The East Bay restaurants that opened and closed in May

The jhol momos at Zomsa Himalayan Organic Kitchen in El Cerrito. The dumplings — stuffed with chicken, beef or buffalo — are dipped in a cashew and peanut sauce. Photo: Zomsa Himalayan Organic Kitchen

Berkeley

Open

BEAR’S FOOD COURT The Berkeley location of BurgerMeister is now called Bear’s Food Court. A note at the location explains, “There is no change in ownership or management. The main change is that we are no longer a franchise, but an independent family-owned and run restaurant. Being no longer a franchise, we will be able to offer the same quality food and service at substantially lower prices.” The note also adds that the menu will soon include Cajun-style chicken from Louisiana chain Krispy Krunchy Chicken. Bear’s Food Court, 2237 Shattuck Ave. (at Kittredge), Berkeley

EASTERLY Hunan cuisine is the draw at this bustling new Center Street spot, opened the first weekend in May in the space that was China Center for a brief seven months. Easterly’s menu features Hunan specialties such as griddled bullfrog, stinky tofu and marinated pork feet, as well as noodle dishes, dumplings, vegetable dishes, soups and stir-fries, all with heat levels clearly indicated. (There is also a selection of tempered “Asian fusion” dishes for the less adventurous.) The growing family of Easterly restaurants also has a location in Santa Clara and additional Bay Area spots in the works. Easterly, 2142 Center St. (between Shattuck and Oxford), Berkeley

The Bavette steak sandwich with Saint-André triple crème cheese on a sweet roll from Grégoire in Berkeley. Photo: Grégoire/Facebook

GRÉGOIRE Hooray for Grégoire, resurrected from a spring kitchen fire and refreshed and reopened with impressive speed. On May 13, the community welcomed back this cozy French-inspired gourmet carry-out spot from chef Grégoire Jacquet, that has been a Berkeley favorite for artisanal sandwiches, salads, savory entrees and other fresh fare for lunch and dinner since 2002. Grégoire, 2109 Cedar St. (between Shattuck and Walnut), Berkeley

NIKKO SUSHI Nikko Sushi has taken over from Nanayiro Sushi (and, very briefly, to-go-only Sushi Express) on Shattuck near Channing. The small, dine-in Japanese restaurant is now owned by former Shimizu manager, Gana Nasan, who has retained much of Nanayiro’s former staff. Expect a menu of mostly sushi, but also udon, bento boxes and other cooked alternatives for dine-in or take-out, with an emphasis on value. Nikko Sushi, 2399 Shattuck Ave. (at Channing), Berkeley


PHO LE This new spruced-up casual eatery on the corner of San Pablo and Gilman features a wide range of Chinese and Vietnamese fare (there are also many Thai-inspired dishes) for dine-in or take-out, including “party trays” for groups of up to 20 people. Specialties include meaty entrees such as pong-pong chicken, beef or prawns; grilled pork, beef or chicken rice plates; beef stew; beef pho and other hearty noodle soups. (Nosh has noticed strong similarities between Pho Le and 88 Noodle House in Martinez, but as of press time, any relationship is unconfirmed.) Pho Le is open Tuesday through Sunday. Pho Le, 1301 San Pablo Ave. (at Gilman), Berkeley

Owner Tumi Supanee (left) and chef Wut at Thai Table in Berkeley. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

THAI TABLE University Avenue’s Western stretch welcomed Thai Table this month, from busy husband-and-wife owners Tumi Supanee and Andrew McGee. (Supanee is owner of Thai Rice Spoon Catering and co-owns Orchids Thai, both in Oakland, and McGee is co-owner of Berkeley’s well-loved Albatross Pub, located nearby on San Pablo Avenue). The pretty, clean-lined restaurant features high ceilings and a comfortable, friendly vibe. The menu is flush with Thai favorites: appetizer rolls and satays, soups, salads such as Thai or Lao-style papaya, wok-fried noodles, curries, salads, fried rice, soups and entrees that lean light and flavorful, such as eggplant basil or pad prik king green beans with your choice of protein. Thai Table is open for lunch and dinner every day except Saturday, when it opens for dinner only at 4:30 p.m. Thai Table, 913 University Ave. (between Seventh and Eighth), Berkeley

Closed

LA BEDAINE Earlier this year, Nosh was thrilled to report that Alain Delangle’s French take-out shop La Bedaine at 1585 Solano Ave. was back in business. Delangle had abruptly closed the shop last June after he suffered a stroke, but reopened in January, albeit slowly and in stages. Unfortunately, this week, Nosh learned that Delangle and his wife Judy have decided to close the store for good. A note on the door and on the website explains: “Chers amis, Thank you for your kindness and support over the last ten years!  We truly appreciate the warm embrace of this community. We will move on to our next adventure, and hope to see you around town… Sincerely, Alain and Judy.”

Berkeley Burgers, from the owners of Marin Pizza, closed in May. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

BERKELEY BURGERS Despite the move back to burgers after an ill-fated fast-casual pizza experiment, Berkeley Burgers from the owners of Corte Madera’s Marin Pizza closed at the end of May. A tipster shared the sad discovery, made on National Hamburger Day, that has left a lovely space with a pretty patio near Gilman up for grabs. (Diners may remember this place best as the former Farm Burger.)

BRITTANY CRÊPES Farewell to this cozy University Avenue crêperie from Brittany native Laurent Le Barbier, that closed in March. Luckily, fans can still find Le Barbier’s sweet or savory crêpes and galettes at a variety of local farmers markets, where they have been popular fare for nearly 15 years. The space at 913 University Ave. is now occupied by Thai Table (see Openings).

BURGERMEISTER The Berkeley franchise location of BurgerMeister (2237 Shattuck Ave.) has cut its ties with the San Francisco brand. It is now called Bear’s Food Court (see Openings).

CHICK’N RICE Those waiting for long-closed Chick’N Rice to reopen as Rooster & Rice should seek another source for their khao mun gai. The merged Thai chicken-and-rice outfit has opted not to reopen in Berkeley, and the Center Street space, dormant since last summer, has been sold to future tenant Crave Halal Subs. Look for a June 1 opening for Crave.


CHLOE CAFÉ After less than a year as Chloe Café, the “fairytale” stone cottage next door to Flora Arte on Martin Luther King is under new ownership, and following renovations will become M.Y. Coffee Roastery. Bites has a fuller scoop.

Temporarily closed

FAMOUS BAO Fear not, downtown Berkeley — Famous Bao, at 2116 Shattuck Ave., is apparently only closed temporarily. The restaurant quietly locked its gate near the end of May with no sign posted as to why or for how long, but according to the owner (who also owns Famous Bao on Durant, still open), the Shattuck eatery will reopen in June with a refreshed menu.

Quince Café & Grill has been closed since mid-February, when a truck crashed into the building, causing major structural damage. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

QUINCE CAFÉ & GRILL This little café’s breakfast fare has plenty of devoted fans, many of whom were stunned to find their morning go-to shuttered unexpectedly beginning in mid-February. The culprit, revealed in a May 21 sign posted from owner Shireen Shalileh (and a story in Bites), was a vehicle that crashed into the kitchen side of the building on a rainy night, causing enough structural and electrical damage that Quince Café will be closed at least through the end of summer, possibly longer. Luckily no one was hurt. Stay tuned.

Oakland

Open

Bissap Baobab in Oakland. Photo: Bissap Baobab/Facebook

BISSAP BAOBAB Reopening at 381 15th St. just under the wire at the very end of May is Senegalese food and dance venue Bissap Baobab. Owner Marco Senghor originally closed his East Bay location in 2018, but chose to relaunch the space after a very public immigration trial led to him selling the larger of his two San Francisco venues. Bissap Baobab Oakland is in soft opening mode, but expect a big Oakland welcome this weekend, and for the restaurant’s famed peanut stew and other West African dishes to be available for lunch and dinner in the coming days. Bissap Baobab, 318 15th St. (at Franklin), Oakland

GRAND LAKE KITCHEN DIMOND You could call it a Grand opening — Lake Merritt favorite Grand Lake Kitchen, whose brunch alone has a cultish following, launched larger sister restaurant (with two outdoor patios!) Grand Lake Kitchen Dimond on May 29, in the neighborhood husband-and-wife owners May and Dave Wasem call home. Look for a soft-opening, dinner-only schedule for now, with fuller hours beginning June 5. Read more in Bites. Grand Lake Kitchen Dimond, 2042 MacArthur Blvd. (at Dimond), Oakland

The ceviche at La Guerrera’s Kitchen in Fruitvale. Photo: Tracey Taylor

LA GUERRERA’S KITCHEN Oakland’s The Aloha Club now hosts La Guerrera’s Kitchen, where mother Ofelia Barajas and her daughter, Reyna Maldonado, prepare fresh, simple fare from their native Guerrero, Mexico, for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday. La Guerrera’s Kitchen at The Aloha Club, 954 Fruitvale Ave (at E. 10th), Oakland


RICEPHORIA The chrome-rich, corner restaurant space long ago home to the Claremont Diner was a fast-casual Vietnamese pho eatery called Pho U until recently, when the owners chose to add Korean dishes to Pho U’s menu and rename it Ricephoria. Ricephoria (from the owners of Pho U), 6200 Claremont Ave. (at Florio), Oakland

SHADOWLANDS BOOKSTORE & CAFÉ Love for the printed word comes with a side of hot coffee in a real mug — no disposable cups here — at this new venue from co-owners Sandra Shields and Lou Chosen inside the former College Point Café. Shadowlands is part curated bookstore, part weekly event space (for book clubs, salons), and part membership club (privileges include in-store book borrowing and 20% off new titles), and of course, part café, with coffee drinks, teas, juices, milkshakes and “small eats” including pastries and sandwiches. Note: Baristas here are happy to fill customers’ own reusable travel mugs and cups, but aside from paper napkins, the café aims to produce as little waste as possible. Said Shields via email to Nosh, “In a small way, we’d like to contribute to the dial moving in the right direction, towards more mindful consumption.” She added that the response so far has been positive and in line with many customers’ own values. Shadowlands Bookstore & Café, 5254 College Ave. (between Clifton and Bryant), Oakland

Japanese liquor and greeting cards at Umami Mart in Temescal. Photo: Sarah Han

UMAMI MART Lovers of this cool, beautiful Japanese import shop, formerly located in Old Oakland, will be pleased to explore its new, expanded location now open in Temescal, that boasts its own tasting room for sampling sakes, shochus and Japanese beers. Umami Mart, 4027 Broadway (between 40th and 41st), Oakland

Closed

BARLAGO Philip Raskin’s six-year-old Italian wine bar-restaurant at 550 Grand Ave. shuttered at the end of March. As reported by Nosh earlier this month, it will be the site of a future sister restaurant to Comal.

PARIS BAGUETTE A sharp-eyed tipster alerted us to the closure of this Korean franchise brand’s Oakland location at 14th and Jefferson several weeks ago. The Berkeley Paris Baguette boulangerie remains open, as well as a handful around the greater Bay Area.

SWEET BELLY DESSERTS Nosh looks forward to learning (and sharing) the location of Sweet Belly’s new location, still TBA, now that their 19th Street location has closed.

Beyond

Open

Bounty Hunter’s BBQ Platter. Photo: Bounty Hunter Walnut Creek/Facebook

BOUNTY HUNTER WALNUT CREEK Long a favorite in Wine Country, Walnut Creek now shares in the Bounty of this upscale American barbecue standout that serves what it calls, “campfire cuisine.” This is no casual roadhouse: Well-sauced meats like ribs, brisket and pulled-pork sandwiches are served in a spacious, attractive dining room with professional service that includes a sommelier to help pair a glass of wine (from the extensive list) with that beer can chicken. Bounty Hunter Walnut Creek, 1521 Mount Diablo Blvd. (at S Main), Walnut Creek

BURMA UNIQUE Opened in late April, Burma Unique in Walnut Creek is not just a great rhyme, it’s Walnut Creek’s first and only choice for Burmese food. Residents need no longer drive to other towns for tea leaf salad or samosa soup. Check out the full menus for lunch and dinner here. Burma Unique, 1375 N Broadway (near Cypress), Walnut Creek

Christopher’s Nothing Fancy in Albany has transitioned to Syma’s Mexican Grill. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

SYMA’S MEXICAN GRILL As reported by Nosh, Mexican enclave Christopher’s Nothing Fancy (see Closed, below) changed hands in February and slowly morphed over the course of several weeks into what is now Syma’s Mexican Grill. Owner Sima Dehestani was co-owner for 15 years of Berkeley’s Café Durant, and also works locally as a realtor; she has been busy gradually retooling the menu of Mexican dishes, launching the new name and a new happy hour this month, and greening up the restaurant’s attractive back patio (with small parking lot!) as a pretty spot to enjoy a host of beverages, including a range of aguas fresca and a signature mint margarita. Note: Though Dehestani’s first name is pronounced “See-ma,” the restaurant’s name, suggested by a friend, is meant to be pronounced “SIGH-ma’s” — but, she smiles, “See-ma’s” is fine, too. Syma’s Mexican Grill, 1021 San Pablo Ave. (between Marin and Buchanan), Albany

TUTU’S FOOD & DRINK Rumor has it that, despite new owners and a new name, Tutu’s is maintaining the same menu of homestyle American comfort food of what was formerly Chow Lafayette (see Closed, below), as well as Chow’s interior, vibe and even the staff. So far reception, at least on Yelp, has been positive and grateful. Tutu’s Food & Drink, 53 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette

YUMEYA SUSHI Short-lived Isshin Japanese Restaurant in Walnut Creek is now Yumeya Sushi, presumably from the same owners as the now-closed Yumeya Sushi in San Jose. Yumeya is the fourth attempt at a Japanese restaurant in the 3116 Oak Rd. space in as many years (the location was Mika’s Japanese Cuisine and then Kama Sushi before Isshin took over in 2018). That said, diner reviews so far have been positive, with more than one mention of freshness and value. Yumeya Sushi, 3116 Oak Rd. (between Elena Dr. and Elena Ct.), Walnut Creek

ZOMSA HIMALAYAN ORGANIC KITCHEN This new family-owned El Cerrito restaurant features the flavors of north India, Nepal and Tibet. Look for dishes such as buffalo momos, traditional goat thakali thali platters and Tibetan aloo phing langsha, a hearty beef noodle and potato stew, all crafted with organic ingredients. Vegetarian options are also plentiful. Zomsa Himalayan Organic Kitchen, 10558 San Pablo Ave. (between Waldo and Moeser), El Cerrito

Closed

Chow in Lafayette closed in May. Photo: Chow Lafayette/Facebook

CHOW LAFAYETTE The last of the beloved Chow group of restaurants closed on May 11, following its predecessors that shuttered this year in San Francisco, Danville and Oakland. The Lafayette closing was quiet and abrupt, as was its reopening under a new name — it is now Tutu’s Food & Drink (see Openings), and Chow fans may take heart to know that much will remain the same under the new owners. RIP Chow family of restaurants, thanks for two decades of approachable warmth and upscale comfort food.

CHRISTOPHER’S NOTHING FANCY It’s hard to imagine the Albany stretch of San Pablo Avenue without the colorful Christopher’s Nothing Fancy sign. Luckily, this reliable, family-friendly Tex-Mex restaurant, that for 30 years was owned and operated by chef Ali Mirzai and his wife Massomeh (who sold the restaurant back in February to retire), has a similarly approachable menu, vibe (and colorful sign!) as new Syma’s Mexican Grill. Read more about the change of ownership and gradual spring transition to Syma’s in Bites.

Mangia Mangia in Albany closed on Mother’s Day so its two sister owners could take care of their mother. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

MANGIA MANGIA Lida and Soraya Ghaemi’s candle-lit, white-tablecloth Italian restaurant at 755 San Pablo Ave. in Albany, which they ran together with their mother for 25 years, was a neighborhood haven for quiet rendezvous and family dinners, the type of place you’d take visitors or your parents for an intimate celebration. On Mother’s Day, the sisters (Lida ran the front of house, Soraya was executive chef) quietly closed the restaurant, said Lida Ghaemi via email, “in honor of my mom who helped us to improve our recipes, from the soups to our famous chocolate souffle. She inspired us every day to improve our cooking!” Ghaemi added that the closure was for the sisters to have time to care for their mother, as well as to “open a new chapter in our lives.” We wish them well. Mangia Mangia will be sorely missed.

WILDCARD BREWING CO. Wildcard Brewing Co. closed its Albany tasting room on May 29. The taproom at 1122 Solano Ave. opened in October 2018 and was the Redding-based brewery’s first location in the East Bay. It had hoped to draw in beer lovers with its IPA-heavy focus and family-friendly vibes, but a note posted on the door said it wasn’t able to attract enough business to stay open: “To our customers, We are so grateful to you for giving us a shot. We regret we were not successful at this location and must close our doors. Keep on drinking great craft beers! Thank you so much. We will miss you. — Wildcard crew.” We reached out to owner Jenny Hansen who added, “It was a tough decision for us to make. In the end, it was a strain to manage this location from Redding.”