Bites: Nom Nom Bánh Mì opens; The Bird closes in Berkeley

Trâm Dyck (middle) with husband Alan Dyck and staff member Venus Hurtado at Nom Nom Bánh Mì in Berkeley.
Trâm Dyck (middle) with husband Alan Dyck and staff member Venus Hurtado at Nom Nom Bánh Mì in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

NOM NOM’S DEBUT After months of construction delays, Nom Nom Bánh Mì opened its doors on Telegraph Avenue Monday. Owner Trâm Dyck now lives in North Berkeley, but her memories of sandwiches in Saigon, where she grew up, are what inspired her to open her own bánh mì shop. With Nom Nom, she hopes to emulate the freshness and quality of a good bánh mì, meaning using just the right freshly baked bread (Dyck sources hers from a Vietnamese bakery in Oakland), high-quality meats and tofu, and house-made sauces, marinades and pickled daikon and carrots. (The pickles, Dyck said, are what makes a banh mi.) The menu offers eight sandwiches named, mostly, after areas in Saigon: The District 3 has the classic meat combination of pork loaf and pâté; The Mekong, so far the crowd-favorite, features marinated chicken; The South Seas offers tinned sardines in tomato sauce; The Pagoda, the one vegan option, is made with lemongrass tofu and vegan mayo; and so on. All Nom Nom sandwiches come topped with sliced cucumber, jalapenos, cilantro and pickled daikon and carrots and a packaged madeleine cookie.

The District 3 bánh mì from Nom Nom Bánh Mì in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han
The District 3 bánh mì from Nom Nom Bánh Mì in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

The one bánh mì on the menu that’s decidedly not like the others: The Telegraph — which Dyck said is not traditional, but an invention of her own — features a blend of soft cheeses, mainly cream cheese. Dyck said the creamy combination marries well with the pickled vegetables; and although she couldn’t reveal what else was in the blend, she said other cheeses, “a whole lot of love” and Vietnamese spices are in there too.

Dyck said she’ll likely add some special sandwiches to the core line-up in the future, but she’s keeping the food focus on bánh mì. Other than sandwiches, you’ll find refreshments like Vietnamese iced coffee. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Nom Nom Banh Mi, 2491 Telegraph Ave. (at Dwight), Berkeley

The Bird's second location in Berkeley closed on July 16.
The Bird’s second location in Berkeley closed on July 16. Photo: Sarah Han

[Updated July 19] THE BIRD HAS FLOWN The Berkeley location of San Francisco fried chicken sandwich spot, The Bird, closed Tuesday. A tipster alerted us about a sign on the door at 2400 Telegraph Ave. that read, “Sorry, we’re closed. Effective July 16, we are no longer in operation. Please come visit us at our original location in San Francisco, 115 New Montgomery. Thank you, Berkeley!”


The Bird is a concept from Back of the House, a San Francisco-based restaurant group that runs a total of 22 restaurants, including Super Duper, Lolinda, Beretta and Starbelly. Former The Restaurant at Meadowood chef Blair Warsham developed its menu, best known for its signature chicken sandwich, made with a berbere-spiced fried chicken and a celery apple slaw. The Telegraph Avenue outpost was The Bird’s second locale; it opened in May 2018, taking over the space formerly occupied by another San Francisco restaurant chain, The Melt. Located a short walk from the restaurant group’s uber-popular burger joint, Super Duper, The Bird never seemed to attract the same crowds. Nosh received confirmation from Back of the House that The Bird has flown from Berkeley, but the group declined to give further comment about why the restaurant closed.

As for what’s next at 2400 Telegraph Ave., a change of ownership sign reveals the next tenants will be Family Style, Inc. If that sounds familiar, you may recall the Nosh story from earlier this year about the L.A.-based company, which operates multiple delivery-only pizza restaurants out of a single location in Oakland (it later opened as a walk-up for one of those brands, Lorenzo’s, but continues to operate as a ghost kitchen for the other brands). When Nosh spoke with Family Style founder Lawrence Vavra in February, he hinted at more Bay Area locations, including a possible Pizzaoki in Berkeley, where he thought DJ Steve Aoki’s name might have more clout. Family Style’s regional manager Demetrius Rienzo told Nosh in an email “We aren’t sure what we’ll brand the store yet as we’ve begun developing multiple cuisine types but there will definitely be a variety of our best pizza brands available for delivery. Our intention is to always test things so we can offer a variety of cuisines that are specific to that particular market.” Stay tuned for more updates.

WRECK’S N EFFECT An update for coffee fiends jonesing for the upcoming Berkeley outpost of San Francisco’s Wrecking Ball Coffee: it’s coming soon. Last week, Wrecking Ball shared a photo on Twitter from the Shattuck Avenue café, showing flooring being put in under a huge commissioned mural by Korean graffiti artist Chris Shim. According to the post, Wrecking Ball aims to open the doors to its second location by Aug. 1. Wrecking Ball Coffee will be at 1600 Shattuck Ave. (at Cedar), Berkeley

Kaya-filled buns will be one of the Southeast Asian baked goods available at The FYUB's debut pop-up at Orbit Doughnuts and Coffee in Oakland.
Karen from Finances Kaya Buns, chef Nora Haron’s coconut jam-filled buns, will be one of the Southeast Asian baked goods available at The FYUB’s debut pop-up at Orbit Doughnuts and Coffee in Oakland. Photo: Nora Haron

KAYA BUNS! In May, Nosh reported former Drip Line chef Nora Haron had taken over the kitchen at The Local Kitchen in San Francisco. At the time, she hinted of a return to Oakland, and now, we have word of how she will do just that. The FYUB is Haron’s new baked goods pop-up, which will debut at West Oakland’s Orbit Coffee and Doughnuts Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The menu boasts Southeast Asian treats like kaya-filled buns (a soft, sweet roll filled with coconut jam) that Haron is cheekily calling “Karen from Finances Kaya Buns;” chicken curry turnovers; pandan, coconut and butterscotch cookies with Maldon; a gluten-free and vegan banana nut loaf; chocolate mini loaves; and Moringa cloud cake. Along with Haron’s pastries, expect coffee from Red Planet Roastery and teas from Orbit. The event is free (with menu items priced at $3-$5 each), but Haron asks guests to RSVP so she can get an idea of how many might attend. The expletive-event listing warns guests to keep in mind that the language at the event “won’t exactly be Sunday Service-approved,” and that there will likely be “an unearthly amount of uttered explicits,” which leads us to spell out the bakery’s name: F- you Up Bakery.

Haron said The FYUB will continue to pop-up in Oakland and San Francisco, twice a month for the next couple of months. Next locations are still TBD. Orbit Coffee and Doughnuts, 1225 Seventh St., Ste. C, Oakland

GIO’S TO EDEL The space at 2420 Shattuck Ave. has remained vacant (aside from hosting pop-up events) since Gio’s Pizza & Bocce closed in January, but the San Francisco Chronicle has news that a full-time tenant plans to bring a restaurant back inside by end of the year. Chef Jonnatan Leiva, formerly executive chef at now-closed Jack Falstaff in San Francisco and at other fine dining restaurants in New York, will open Edel there. According to the Chronicle, Edel will be open for dinner service, focusing on comfort food showcasing dishes and flavors from Leiva’s Salvadoran roots. It will also serve as a commissary kitchen for the chef’s other business, FullSkoop, which makes high-quality prepared meals sold at its own food cart in Downtown San Francisco and locations throughout the Bay Area, including Berkeley Bowl, Alameda Natural Grocery Store and Catahoula Coffee Shop. Edel will be at 2420 Shattuck Ave. (between Channing and Haste), Berkeley

The 22-year-old family-owned Mexican restaurant Frausto's in Berkeley has closed.
The 22-year-old family-owned Mexican restaurant Frausto’s in Berkeley has closed. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

FRAUSTO’S CLOSED Berkeley’s longtime Mexican restaurant Frausto’s Restaurant (2504 Shattuck Ave.) has closed. A sign posted in the window read: “After 25 years of serving Berkeley, Frausto’s Restaurant now closes its doors. We are grateful to everyone who has supported us. Muchas gracias! Our hearts are full and we’re excited for what’s to come.” Not quite 25 years ago, the Frausto family opened the restaurant in 1997, where they served Guadalajara-style Mexican breakfast and lunch plates. Nosh has reached out to the family for further comment and will update this blurb with more details, if provided.

CHOCOLATE + SAKE, MATSURI Now that Umami Mart has settled into its new digs on Broadway in North Oakland, the Japanese retail store, bottle shop and taproom is back on its regular event schedule. Next week, they’ll be hosting two noteworthy events: On July 24, from 6:30-8 p.m., Umami Mart will partner with San Francisco and Tokyo-based craft chocolate maker, Dandelion, for a chocolate and sake tasting event. Attendees will try several Dandelion Chocolate bars paired with sakes made in Japan and the Bay Area. Tickets are $40-$45. Then, on July 27 from noon to 4 p.m., the shop will throw its official grand opening party at its summer Matsuri (Japanese for “festival”). This seventh annual party will feature food and drinks from Nikka Whisky, Den Sake Brewery, Hitachino Beer, Nankai Shochu, Stonemill Matcha and Suntory All-Free. Emeryville Taiko will perform a rousing traditional Japanese drum performance. Entry is free and all ages are welcome. Umami Mart, 4027 Broadway (near 40th), Oakland 

A refrigerated area where diners can choose ingredients for hot pot at Ma La Zui Tasty Bowl. Photo: Sarah Han
A refrigerated area where diners can choose ingredients for customized bowls at Ma La Zui Tasty Bowl. Photo: Sarah Han

DDC BECOMES TASTY BOWL Year-old Duck Duck Chicken (DDC) Café, a Hong Kong-style eatery in downtown Berkeley, has quietly closed and shifted to a Szechuan-style hot pot restaurant under new ownership. A sign outside welcomes diners to a Grand Opening of “Tasty Pot,” but when Nosh asked if the eatery had any connection to the popular restaurant on Kittredge, we were told it did not, and that it was actually transitioning to a new name Ma La Zui Tasty Bowl. Upon entering, diners are asked whether they’d like to choose ingredients for a stir-fried dish made with spicy-numbing mala sauce or order from a menu featuring a variety of Szechuan entrees like toothpick lamb, sliced beef in hot chili oil and Chongqing spicy chicken, along with fried rice, stir-fried noodles, and noodle soups. If wanting a customized bowl, diners will be led to the back of the restaurant, to choose a combination of ingredients from an open refrigerated sections. Items are priced by the pound, with meats at $16.99 per pound and vegetables at $11.99 per pound. Ma La Zui Tasty Bowl, 2017 Shattuck Ave. (near University), Berkeley

Owner John Xie at the ordering window of Bento Chef, a small to-go kiosk in downtown Berkeley.
Owner John Xie at the ordering window of Bento Chef, a new to-go spot running out of the tiny shack in the downtown Berkeley parking lot on Milvia Street. Photo: Sarah Han

NOW WITH SUSHI The tiny booth in the Milvia Street parking lot that once housed Taiwanese snack shack Face to Face (and which served as a hot dog stand for many years before), reopened last week as Bento Chef. Nosh spoke with owner John Xie, who has decided to keep a few menu items from the former business (including beef noodle soup, Asian beef wrap, pot stickers, tea eggs and yes, hot dogs!), but add a short menu of sushi rolls (California, spicy tuna, eel, dragon, etc.) too. Xie and his wife are from San Leandro; this is their first restaurant. Bento Chef is open 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Bento Chef, 2109 Milvia St. (near Addison), Berkeley

A worker makes temporary repairs to the damaged entryway at Zarri's Delicatessen in Albany.
A worker makes temporary repairs after an SUV crashed into the storefront at Zarri’s Delicatessen in Albany. Photo: Rocky Offner

SUV CRASHES INTO ZARRI’S Last Friday, an SUV crashed into Zarri’s Delicatessan in Albany. According to owner John Fealy, the incident occurred at 11:40 a.m., when the driver accelerated into the deli after he “hit the wrong pedal.” Although Zarri’s was open at the time, with three employees and several customers on site, no one was injured in the accident. Fealy said it was a close call for two customers in particular, who were sitting out front when the vehicle hit the building. One jumped out of the way, just in the nick of time — the chair where he had been sitting wasn’t quite so lucky. (“It turned into a pretzel,” Fealy said.) Zarri’s closed Friday after the crash, but reopened with boards over the damage on Saturday.

Fealy, who has owned Zarri’s since 2006, said he’s asked the city to install bollards on Solano Avenue, as this is the second time a vehicle has crashed into the establishment. In September 2013, a driver lost control of his van, eventually landing the vehicle into the storefront. Fealy said Zarri’s will eventually need to temporarily close to repair the damage, for now — as Berkeleyside tipster Rocky Offner was happy to report — Zarri’s is open for business, and as always, ready to make you a Poor Boy Deluxe or other deli-style sandwich. Zarri’s Delicatessan, 1244 Solano Ave. (at Evelyn), Albany

Momo Ramen opened on July 16 in the former Claremont Diner space.
Momo Ramen is the newest restaurant to give the former Claremont Diner space a try. It opened Tuesday. Photo: Sarah Han

MO’ RAMEN The former Claremont Diner space has seen a parade of restaurants try their hand in the space after the iconic 25-year-old eatery closed in 2016. First there was Ding, a Japanese restaurant that lasted for six months. Then, there was Pho U, which opened in September 2018 as a Vietnamese pho house, then changed focus and names as Ricephoria, adding Korean fare to its repertoire before it went dark last month. Now, the Pho U/Ricephoria owners are going at it again, but in yet another direction, as a Japanese ramen shop called Momo Ramen, which opened Tuesday. Nosh spoke on the phone with the manager, who said the owners decided to switch cuisine again because “there’s not a lot of ramen restaurants in the area.” She said the new chef is a “ramen specialist” who previously cooked in Japan. Aside from the noodle soup, Momo serves rice dishes and appetizers. Hours are 11 a.m.-2:30; 4:30-10 p.m. Momo Ramen, 6200 Claremont (between Florio and Mystic), Oakland

CAFÉ UMAMI Dimond District gem Café Umami will soon open its second location in Uptown Oakland. Nosh contributor Kathryn Bowen happened upon co-owner Sang Lee just outside the new outpost, in what was formerly Torpedo Sushi on Grand Avenue. Café Umami will likely have a soft opening this week, but before you start making lunch plans, note that the new café will open slowly, first with drinks, then adding a food menu. Café Umami is best known for its grain bowls — featuring a mix of Asian ingredients, like kimchi, nori-gomasio and burdock pickle, with a focus on healthy fermented and whole foods — developed by the business’ other owner (and founder) Sungsoon Park. Café Umami will be at 25 Grand Ave. (near Broadway), Oakland