Bites: Burma Superstar’s new takeout spot is coming; Taste of Temescal postponed

Catch up on the latest East Bay food news and events. Many local restaurants have been impacted by concerns about the coronavirus.

The tea leaf salad at Burma Superstar.
The tea leaf salad at Burma Superstar. Photo: Burma Superstar

Although all events listed were confirmed with operators as of publication time, many health authorities recommend that people limit attendance at non-essential gatherings to prevent the spread and exposure to coronavirus. We advise people to keep up with the latest recommendations, and check for event cancellations, postponements and other schedule changes prior to attending.

SUPERSTAR TO-GO After Pico Paco Taqueria in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood closed in 2016, Nosh learned that Burma Superstar was planning to take over the space as a new to-go spot. Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Desmond Tan, the restaurant’s media-shy owner, who shared information about what’s to come at what will be the restaurant’s seventh Bay Area location, Burma Bites. Found two short blocks from its Oakland restaurant, Burma Bites will serve all the same dishes as Burma Superstar and a few new menu items, but will offer food via delivery and take-out-only. Because of this, prices will be cheaper than at its sister full-service restaurants. According to the Chronicle, Burma Bites will open sometime this month. Burma Bites will be at 4911 Telegraph Ave. (at 49th Street), Oakland

TASTE OF TEMESCAL POSTPONED  [Updated 9:01 a.m., Thursday]: The Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District announced today it will be postponing Tuesday’s Taste of Temescal event. The group shared the following statement with Nosh: “In light of the latest guidance from Governor Newsom, we will be postponing the Taste of Temescal, likely to May 2020. We will issue refunds to all who would like one. We will be honoring all the tickets at our postponed event and so urge all who can, to keep their tickets, since the proceeds go to our local schools and nonprofits. Rather than attending our event next week, we hope that our community will patronize our local restaurants in Temescal during this time (whether you choose to dine in or take out). Our restaurants depend on the continuing support of customers to continue to employ their workers, and to allow our restaurants to remain open now and to sustain them through this public health emergency to continue to offer amazing food for many years to come.”

ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION More food businesses are starting to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Nationally, Starbucks, Dunkin’ and Blue Bottle cafés have stopped taking reusable cups, and Costco has stopped handing out samples. As more people are staying in, food delivery orders are no doubt going up. In response, Postmates delivery service announced the option for non-contact deliveries, where customers can opt to have their food left outside their door.


Locally, small food businesses are taking to social media to share their efforts in minimizing risk and exposure to COVID-19. St. George Spirits in Alameda announced it will be temporarily closing its tasting room to the public as a precautionary measure. (St. George will be refunding existing reservations for public tours and tastings scheduled within the next two weeks.) Arizmendi Lakeshore said that it will be going “hands free,” meaning workers will be bagging orders, rather than allowing customers access to self-service bins. The bakery has also removed some furniture to allow for more social distancing between people inside and starting next week, will be encouraging (but not requiring) customers to use credit cards to reduce exposure through handling cash. Smitten Ice Cream will also be going hands-free, having servers place cups and cones on the countertop. The ice cream shop, along with Benchmark Pizzeria, said they’ve begun to sanitize point of service (POS) touchscreens several times throughout service. Wrecking Ball Coffee has started providing single-use wax paper squares for customers to wrap around their finger before using touchscreens to check out. The company has also stopped accepting reusable cups; moved all self-service condiments, milks and lids behind the bar; and are using single-use gloves to handle cash transactions. It’s likely we’ll see more businesses implement practices like these in the coming days.

Nosh contacted the Ecology Center about whether its three weekly farmers markets in Berkeley would still be operating. According to Food and Farming Program Director Carle Brinkman, “Based on the current guidance from the City of Berkeley Public Health department, we do not plan to close the markets at this time,” but the Ecology Center will continue to monitor recommendations and guidelines provided by federal, state and local health organizations. Brinkman also said the Ecology Center has shared best practices with its farmers, vendors and market partners and will be disinfecting “surfaces/objects” at the market regularly.

Today, Nosh learned that two longstanding restaurants in Oakland Chinatown are temporarily closed, citing financial losses from fears of coronavirus. Buffet Fortuna, a large all-you-can-eat restaurant on Broadway, and Peony Seafood Restaurant, a Chinatown dim sum institution are closed “until further notice.”

A contest/fundraiser for the Edible Schoolyard features a prize dinner at Chez Panisse in the company of Alice Waters and José Andrés. Photo: rocor/Flickr

YOUR DINNER WITH ANDRÉS (AND WATERS, TOO) Omaze, a fundraising platform that raises money for organizations by offering “once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” is hosting a contest where the prize is hanging out with two chef stars: Alice Waters and José Andrés, the latter who recently helped serve food to Grand Princess cruise passengers docked in Oakland. One lucky winner and a guest will be flown out to Berkeley and put up at a four-star hotel (for out-of-towner winners, that is), have dinner at Chez Panisse restaurant in the company of Waters and Andrés, and sit with Waters during Andrés’ Edible Education 101 lecture at UC Berkeley. While entrants do not have to donate to enter, those who make donations of $10-$100 up their chances of winning. Donations will go to Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.


[Update, 5:41 p.m., Sunday: This event has been canceled. Bizzy’s Dry Bar is closed until further notice in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for bars to close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.] OUT TO DRY Oakland’s first alcohol-free cocktail spot, Bizzy’s Dry Bar, is hosting a free class with Seedlip, the maker of the world’s first distilled non-alcohol spirits. Seedlip uses a blend of botanicals to create its three offerings — Spice 94, Garden 108 and Grove 42 — that enhance the aromatics, mouthfeel and complexity of cocktails without any alcohol. From 7-9 p.m., March 27, Seedlip will share recipes and techniques for making alcohol-free drinks at home with the three Seedlip spirits. No reservations are necessary, just show up, says Bizzy’s Dry Bar owner Jesska Hughes. Bizzy’s Dry Bar, 2930 Telegraph Ave (between 29th and 30th streets), Oakland 

THAT YUMMY, YUMMY The little snack shack kiosk at the parking lot on Milvia Street is once again open for business, this time as a mostly Chinese-focused eatery called Yummy House. The pint-sized walk-up offers noodle dishes, dumplings and small plates like tea eggs, braised pork ears, beef tendon and chicken or duck feet. But like the businesses that came before it — short-lived Bento Chef and Taiwanese/Shandong eatery Face to Face — it also offers a few items from other cultures, like ramen and sushi rolls, and even a beef taco and burrito. Conspicuously missing from the menu — hot dogs! Back in the day, the kiosk operated under different owners as a hot dog shack; both Face to Face and Bento Chef had kept franks on the menu to continue the tradition. Looks like it’s an end to that era. Yummy House, 2109 Milvia St. (near Addison), Berkeley

TARTINE UPDATE Workers at Tartine Bakery locations across the Bay Area are getting ready to vote this week on whether to unionize. Its San Francisco-based workers will vote on Thursday and Berkeley-based staffers on Friday. As Nosh reported last month, nearly 150 Tartine employees signed a letter of intent to join the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which they hope will ensure better wages, access to healthcare and give them a voice in how the company is run. Management declined the request for union recognition, and as reported by Eater, co-founders Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt are holding fast in keeping Tartine union-free.

In a series of posts on Instagram, Robertson has shared images of shirts and sweatshirts with logos calling for “Tartine Free Teams United” and “Tartine United, Free Teams Independent.” In one of the posts, he shared the statement he and Prueitt recently issued that explains their reasons against unionization. According to the owners, “Tartine was targeted by a professional union organizer” who doesn’t have “the best interest of [Tartine] employees at heart.” Robertson and Prueitt say the company has always paid competitively and provided benefits, and to compare Tartine to a big corporation is “like comparing apples to golf balls.” Tartine, they claim, is a small, San Francisco-based business that’s still “struggling to turn a profit” after 20 years.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, tensions are high as workers prepare to vote. Employees on both sides of the decision to unionize are saying they’ll leave the company, depending on the vote. And some who are against unionizing worry the company will ultimately shutter if it can’t afford the cost of meeting union demands. As noted in the article, whatever happens, things will never likely be the same for the business.

18 REASONS FILM NIGHT San Francisco’s nonprofit community cooking school 18 Reasons has curated a selection of short films for the Front Porch Film Series, taking place Friday evening (6:30 p.m.) at the Community Foods Market’s Front Porch Café. All ages are invited to enjoy seven shorts on all topics food. Two of the filmmakers — Miguel Angel Ochoa and Spencer MacDonald — will be on hand to discuss their films after the screening. Admission and popcorn are free. Community Foods Market, Front Porch Café, 3105 San Pablo Ave. (at Myrtle Street), Oakland


Pies the limit at Fatapple's on Pi Day.
Pies the limit at Fatapple’s on Pi Day. Photo: Fatapple’s Restaurant and Bakery

A CERTAIN RATIO We just wanted to remind you that Pi Day (3/14), the annual celebration of π and pie is Saturday. Stop by your favorite bakery to get a slice or a whole pie in honor of this excuse to indulge in dessert. (We have a bunch of suggestions for local bakeries to try in our recent holiday pie list.)

WHERE’S THE (CORNED) BEEF Finally, St. Patrick’s Day is also just around the corner, and once again, Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley will celebrate by honoring the legacy of Brennan’s. The tribute happens this year from 3-8 p.m., Tuesday. Augie’s owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski came up with the idea last March to pay homage to the now-closed West Berkeley hofbrau. Gopnik-Lewinski grew up eating there with family, so he realized many locals who made it a regular stop on St. Patrick’s Day might be looking for another spot to get corned beef. And while Augie’s serves Montreal-style smoke meat, it’s similar in taste and texture to corned beef to be a good stand-in. For St. Paddy’s Day, Augie’s offers its brisket in a traditional corned beef plate style, with the meat sliced thick and served with boiled cabbage and potatoes.

We stopped in to Augie’s yesterday, where we spoke with Gopnik-Lewinski, who confirmed the St. Patrick’s Day event will go on as planned despite COVID-19 fears. He said the restaurant is taking precautionary measures, including frequent and stringent cleaning practices and offering phone orders and curbside pick-up for diners who do not want to dine in. Augie’s Montreal Deli, 875 Potter St. (near Seventh Street), Berkeley

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