Juice Bar Collective is now closed. A sign on the Juice Bar Collective’s counter appeared mid-February revealing the organization’s last day at that location would be Feb. 28. Despite reports to the contrary — including what was written on the sign and relayed by members of the group — the collective’s lawyer, Malcolm Leader-Picone, said the worker-owned North Berkeley pillar is not moving to Center Street. Instead, it filed a dissolution with the state the final week of February and has called it quits for good. It appears that the juice shop and take-out counter spot closed before deadline. A note posted on the door, seen on what was to be its last day, read: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are closed today.”
BAR SHIRU Uptown got itself a new happy place in Bar Shiru, a cocktail bar and lounge with a focus on quality analog acoustics, namely playing jazz (and its many relations) on vinyl. Modeled after high-fidelity listening bars in Tokyo, the modern-yet-warm space from wife-and-husband owners Shirin Raza and Daniel Gahr features a library of vinyl albums that are curated and played in their entirety for the whole bar’s enjoyment. The design of the room (from Berkeley-based firm Studio KDA) ensures optimum analog sound while allowing for mingling and conversation, and the cocktail menu is equally smooth. For now, no food is served, but that might change in the coming months. Note to groups: No more than seven at a time, please. Bar Shiru, 1611 Telegraph Ave. (between 16th and 17th), Oakland
BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN As of Feb. 20, the lines that used to form outside of chef Tanya Holland’s now-closed Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland, can now queue up outside not one but two newly opened BSKs, including the long-anticipated new flagship in Uptown. Taking a slice of the former Pican space, Holland has created a roomy, inviting eatery at which to linger over her famed buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, as well as dishes such as smoked chicken and shrimp gumbo, barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, breakfast items such as poached eggs and pork hash, and biscuits, beignets and all the sides. For now the restaurant is breakfast, brunch and lunch only, with dinner as a possibility down the line. The second new BSK is inside the Ferry Building in San Francisco: Oakland’s soulful Top Chef has been busy. Brown Sugar Kitchen, 2295 Broadway (between 23rd and Grand), Oakland
CAFÉ MONTE SION This warm little neighborhood café offers coffee drinks, smoothies, crepes, bagel and deli sandwiches, and hot panini from first-time owner Alma Casillas and her husband Ernesto Moran. Casillas has experience cooking for her church, and her new café has a similarly spiritual atmosphere. Café Monte Sion, 888 98th Ave. (at San Leandro), Oakland
CROOKED CITY CIDER TAP HOUSE The grand opening for Dana Bushouse’s long-awaited Crooked City Cider Tap House was on Feb. 23 in Jack London Square. The 2,800-square-foot space (with dog-friendly patio) features 25 taps dedicated to local, national and international craft ciders, along with 10 craft beers. Bar bites, many of which come vegan and gluten-free, are from Town Square Eats, a collaboration from chefs James Yu, Rob Lam and Dino Vazquez. Bushouse has brewed unfiltered, artisanal cider under the Crooked City name since 2014, but a taproom has long been her end goal. Look out for the cider boss’s not-so-subtle nod to her own “crooked” roots — large-scale, Prohibition-era mugshots of her two moonshiner great-uncles, framed on the wall. Crooked City Cider Tap House, 206 Broadway (between Second and Third), Oakland
CUPCAKIN’ BAKE SHOP Berkeley-based Cupcakin’ Bake Shop softly opened its second retail location inside Swan’s Market Feb. 22, giving Oakland its own destination for owner (and Oakland native) Lila Owens’ sought-after cupcakes. It’s been an ambitious few months for the popular baker: In September, she moved her Berkeley storefront from Durant to 2391 Telegraph Ave., and has also announced future plans to open her third outpost in the former Virginia Bakery space, possibly as soon as June. Find her full cupcake menu here, and check social media for special flavors, grand opening details — and inventory, as unsurprisingly she does a brisk business. Cupcakin’ Bake Shop at Swan’s Market, 907 Washington St. (between Ninth and 10th), Oakland
EMPORIUM OAKLAND Eater reported that Chicago-based Emporium, a small-but-growing chain of high-energy arcade/bar/event spaces for the 21-and-older crowd, opened its first Oakland location on Feb. 27. The Uptown space is in the former Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café, in the same building as The Fox Theatre. Though not as sizeable as the multi-level San Francisco location, Emporium Oakland contains more than 30 arcade games, including pinball, foosball, skeeball, air hockey and video games galore, as well as a full cocktail and craft beer bar (no food yet but pop-up chef events are to come as there is a full kitchen). Murals are by local artists, DJs spin on weekends and the entire space can be rented for private events. Emporium Oakland, 1805 Telegraph Ave. (between 18th and 19th), Oakland
THE EVEREST MOMO This Sunnyvale-based Himalayan food purveyor is winning over Bay Area dumpling-lovers one momo at a time. Along with catering services and four food trucks — including one in Berkeley at the Chevron gas station at 1500 University Ave. — The Everest Momo group is now slinging fast-casual Nepalese dumplings, fried rice and chow mein noodle plates out of its first brick-and-mortar on Broadway. The budget-friendly eatery with counter service serves lunch and early dinner daily, and is popular for takeout. The Everest Momo Oakland, 2212 Broadway (between 22nd and Grand), Oakland
LEMON PEPPER VIETNAMESE CUISINE Lemon Pepper has opened near Oakland’s Eastlake neighborhood, serving casual Vietnamese street food such as Saigon-style broken rice plates, vermicelli, goat specialties and soups from pho to hu tieu. Lemon Pepper Vietnamese Cuisine, 1060 E. 12th St. (at 11th Ave.), Oakland
MARICA Pizza who? After a brief-but-grand experiment, Pizza Marica nee Marica has reverted back to its former identity, and the entree-based dinner menu has returned by popular demand. Marica, 5301 College Ave. (between Clifton and Manilla), Oakland
PHO KING East Oakland’s Pho King relocated in December to a portion of the original Merritt Bakery site, into a space double the size of its original location on International Boulevard. The restaurant also now has a parking lot. The wide menu of craveable Vietnamese noodle soups remains the same, and is available beginning at 9 a.m. every day except Tuesday. Pho King, 207 E. 18th St. (at Second), Oakland
RICO RICO TACO The excellently-named Rico Rico Taco opened inside a former Subway on Lakeshore the weekend of Feb. 23, and has already garnered some pretty favorable Yelp reviews for its fresh-made tortillas and flavorful meats. Rico Rico Taco, 3205 Lakeshore Ave. (between Rand and Lake Park), Oakland
TAMARACK Community-minded and collectively-run Tamarack restaurant and café has softly opened in Downtown Oakland, and for now is serving nourishing dinners, craft cocktails, beer and wine on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. Wholesome, weekly-changing menu items such as miso kale polenta soup or house beans and rice (options run from vegan to omnivore) can be ordered for one or shared with a group, family-style. Look for expanded hours, including coffee service, in the coming weeks. The restaurant also hopes to provide space for classes, solidarity events and other gatherings going forward. Bonus fact: The restaurant was named for the tamarack, one of the few tree species that are both deciduous and conifer. Tamarack, 1501 Harrison St. (at 15th), Oakland
THE TRAPPIST PROVISIONS Another Rockridge rewind happened this month with the return of Belgian beer tap and tasting room The Trappist Provisions. Opened as such in 2013, the shop became Mikkeller Oakland under the same owners in 2016, but the original — a sibling of The Trappist — was missed. The Trappist Provisions, 6309 College Ave. (at 63rd), Oakland
HELLA VEGAN EATS Classic Cars West Beer Garden owner Michael Sarcona calls the venue’s three-year collaboration with pop-up Hella Vegan Eats a successful run, but has decided to reclaim his kitchen, hire a chef and hopes to launch a new menu March 1. Meanwhile, Hella Vegan Eats has set up a fundraising site for folks to help support the group while it navigates where to land after its final service at the beer garden on Feb. 28.
OSMANTHUS Asian-fusion dining room Osmanthus closed after service on Jan. 31, ending a Rockridge tenure of just over five years. Nosh revealed the news that the owners of downtown Berkeley’s popular Imm Thai Street Food intend to open a second restaurant, called Yimm, in the space in the coming months.
YOGURT DELUXE FLAVOR OF THE DAY Locally-owned Yogurt Deluxe at 3203 Lakeshore has closed, and will no doubt be missed by families in that neighborhood for its quick, convenient ice cream, fro-yo and other treats. Here’s hoping a new sweet shop takes over the space.
THE HALAL GUYS FREMONT On Feb. 8, gyro outfit The Halal Guys celebrated its grand opening in Fremont, its sixth Bay Area opening since launching in San Francisco in 2017. The popular New York-based franchise is rooted in a humble Middle Eastern chicken and gyro cart (with colorful sauces) from three Egyptian immigrants and retains a cultish following despite its recent, rapid growth away from the streets and into the strip malls. Check out the Fremont lines. The Halal Guys Fremont, 5338 Curie St. (between Christy and Pacific Commons), Fremont
ROAM ARTISAN BURGERS SAN RAMON Roam if you want to, Roam to San Ramon. Roam Artisan Burgers opened in the burgeoning City Center Bishop Ranch complex, bringing its upscale-casual menu of fresh beef, lamb, veg and bison burgers with creative, quality toppings to the foodie destination. The San Ramon location is the San Francisco-based burger chain’s sixth eatery. Roam Artisan Burgers San Ramon, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Rd, Ste. 1101 (between Sunset and Camino Ramon), San Ramon
SUPER DUPER BURGERS EMERYVILLE Yet another San Francisco-based burger restaurant Super Duper Burgers opened its 15th Bay Area location on Feb. 25 inside the Public Market Emeryville. A hungry crowd braved the rain and cold to try the spacious counter-service spot’s fast-casual burgers with beef from local ranches (juicy, served medium, with add-ons like cheese and bacon), fries, Straus Creamery milkshakes and soft-serve, as well as healthier fare such as salads and chicken sandwiches. The restaurant offers plenty of seating and can be accessed either from within the Public Market’s food court or via its own street-side entrance. No breakfast yet at this location, but Super Duper Emeryville is open every day for lunch and dinner from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Super Duper Burgers Emeryville, Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville
SWEETHONEY DESSERT ALAMEDA Hong Kong-style sweets and snacks are on offer at this latest location from Sweethoney, an international chain of dessert stores with hundreds of storefronts throughout Asia and Australia, and a growing presence in the U.S., the Bay Area in particular. Look for a wide, colorful variety of flavored dessert soups, tofu puddings, rice balls, sago, glutinous rice concoctions, curried fish balls and many other small sweet and savory choices at this comfortable café-style shop. Sweethoney Dessert, Alameda South Shore Center, 411 S. Shore, Alameda
LE CHEVAL WALNUT CREEK Family-owned since 1985, the prominent Le Cheval clan of Vietnamese-fusion restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley (Le Petit Cheval, closed after 15 years in 2014), and Walnut Creek, has seen a soap opera’s worth of drama over the decades. Longtime fans know the story of the original Old Oakland location’s closure due to fraud committed by its former landlord, and its remarkable rebirth in the same space two years later. The Feb. 24 shuttering of Le Cheval Walnut Creek after 11 years might be less of a saga — the rent had climbed too high — but it’s no less tragic. (Don’t expect this location to ride again.) Meanwhile, the Oakland Le Cheval is still going strong at 1007 Clay St.
THE NANTUCKET Crockett’s waterfront has lost a landmark with the Feb. 17 closure of old-school fish house The Nantucket. According to SFGate, the home-style seafood restaurant with views onto the Carquinez Bridge has been in operation under different names for 89 years, and under The Nantucket moniker since 1975. Unofficially, the closure might have something to do with unpaid rent and neglect across the entire Crockett Marina, but no public explanation has been offered, and there is no word yet on what will happen with the restaurant building. For Bay Area old-timers, it’s yet one more farewell to an eatery with decades of history.