Bites: Grégoire reopens after fire, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement stays in Emeryville

Gourmet ghetto takeout eatery Grégoire reopened on May 13 after a fire in April temporarily closed the business. Photo: Sarah Han

GRÉGOIRE IS BACK On Monday, hungry diners in the Gourmet Ghetto were elated to find beloved neighborhood spot Grégoire back in business. The pint-sized French take-out eatery owned by couple Grégoire and Tara Jacquet suffered a kitchen fire in April that temporarily closed the business, but things were back in full swing when we stopped by on Monday evening to pick up a couple of sandwiches for dinner. Tara Jacquet told Nosh, “One customer stopped to say how happy she was that we had opened back up so quickly, another customer just popped their head in to say they were glad to see us back open, others waved and hollered from their cars as they drove by the restaurant and saw that we were open.” If that sounds like hyperbole, we can verify seeing similar reactions with our own eyes. While we waited for our order, we witnessed several groups of passersby do a double take and then get in line for food when they noticed the eatery was open again.

The April 2 fire was put out within minutes of Berkeley Fire Department arriving on the scene, but as the restaurant is so small, nearly the entire space was damaged. Jacquet said the restaurant has completely new kitchen equipment and a fresh coat of paint. “Reopening so quickly could not have been possible without the support and hard work from Levitch Associates, King Painting, and Fire and Water Damage Recovery,” she added.

So, get thee to Grégoire — there’s a batch of fresh, hot crispy potato puffs calling your name. Grégoire is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily. Grégoire, 2109 Cedar St. (at Shattuck), Berkeley  

Fernay McPherson (left) at Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement at Public Market Emeryville. Photo: Public Market Emeryville

PUBLIC MARKET UPDATES Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement was originally supposed to be a temporary vendor at the Public Market Emeryville. Chef-owner Fernay McPherson, a La Cocina alumna, took over the turn-key incubator kiosk at the food hall in February 2018, with the intention of eventually moving on and opening a brick-and-mortar in the Fillmore District, where she grew up. But to the relief of her growing legion of East Bay fans (Nosh included; her rosemary fried chicken is a favorite), this week, Public Market Emeryville announced that McPherson has signed a longtime lease and will move to a larger permanent stall. In the new space, she’ll expand Minnie Bell’s menu, offering rotating specials and new dishes like candied yams and fried chicken salad.

When Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement moves out of its stall, another La Cocina graduate will take its place. Mama Lamees, run by Lamees Dabhour, will offer home-style Middle Eastern fare that speaks to her Palestinian background, upbringing in Kuwait and years of living in various Middle Eastern countries as an employee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Currently, Mama Lamees offers catering and has appeared at food vendor gatherings like Off the Grid Fort Mason and the Mission Community Market. Her specialties include savory breads and pastries like lahmeh (topped with minced meat, tomatoes, onions and pinenuts) and biljibneh (topped with feta, mozzarella and black cumin); finger foods like waraq malfouf (cabbage rolls) and kibbie (fried and beef-stuffed bulgur wheat fritters), and larger entrees where meats like chicken, lamb and beef meatballs take center stage.


Diners can expect the new Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement kiosk and Mama Lamees to open in mid-summer. Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville

ARMENIAN FEAST FEST The 66th annual Armenian Food Festival returns to Oakland this weekend. Taking place 5:30 p.m. to midnight, Friday, and noon to midnight, Saturday, at St. Vartan church, the annual celebration of Armenian culture features an array of tempting foods, including dishes like chicken or lamb shish kebab and luleh (ground lamb and beef) kebab, beoreg (baked phyllo pastries stuffed with meat or cheese), sarma (stuffed grape leaves) and imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant). Full dinner plates will be available until 8 p.m., but some items will be available for purchase all night, including dessert pastries and lahmajoon (Armenian “pizza”) packaged to-go. While food is the main attraction, guests at the fest will also get a taste of Armenian culture, with live music and dancing, church tours and cultural displays. Admission is $3 ($1 for kids 6-14; free for 5 and under). St. Vartan Armenian Church, 650 Spruce St., Oakland

The Harrison Street side of Fieldwork Brewing Company in Berkeley, where a sidewalk is being constructed. Photo: Fieldwork Brewing Company/Facebook

WHERE THE SIDEWALK STARTS Last week, Fieldwork Brewing Company in Berkeley announced on Facebook that construction of a sidewalk on Harrison Street, between Fifth and Sixth streets, has begun. The project originated in 2016, when the city received grant funding to close existing sidewalk gaps in commercial and high-volume pedestrian areas in West Berkeley.

Fieldwork told Nosh, “The city has been progressing construction through the improvement areas for many years and now it’s our turn. We’re thrilled to have this improvement in the neighborhood for ADA accessibility and pedestrian safety between Fifth and Sixth Street.”

The project will also include the installation of additional bike racks and a white curb loading zone to allow for quick drop-off and pick-up at the taproom. Construction started on Friday and is scheduled to continue for another four to five weeks. The brewery said that once the sidewalk is installed, it can expand its existing outdoor patio, which will call for a wood fold-down bench for more seating along the brewery’s wall and a standing railing.

Currently, there is no sidewalk on the north side of Harrison Street or even official parking spaces, but drivers were able to park their cars on an angle in the gravel area. According to Deputy Director of Public Works Andrew Brozyna, “Prior to the work starting, pedestrians would walk into the vehicular travel lane to get around the diagonally parked cars to the south side of the building where Fieldwork Brewing Company is located. These improvements will substantially increase pedestrian safety and improve ADA accessibility in the area.”

Fieldwork’s Facebook announcement was met with support from some, but also concern by others, who are dismayed that the new sidewalk will mean less street parking. The brewery responded to comments, but held fast that increasing safety and accessibility is “the right thing to do.” Fieldwork Brewing Company, 1160 Sixth St. (at Harrison), Berkeley


UMAMI MART SOFT OPENS The new North Oakland location of Umami Mart has opened today. The Japanese barware and bottle shop moved from 815 Broadway in Old Oakland, where it first opened as a retail shop in 2012 to 4027 Broadway on the outer edge of Temescal. The new space has a similar modern, clean and design-forward aesthetic to the original store, but with the addition of a tasting room in the back, where staff will be able to serve Japanese sakes, craft beer, shochus and other spirits on the premises. For now, Umami Mart is in soft opening phase. Hours are noon to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Monday, closed Tuesday (Tasting room is open Friday through Sunday). Umami Mart, 4027 Broadway (near 40th), Oakland

CRAVE BBQ UPDATE This week, Oakland pop-up Crave BBQ announced it will no longer be moving into the California Hotel in West Oakland. Last November, Nosh reported that Crave chef Rashad Armstead would partner with East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), the non-profit working to turn the historic building into a visual and performing arts hub. Crave BBQ had intentions to open a brick-and-mortar, start a food incubator program to train young up-and-coming restaurant entrepreneurs, and open a blues café at the hotel. In Tuesday’s Crave BBQ newsletter, Armstead said the plans would not be moving forward and he would continue to offer catering and host pop-up instead. We have reached out to Armstead and EBALDC for more information and will update this post with further details if provided.

At the original Yali’s Oxford Street Café, which opened in 1999. Photo: Yali’s Oxford Street Café/Facebook

YAY FOR YALI’S Yali’s Café in Berkeley is turning 20 this month. The green-certified café started on Oxford Street in May 1999, and now has three locations on the Cal campus. Owners Leah and Ayal Amzel shared memories about opening their original location on the border of downtown Berkeley and the Gourmet Ghetto: “We opened in one of [local developer] Patrick Kennedy’s very first buildings, back when Starbucks was taking over everywhere. He took a chance on an owner-operated independent café. Before it was vogue, we used a small local roaster, local vendors and made most everything by scratch. We’ve been a mainstay for west side campus students and faculty. We had employees who came to us as small children. The community of customers has given much pleasure.  It’s a wonderful milestone, especially in this hard climate for small businesses.” Congrats to Yali’s! Yali’s Café, 1920 Oxford St. (at Berkeley Way), Berkeley

FRESH & JUICY A new spot called Hip Hop Juice Box is taking over the space last occupied by Scarlet City Expresso Bar in Emeryville. Nosh spotted the public notice of application to sell alcoholic beverages in the window, which states it will be an eating place serving beer and wine. Further digging turned up the Hip Hop Juice Box Instagram account, which reveals the business will serve fresh juices, coffee, craft beer, wine and more in a space paying homage to rap and hip-hop heroes like E-40, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, and artwork by Oakland muralist Steven Anderson. Owner Eric Turner says he does not yet have an opening date on the schedule, but stay tuned on Nosh for more details about his new business. Hip Hop Juice Box will be at 3960 Adeline St. (at 40th), Emeryville

FREE OCHO & ICE CREAM When Humphry Slocombe opened in Berkeley, co-founders Jake Godby and Sean Vahey said they’d be collaborating with more East Bay makers on new flavors. At the time, they already had recipes in the works using alternative dairy products from Eclipse Food Co., gourmet oils from La Tourangelle, sour beer from The Rare Barrel and chocolate from TCHO (all out of Berkeley). Its most recent East Bay collab is with West Oakland organic chocolate company, OCHO. Brown Butter with Peanut Butter Candy features chunks of OCHO’s peanut butter candy bars. On Thursday, starting at 5 p.m. until sold out, Humphry Slocombe in Berkeley will be giving out free scoops of the flavor, along with free OCHO mini candy bars. Humphry Slocombe, 2948 College Ave. (at Ashby), Berkeley

DINNER IS COMING For the past few Sundays, local Game of Thrones fans have converged for free happy hour viewing parties at Honor Kitchen and Cocktails in Emeryville, where they’ve sipped on special mixed drinks (Blood and Sand) and scotch flights and supped on meaty “Beast” dinner specials before tucking into the show. This Sunday, Honor will honor the very last episode with a GoT finale feast that could satisfy the appetite of Tormund Giantsbane. Starting at 5 p.m., Honor will serve a three-course prix fixe dinner, featuring a menu of beef carpaccio with pretzel roll, a choice of house smoked pork ribs or braised boneless beef short ribs on garlic mash with peas and carrots, and rice pudding with stewed cherries, strawberries and raspberries. The dinner is $40. Then, at 9 p.m., Honor will screen the episode. Honor Kitchen and Cocktails, 1411 Powell St. (at Hollis), Emeryville


NOKNI SUNDAY SUPPER Chefs Steve Joo and Julya Shin are taking over the kitchen at Homestead this Sunday, bringing a ssam feast under the umbrella of their California-Korean pop-up, Nokni. Expect a communal dining experience, with a menu featuring passed snacks, local fish crudo, spicy chilled acorn noodles, tofu with herbs and soy dipping sauce, whole trout and dwenjang (fermented bean paste) marinated pork, all served with rice, kimchi and other banchan. For dessert, there’ll be a perilla seed pannacotta with berries and mignardise. Tickets are $100 (includes food, beverage and service). 8 p.m. seating has sold out, but there are still seats for 5 p.m. Homestead, 4029 Piedmont Ave. (at 41st), Oakland