Bites: Arizmendi Emeryville is back; the latest update on Smokehouse in Berkeley

Catch up on the latest East Bay food news and events.

Arizmendi Emeryville reopened on Feb. 12, 2020 with coffee service.
Arizmendi Emeryville reopened this morning with coffee service. Photo: Sarah Han

ARIZMENDI HAS BEEN ARIZMENDED After more than a year out of commission, the Arizmendi bakery and pizzeria reopened this morning — albeit, just for coffee and espresso drinks until 11 a.m. today. The worker-owned cooperative had its final inspection yesterday, which gives the bakery the go-ahead to start food production. The collective will be rolling out other items on its menu over the next few days (pizza will be available starting on Friday; the full menu starting next Tuesday). Arizmendi Emeryville closed in December 2018, after a car crashed into the building, leading to a fire and a gas leak at the bakery. Along with making necessary repairs, the collective completely remodeled the space to improve workflow and infrastructure.

Arizmendi worker-owners in the brand new kitchen at Arizmendi Emeryville.
Arizmendi worker-owners in the renovated Arizmendi Emeryville. Photo: Sarah Han

If all goes as planned, the following will be Arizmendi’s schedule and menu for the next few days: 7-11 a.m., today for coffee service; 7-11 a.m., Thursday for coffee and possibly a few pastries; 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday for coffee and some pastries (pizza, starting at 11 a.m.); 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday for coffee, some pastries, pizza, soup and salads; closed Monday; 7 a.m.-7 p.m. with full menu, Tuesday. Arizmendi Emeryville, 4301 San Pablo Ave. (at 43rd Street), Oakland

Smokehouse on Telegraph Avenue on Feb. 10, 2020.
Smokehouse in its current condition. Photo: Sarah Han

ANOTHER SMOKEHOUSE UPDATE We checked in with Smokehouse general manager Shakaib Shaghasi to learn the latest on Smokehouse, the popular Berkeley burger shack that’s been closed since last Valentine’s Day due to a grease fire in the restaurant’s kitchen. Although Shaghasi knew the fire would likely mean that Smokehouse would be out of commission for several months, he had hoped the restaurant owned by his mother, Saleha “Sally” Shaghasi, would re-open that autumn. The family had even made a large billboard announcing a fall reopening, but in September, Shaghasi told Nosh they needed more time getting the building up to code. “We originally anticipated opening this fall, but of course, given the age of the building, getting it up to code has added more time than expected to our plans,” he told Nosh.

Since then, chain link fences have been erected along the perimeter of the building, luring taggers to spray grafitti on what appears to be an abandoned property. But in email to Nosh, Shaghasi said despite appearances, progress is happening, just mostly behind the scenes. He explained that the owners are in the middle of responding to comments from Berkeley’s Building and Safety Division, a part of the city’s Planning & Development department that deals with plans, permits and inspections for construction projects in Berkeley. “Minor points were raised and we are expecting to have our permits in March 2020 and are hopeful to break ground and begin construction at that point,” Shaghasi wrote.


WHAT’S BAKING ON FIFTH ST? A reader recently asked us to look into what was going on at 1619 Fifth St., a space that last operated as the production facility for Café Fanny granola and C.C. Made caramels until 2017, when a fire broke out in the building (Notice a recurring theme in this week’s Bites?). The observant reader said it looked like a new bakery was opening in the space, and it turns out she’s right — sort of.

Third Culture Bakery, makers of the ever-popular Mochi Muffin, took over the building as a production site and office space, according to co-owner Wenter Shyu. For now, Third Culture fans should continue to head to the bakery’s Eighth Street showroom for mochi muffins, waffles, donuts and matcha drinks, as the Fifth Street facility isn’t a public-facing business. But Shyu had some exciting news — he and partner Sam Butarbutar plan to open the site for tours and matcha ceremonies this spring, possibly as soon as March. Stay tuned on Nosh, where we’ll have details about these events as soon as we get them.

Alborz has returned to downtown Berkeley with a location on Allston Way.
Alborz has returned to downtown Berkeley with a location on Allston Way. Photo: Sarah Han

WELCOME BACK, ALBORZ In December, Nosh reported that David Dornan’s Persian restaurant Alborz was returning to downtown Berkeley on Allston Way, a block from its original location on Center Street. This week, we stopped in and learned from general manager Ardalan Shokri that the restaurant has been open for a few days, but it’s stayed quiet about its return so far while it’s in soft opening mode. Despite its reticence, former customers have been coming in, delighted to find the old favorite returned to the area.

Dornan had previously run a couple of other restaurants at this exact location — first Italian restaurant Orso, then Middle Eastern restaurant Azerbaijan — until 2010. Saturn Café took over the spot when Dornan left, bringing a follow-up to its popular Santa Cruz vegetarian diner to Berkeley. According to Shokri, although Alborz has two other locations in San Francisco and Walnut Creek, the restaurateur had been wanting to reopen in Berkeley. Last July, when Saturn closed, Dornan saw an opportunity to return and grabbed it.

Diners who were familiar with Saturn’s bright blue walls, white banquettes and retro diner decor will be surprised to see the space transformed into a traditional sit-down restaurant. The menu offers charbroiled kebabs, served as skewers or in a flatbread sandwich, Persian dishes like ghorme sabzi and fesenjoon, salads, soups and appetizers. Prices range from $7-$16 for lunch, a few dollars more for some dishes at dinner. For now, Alborz is open between 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., daily, but Shokri said hours may change in the coming months as they adjust to business in the area. Alborz, 2175 Allston Way (at Oxford Street), Berkeley


A&W will share a space with Chevron's ExtraMile convenience store on Telegraph at Ashby avenues.
A&W will share a space with Chevron’s ExtraMile convenience store on Telegraph at Ashby avenues. Photo: Sarah Han

A&W IN BERKELEY Looks like Berkeley will get its first A&W fast food restaurant in years, when Chevron finishes construction on the corner of Telegraph and Ashby avenues. (Some may remember Berkeley had an A&W drive-in at 2366 San Pablo Ave., built in 1964). Whether you’re a fan of its root beer, hot dogs and the chain’s other “All American food,” can we all agree that this location will be far less charming and lovably weird than the standalone A&W hut in San Rafael? Diners will find this branch in a gray, utilitarian building connected to Chevron’s ExtraMile convenience store. Last year, the 101-year-old company said it was focusing on freestanding restaurants, but it appears that its definition of freestanding includes those connected to convenience stores and gas stations.

GET TRUCKIN’ On Feb. 18,  from 3-5 p.m., the Oakland branch of Main Street Launch, a nonprofit that works with small business owners, is hosting a free workshop with Off the Grid for up-and-coming entrepreneurs looking to start a mobile food business. Industry experts, including veteran food truck vendors, will be on hand to discuss permitting, financial planning and other information that new mobile food business owners will need to know. The workshop is free, but registration is required. Main Street Launch, 2101 Webster St., suite 1200, (between 21st and 22nd streets), Oakland

CHICK(PEA)FACTOR Public Market Emeryville’s newest tenant was announced this week. Jayna Gyro will open a kiosk at the food hall in May. Jayna comes from restaurateur Yusuf Topal, owner of Tarla Mediterranean Grill in Napa, whose fare is inspired by Greek flavors and his Turkish heritage. Jayna will offer both made-to-order and grab-and-go options, including plenty of familiar Mediterranean eats, like chicken and beef gyro sandwiches, Greek salad, spanakopita and baklava. One of Jayna’s signature specials, though, is an uncommon standout. The vegetarian chickpea sandwich — garbanzo beans, spicy aioli, cabbage-arugula salad and tzatziki on flatbread — is inspired by a dish Topal ate while growing up in Gaziantep, Turkey. Jayna Gyro will be at Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville

V SPECIAL SAKE FOR V-DAY On Valentine’s Day, Umami Mart is hosting a special tasting of one of its priciest bottles — Asahi Shuzo’s Dassai Beyond, which sells for a whopping $600 per 24-ounce bottle. The brewers of this luxurious sake are very secretive about their process in making this particular brew, but Dassai Beyond is well-regarded by connoisseurs for its silky texture and long finish, which is said to be leagues beyond Asahi’s most popular sake, the crowd-pleasing Dassai 23. From 4-8 p.m., the bar at Umami Mart will pour flights of Dassai Beyond and Dassai 23 ($90, $80 for members of its sake club), so you can taste for yourself what the hype is all about. Umami Mart, 4027 Broadway (near 40th Street), Oakland

East Brother will be releasing this year's batch of its limited edition California Common at its third anniversary party on Sunday, Feb. 16.
East Brother Beer Co. will be releasing its limited edition California Common at its third anniversary party on Sunday. Photo: East Brother Beer Co.

BEERY BIRTHDAY East Brother Beer Co. is celebrating its third anniversary with an all-day party on Sunday at its Richmond taproom. La Santa Torta, a Mexican food truck that’s regularly parked at the taproom, will be serving up a special menu of beer-infused fare, and the brewery will be releasing its limited-edition, small-batch California Common at the party. As a special incentive for East Brother superfans, guests wearing East Brother t-shirts will get $1 off every beer they order. Join the fun from noon to 8 p.m., Sunday. East Brother Beer Co., 1001 Canal Blvd., Richmond


FOR ROCKY At Uptown’s newest bar Viridian, bartenders Carolyn Kao and Aydan Tang are throwing a Lunar New Year pop-up, concocting some fun drinks inspired by the Asian snacks they grew up eating. If these cocktails are as delightful and creative as the ones we tried at Viridian’s media opening, we’re so down. A portion of proceeds from the event will go to Rocky Yeh’s Foundation, named after the beloved bar industry maven who died in December of sudden heart failure. Say Viridian owners about Yeh, “His larger than life joie de vivre embodies [the] spirit of this celebration. His foundation will further bartenders’ education.” Viridian, 2216 Broadway (near Grand Ave.), Oakland

Sarah Han is Nosh editor at Berkeleyside. Email: sarah@berkeleyside.com.