Bites: Alice Waters says ‘Gourmet Ghetto’ is offensive name; Tribune Tavern redux; Kitchen Story coming to Rockridge

Alice Waters: Would be happy to see the end of the term “Gourmet Ghetto.” Photo: Emilie Raguso

ALICE, ASKED “It was well-intentioned but wrong, but we just have to take it down. We do,” said Alice Waters about the neighborhood nickname “Gourmet Ghetto.” The name became a controversial topic after Nosh published an interview with Nick Cho, who said he was going to lead the charge to change the name after recently opening a second location of his San Francisco-based coffee company, Wrecking Ball, in North Berkeley. Cho strongly believes the word “ghetto” has a pejorative connotation that’s offensive to people of color. Last week, the debate was further fueled by an op-ed published on Berkeleyside by L. John Harris, a food writer who has a long history in the North Berkeley neighborhood, and who believes the moniker should stay until the community can decide on a replacement.

Many consider Waters, who opened Chez Panisse in 1971, to be a founder of the area, and that her say in the matter has substantial weight. In a phone interview with Nosh, Waters said the name “felt like an ad, a bad ad.” She said she is offended by both parts of the name, “gourmet,” for being an “exclusive term” associated with people of a certain socio-economic and educational background; and “ghetto” because it stems from a history of excluding ethnic and racial groups of people. “It may have been used in a joke back in the day, in the ’70s but that term… It has nothing but bad connotations really.” 

Still, Waters said she understands some people have an attachment to the designation, although she feels it’s mainly those who were around when the nickname originated. “I don’t think it’s something that anyone who wasn’t around at that time is attached to, or understands. That’s why I’m objecting to it. It’s not something to be celebrated, certainly not in this day and age. We are about a lot more than the Gourmet Ghetto. We’ve always been political in this corner of Berkeley, whether it be the Cheese Board and its collective or Chez Panisse buying from local sustainable farmers.”

Waters has lived in the area for 48 years. “I was one of the first to have a house here. I live nearby, down the street for many years of my life. I still live within five minutes of Chez Panisse. This is my neighborhood.” As for what she prefers to call the area, she calls it North Berkeley.


In an email to Nosh, Cho said he’s grateful to Waters for weighing in on the matter, especially as he knows her opinion matters with locals. “We’re breathing a sigh of relief,” he said. As for whether or not Waters will frequent Wrecking Ball, she told Nosh, “I don’t drink coffee. I drink pu’er tea from the Imperial Tea Garden.”

The Tribune Tavern reopened on Sept 11, 2019.
The Tribune Tavern reopened in Downtown Oakland on Sept. 12. Photo: Tribune Tavern

EXTRA, EXTRA Last Thursday, Tribune Tavern celebrated its grand opening — for a second time. Owner Chris Pastena is heading the restaurant’s second iteration, six years after he first opened the restaurant with Tom Henderson and five years after that soured partnership ended with Pastena leaving the business. (You can read more details about the ordeal here. Henderson was indicted last month for defrauding more than 200 foreign investors of $110 million). Despite its rocky first go, Pastena (who also owns Chop Bar and Calavera) was on board when the building’s new owners reached out for him to reopen the restaurant again. In an interview with Nosh last month he said, “To be able to have a second swing at it is an opportunity not many people get. I’m certainly fortunate and want to pay homage and respect to the work we’ve done. To have that second opportunity was too good to pass up.”

This time, Pastena’s wife Jana is the co-owner, and he’s also brought on Calavera chef Dario Pantoja to lead the kitchen. The menu offers a seasonal take on “New American” tavern food, with comforting starters and hearty entrees of steak, fish and pasta made with fresh, in-season and high-quality ingredients. There’s also a seafood bar, offering raw oysters on the half shell, salmon tartare and shrimp cocktail. Prices range from $10-$20 for salads and starters;  $17-$39 for main entrees. As for drinks, the bar serves classic cocktails, local craft beers, and a wine list that focuses on wines from small, California wineries. Happy hour takes place daily from 3-6 p.m.

The restaurant is on the ground floor of the iconic 20-story Tribune Tower building, home to the Oakland Tribune newspaper until 2007. The space was once the “local room,” where newspaper reporters shared tips on the news of the day. For its reopening, Tribune Tavern got a makeover with new flooring, better layout and a lighter color scheme, but Pastena was keen on keeping and restoring many of the building’s historic features, including original columns, moldings and marble. Vintage newspaper rolling carts were even turned into table bases.

Tribune Tavern is currently open for dinner daily (5-10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday), and eventually will start lunch and brunch service in the coming weeks. Tribune Tavern, 401 13th St., (at Franklin), Oakland 

Chef Rashad Armstead has closed Grammie’s Down-Home Chicken & Seafood just three months after it opened. Photo: Sarah Han

GOODBYE, GRAMMIE’S We received sad news last week from Rashad Armstead. The Oakland chef-restaurateur who Nosh featured three months ago when he opened Grammie’s Down Home Chicken & Seafood, a soul food restaurant in North Oakland, shared the news that he was closing the business Sept. 15. Armstead had opened Grammie’s as the first location in what he hopes will become a quick-service franchise brand (along with his other venture, Crave BBQ) to train and employ black youth to own and operate their own business. But, Armstead told Nosh that he was forced to close after a series of electrical issues in the building arose, which led to disagreements with the previous business owner and the building owner. Although Grammie’s closed Sunday, Armstead plans to find a new location, and run the business as a pop-up in the meantime. “I know that everything will work out, but it’s still that feeling of frustration and I’m just trying to stay focused,” Armstead said in an email to Nosh. We wish him luck!

HERE’S THE STORY Two readers sent us tips that a change of ownership notice has been put up at 5422 College Ave. in Rockridge, the two-story space which has been empty since January 2018, when its last occupant, Duchess closed. Thanks to reader Rik Sheldon, who did a bit of detective work for us, we found that the new business to come will be a second outpost for San Francisco’s popular California-Asian-inflected breakfast and brunch hotspot, Kitchen Story. The Castro neighborhood restaurant is one of several eateries co-owned by Steven Choi, the man responsible for inventing Instagram-famous Millionaire’s Bacon. He also owns Berkeley Social Club in downtown Berkeley; Sweet Maple, Taylor Street Coffee Shop, Blackwood and Kitchen Sunnyside in San Francisco; and Fred’s Coffee Shop in Marin (and yes, all serve the pricey sugar-and-pepper-coated bacon, too). Kitchen Story is open all day, offering breakfasty egg dishes and hotcakes, along with burgers, salads and Thai-inflected entrees like green curry, beef noodle soup and pineapple fried rice for lunch and dinner. Choi said he aims for Kitchen Story in Rockridge to open later this year, possibly as soon as November. We’ll have more updates as the opening nears. Kitchen Story will be at 5422 College Ave. (at Kales), Oakland

STRIKING FOR CHANGE If breakfast or lunch on Fridays at Sequoia Diner is a tradition, you’ll need to plan to dine elsewhere this Friday, when the Laurel diner spot will be closed for the day, in observance of Global Climate Strike, a worldwide campaign for people to walk out of their workplaces and homes on Sept. 20 in demonstration for action on climate change. Sequoia Diner will reopen the following day at 8 a.m. Sequoia Diner, 3719 MacArthur Blvd. (near Loma Vista), Oakland

REUSABLE CUP PROGRAM LAUNCH Thursday, café goers will have the first opportunity to try out the reusable cup service pilot program in Berkeley. As Nosh reported last month, the program is a partnership between the Ecology Center and Colorado-based company Vessel, which will provide the insulated stainless steel to-go mugs that can be checked out by customers at participating businesses via smartphone app. For the pilot, 11 businesses in Berkeley have signed on; all but one are on or affiliated with the UC Berkeley campus. Participating businesses are Caffè Strada, Café Zeb, Free Speech Movement Café, Café Think, Café Press, I-House Café, Musical Offering, Northside Café, Brewed Awakening, Babette Café and People’s Café. The official launch event starts at 8 a.m., Thursday, at Caffè Strada, followed by a crawl to select pilot locations. Representatives from the Ecology Center and Vessel, along with Berkeley city council members Sophie Hahn and Rigel Robinson, and Strada owner Daryl Ross will be at the launch. If you have feedback or questions about the pilot, this is a great opportunity to speak directly with those behind the program. (Read more about the pilot program on Nosh). Caffè Strada, 2300 College Ave. (at Bancroft), Berkeley

Stout, the Bierhaus mascot is owner Mike Finley's Bernese Mountain Dog.
Stout, the Bierhaus mascot. Photo: Bierhaus

RUFF AND READY Local dog lovers who enjoy taking their furry friends out to dine will likely know that Bierhaus in North Oakland is a pooch-friendly establishment. In fact, the beer hall’s mascot is Stout, owner Mike Finley’s Bernese Mountain Dog, who you can often find hanging on the patio, where dogs are welcome. For its Oktoberfest event on Sunday, Bierhaus is going to the dogs — Puptoberfest is an all-day happy hour event (with a list of beers and German eats for $5 each), where 10% of all sales will go to Friends of Oakland Animal Services. Pet owners who bring their dogs will get a free order of hand-cut Kennebec fries. And if you’re not currently a dog parent but hope to be, there’ll be some adorable adoptable pups at the event who will be happy to find a home with you. Bierhaus, 360 40th St. (at Manila), Oakland

[Updated Sept. 25] HOT LUCK GOES EAST BAY Hot Luck, a BBQ festival created by Austin-based James Beard Award-winner Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue, Loro), will make its Bay Area debut next month, with a pop-up at Ryan Farr’s Oakland outpost of 4505 Burgers and BBQ. Joining Farr and Franklin will Rodney Scott, a Charleston, South Carolina-based pitmaster whose restaurant Scott’s BBQ is famed for cooking whole hog. Joining the barbecue trio will be Bay Area chefs Reem Assil (Reem’s California), Chris Kronner (Henry’s) and Ravi Kapur (Liholiho Yacht Club). Hot Luck takes place Oct. 13. The 6-9 p.m. event sold out within days, so the organizers added an afternoon session, from 1-4 p.m., for more people to attend. Tickets for the 1-4 p.m. session are $65; they go on sale Sept. 27 at noon. 4505 Burgers & BBQ, 3506 MacArthur Blvd. (at 35th), Oakland

Eat Real Festival returns to Jack London Square for its 11th year.
Eat Real Festival returns to Jack London Square for its 11th year. Photo: Eat Real Festival

OAKLAND FE(A)STS Two big annual food and drink festivals return to Oakland this year in the coming days:

Oakland Cocktail Week raises a glass to the city’s vibrant cocktail scene. Taking place Sept. 20-29, the event encourages locals to bar hop to try special cocktails, enjoy live music performances and watch cocktail-themed movies at participating bars, restaurants, bottle shops and distilleries in Oakland and Alameda. Proceeds benefit local nonprofit partner, Oakland Indie Alliance.

Eat Real comes back to Jack London Square for its 11th year, Sept. 21-22. Join the crowds to chow down, choosing from more than 50 food businesses and more than 30 drink vendors. There are also several ticketed cooking classes, live food demos, a kids play zone and live music performances.