Bites: Reem Assil to leave Dyafa; updates on Arizmendi, Quince after car crash closures

Reem Assil. Photo: Luke Beard

PARTNERSHIP ENDS AT DYAFA Late last week, news broke that chef Reem Assil is parting ways with Dyafa and ending her partnership with Daniel Patterson’s Alta Group, which opened the restaurant with Assil last April. This is a major blow, as Assil has been the main face and force behind the lauded Jack London Square restaurant that has received much praise (including from Nosh) for its Arab cuisine influenced by the chef’s Palestinian-Syrian heritage. Assil also owns Reem’s California, a fast-casual Arab bakery in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood born from a popular farmers market food stand. Over the last two years, she’s continued to gain recognition. This year, she was a James Beard Award semi-finalist (Best Chef: West) and just this month, was named a StarChefs San Francisco Rising Stars Award winner (Restaurateur).

According to the Chronicle, Assil will end her role as a consultant at Dyafa on Aug. 9. Although she has not gone on record about what exactly was the cause for her departure, she offered a general statement to the Chronicle about the problem of partnerships between minority chefs and investor-funded restaurants: “I think many of the relationships end up exploiting (people of color) and women for the social capital they bring rather than helping them build more social capital. We end up getting tokenized without getting enough in return and are not recognized for the full value we bring to the table.” Assil is the third chef to announce a termination of partnership with Alta Group, following Heena Patel, who cut ties with Patterson’s group and now has complete control of Besharam, and Nigel Jones, who closed Kaya and is now suing Patterson. Nosh has reached out to both Assil and Alta Group for comment.

CHECKING IN AT ARIZMENDI Worker-owned Arizmendi-Emeryville has been closed since Dec. 11, when a car crashed into the bakery at 4301 San Pablo Ave. Last month, the collective started a GoFundMe campaign to keep paying employees and fund renovation of the space. While the neighborhood patiently waits for it to reopen, Arizmendi has been hosting pop-up events right outside the bakery, inviting the community for free coffee and baked goods and an opportunity to speak face-to-face with collective members. The collective just hosted a pop-up this morning (from 8-10 a.m.), but if you missed it, they will likely host more until they reopen. Follow @arizmendieville on Instagram to find out about their next event.

WHY IS QUINCE CAFÉ CLOSED? Strangely enough, Arizmendi is not the only San Pablo Avenue food business to have a vehicle crash into it recently. In February, a truck drove through the north side of West Berkeley breakfast and lunch spot, Quince Café & Grill (2228 San Pablo Ave.). Nosh spoke with owner Shireen Shalileh who said the incident occurred on a rainy night, Feb. 13, at around 11 p.m., which meant, fortunately, no one was in the building at the time. Shalileh said the driver was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. Although not obvious from the front of the building, the crash resulted in extensive structural damage to the restaurant. (“Inside was a disaster. He landed in my hot line,” Shalileh said.) While she had hoped for a quick reopening, the scope of the work is much bigger than first thought. Shalileh hopes to reopen Quince in August or September at the earliest, but as construction has yet to even begin, that date may slide back to later in the year.


Burgers, BBQ chicken wings, fries and onions rings from Burgerim. Photo: Burgerim/Facebook

BERKELEY BURGERIM A Nosh tipster alerted us that Israeli fast food chain Burgerim is coming soon to Berkeley. The company’s website lists the location as 1974 University Ave., on the ground floor of the building shared with Stonefire Berkeley student apartments. SFGate reports that the chain, which opened its first Bay Area location in 2018, is quickly expanding, and the company itself boasts that its “projections show that we will be operating nearly 500 stores in the United States by the end of 2019.” In the East Bay alone, there will be a total of 10 new Burgerim locations in Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Concord, Vallejo, San Ramon, Livermore, Antioch and Newark. Burgerim is best known for its mix-and-match 3-oz. sliders and thick-cut round fries, but the menu also offers chicken wings and strips, salads and other fried sides. Some, but not all, Burgerim locations offer an all-halal menu (in the East Bay, those include Pleasant Hill and Pleasanton). Our request for more information from Burgerim about the Berkeley outpost was not answered at time of publication. Nosh walked by the location this morning, which does not appear anywhere close to being a restaurant ready for business.

A TOUCH OF SOUL A new sign on the building at the corner of Broadway and 41st Street in Oakland announces exciting news for fans of New Orleans fare: the Oakland outpost of Brenda’s French Soul Food is coming soon. Chef-restaurateur Brenda Buenviaje and Libby Truesdell currently have three locations in San Francisco (Brenda’s French Soul Food, Libby Jane Café and Brenda’s Meat & Three), and at Brenda’s Oakland, they’ll serve their restaurants’ most popular dishes — like crawfish beignets, fried chicken and po’boys. The Temescal location, found on the bottom floor of new residential building Maya Apartments, will be fast-casual. According to the Brenda’s Oakland website, we should expect the spot to open in summer. We’ll have more details as we get them. Brenda’s Oakland will be at 4045 Broadway (at 41st), Oakland.

Sweet Belly, best known for its soft serve and mini-donut combinations, has closed in Uptown Oakland, but is planning to reopen in another location. Photo: Jessica Nguyen

MANGIA MANGIA, SWEET BELLY CLOSED We learned of two new closures this week: over-the-top ice cream and mini donuts shop Sweet Belly  at 435 19th St. in Uptown Oakland and Italian restaurant Mangia Mangia at 755 San Pablo Ave. in Albany. The good news is that Sweet Belly is planning to come back at another location, although co-owner Alice Woo (who co-owns the dessert spot and nearby restaurant, Belly, with Alan Chun) could not share more details about when or where the new spot will be. As for Mangia Mangia, the 25-year-old restaurant and café does not plan a revival. In a note posted on its door and on its website, the owners write: “It has been our family’s pleasure serving you as we have made so many lifelong friends who have become a part of our extended family. We wish you continued health and happiness through the joy of amazing meals.”

A billboard on College Avenue hints at a new Rockridge location of 1951 Coffee. Photo: Marthe Patterson

1951 COFFEE TO ROCKRIDGE A billboard on College Avenue spotted by Berkeleyside reader Marthe Patterson tipped us off about the next tenants coming to the Spasso café space in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. Our contact at 1951 Coffee Company confirmed the non-profit café and refugee training program, which now has three locations in Berkeley, will be opening at the space. In 2017, Spasso changed owners and reopened last September as a non-profit arts café, but by March, the coffee shop had closed. When Nosh reached out to Spasso co-owners Elizabeth McCoy and Tim Choate in March they said they were “passing the cafe to a new non-profit owner, but still working out the details.” We admit, it fell off our radar, but the photo of the billboard let us connect the dots. 1951 Coffee plans to open in the space in early June. 1951 Coffee Company will be at 6021 College Ave. (near Claremont), Oakland

EAST BAY FAVS IN SF: 

West Berkeley’s Gioia Pizzeria, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this month, is slated to open a new pizza-by-the-slice location in Hayes Valley (at 579 Hayes St.) on June 7. This isn’t Gioia’s first time in SF. Owners Will and Karen Gioia previously had a full-service restaurant in Russian Hill, but the couple closed it last October. For their second go in the city, they’ll focus on what made the original slice shop on Hopkins Street successful. The new Gioia will be small (900 square feet) and fast-casual, offering pizza, heroes, salads and daily specials for take-out and delivery.

Nora Haron, formerly of West Oakland café Drip Line is back in the news. She’s now executive chef at 10-year-old wine bar Local Kitchen in Rincon Hill (at 330 First St.). Those missing Haron’s Singaporean-Indonesian dishes at Drip Line will want to head across the bay, as she’s brought several signature dishes — like her Singapore chicken rice, beef rendang, laksa, and gado gado salad — to Local Kitchen’s menu. Don’t worry, it sounds like Haron still has her heart in the East Bay. She told the Chronicle that she hopes to open a new restaurant in Oakland. If that happens, you know we’ll have more details on Nosh. Stay tuned.

G’BYE, CHRISTOPHER’S; HELLO SYMA’S In February, longtime Albany Tex-Mex restaurant, Christopher’s Nothing Fancy, changed hands. Although the restaurant has been operating under the same name, several Nosh readers have gotten in touch to let us know the owners, staff and menu has changed. And now, the other shoe has dropped — the name changed, too. Going forward, the restaurant will be known as Syma’s Mexican Grill. When Nosh called the restaurant, we were told Syma’s will alter and expand the menu to include breakfast, brunch and happy hour to its lunch and dinner service. Syma’s Mexican Grill, 1019 San Pablo Ave. (at Marin), Albany

The seventh annual Session Beer Fest is happening this Saturday in Jack London Square. Photo: Drakes Brewing Company

IN SESSION This Saturday, from 1 to 5 p.m., Drake’s Brewing Company and Bike East Bay are collaborating to host the seventh annual Session Beer Fest in Jack London Square. More than 30 local craft breweries — including 21st Amendment, Alvarado Street, Cellarmaker, Firestone Walker, Humble Sea, Modern Times, Russian River and Temescal Brewing — will be on site, pouring low-ABV beers. There will also be food, live music, a homebrewing demonstration by the Bay Area Mashers and more. All proceeds benefit Bike East Bay. The event is free and open to all ages, but beer and glasses can only be purchased by those 21+. Package deals for 10 beers and a free commemorative glass are available online. Free bike valet will be provided for those who pedal in. Session Beer Fest will be at Jack London Square, 1 Broadway, Oakland