East Bay food scene and COVID-19

A running news feed of the latest developments in the East Bay food scene during the pandemic.

Nosh is keeping this post updated with the latest developments in the East Bay food scene during the pandemic. Hear of something relevant? Email us.

July 15

Customers on the back patio at Jupiter in Berkeley. Photo: Pete Rosos

OPEN AIR DINING IS BACK! Both Alameda County and the city of Berkeley were able to secure variances to reopen outdoor dining service.

July 13

OAKLAND, OTHERS WILL NOT ENFORCE OUTDOOR DINING BAN On Saturday, the city of Oakland expressed its frustration with Alameda County’s guidance to suspend outdoor service, calling it confusing and contradictory of its previous order. In the press release, the city said it will not be enforcing the ban, however: “While the City’s enforcement has not changed, the State may enforce the ban on outdoor dining in Alameda County, including issuing citations. We share this information so business owners may make informed decisions on their daily operations.” Oakland isn’t the only the Alameda County city that is choosing to ignore guidance. According to SFGate, Hayward, Livermore, Pleasanton and Dublin have announced they will continue plans to close off streets to expand outdoor dining areas.

July 10

OUTDOOR DINING SUSPENDED Last night, Alameda County announced that restaurants, bars and wineries must suspend outdoor dining immediately and return to takeout and delivery service only. At 9:12 p.m., Friday, Alameda County tweeted a release that stated it learned “the state issued updated guidance, dated July 9th, prohibiting outdoor dining in non-variance counties, which includes Alameda County.”


July 8

Colorful picnic tables and outdoor umbrellas are set up in the private parking lot connected to Vik's Chaat in Berkeley.
Vik’s Chaat in Berkeley recently converted its parking lot into a socially distanced dining area. Photo: Viks Chaat

The Berkeley City Council approved an urgency item on July 7, effective immediately, allowing outdoor private spaces, such as parking lots and yards, to be converted into dining and commerce areas. Under the new ordinance, restaurants temporarily won’t need a discretionary permit for these activities. Businesses that are not usually allowed to operate outside will still require a zoning certificate. The move is in line with the city’s “Berkeley Safe Open Air Dining” proposal and ordinances that now allow outdoor dining, commerce and related activities in public areas to allow businesses to safely reopen with physical distancing.

July 2

Groceries peek out of a reusable shopping bag. Photo: The Creative Exchange
Photo: The Creative Exchange

REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS ARE OK AGAIN If you’ve been grocery shopping lately, you may have noticed that markets are once again allowing shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. On June 18, Alameda County revised its shelter-in-place order lifting the ban on reusable bags. Under the new order, customers can bring their own bags into stores, but they must bag their own groceries. In Berkeley, the revised order says items brought from home may not be placed on any surfaces.

June 25

Pomella's Italian cookies celebrate Pride.
Pomella’s Italian cookies celebrate Pride. Photo: Pomella

TASTE THE RAINBOW Pride parades and parties are canceled, but several East Bay restaurants are offering specials to celebrate and honor Pride and the LGBTQ+ community:

Millennium Restaurant will serve a special Pride-themed, four-course, vegan prix-fixe menu Friday and Saturday on its back patio and front cocktail tables (a la carte available for pickup and delivery). Price per person is $70, with an optional $25 wine pairing. Proceeds will be donated to True Colors Fund. Outdoor seating is limited, so make a reservation. Millennium Restaurant, 5912 College Ave., Oakland

This weekend, 50% of proceeds from sales of Super Duper Burgers‘ seasonal Strawberry Shortcake Super Shake (made with Straus vanilla soft serve, strawberry puree and strawberry shortcake crumbles) will be donated to the Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project. Super Duper Bugers, 2355 Telegraph Ave. (at Durant Avenue), Berkeley and Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville


Pomella offers Pride-themed Italian cookies. There’s a rainbow version and a pink, blue and white version to represent the trans flag. (A third version, in shades of brown, represents chef-owner Mica Talmor’s support for Black Lives Matter.) The chocolate-covered, layered cookies are made with almond paste, with a spread of apricot and raspberry jam between each colored row. Pomella, 3770 Piedmont Ave. (Yosemite), Oakland

And finally, you can always get a soft-serve cone with rainbow sprinkles at Gott’s Roadside, which has a location in Walnut Creek. Gott’s Roadside, 1275 S. Main St., Walnut Creek 

COMCAST WILL PAY FOR YOUR COFFEE For the next couple of weeks, Comcast’s Xfinity will cover the tab (up to $5) for customers who visit Mo’Joe Café on Tuesdays through July 7 and Cafenated Coffee Company on Thursdays through July 9. Just show up to redeem your freebie, but the promotion is limited to one per customer. Mo’Joe Café, 2517 Sacramento St. (at Dwight Way), Berkeley; Cafenated Coffee Company, 2085 Vine St. (at Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley  

BABF TALKS RESTAURANTS The Bay Area Book Festival’s virtual #UNBOUND speaker series tackles a timely topic that will likely pique the interest of Bay Area food lovers — the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry. “Food for Thought: Will Restaurants Survive?” will feature three speakers in conversation: restaurant worker advocate Saru Jayaraman (co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, director of the Food Labor Research Center and president of One Fair Wage), La Cocina executive director Caleb Zigas and San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Soleil Ho. Davia Nelson of The Kitchen Sisters moderates. Discussion airs 7-8:15 p.m., July 2 at the Bay Area Book Fest website.

June 22

FatApple's in Berkeley is back in business.
FatApple’s Berkeley is back in business to satiate your olallieberry pie needs. Photo: Tracey Taylor

FATAPPLE’S IS BACK On Saturday, the Berkeley location of FatApple’s, a longstanding family-dining favorite reopened for business. The restaurant closed March 16, a measure the restaurant said was to protect workers, customers and the greater community from COVID-19. For now, the Berkeley diner-bakery is takeout only, so you’ll have to enjoy its comforting soups, salads, entrees and desserts at home, but if you’re really itching to eat at FatApple’s, its El Cerrito location is open for patio dining. Both restaurants are open 7 a.m.-5 p.m., daily. FatApple’s, 1346 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (at Rose Street), Berkeley; 7525 Fairmont Ave. (near Colusa Avenue), El Cerrito


MORE HELP FOR CHINATOWN BUSINESSES Oakland’s Chinatown merchants  who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic will be getting more help thanks to The Oakland Chinatown Recovery and Resiliency Fund. So far $40,000 has been raised mostly by individual community donors. The money will go to support cleanup efforts in Chinatown, help area merchants pay for damages incurred during the recent protests and give small businesses needed marketing support. Read more about the fund on The Oaklandside.

MUSIC TO YOUR MOUTH Musical Offering, the daytime café/classical music record store and sister business to recently closed University Press Books‚ just launched a new changing four-course takeaway dinner. Owner Jean Spencer told Nosh they had a successful first week of business last Friday, so this week, they’ll offer the menu on Wednesday and Friday. For $32 a person (or $60 for two), diners will savor chilled sweet pea soup served with yuzu crème fraîche, peach and fennel salad with miso vinaigrette, soy-glazed salmon with steamed rice and roasted vegetables, and chocolate mousse with matcha-toasted pecans. Wine can be added for an additional $25. Call 510-849-0211 to reserve meals and to pay in advance. Order between 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, for Wednesday pickup; 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday for Friday pickup. The Musical Offering Café, 2430 Bancroft Way (between Dana and Telegraph), Berkeley

ABSTRACT TABLE FINDS A NEW HOME Abstract Table is back with a new menu in a new space. The conceptual art-meets-food pop-up started by chefs Duncan Kwitkor and Andrew Greene has moved on from the Gastropig in Oakland, its original stomping grounds where it first launched in 2018. Starting July 2, Abstract Table will be serving dinner Thursday through Saturday on the garden patio at Cafenated Coffee Company (2085 Vine St.) in North Berkeley. Kwitkor and Greene have not yet shared all the details, but they have dropped a preview of the upcoming menu, which features dishes like a hamachi crudo with pickled grape, breakfast radish, roe, yuzu kosho coconut cream; braised short rib with edamame puree, beech mushroom and bok choy hash with fish sauce caramel; roasted maitake mushroom with pickled fennel, asparagus and charred scallion yogurt. Along with on-site outdoor dining, Abstract Table will offer a takeout option. Stay tuned for more details.

COMAL NEXT DOOR OPENS IN OAKLAND Today, Comal Next Door opened its anticipated Oakland location. This is the second outpost for Comal’s sister fast-casual taqueria, which offers a pared-down menu of burritos, tacos, tortas, salads and sides. The 550 Grand Ave. spot will have a few items not on the menu in Berkeley: Grilled elote (corn on the cob), a torta al gusto (made with choice of protein, chipotle aioli, jack cheese, refritos, lettuce, tomato and pickled jalapeños), Tijuana Caesar Salad, and a selection of frozen, one-serving meals. Comal Next Door, 550 Grand Ave. (near North Gate Avenue), Oakland

June 17

Watermelon cheesecake with chocolate crumble and mint crème from chef Salimatu Amabebe for Love Letters to Black Folks.
Watermelon cheesecake with chocolate crumble and mint crème, a dessert by chef Salimatu Amabebe for Love Letters to Black Folks. Photo: Black Feast

BLACK FEAST Love Letters to Black Folks is a new project from chef and visual artist Salimatu Amabebe and poet and designer Annika Azora. The two are affiliated with Black Feast, which Amabebe started as an art-themed pop-up dinner series in Portland, Oregon, as a means to create space for Black artists in a city lacking diversity; it eventually became a roving dinner series that she hosted across the country. Amabebe is now an artist-in-residence at Berkeley’s 2727 California St., where she is continuing her food-art project. “Our experiences are created as a way to not only make space at the table for Black artists, but to design a whole new table for us,” she writes about the project. On Sundays in June, from 4-7 p.m., Black community members are invited to pick up a love letter and free dessert at 2727 California St. All desserts are vegan, gluten-free and sweetened without cane sugar. ⁣This Sunday’s dessert is black sesame chocolate cake with yuzu cashew cream and butterscotch. Non-Black community members who want to support this project can donate funds to cover the cost of food (Venmo at @blackfeast and cash app $blackfeast) or help deliver love letters and desserts. Find information on how to participate, volunteer or donate on Black Feast’s website. ⁣

PALMETTO GOES DARK (FOR NOW) Just a month after its grand opening, Oakland’s new modern-tropical restaurant and bar Palmetto has closed its doors. Earlier this week, owners Christ Aivaliotis and Matthew Reagan took to Instagram to explain: “We will be closed for a little while. Turns out opening during a global pandemic is a lot more difficult than expected. Big thanks to everyone who tried us out during our month long experiment as a takeout joint. We are looking forward to providing that good hospitality once we can reopen. See you soon…”

WORKERS SUE MCDONALD’S Four workers at the Oakland McDonald’s, where several employees recently tested positive for COVID-19, are suing the franchise. According to SFGate, the workers filed a lawsuit against owner Michael Smith for not providing a safe working environment to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The workers’ attorney, Michael Rubin, told SFGate that 25 positive cases were traced to the restaurant at 4514 Telegraph Ave. Seven workers at the Berkeley McDonald’s have also tested positive for COVID-19. Rubin claims the virus may have spread between the two locations when managers from both franchises conducted a meeting. On May 26, workers at the Oakland location went on strike after restaurant management allegedly told staff to use unused dog diapers and coffee filters as make-shift masks. One of the afflicted workers, Angely Rodriguez Lambert, claims she felt ill on the job, but when she notified her manager, she was told to finish her shift. Owner Smith denies the allegations in the lawsuit.


June 16

This BLM-themed sugar cookie is included in A Girl Named Pinky's anti-racism box sold during the Bakers Against Racism viritual bakesale.
This BLM-themed sugar cookie is included in A Girl Named Pinky’s anti-racism box sold during the Bakers Against Racism viritual bakesale. Photo:

BAKING FOR BLACK LIVES Two separate initiatives have started to raise funds for the Black Lives Matter movement through the sale of delicious baked goods.

Baking for BLM was started by a group of Berkeley High students who offer cookies, brownies, pies, tarts cakes and other sweet treats to encourage community members to donate to BLM-related organizations. Rather than collecting the money themselves, Baking for BLM asks people to contribute directly to organizations or funds supporting Black communities — such as George Floyd Memorial Fund, Minnesota Freedom Fund, Reclaim the Block, Black Visions Collective — and then send Baking for BLM a proof of donation to receive a home-baked dessert in return. Those who donate $15-$25 receive a dozen small treats; donations of $35-$50 get one large baked item. In its first two weeks, Baking for BLM raised more than $6,400. Baking for BLM delivers throughout the Bay Area, but it also has a wing of bakers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Bakers Against Racism is a six-day (June 15-20) worldwide virtual bakesale for pastry chefs and home bakers to make and sell desserts to raise money for BLM-affiliated charities. Launched by three Washington, D.C.-based chefs (pastry chefs Paola Velez and Willa Lou Pelini and chef Rob Rubba), Bakers Against Racism has been joined by more than 2,400 participating bakers from around the world. Several talented local chefs are selling baked goods for the cause, including A Girl Named Pinky (selling “anti-racism boxes” featuring decorated butter cookies along with more goodies from Peaches Patties, Soul, Teranga, Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement and Crumble and Whisk), Starter Bakery, Baker and Commons, Batch Pastries and a group of individual professional pastry chefs banding together as East Bay Bakers Against Racism.

PAULA LEDUC DOES TAKEOUT Bay Area fine-dining caterer Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events recently launched a special takeout menu featuring coursed dinners, house-made pantry items and beverages like wines, cocktails and zero-proof beverages. Menu items are available for pickup in Emeryville. Namesake founder Paula LeDuc started the company back in 1980, and over its 40 years, it gained a reputation as one of the region’s best caterers for its beautifully plated, seasonal, locally sourced and organic fare. Some of its past high-profile clients include Oprah, Danielle Steel, Bill and Hillary Clinton, but it’s also been a go-to for providing fancy fare at tech, arts and culture galas. With most events canceled or indefinitely on hold since the pandemic, caterers have found business at a standstill, and some have pivoted to offer takeout meals, meal kits and prepared provisions (like soups and stocks), farm boxes and grocery staples to stay afloat. Paula LeDuc’s at-home menu changes daily, with prix-fixe dinners priced at $40 a person (with a minimum of two orders required), and individual provisions and beverages available for add-ons.

LA COCINA CANTINA LEAVES  UC BERKELEY After nearly two years at the ASUC Student Union, La Cocina’s Cantina — the name for the group of five women and POC-owned food businesses run by graduates of the La Cocina food incubator — has moved on from UC Berkeley. According to the Daily Cal, La Cocina’s contract with Cal ended May 31, although the campus closure due to COVID-19 meant the businesses have been closed since mid-March. A Girl Named Pinky, Noodle Girl, Old Damascus Fare and El Mesón de Violeta will not be at the student union this fall, but mother-daughter soul food sandwich outfit Pinky and Reds will return to the first-floor food hall when the university reopens. The ASUC Student Union Board of Directors told the Daily Cal that while La Cocina’s Cantina made great food, it wasn’t financially sustainable to keep all five businesses on board. The board is determining what will come next to the student union.

June 12

Outdoor tables in Berkeley.
Outdoor tables in Berkeley. Photo: Melinda Stuart

ALAMEDA COUNTY TO REOPEN FOR OUTDOOR DINING JUNE 19 Restaurants in Alameda County, including in Berkeley, will likely reopen for outdoor dining starting June 19. According to KRON4, Dr. Erica Pan, health officer for Alameda County, said that although COVID-19 cases rose steeply in May, case rates and hospitalizations have stabilized enough for the county to move into the next stage of reopening. The city of Berkeley, which has its own health department, also targets June 19 for this next phase. According to a press release from today, Berkeley will be announcing further guidance next week, and will only move forward “[i]f cases and hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 remain stable.” A statement from Berkeley’s public health officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez in the press release stresses that the relaxed guidelines can lead to more COVID-19 cases.  “Increased activities means that there will be increased spread of the virus, and we will continue to see more cases and potentially deaths,” said Hernandez.

June 11

Salad from Liba in Oakland. Photo: Kate Williams

LIBA CALLS IT QUITS Gail Lillian, owner of popular Uptown Oakland falafel eatery Liba, took to Instagram to announce that her business has closed. “Yesterday was Liba’s last day of business after 11 years,” she wrote. “I thought I could tolerate the start-up debt that I would accrue while I tested this new model over the next couple of months. But over the last two weeks of being open, we’ve lost thousands of dollars and I realize I am not actually comfortable going into debt all over again. I just paid off Liba’s debt last year. I struggled financially for years, paying the bulk of our profit to debt.”

In mid-March, during the pandemic’s early days, Liba closed and Lillian laid off her seven employees. Open only for lunch, Liba saw business dry up quickly, as most customers were already working from home. Lillian told Nosh that even without staff to pay or food to buy, she needed $6,000 a month just to maintain the business. Later that month, she applied for a 0% interest crowdfunded loan through Kiva, and by mid-May announced she’d be relaunching with a new menu for takeout and delivery.

Lillian, who started Liba as a food truck in 2009, still runs a business consulting practice and is grateful, despite Liba closing, for the experience she had. “Food service is a crazy and fulfilling industry. I’m heartbroken to give up my role as a restaurant owner — it’s an amazing club to be a part of, especially in Oakland.”

LATEST ON THE SMOKEHOUSE Not quite COVID-19 related, but as with everything these days, the pandemic has not been helping with progress at still-closed Smokehouse, the well-loved South Berkeley burger shack that closed after a kitchen fire last February. When we last spoke with general manager Shakaib Shaghasi several months ago, the owners were still hashing out details with Berkeley’s Building and Safety Division and had hoped to get permits by March. This week, Shaghasi told Nosh in an email that construction has finally started at the restaurant. “We anticipate the rebuild to take approximately 10 weeks and are aiming to have a grand reopening in September conditional on having no hiccups during our build-out. We can’t wait to share more details as we get closer to reopening!”

ALAMEDA COUNTY MAY ALLOW OUTDOOR DINING SOON ABC 7 reported that Alameda County’s public health department spokesperson said area restaurants may be allowed to open for outdoor dining in the next two to four weeks. An official date has not yet been determined, but the vague plan is alluded to in the county’s reopening plan, released June 5. At this time, Alameda County is the only county in the Bay Area that has not reopened on-site dining since the shelter-in-place order. But whether the region enters the next reopening phase will likely only happen if its coronavirus cases go down. Other Bay Area counties that allow dining have reported a flattening of cases, but Alameda County’s COVID-19 infection rate continues to grow — it currently has the highest number of cases in the Bay Area.

June 9

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY RESTAURANTS, BARS TO REOPEN On July 1, restaurants and bars in Contra Costa County can invite customers inside for dining and drinks, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. Although the county has not yet officially announced details on this new stage of reopening, the date is posted in a graphic released June 8 by Contra Costa Health Services titled “Contra Costa County’s Road Ahead for Our Community.”  This revision expands on the June 5 update to Contra County’s health order, which allowed restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining, as long as restaurants limited the number of diners to six at a table (all of whom should live in the same household), and spaced tables at least six-feet apart.

June 8

A half pizza from Cheese Board in Berkeley.

CHEESE BOARD UPDATE Berkeley rejoiced when Cheese Board reopened for takeout June 2, but some groaned when they realized it would take some pre-planning to get their hands on its tasty goods. Cheese Board hasn’t allowed for walk-up sales, instead requiring customers to pre-order items online two days in advance. Well, after trying that system out for a week, the collective has collectively decided the pre-order system wasn’t a good fit. Starting tomorrow (June 9), Cheese Board will change to walk-up-only service (no phone orders, even). Customers wearing masks and following social distancing protocols will be welcome to buy pizza, baked goods and cheese at 1504 Shattuck Ave. Cheese Board hopes to roll out its full baked good selection in the coming weeks.

PACIFIC STANDARD TAP ROOM TO CLOSE Reader Greg Friedman shared the sad news that Half Moon Bay Brewing Company’s Pacific Standard Tap Room in downtown Berkeley will be closing for good. A representative for the taproom confirmed it will close on June 30. Pacific Standard opened in 2016, offering a wide selection of local and regional beers, local ciders and Northern California wines, along with a curated bar food menu. It is currently selling bottled Half Moon Bay beers for 20% off on Tuesdays. Pacific Standard Tap Room, 2055 Center St. (at Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley

THE LEDE GOES POP-UP As Nosh reported last month, Cal Peternell’s Old Oakland restaurant the Lede closed, but it appears it has been resurrected as a pop-up run by chef Carlo Espinas to continue its free meal program and to reopen for the community at large. Back when the pandemic first closed dining rooms in March, the Lede stopped serving paying customers, but began preparing delicious free meals for various community groups and organizations, including Family Bridges, the Oakland Community Cabins, Bay Area Video Coalition, Roots Community Health Clinic, Oakland Unite and Oakland Art Murmur. Now operating the Lede as a pop-up at Café Encina in North Oakland, Espinas will carry the flag for the community program, and starting Thursday, will re-start its public-serving business. According to the Lede’s website, the new takeout menu will help support the free meal program. The Lede is now at Café Encina, 308 41st St. (near Broadway), Oakland 

NEW (AIN’T) NORMAL Rockridge lost its well-loved coffee shop Bica in May, and Nosh just got word that a new café will be opening in its spot. This will be the first brick-and-mortar for Ain’t Normal Café, a two-year-old specialty coffee catering business founded by Faunus Lucas. Ain’t Normal has operated throughout the Bay Area, pouring coffee and espresso drinks as a pop-up at restaurants and cafés like Gather and Blue Willow Teaspot in Berkeley, serving museum-goers at the SFMOMA, as well as serving refreshments to attendees at huge corporate events like Dreamforce. Lucas told Nosh he doesn’t yet have an opening date for the café.  Ain’t Normal Café will be at 5701 College Ave. (at Miles Avenue), Berkeley  

La Calle 10 will transition into a restaurant called Italy on Gilman in June.
La Calle 10 will transition into a restaurant called Italy on Gilman in June. Photo: Scott Kane

FORMER T-REX TO BECOME ITALIAN SPOT Reader Scott Kane sent Nosh a tip that La Calle 10, a Latin BBQ restaurant and grill, at Tenth and Gilman streets in Berkeley will soon become an eatery called Italy on Gilman. The photo that Kane shared said the restaurant will be “COVID-19 prepared.” Nosh contacted current owner Juan Romo, who confirmed that he’s still at the helm and that Italy on Gilman will open “later this month,” but Romo did not provide any other information about the menu or intended opening date. The prolific restaurateur (whose Monteros Café group also owns La Capilla, Casa Latino, Taqueria Monte Cristo, Casa Latina, La Mission, and Taqueria Talavera) bought the restaurant — known then, and still missed by many, as T-Rex BBQ — in 2016. Romo was the third owner following Matt Strum, who bought T-Rex from founders Cindy and Haig Krikorian. In 2017, it briefly was called District 1 Fire & Hops, before settling on the current moniker, La Calle 10. Although the culinary focus has shifted with every name change, each iteration still kept barbecue in some shape or form on the menu. We’ll just have to wait and see whether Italy on Gilman will keep that tradition alive. Italy on Gilman will be at 1300 Tenth St. (at Gilman) Berkeley

BARS TO REOPEN, JUST NOT HERE (YET) Starting June 12, many bars across California will be able to reopen their doors for business with physical distancing measures, but those in the Bay Area (at least those that do not serve food) will have to remain closed, for now. The new allowance was announced Friday, when California health officials gave the green light to bars, breweries and wineries in areas that have met the state’s public health requirements, that is, with low COVID-19 infection rates and high testing capacity. Alameda County has not yet announced a date for when bars will be allowed to serve customers inside.

June 3

WHAT BERKELEY OPEN-AIR DINING COULD LOOK LIKE During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Berkeley-based architecture firm Studio KDA shared a pro-bono presentation on the city’s planned Open Air Dining program. The project doesn’t have a timeline yet, but city leaders will consult closely with Health Officer Dr. Lisa Hernandez and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guidelines for reopening. The presentation did, however, offer a peek at what outdoor dining could look like when shelter-in-place restrictions are loosened.

Design elements for open-air dining in Berkeley. Image courtesy of Studio KDA
Design elements for open-air dining in Berkeley. Image courtesy of Studio KDA

Plans from Center Street, for example, show about half of the block converted into a 188-seat outdoor dining area. The city expects customers would order takeout meals from restaurants, pick up curbside, then seat themselves in the open eating area. Renderings included design elements, like woven fabric to liven up metal barricades and painted streets to guide customers on social distancing. In a mock-up of College Avenue in the Elmwood, street parking is shown converted into 280 spots for dining; these areas would be shared between restaurants, like Shen Hua, Baker & Commons and In the Wood. Councilmember Sophie Hahn added that the open-air dining plan will respect the city’s sidewalk ordinances.

SIT & STAY CAFÉ REOPENING Dogs and their humans who frequent Point Isabel Regional Shoreline will be glad to hear that the dog park reopened June 1 and its beloved concession stand — Sit & Stay Café will reopen Thursday. The café, run by Mudpuppy’s, a dog grooming business at the park, has been closed since April, when Point Isabel was shut down to comply with the shelter-in-place order. Sit & Stay Café, 1 Isabel St., Richmond

FEED HOSPITALITY The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), Alameda-based Hangar 1 Vodka and the San Francisco Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) are partnering on a new program called Feed Hospitality, which provides fresh produce boxes to unemployed hospitality workers. At the end of May, 515 farm boxes were donated. So far, 20 spirits companies have raised $15,000; Hangar 1 has added a matching grant of $15,000 and CUESA plans to raise another $15,000 through a public fundraising campaign. Funds raised will pay small, sustainable farms to fulfill another 1,125 farm boxes.

June 2

SUPPORT BLACK-OWNED RESTAURANTS As the nation responds to the death of George Floyd, many are looking for ways beyond protesting to support local black communities. We’ve put together a list of black-owned restaurants and other food businesses in Berkeley and Oakland that are currently open for delivery and takeout. Check out an even more comprehensive Bay Area-guide, put together by San Francisco Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho.

May 28

PRETZEL CLASS TONIGHT! Looking for something fun to do this early evening? Uli Elser of Squabisch is hosting a free online pretzel class. The 40-minute class will teach attendees how to make their own twisted, baked German soft pretzels at home. (Link to Zoom class: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/6332963447?pwd=R1lDN0IwVXhOMnZwekZPOFFNd1pSdz09 meeting ID: 633 296 3447; password: 6t7XBi). If you miss the class, or just want the expert to do all the work for you, Elser is still offering his pretzels for curbside pretzel pickup and delivery out of the Bread Project bakery (1615 University Ave., Berkeley). Orders must be received by 8 p.m., Friday, for pickup Saturday morning. This week’s Squabisch offerings are classic, asiago, anchovies & capers, ham & swiss & gruyere stuffed pretzel rolls; torpedo Rolls, everything seed and salted caramel.

MORE RE-OPENINGS FOB Kitchen will be open, starting tonight at 4 p.m. for takeout and delivery. Shiba Ramen Emeryville, and its sister bar, the Periodic Table, will reopen Friday for pickup at the Public Market kiosk. And Cheese Board just announced it will reopen June 2 with a limited menu (pizza, baked goods, cheese) for curbside pickup (Note that orders must be placed online two days in advance; no same day pickups. Cheese Board will start taking online orders Saturday for Tuesday’s opening).

SAUL’S IS RENOVATING The last time Nosh checked in with Saul’s Deli, in late March, owners Peter Levitt and Karen Adelman decided to temporarily close the business. They were on the brink of selling the North Berkeley Jewish deli to a new owner, but the sale fell through when banks canceled loans to restaurants — another consequence of, you guessed it, COVID-19. Saul’s is still closed, but Levitt and Adelman took to Instagram to update fans on what they’re doing right now — renovating. “Twenty years ago we invested deeply. We lived through 9/11, 2001, 2008. In the darkness of 2020 we are investing again,” the owners captioned their photo of the barren restaurant space in transition. According to the post, when Saul’s reopens — they’re hoping in July — it’ll have “a new deli case, new surfaces, new floor, a sliding takeout window.”

COVID CASES AT OAKLAND MARKET Bay Area News Group reported today that 12 workers at the Fruitvale branch of Cardenas Markets, a grocery store specializing in products from Latin America, have tested positive for COVID-19. The market at 1630 High St. remains open for business, but Cardenas spokesperson Marisa Kutansky told BANG that sick employees, along with other workers who had been in contact with them, were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

May 26

Three striking McDonald’s workers hold a sign asking their store to protect them by issuing proper PPE. Photo: Pete Rosos

OAKLAND MCDONALD’S WORKERS STRIKE The McDonald’s at 4514 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland’s Temescal District is closed due to an employee strike, reports the East Bay Times. The 22 employees did not show up to work in protest after four employees and several of their family members tested positive for COVID-19 last week and restaurant management allegedly told workers to use unused dog diapers and coffee filters as make-shift masks. Fight for $15, an organization working to advance working conditions and pay for fast-food workers, tweeted that striking workers are demanding “a two-week paid quarantine period, with full pay, company-paid medical costs, a deep cleaning of the store and proper personal protective equipment.” McDonald’s workers in 20 cities went on strike last Thursday, protesting that the fast-food company hasn’t done enough to protect its workers.

May 20

THE LEDE HAS CLOSED Chef Cal Peternell’s Old Oakland restaurant The Lede has closed. According to Eater SF, who first reported the news, the restaurant’s Instagram profile had previously said the “landlord cancelled our lease,” but the bio now reads: “We have to close. Thanks for all the support. Here’s to better days 🥂” Nosh has reached out to Peternell for more details.

Berkeley Bowl West is now offering produce boxes for home delivery via Doordash.
Berkeley Bowl West is now offering produce boxes for home delivery via Doordash. Photo: Berkeley Bowl

BERKELEY BOWL DELIVERED Last month, Berkeley Bowl West joined DoorDash to offer Japanese eats from its regular sushi, onigiri and bento provider, B-Dama, for home delivery. B-Dama owner Chikara Ono also operates omakase restaurants Delage in Old Oakland and Utzutzu in Alameda, and so the menu (which is also available for curbside pickup) also features some special items not regularly offered at Berkeley Bowl, namely rice bowls made with top-quality fish, like the ikura don (lightly seared salmon with salmon roe) and the chirashi don (chef’s choice of a selection of raw fish), both priced at $13.99 each. (According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Ono will transform Delage into a space for selling takeout: sous vide entrees from Delage chef Mikoko Ando and luxe chirashi from Utzutzu sushi chef Joji Nonaka.)

This week, Berkeley Bowl West added a new item to the Doordash menu: an organic produce box, featuring 16 basic fruits and vegetables for $49.99. The box includes 1 bunch carrots, 2 yellow onions, 2 broccoli crowns, 2 bunches dino kale, 1 cauliflower, 4 russet potatoes, 2 lemons, 2 limes, 1 head white garlic, 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 2 Fuji apples, 2 avocados, 4 navel oranges, 1-lb strawberries and 1 bosc pear. And in case you’re wondering, no substitutions are allowed. If you don’t want to pay the delivery fees, the box can also be ordered for curbside pickup at Berkeley Bowl West by texting 510-421-6023.

May 19

MARIPOSA BAKING CO. TO EXPAND This summer, Oakland’s Mariposa Baking Co. will expand its production floor into the adjoining space currently occupied by Marshall Steel Cleaners, a dry-cleaning business set to close so its owner can retire. Mariposa owner Patti Furey Cane told Nosh the expansion was planned before the pandemic, and although customers won’t notice the difference in the bakeshop, the new space will allow the company to “spread out a bit more… and have room to grow for the future.” Good news for fans of this local 100% gluten-free bakery’s pies, cookies, cupcakes, breads, pizzas, sandwiches and more.

Since sheltering in place began, Mariposa closed its San Francisco shop, but its Oakland location has remained open for wholesale business, along with curbside pickup for locals and mail-order shipping of its shelf-stable goods nationwide. “We’re skeletal in our operation but it’s working right now,” Furey Cane said. “We’re taking things day by day.” Mariposa Baking Co., 5427 Telegraph Ave., (near 55th Street), Oakland. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Sunday

NICK’S IS BACK Nick’s Pizza in North Oakland reopened Monday after being shuttered for the past two months. All items  — including light-baked pizzas to finish in the oven at home, sourdough breads, desserts — will be offered “grab and go” through the window, from noon-6 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. For now, orders and payment are taken in-person only, but owner Nick Yapor-Cox said he hopes to offer delivery in the coming weeks. Nick’s Pizza, 6211 Shattuck Ave. (at 63rd Street), Oakland

MORE RETURNS Other East Bay spots turning the sign at the door from “Closed” to “Open”: Doña (3770 Piedmont Ave., Oakland) reopened Monday for takeout and delivery, along with sister restaurant Tacubaya (1782 Fourth St., Berkeley); Calavera (2337 Broadway, Oakland) is back with takeout Wednesday; CoRo Coffee Room (2324 Fifth St., Berkeley) reopens Friday.

ARIZMENDI EMERYVILLE REDUX Yesterday, Arizmendi Emeryville announced a reopening date: May 27. The bakery closed mid-March, when the shelter-in-place order was enacted. The COVID-19-induced closure was difficult for local fans, who had just celebrated Arizmendi Emeryville’s grand reopening in February, but the worker-owned bakery made the decision to stop operations for the safety of its staff and customers. Arizmendi Emeryville will be open with a limited takeout menu on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

OAKLAND CONSIDERING OPEN-AIR RESTAURANTS Oakland may be joining Berkeley and other cities considering turning open space into outdoor dining areas for restaurants. Warren Logan, policy director of Mobility and Interagency Relations at the Oakland mayor’s office, told SFGate the city is looking into its options for open-air dining after receiving several requests from small businesses about it. Logan said, “It might look like temporary parklets or it might look like what we’re already seeing with some of our businesses that have tape on the sidewalk to let people queue up.” But there are several steps and hurdles the city will need to address before restaurants could go al fresco, including getting approval from the Alameda County Public Health Department and ensuring that all businesses, especially vulnerable and underrepresented ones, will not only benefit from such a program, but have the financial means to participate in it. Another big step would be ensuring the safety of the community, including passersby on foot, bike or cars. For now, the city is taking community feedback to determine next steps.

May 18

The Tacos Sinaloa truck parked at Sacramento Street (near Oregon street) in Berkeley.
The Tacos Sinaloa truck parked at Sacramento Street (near Oregon street) in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

HELLO, SINALOA! We’re always glad to share some happy news during this time, and we’re overjoyed by this tasty nugget: One of the East Bay’s best taquerias has a new Berkeley outpost. Joining its brick-and-mortar location on Southside at 2384 Telegraph Ave., Tacos Sinaloa now parks its food truck in South Berkeley at Sacramento and Oregon streets, from 11 a.m.- 9 p.m., daily. The business, which started in East Oakland in 1999, first drew fans by word-of-mouth to its truck parked in the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland (2138 International Blvd.), and later established a second permanent truck spot in Fruitvale (3132 E. 12th St.). The Berkeley location, opened in 2015, was recognized as a Michelin Bib Gourmand pick in 2017 and 2018.

Sinaloa has remained open for takeout since the pandemic began. In the early days of the shelter-in-place order, the restaurant posted a plea on its social media pages for its fans to continue supporting local restaurants: “Tacos Sinaloa like many other restaurants, is open today to support our staff members who will not have the option to work from home if we close. By supporting a small local bussiness [sic] you are supporting members of your community.” In the meantime, the taqueria has also donated to front line health care workers and communities in need through collaborations with East Bay Feed ER, Community Kitchens Oakland and World Central Kitchen.

Berkeley’s Japanese restaurant Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya recently reopened for takeout just in time for Berkeley Restaurant Week ToGo. Its prix fixe meal includes salads, your choice of small plates, dessert and a drink for $25/person. Photo: Sarah Han

BERKELEY RESTAURANT WEEK TO GO Visit Berkeley kicked off a special “to-go” edition of its Berkeley Restaurant Week on Friday, which will continue through May 24. As with past events, participating restaurants offer special menus at various price points — $15, $20 and $25 per person. Here are just a few of the mouthwatering menus and noteworthy specials being offered: Cesar’s $25 seafood paella feeds two; Donato & Co’s $25 three-course meal includes fresh tagliatelle, sous vide pork loin and orange marmalade and pistachio cake; Summer Kitchen has two complete meal options that feed a family of four for $80 or $100; Longbranch/Paisan offers three choices at each price point, including a $15 grilled calamari salad; Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya’s $25 four-course menu is a steal, offering choices like black cod marinated in sake lees and grilled Berkshire pork belly, and includes both a dessert and a drink; and coming full circle, Tacos Sinaloa feeds a family of four or six for $20 a person, with everything you need to build your own taco, as well as chips, salsa, guacamole and horchata to wash it all down.

Each participating restaurant has chosen a charitable organization that diners can choose to support with donations through their BRWToGo page or ordering website.

May 14

BERKELEY’S OPEN-AIR DINING PROPOSAL Today, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Sophie Hahn introduced a proposal for reopening restaurants in Berkeley that would involve repurposing outdoor spaces as open-air dining areas. According to a press release shared with Nosh, “streets, surface lots, public parking spaces, public recreation space, and adjacent parcels” could become “vast open-air cafés,” which would allow restaurants, cafés and food shops to seat and serve diners while also observing physical distancing measures. The idea was inspired by similar proposals being floated in other cities, like Vilnius, Lithuania, New York and San Jose. Arreguín and Hahn’s proposal would waive the normal sidewalk café permits and fees to streamline implementation. “A creative approach, consistent with health and safety protocols, is necessary to ensure that our small restaurants, cafés, and shops are able to recover from this shutdown, and that Berkeley’s food and dining community is once again able to thrive,” writes Hahn in the proposal.

For now, the idea is just that. The proposal will be voted on at the June 2 city council meeting. Should the proposal become law, the city manager, in consultation with Berkeley’s public health officer and business improvement districts, will be responsible for identifying the new outdoor dining spaces and creating protocols to ensure safe and sanitary usage. As for when Berkeley’s al fresco restaurants might be operational? According to Hahn, “it is likely that health orders limiting indoor dining will remain in effect for many more weeks, if not longer.”

May 12

When restaurants can reopen dine-in service, Monster will be ready. Half the restaurant cordoned off for takeout orders and the other half in a modified, well-spaced seating arrangement, complete with plexiglass partitions between tables, hand-washing stations and plenty of sanitizer. Photo: Monster Pho
Monster Pho is preparing for reopening its dining room. Half the restaurant is cordoned off for takeout orders and the other half in a modified, well-spaced seating arrangement, complete with plexiglass partitions between tables, hand-washing stations and plenty of sanitizer. Photo: Monster Pho

GUIDELINES FOR DINE-IN RESTAURANT Today, Gov. Gavin Newsom released guidelines for California restaurants to reopen dine-in service. During his noontime COVID-19 update, Newsom stressed California’s approach to the industry’s reopening will be a phased approach and is not one-size-fits-all, due to the variety of eateries and circumstances across the state. For example, restaurants in rural counties will likely be able to reopen sooner than areas, like the Bay Area and Los Angeles. And, different business and dining room arrangements — like outdoor seating, restaurants with fixed furnishings and restaurants that are bars — will also determine how and when a restaurant can re-open.

The new guidelines apply to restaurants, along with brewpubs, breweries, bars, pubs, craft distilleries and wineries that serve sit-down, dine-in meals. The document provides guidance on protecting both employees and customers, including through temperature and symptoms screenings for employees who enter the business, more rigorous cleaning and disinfecting protocols and physical distancing guidelines.

A few noteworthy items from the guidelines include:

  • napkin holders, salt and pepper shakers, condiment bottles, toothpicks and other shared or self-service items should be removed from tables and other areas
  • tables should not be pre-set before customers sit down; utensils can be pre-rolled in napkins, but they are to be handed out to customers at the table by employees who have just washed their hands
  • menus should be disposable or digital; in the case neither is possible, menus should be disinfected after each use
  • takeout containers must be filled by customers
  • shared entertainment, including board games and pool tables, should be discontinued
  • customers should wait in their car or away from the restaurant when waiting to be seated; mobile phones, rather than buzzers, are recommended to alert diners when their table is ready
  • bar areas and other parts of restaurants where customers cannot keep six feet distance from each other remain closed
  • restaurant employees who must be within six feet of diners must wear face coverings
  • kitchens should be reconfigured so staff can stay at least six feet apart
  • directional passageways should be staged so that foot traffic only goes in one direction
Screenshot of Larb Thai video.

WATCH THIS: LARB THAI DURING COVID-19 When El Cerrito resident Gautam Jain found out his favorite neighborhood restaurant, Larb Thai Food & Tapas in El Cerrito, has only been bringing in 10% its usual business since the shelter-in-place order was enacted, he and his roommate Srijan Tamrakar decided to take action. They filmed an interview with owners Ann and Paul Chan about their struggles during the crisis and the measures they’re taking to offer safe takeout. Jain told Nosh he hopes that others might share the video and “encourage people to order takeout from their own neighborhood restaurants.” Watch the video on Youtube. Larb Thai Food & Tapas, 10166 San Pablo Ave. (between Lincoln and Central avenues), El Cerrito

CHANCHO’S BORDER-STYLE MEXICAN FARE Chef Matt Meyer and his business partner Daniel Paez were getting ready to start construction of their upcoming bar-restaurant in Uptown Oakland, Low Bar, but the pandemic put the kibosh on moving forward for now. So Paez and Meyer, the latter who was a former sous chef at Kyle Itani’s restaurant Hopscotch, decided to try something else in the meantime. Operating out Itani Ramen’s kitchen, they launched Chancho’s, a “virtual restaurant,” as they call it, focused on burritos and tamales. The takeout menu offers four burritos (priced at $5-$10.50) and two types of tamales ($3.50 each, or a half dozen for $20). Meyer, who grew up on the San Diego/Mexico border, says Chancho’s fare will represent the style of cuisine found in that region. For example, his burritos will be wrapped in paper rather than foil (“Wrapping in foil ends up steaming the burrito. It loses the crispy texture that is created when the tortille is put on the plancha,” Meyer explains in a press release) and his carne asada burrito will not contain rice (“In San Diego, many times it’s simply meat, guac, pico and cheese,” he added). Chancho’s is open from 2-8 p.m., Thursday; 2-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Orders can be called in or texted to 510-473-5453; delivery is offered via Doordash and Caviar. Payments can be made by credit card, Paypal or Venmo; no cash. Chancho’s (operating out of Itani Ramen), 1736 Telegraph Ave. (at 18th Street), Oakland

PALMETTO OPENS Yesterday, Kon-Tiki owners Christ Aivaliotis and Matt Reagan opened their latest restaurant, Palmetto in Uptown Oakland. As Nosh reported last year, Palmetto is the pair’s tropical-themed, steak and cocktails-focused restaurant-bar in the former Flora space. Eater SF was first to report that Palmetto is now offering an abbreviated menu for takeout and delivery, with $24 cocktails (that serve two) like the Moonchild (gin, coconut, lime, passionfruit and saffron) and Carter Beats the Devil (a Flora classic, featuring tequila, mezcal, lime, agave nectar and bird’s eye chili) and dishes like a kale, roasted turnip, farro and watermelon radish salad with vegan green goddess dressing ($13), grilled pork chop with mojo mustard, black beans, asparagus and kumquats ($37) and a 12 oz. Cream Co. ribeye steak with sweet and sour spring onions, fried onions and aioli ($50). Palmetto is open 4-8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Call 510-817-4002 to order pickup; delivery is available via Caviar. Palmetto, 1900 Telegraph Ave. (at 19th Street), Oakland

May 7

A salami and bell pepper pizza from Arthur Mac's Tap & Snack. Photo: Arthur Mac's Tap & Snack
A salami and bell pepper pizza from Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack. Photo: Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack

ARTHUR MAC’S PIZZA GIVEAWAY Days before the March 16 shelter-in-place order closed restaurant dining rooms, Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack was the first in the Bay Area to voluntarily go takeout and delivery-only. Co-owner Joel DiGiorgio told Nosh in late March that the Longfellow pizza and beer garden took an immediate hit — sales plummeted by over 75%. Although it initially kept all staff on payroll, Arthur Mac’s eventually pared down staff to 40%.

Still, Arthur Mac’s has kept going and has made efforts to help others in need while it fights to stay afloat, including by raising more than $10,000 to feed healthcare workers. It’s also applied with CalFresh to accept food stamp payments through the SNAP program and via EBT cards. In the meantime, the restaurant has changed its business model, pivoting from a focus on slices and pints to full pies — including frozen pizzas — and growlers. Arthur Mac’s has expanded its gluten-free and vegan offerings, and not only in the form of pizza. Through a new partnership with Sunrise Bistro & Catering in Walnut Creek, Arthur Mac’s now sells prepared meals (and Sunrise Bistro sells Arthur Mac’s frozen pizzas at its location). According to DiGiorgio, “menu variety and affordability is critical during this shelter-in-place as it allows customers to purchase more meals at one stop instead of having to visit multiple restaurants or stores to get meals for multiple days, which in turn limits everyone’s potential exposure.”

On Saturday, Arthur Mac’s will celebrate its third anniversary, and while it can’t throw a grand birthday party in the usual way, it’s inviting the community to help mark the milestone with a special promotion: Arthur Mac’s will give away a free 14″ frozen pizza with every prepared 18″ pizza sold (while supplies last). Frozen pizzas come with a variety of toppings, from classic cheese to chicken tikka masala; gluten-free crust and vegan pizzas are also available.

DiGiorgio told Nosh in an email that Arthur Mac’s is banking on the new frozen pizza program to “help us maintain solvency while providing high-quality affordable meals for our extended community.” If it’s a success, the owners will hire more staff, and keep selling the frozen pies even after the pandemic ends. Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack, 4006 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (at 40th Street), Oakland 

May 6

ROCKRIDGE TRADER JOE’S LINE WATCH (Update: Read our follow-up story about Rockridge Trader Joe’s Line Watch) The next time you head to the Trader Joe’s in Rockridge, you may want to quickly peek at Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch, a website featuring a live view during business hours of the 12-minute mark to get into the store (in this case, where the line snakes along the side of the store in the back parking lot). Nosh has attempted to contact the person behind the website, but as of time of publication, we haven’t heard back. What we do know is from the website: the creator started the feed on April 29 and claims to be “a regular person who lives next to a Trader Joe’s” who made the site to make grocery shopping easier for their neighbors during the pandemic, while also raising money for food-insecure people. That second part refers to a call to action button on the site, which prompts viewers to donate to the Alameda County Community Food Bank (there’s also a direct GoFundMe page for this purpose). According to the website, the creator is not affiliated with the store or the Trader Joe’s company, and says the video footage, which is captured by smartphones placed outside their apartment window, is obtained legally, based on California and U.S. privacy laws. They also likely have a very cute fluffy dog.

Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch joins other live streams of lines at Trader Joe’s — those feeds are of stores in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood and at Philly Center City. Based on the current view at the Rockridge TJ’s (around 3 p.m.), it looks like it’s a great time to go shopping (our TJ’s snack recs: Movie Theater Popcorn, Brookie and Just Mango Slices).

BLUE OX SUPPER CLUB These days, wineries are pivoting by offering delivery and pickup of their bottles, often with extra perks, like food. Earlier this week, Nosh pointed out an upcoming drive-thru pickup party at Berkeley’s Donkey & Goat winery in our Mother’s Day gift guide. And today, we have another noteworthy example at another Berkeley winery, Blue Ox Wine Company. Before shelter-in-place, Blue Ox would collaborate with a local chef to serve dishes paired with wines at the tasting room on Fifth Street. Now, they’re offering the pairings for pickup to be enjoyed at home. So far, Blue Ox has held two Supper Clubs with chef Jaime Tjahaja (who’s cooked at Lazy Bear, Izakaya Rintaro, Chez Panisse). The next Supper Club takes place this Friday, when chef Tjahaja will offer Liberty duck confit, z’hug (Yemeni herb sauce) and chickpeas and kale simmered in tomato broth to pair with two bottles of Blue Ox 2019 Cabernet Pfeffer. Ramen Shop pastry chef Krista Allvey will cap the meal with pistachio and rose petal shortbread cookies. The whole shebang is $125, and can be ordered online for pickup at the winery Friday between 1-6 p.m. Delivery is $10, but the fee is waived if you purchase an additional bottle of wine. Blue Ox Wine Company, 1350 Fifth St. (near Camelia Street), Berkeley

May 5

A La Cocina Food Box features eight items made by La Cocina community members.
A La Cocina Food Box features eight items made by La Cocina community members. Photo: La Cocina

LA COCINA FOOD BOX San Francisco-based food entrepreneur incubator La Cocina, which primarily works with immigrant women and women of color, has started selling food boxes featuring fresh and frozen prepared dishes made by La Cocina alumni. When La Cocina launched the food boxes in March, they were only available for pickup at its Mission District headquarters, but now, food boxes are available for East Bay pickup, too. La Cocina Community Food Boxes contain eight items (choose between the omnivore or vegetarian box), serving two to four people. East Bay La Cocina alumni that will be offering eats in the next box include Nyum Bai, Reem’s, Minnie Bell’s, Mama Lamees, Old Damascus Fare, El Meson de Violeta, A Girl Named Pinky, La Guerrera’s Kitchen and Los Cilantros. All funds raised from the boxes benefit participating makers. Boxes are available by pre-order on a weekly basis; pickup is from noon-3 p.m., Tuesdays, at Nyum Bai (3340 E. 12th St., Oakland).

MAMA WILL REMAIN A TAKEOUT SPOT According to Eater SF, Oakland red sauce Italian spot Mama in Adam’s Point says it’ll keep doing takeout for the foreseeable future, even after the shelter-in-place order ends. Mama reopened in mid-April, after temporarily suspending business a few days after dine-in service at restaurants was mandated to close. Upon its return, Mama retooled itself from a sit-down, affordable prix-fixe dinner restaurant to a carry-out sandwich shop, with a focus on meatball subs and Italian cold cuts, that also offers pantry staples. Owner Stevie Stacionis tells Eater’s Luke Tsai that after reading various articles predicting what the future of dining will be, she and co-owner, husband Josiah Baldivino don’t feel it will be conceivable at their restaurant. “Creating spaces that make people feel comfortable, safe, and nourished is everything to us,” she said. Today on Instagram, the restaurant officially announced its plans and asked followers about how they hope restaurants will pivot: “What works for you and what doesn’t? What are you buying from restaurants and what aren’t you?” Hospitality has always been a focus at Mama, so the restaurant cautiously promises “We’ll keep evolving and trying our best to serve you, until…?”

May 4

StoreQueue is a new app that tracks grocery store wait times.
StoreQueue is a new app that tracks grocery store wait times.

NEW APP TRACKS GROCERY STORE WAIT TIMES A new locally developed app called StoreQueue.com allows shoppers to check wait times at Bay Area grocery and retail stores, including Berkeley Bowl, Trader Joe’s, Target, Home Depot and Costco, among many others.

Both StoreQueue’s founders are in the tech world: Siddharth Vanchinathan lives in Oakland, but is the founder and COO at San Francisco-based global strategic design and engineering company propelland; Soumya Mohan is based in San Francisco and is the founder of a new recruiting startup. The idea for the app “came out of a mutual conversation we had between us and our wives a few weeks ago discussing the problem of being extra time-strapped now with kids at home, having to juggle working remotely, and on top of that, having to wait in line for groceries,” Vanchinathan told Nosh. Within one weekend, they created a prototype and in its earliest days, the two founders populated the app by personally driving to local markets to update the wait times.

Now, all the information on StoreQueue is crowdsourced by community members, who regularly report wait times. The more users that provide and vet the information, the more accurate the app will be. With the help of the community, StoreQueue has been able to expand beyond the founders’ neighborhoods and plans to roll out information about stores throughout the Bay Area this week, and nationally in the coming days. “We hope that this tool can help people plan out their grocery visit and save time. Our way of giving back during these crazy times for us all,” Vanchinathan said.

JAMES BEARD AWARD NOMINEES When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) pivoted from focusing on its coveted awards to helping a now-struggling restaurant and food industry in the midst of crisis. JBF postponed the announcement of nominees for the 2020 awards, which was originally scheduled for March 25, and instead, put its energy into creating a lobby group to represent independent restaurants, and start a relief fund to give emergency grants to restaurants. But today, JBF has picked up where it left off by announcing the nominees via Twitter.

In a blog post shared Friday, JBF explained that it decided to move forward to “offer a glimmer of hope to an industry looking for light in a very dark time.” Today would have been the 30th annual James Beard Awards ceremony, which will not happen at a physical event this time around. See the full list of nominees (including two East Bay contenders, Lance Winters, for Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer and Chez Panisse, for Design Icon). Restaurant & Chef Award winners will be announced via Twitter Sept. 25.

April 29

North Light's takeout setup during the shelter-in-place order.
North Light’s takeout setup. Photo: North Light

MORE FOOD BUSINESSES REOPENING Several restaurant and food businesses have announced re-openings (for takeout, natch), despite the extension on the shelter-in-place order. Please welcome back: Farley’s East, North Light, Grand Lake Kitchen Lake Merritt (April 30), La Farine Bakery (May 4), Arizmendi Lakeshore (May 5), Clove & Hoof (May 6).

REGIONAL UPDATES Today, Berkeley and six Bay Area counties announced new changes to the shelter-in-place order, which will extend the shutdown until the end of May, but relax some rules, including the reopening of certain “outdoor businesses.” To the relief of gardening enthusiasts and urban homesteaders, this includes wholesale and retail nurseries. Landscapers and other gardening businesses will also be able to operate, but the new order specifies that “outdoor businesses do not include restaurants, cafés or bars, regardless of whether they have outdoor seating.”

CALIFORNIA UPDATES At noon, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced three new statewide updates to help communities in need (You can follow Berkeleyside’s live tweets of Gov. Newsom’s daily COVID-19 briefings): First, working in partnership with 128 local farmers and ranchers, the state will deliver 21 million pounds of fresh produce and other commodities to California food banks, which will distribute food boxes to food-insecure families. The boxes will contain three to four days worth of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat. Newsom also said that the approximately four million Californians who have a Cal Fresh debit card can now shop online with Amazon and Walmart, and announced a new pandemic EBT program, which will give an additional $365 for children and families, given that many of these youngsters are no longer getting free daytime meals with the closure of schools.

These new programs join another initiative that Newsom announced last week that will support high-risk, low-income seniors, along with struggling restaurants. “Restaurants Deliver: Home Meals for Seniors,” introduced Friday, will pay local restaurants to deliver three meals every day of the week to seniors. According to Fast Company, restaurants can sign up to participate and will get payments of $16 for breakfasts, $17 for lunch and $28 for dinners provided. The program will be mostly funded by FEMA, but will get additional funding from the state and local governments. To qualify for the program, people must be aged 65 years or older and earn less than $74,940 (individuals) or $154,500 (for a family of four).

ALBATROSS PUB NEEDS HELP SFGate reports that Berkeley’s oldest watering hole, 56-year-old Albatross Pub, is in danger of permanently closing. After closing its doors March 15, the Albatross started a GoFundMe campaign with the hopes of raising $25,000 for “staff relief and payment of rent for the duration of the shelter in place,” according to co-owner Andrew McGee. As of time of publication, the bar has raised a little over $9,000 from 115 donors. It should also be noted that the Albatross Pub was not one of the 352 small businesses to receive a Berkeley Relief Fund grant.

April 28

Baker Quan Lai at King Pin Donuts in Berkeley. King Pin received a $5,000 Berkeley Relief Fund grant. Photo: Cirrus Wood.

BERKELEY RELIEF FUND Many of the 352 small businesses that received emergency grants from the city of Berkeley through the Berkeley Relief Fund are restaurants, Berkeleyside reports. One hundred twenty grant awards, totaling $335,000, went to restaurants and food-service businesses. Most received $2,500, but some, such as Kingpin Donut, The Musical Offering and La Note, received $5,000. Those businesses who got the grants had to have between 1-50 employees and had to have seen at least a 25% drop in revenues due to the pandemic. The grants are to be used for paying employees, rent or to cover operational expenses.

LASAGNA WITH SAMIN Everyone’s current favorite local celebrity chef, ‘Salt Fat Acid Heat’ author Samin Nosrat, penned a New York Times article with an intriguing proposition for those who miss dinner parties as much as she does: “If, like me, you are craving a shared meal, a shared project, a shared sense of purpose (if only for a day), then please join me at a grand lasagna dinner on Instagram Live this Sunday, May 3, at 7 p.m. Eastern time (4 p.m. Pacific). Let’s spend our day cooking together, even if we’re apart. Let us enter a new kind of space together — a digital one — and turn it into a dining room.”

CATCHING UP WITH BAKESALE BETTY Oakland fried chicken sandwich mainstay Bakesale Betty has been closed during the pandemic, but owner Alison Barakat has been busy baking cookies and pies for healthcare workers. She recently wrapped up a fundraiser, giving donors the opportunity to sponsor a cookie or pie that would be delivered to a front line worker with a special note of appreciation. Barakat raised $5,386 — 100% of the funds will be donated to Alameda County Meals on Wheels. (H/t to Edible Excursions for the tip on Barakat’s fundraiser and the link to her fried chicken sandwich recipe)

April 24

NO MORE BAG FEE (FOR NOW) The second iteration of the shelter-in-place-order mandated that customers can no longer use their own reusable bags when grocery shopping. Instead, retailers must provide single-use plastic or paper bags for customers, which under the law, meant charging 10 cents per bag. Given the current circumstances, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the temporary suspension of the grocery bag charge. The new law goes into effect for the next 60 days.

Freshly made rolls from Nikkei Sushi.
Freshly made rolls from Nikkei Sushi. Photo: Pete Rosos

NEW SUSHI SPOT Today at 2 p.m., chef-restaurateur Kyle Itani will soft open a new sushi concept called Nikkei Sushi, which will operate out of his restaurant, Itani Ramen in Uptown Oakland. As with all restaurants right now, Nikkei will offer takeout and delivery (via Caviar) only at this time. Its menu focuses on sushi rolls, as well as a curated offering of nigiri and sashimi. Prices range from $8-15.

Back in the day, Itani worked under chef Sho Kamio (Iyasare) at Yoshi’s Oakland, and later headed the kitchen at Yoshi’s San Francisco. He had originally planned to open Nikkei as a standalone restaurant, but due to the coronavirus crisis, has decided to consolidate under the roof of Itani Ramen (the chef also owns Hopscotch, located nearby). In a press release shared with Nosh, Itani explains that by opening at Itani Ramen, he will be able “to create jobs and additional revenue to cover our rent and utilities.” Itani says he will give temporary work to sushi restaurant workers who have been laid off from businesses that were forced to close. Nikkei Sushi is at Itani Ramen, 1736 Telegraph Ave. (at 18th Street), Oakland

THE KING’S FEET OPENS SATURDAY Remember how the Butcher’s Son was opening the King’s Feet, a vegan Italian joint in the former Pizza Moda? The restaurant is still happening, with plans to open this weekend, pandemic be damned. The King’s Feet announced on Instagram it will be taking orders online for pickup starting Saturday (delivery coming soon). The menu features an intriguing selection of appetizers (vegan fried calamari!), salads, house-made fresh pastas, pizzas (maitake “clam” pie!), tiramisu and Italian sodas — all dishes are 100% plant-based. The King’s Feet will be open 5-10 p.m, Monday, Thursday-Sunday. The King’s Feet, 1401 University Ave. (at Acton Street), Berkeley

April 23

Lalime's restaurant in Berkeley.
Lalime’s closed March 16. Photo: Lalime’s/Facebook

G’BYE LALIME’S [Update: Read Nosh’s followup story on Lalime’s closure] Today, Berkeley lost a 35-year-old culinary institution. Lalime’s Restaurant, which first opened in 1985 on Solano Avenue, announced that it will close permanently. The restaurant stopped service on March 16, when the shelter-in-place order was announced and had hoped to reopen, but in the restaurant’s most recent newsletter (also posted on Facebook), co-owner Haig Krikorian writes, “Covid 19 has made the decision for us, Lalime’s is retiring.” Nosh has reached out to the Krikorians, with plans for a more in-depth story in the coming days. Stay tuned.

April 22

BARDO LOUNGE + MEALS ON WHEELS If you need an excuse to treat yourself to a cocktail on Friday, here’s something to consider: Bardo Lounge & Supper Club  (3343 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland) is partnering with Meals on Wheels of Alameda County — the restaurant will donate 10% of all profits from grab-and-go cocktails ordered online (use code MOW2020 at checkout). Order by Thursday night for pickup Friday between 4-8 p.m.

Secret Scoop in Berkeley recently reopened for takeout. Photo: Secret Scoop/Facebook

RESTAURANTS BACK FOR TAKEOUT Several East Bay restaurants that temporarily closed when shelter-in-place was announced (or shortly after) have decided to reopen for business with takeout or delivery in the last few days: Pollara Pizzeria, Equator Coffee (Lake Merritt), Bar Shiru, Secret Scoop Gelato, Grandeur, Mama Oakland, Dumpling Express and Sidebar.

OAKLAND COMMUNITY FEED A few Oakland businesses and organizations are banding together this weekend to feed people in need. Javi’s Cooking, Big Serg BBQ, Creative Cousins, Ju’C Fruits and Oakland First Fridays will host Oakland Community Feed at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 25, in the Sears Parking Lot (27th Street, between Telegraph Avenue and Northgate). All are invited for a free meal (grilled chicken, rice, beans, and salsa). Wear a mask and keep at least six-feet distance.

April 20

Petaluma-based Three Twins has ceased operations and will close all of its scoop shops. Photo: Three Twins/Facebook

G’BYE THREE TWINS Over the weekend, Petaluma-based ice cream company Three Twins (which has a scoop shop in Berkeley) announced that it will cease operations due to financial difficulties exacerbated by the current crisis. On Friday, CEO Neal Gottlieb wrote in a Facebook post that the company’s move into grocery wholesale was where things went downhill. “We were always working towards a scale where we could have sustained profitability, but in more recent years we saw the business contract and margins get squeezed further,” he wrote. The pandemic, he added, was the nail in the coffin for Three Twins.

TOP DOG FUNDRAISER Like most restaurants, Berkeley’s 54-year-old institution Top Dog is struggling to stay in business during the pandemic. But what makes Top Dog stand out is its owners Richard and Renie Riemann, who are well-known for their liberatarian beliefs, and who have recently said they will not be taking any federal aid to keep afloat. In an interview with SFGate, Renie Riemann said, “We don’t want to take money from the government. Our political background is for smaller government regulations — how can we turn around and do the opposite? This will challenge what we believe in.” The Riemanns have shut two of their three locations, laid off one-third of their staff and have asked their suppliers to forgive deferred bills. In the meantime, one local Berkeley resident has starting fundraising to make sure the business stays around. Jim Telford (who runs Residual Sugar Wine Bar in Walnut Creek) started a GoFundMe campaign for Top Dog, and so far, has raised more than $6,000.

April 17

Javier, an employee at Mi Tierra Foods in Berkeley, restocks shelves wearing a mask. A newly announced order requires all essential business workers that handle food and/or that interact with the public to wear a face covering. Photo: Pete Rosos

FACE COVERINGS NOW REQUIRED Face coverings will be the new normal as of this weekend. Today, many Bay Area counties, including Alameda, announced orders requiring all members of the public to wear face coverings when outside the house, including while waiting in line to enter an essential business (including grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants), when seeking healthcare, and when waiting for, or riding on, public or shared transportation. Essential business workers will be required to wear face coverings in situations where they are in enclosed areas with other people present; while in a room where food is prepared, handled or packaged for sale or distribution; and when they are interacting with the public. The new requirement goes into effect at 11:59 p.m., April 17, but enforcement will not go into effect until 8 a.m., April 22.

April 16

MORE PROTECTION FOR FOOD WORKERS Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an executive order that will provide protections for those working at large companies (those with more than 500 employees) in the food sector, including farm workers, grocery store and fast-food employees and delivery drivers. The order provides two weeks supplemental paid sick pay for individuals who fall sick or must quarantine due to COVID-19. In addition, the order allows workers to wash their hands every 30 minutes, or as needed, to increase proper sanitation measures.

April 15

A spread at Daughter Thai. Photo: Sarah Han
A spread at Daughter Thai. Photo: Sarah Han

“CHECK, PLEASE!” WATCH PARTY The next episode of KQED’s television series, “Check, Please! Bay Area” will feature Daughter Thai in Oakland’s Montclair Village as one of the three guest restaurant picks. Chef-owner Kasem Saengsawang will be hosting an online watch party, starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, when the show airs. Saengsawang invites viewers to order takeout or delivery from Daughter Thai and join the chef on Zoom, where he’ll be taking questions and sharing tips during the episode.

NYUM BAI CLOSED (FOR NOW) This week, Oakland’s popular Cambodian restaurant Nyum Bai announced that it has decided to close for the next two weeks “to take time to decompress and come up with a new game plan.” Originally, the restaurant planned the week off to celebrate Khmer New Year, but warned it was possible it might reduce hours or close temporarily.

April 14

FAMILY MEALS With all of us at home all the time, more families are able to sit down for meals together. And with that in mind, more local restaurants are offering multi-course takeout options meant to serve two or more people at a time. Hopscotch in Uptown Oakland serves up its famous buttermilk fried chicken in a bucket (featuring eight pieces, plus wings) with three sides for $48; Mägo on Piedmont Avenue offers a changing menu of courses that will feed two to three omnivores ($55) and vegetarians ($38), and Revival Bar & Kitchen in Berkeley has a family meal deal featuring 8 pieces of fried chicken ($38) with the option to add on sides like mac and cheese, biscuits and coleslaw for an extra cost. On Friday, Palestinian Halal kiosk Mama Lamees at Public Market Emeryville will reopen, focusing on serving family-sized meals for takeout. Mama Lamees meals feed two ($45) or five ($100) people, and feature appetizers, three entrees and baklava for dessert (vegan and gluten-free options are available by request).

THE FUTURE OF DINING On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke about the daily life changes we should be prepared for once the statewide stay-at-home order is lifted. Among topics Newsom discussed in his plan for California was the reopening of restaurant dining rooms, which have been closed in the Bay Area since March 17 and statewide since March 19. When we can go out to eat again, Newsom said “likely scenarios” might include “a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask, dinner where the menu is disposable, where half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment.” Newsom did not give a specific timeline for when the lockdown might end or be modified, but he gave six criteria that he said that the state must meet before that could happen. “I know you want the timeline, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Newsom said. “Let’s not make the mistake of pulling the plug too early.”

NEW GROCERY DELIVERY OPTIONS If you’ve tried ordering groceries online from Amazon, Instacart and Good Eggs and have been frustrated that the services are unavailable, you’ll want to check out our list of local markets, restaurants, wholesalers and specialty stores that are offering groceries for home delivery.

April 8

SAVE OUR CHINATOWNS [Update: Read Nosh’s story on Good Good Eatz, another effort to help Chinatown businesses] Oakland-based artist Jocelyn Tsaih started a GoFundMe campaign on March 24 aimed at assisting businesses in San Francisco and Oakland Chinatowns, which have been hit hard since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Tsaih is working with two nonprofits for this project — Chinatown CDC in San Francisco and Chinatown Improvement in Oakland. In Oakland, funds raised from the campaign will pay for weekly orders from Chinatown restaurants; the food will then be delivered to local homeless shelters. In SF, the money will go to Chinatown CDC’s food delivery program, which delivers restaurant meals to seniors and families living in SROs. For those who are looking to support businesses by ordering food from them, the Save Our Chinatowns website includes a handy list of Oakland Chinatown restaurants open for takeout and delivery.

April 7

COVID-19 TESTING FOR OAKLAND RESTAURANT WORKERS Oakland, in partnership with Brown & Toland Physicians, is providing COVID-19 testing for the city’s front line workers (including restaurant, food bank and grocery store workers). According to ABC 7, testing will occur at a drive-thru center at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. The testing center is not open to the general public; essential workers must go through their employers to set up screening with a Brown & Toland physician before testing. The individual must also meet the following requirements: “must be insured, exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or have had confirmed exposure to COVID-19.”

Chef-owner Nelson German launched a program to five free to-go meals to displaced restaurant workers.
Chef-owner Nelson German launched a program to five free to-go meals to displaced restaurant workers. Photo: alaMar Kitchen & Bar

ALAMAR FEEDS RESTAURANT WORKERS Starting tomorrow and for the next four to five weeks, alaMar, chef Nelson German’s popular downtown Oakland restaurant, will provide free to-go meals to restaurant workers in need. AlaMar joins other businesses across the country participating in the Restaurant Workers Relief Program, which turns eateries into relief centers for industry workers who have lost their jobs or have had a significant reduction in pay or hours due to the coronavirus crisis.

Meals will be available for contactless curbside pick-up on Valdez Street from 4-6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. A paystub or other proof of recent employment at a restaurant is all that is required.

If you’re not a restaurant worker, but are just looking for a tasty way to support alaMar, the restaurant remains open for takeout and delivery orders (via DoorDash). Plus alaMar is looking for in-kind donations (produce, meat, to go containers/bags, gloves, household items like toilet paper, diapers, toiletries, etc.) or funds to facilitate its participation in the Restaurant Workers Relief Program; interested donors can email alamaroak@gmail.com. alaMar, 100 Grand Ave. (at Valdez Street), Oakland 

PHILZ REOPENS 4 EAST BAY CAFÉS Starting tomorrow, San Francisco-based chain Philz Coffee will reopen some of its cafés for takeout service. As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Philz closed all of its locations on March 17 in response to coronavirus concerns. The newly reopened outposts will offer service as a “mobile-only experience,” requiring customers to order drinks through the Philz mobile app. On its website, Philz explains it will test mobile service at these limited locations “before deciding to go further.” Four cafés in the East Bay will be open starting tomorrow, from 7 a.m.-2 p.m.: 6310 College Ave. in Oakland, 1313 Ninth St. in Berkeley, 39000 Paseo Padre Pkwy. in Fremont and 1103 S California Blvd. in Walnut Creek.

Third Culture Bakery is now shipping mochi muffins nationwide. Photo: Wenter Shyu

MOCHI MUFFINS NOW AVAILABLE NATIONWIDE Berkeley’s Third Culture Bakery announced today that its mochi muffins are available for shipping nationwide. Until now, Third Culture’s signature product were only available in the Bay Area and the Denver Metro Area, where the bakery opened a second showroom. But owners Sam Butarbutar and Wenter Shyu decided to close both Berkeley and Aurora showrooms during the pandemic “to help flatten the curve,” they explain in a press release shared with Nosh. Offering nationwide shipping will allow Third Culture to keep more of its employees and provide them with benefits. Mochi muffins are available to order online by the half dozen or dozen, along with other retail items, like matcha tea, Diaspora Co. turmeric, and Third Culture swag.

DOUBLE HELPING HANDS A new program called Double Helping Hands launched today in Berkeley. Started by John Caner, the executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, and Robbi Montoya, the program manager for the Dorothy Day House-run Berkeley Community Resource Center, the initiative helps two groups in need: local restaurants struggling with the drop in business because of the coronavirus crisis and hungry people living on the street. Read more about Double Helping Hands on Berkeleyside.

April 3

Reem Assil with staff at Reem's California in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood
Reem Assil, center, has decided to close Reem’s California and turn it into a commissary kitchen to feed vulnerable communities during the pandemic. Photo: Luke Beard

MORE RESTAURANTS DECIDE TO CLOSE Several more restaurants and food businesses have decided it’s in the best interest of their workers and the community to temporarily shut down, rather than continue takeout service. Reem Assil’s Fruitvale Arab bakery Reem’s California announced today will be its last day “for the foreseeable future.” According to the announcement, the business felt it “is no longer viable or desirable to try to sustain our current model in an economic system that will never allow us to live out our values.” The restaurant says it will take this opportunity “to be more radical,” starting with turning the space into a commissary kitchen to feed vulnerable communities during the pandemic. Assil’s San Francisco outpost, Reem’s Mission, will remain open for lunch with limited hours.

Other businesses closing their doors for now: On March 24, Pollara Pizzeria on Fourth Street in Berkeley decided to go dark for a week to figure out the best strategy to continue, but yesterday, announced it would stay closed indefinitely, because it lacked the resources to run the business and keep everyone safe, too. Since Wednesday, La Farine Bakery stopped service until further notice, but said it would be paying 100% of employees wages and health benefits during the temporary closure. And last night, Fish & Bird in Berkeley made the difficult decision to suspend service. Its last day of service will be today, but it will then close for at least the remainder of the new shelter-in-place order. Co-owner Yoshika Hedberg told Nosh, “We felt we wanted to put our staff’s and customers safety and health first. With conflicting information on how the COVID-19 virus is being transmitted (airborne, touch, contaminated surface, etc.) we felt it was best to close our doors to keep everyone safe… We plan to come back strong once it’s safe for everyone. We were so touched by the people who saw the post and ordered take out from us today, stating they will come back once we are back. We feel blessed to be here in Berkeley with wonderful supporters.”

ALICE WATERS DONATES TO STOCKTON FOOD BANK Yesterday, the Edible Schoolyard Project (ESY), the kitchen and garden education program founded by Alice Waters, announced a new partnership with Mayor Michael D. Tubbs of Stockton, California. ESY is making weekly donations of 2,000 pounds of organic produce from local growers and ranchers to the Emergency Food Bank in Stockton. According to ABC, those fruits and vegetables would have normally been used for school lunches, but with California schools out of session indefinitely, redistributing to the food bank was an ideal fallback.

In the East Bay, groups like Berkeley Food Network and Alameda County Community Food Bank are seeing a large uptick in the number of clients who are food insecure. The organizations are working quickly to adapt to needs during the crisis.

April 2

La Marcha chef-owner Sergio Monleón.
La Marcha chef-owner Sergio Monleón. Photo: La Marcha

A LITTLE HELP FROM SOME FRIENDS Chef-owner Sergio Emilio Monleón of Berkeley tapas bar La Marcha is recruiting some friends to try a new take on takeout. On Mondays, starting next week, the Spanish restaurant will offer a special menu created by Monleón and a rotating cast of Bay Area chefs. Monleón came up with Guest Chef Mondays as a way for those in the industry to support each other and pool their resources during these tough times; some of the chefs he’s tapping were recently displaced from jobs.

On April 6, Miguel Escobedo of Al Pastor Papi food truck and Papalote Mexican Grill will be Monleón first guest chef. Their menu  —featuring an al pastor paella burrito, three Mexican-inspired croquetas, churros with chocolate and bottles of housemade sangria — will be available for takeout and delivery, starting at  11 a.m. Future guest chefs will be announced on the Guest Chef Mondays Instagram page.

FREE MEALS FOR PEOPLE IN NEED As restaurants and other food businesses struggle to stay open under the restrictive shelter-in-place order, some businesses are still stepping up to help others in need. Today, Eater reported that La Santa Torta, a popular Oakland food truck known for its Jalisco-style eats, is continuing its generous tradition of feeding the hungry. Although business is down 50%, the truck gives out five to 10 free meals a day to houseless individuals. In the meantime, following a successful first community meal giveaway (see March 24), on Tuesday, pitmaster Matt Horn set up shop in front of his new restaurant (2534 Mandela Parkway, Oakland) to give out more free barbecue, and will host another giveaway on Saturday (rescheduled from Friday).

March 31

Farmers markets are considered essential businesses under the shelter-in-place order. Jeannie Photo: Pete Rosos

NEW SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDER Berkeley and Bay Area health officials have extended their shelter-in-place order until May 3. The new order maintains existing restrictions, but adds new rules for essential businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets.

All essential businesses must come up with a “social distancing protocol” by 11:59 p.m., April 2, that will be posted at or near the entrance of the business and provided to each employee. The document will explain the measures each business is taking to protect employee health, mitigate crowds and keep people at least six feet apart, reduce unnecessary contact and increase sanitation.

Specific measures outlined in the protocol include posting signs asking customers and employees to avoid entry if sick; limiting customers inside a business at one time; limiting the number of items a person can buy at once; demarcating where lines can form so people stand at least six feet apart; separating ordering areas from pick-up and delivery areas; providing wipes for shopping carts and baskets; setting up contactless payment systems or regularly sanitizing those areas and equipment; discontinuing self-service and bulk areas; and not allowing reusable items, including cups and shopping bags.

March 30

CLAREMONT HOTEL SUSPENDS SERVICE Today, Claremont Club & Spa announced that it has suspended hotel operations, including its guest services and food and beverage offerings, in response to COVID-19. Limewood Bar & Restaurant, Lobby Lounge & Bar and East Bay Provisions are currently closed. The hotel says it will continue evaluating the situation to determine a reopening date.

30,000 RESTAURANTS COULD CLOSE  The California Restaurant Association sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom warning that due to public health measures that shut down dine-in service, 20-30% of California restaurants could permanently close without state aid. The association proposed various measures to help protect restaurants during mandated COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. Some of the association’s proposed action items include delaying planned minimum wage increases; postponement of tax payments; payment forgiveness for utilities; eviction protection; and fee deferrals on business, health and liquor permitting fees.

OAKLANDERS SUPPORTING OAKLANDERS Marqeta, an Oakland-based payment managing company, has started Oaklanders Supporting Oaklanders, a new initiative with a double-pronged goal: to help local restaurants struggling to survive and to feed local communities in need. To start, Marqeta is partnering with Oakland chef Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen to serve hundreds of meals over the next three weeks to three nonprofits: Harbor House, Beyond Emancipation and CityTeam. According to Eater, Marqeta put in $50,000 to fund these soul food meals, but, going forward, will be looking for other restaurants and sponsors to participate. According to Marqeta’s press release, “For a contribution of $15,000, an Oakland business can help keep a local restaurant open for a week and provide 1,000 meals for those in need.” Holland told Eater the funds won’t be enough to hire back any of the hourly staffers she laid off when shelter-in-place went into effect, but the money will allow her to keep open for now. Marqeta says sponsors who want to get involved can get in touch by emailing oso@marqeta.com.

Workers at Whole Foods are planning a nationwide sickout March 31. Photo: Emilie Raguso (file photo)

INSTACART, WHOLE FOODS WORKERS STRIKE As the Bay Area learned its region-wide shelter-in-place order has been extended to May 1, some food workers are demanding better safety measures and more compensation to protect themselves as they continue to work on the front lines during the pandemic.

Today, Instacart grocery shoppers are on a nationwide strike, refusing to fulfill orders for the San Francisco-based grocery delivery company, in an effort to get Instacart to provide its gig workers with more health protections and compensation. The strike was announced Friday by nonprofit Gig Workers Collective, who said they’d walkout Monday if their demands for hazard pay (an extra $5 per order and a default in-app tip amount of 10% of the order), extensions to paid sick leave and personal protective equipment like hand sanitizer were unmet. By Sunday, Instacart responded with an announcement that it would provide hand sanitizer to full-service shoppers and has launched a new tip setting on its order form that defaults to a customer’s last tip amount (previously, the tip would reset to a 5% tip default). In addition, the company listed the efforts it’s made for its in-store shoppers, including sick pay for part-time employees on an accrued basis, pay raises with bonuses and extended pay for workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have to quarantine. Despite these efforts, the strike is on because according to Gig Workers Collective, Instacart’s response is a “sick joke” that still puts workers at risk and doesn’t fairly compensate them for doing so.

In the meantime, Whole Foods workers are planning a nationwide sick-out tomorrow with their own safety and compensation demands, including guaranteed paid leave for all employees, health coverage for part-time and seasonal workers, double hazard pay and guaranteed shutdown of Whole Foods locations where a worker tests positive for COVID-19. Whole Worker, a grassroots movement of Whole Foods employees, called on fellow workers to not go to work on March 31.

March 27

A sign in the window at Saul's Deli advertises curbside pickup.
Saul’s Deli in Berkeley was open for takeout, but has decided to temporarily close for the safety of their employees and customers. Photo: Saul’s Deli

SAUL’S DELI CLOSED About two weeks ago, Peter Levitt and Karen Adelman, longtime owners of Saul’s Deli in North Berkeley, were on track to sell their restaurant to a new owner, then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. After operating as a takeout restaurant after the shelter-in-place order closed dine-in service, today, the owners decided to temporarily close for the safety of their employees and customers. Read more in our story.

LOCAL GROCERY GUIDE Before you head out on your next grocery run, check out our story about how popular East Bay markets are responding to the coronavirus crisis. For each story, we list current hours (including senior hours), capacity and product limits, and include information on how they’re maintaining safety for customers and workers. One safety measure that’s being ramped up at more markets — sneeze guards and plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers. At the time we published our market roundup, Safeway and 99 Ranch stores had installed barriers; since then, according to the East Bay Times, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were in the process of installing them too.

March 26

Mica Talmor, owner of Pomella.
Mica Talmor, owner of Pomella. Photo courtesy of Mica Talmor

NOT-SO-GRAND OPENING Chef-owner Mica Talmor opened her new Oakland restaurant Pomella today. Fans of Talmor’s former restaurant Ba-Bite are surely glad to have a new takeout spot to try, but the timing of Pomella’s opening really couldn’t be any worse. For today’s story, Alix Wall spoke to Talmor about why she decided to go forth with the new business in the midst of the coronavirus.

March 24

PICANTE CLOSED Today, Picante, a popular Mexican restaurant in Berkeley, announced it has closed “to protect the community.” Since the shelter-in-place order ended dine-in service, Picante had been offering its menu for takeout through a curbside pick-up service, where customers could drive up to the restaurant on Sixth Street and have their order handed to them through their car window. But according to the restaurant, the curbside service was getting out of hand, with so many cars coming for pick-up that the line snaked around the corner on Gilman Street. In a press release from Picante, the restaurant said “the service was giving people an excuse to leave their homes” so owner Jim Maser decided that shutting down completely for the time being was the best for public safety. “The only way we can stop the spread of this virus is to stay home,” Maser said.

HELP ‘FEED ER’ After announcing she and husband Michael Chabon would be purchasing meals for Highland Hospital emergency room staff, Ayelet Waldman heard from many local restaurant owners, including Jenny Schwarz, co-owner of Hopscotch. Together, Waldman and Schwarz will work together to continue feeding hospital workers, and will also be taking donations via Venmo (@FeedER) or the GoFundMe campaign. Waldman writes, “$500 will feed the ER one meal. Give whatever you can and as much as you can spare.”

THE GREAT AMERICAN TAKEOUT Restaurants across the nation are urging people to support their local eateries by ordering food to-go today as part of the The Great American Takeout. Want to partake? Nosh has put together an ever-growing list of restaurants offering curbside pick-up and in-house delivery.

On Wednesday, March 25, Horn Barbecue will be handing out free to-go meals to Oakland's communities in need.
On Wednesday, March 25, Horn Barbecue will be handing out free to-go meals to Oakland’s communities in need. Photo: Horn Barbecue

HORN BARBECUE COMMUNITY GIVEAWAY On Wednesday starting at noon, celebrated Oakland pitmaster Matt Horn is hosting a special pop-up for Oakland’s communities in need. Horn and volunteers will be handing out free meals to those who have been displaced from jobs, struggling families and children and houseless individuals. Horn hopes this will be the first of a series of community events; he’s crowdfunding $15,000 for this and future giveaways he’ll host over the next few weeks. Meals will be given out curbside in front of Horn’s upcoming restaurant in West Oakland (2534 Mandela Parkway).

March 23

PETITION ASKS PEET’S COFFEE TO CLOSE STORES Last week 19 Peet’s employees sent a letter to the Emeryville-based coffee company to “formally condemn [its] decision to remain open in the face of the rapidly-spreading novel coronavirus (COVID-19).” These employees say Peet’s cafés are non-essential businesses that put workers and customers at risk by staying open. In addition to the letter, they created a Change.org petition asking for the community’s support to pressure Peet’s to close its stores during shelter-in-place. On Saturday, Peet’s announced it has temporarily closed some of its stores and will continue to pay employees working at these locations for the next two weeks “while exploring ways to support them beyond that time frame.” The cafés that remain open will serve on a “limited access” model, where customers can order via mobile app to minimize contact. Many East Bay Peet’s stores are still open (until 4 p.m. daily), including five locations in Berkeley; one in Emeryville and six in Oakland.

SAFEWAY GIVES WORKERS PAY RAISE The Chronicle reports that Safeway has reached an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 (the union representing Northern California workers) to increase pay and protection for workers during the coronavirus outbreak. Under the new agreement, workers will get a $2 an hour pay raise and two weeks sick leave if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or other illness that requires them to self-quarantine. Those who are 65 and over will be allowed to use sick days or vacation time if they decide to self-isolate, and those who have to attend to family needs during shelter-in-place will be able to do so. The contract also specifies health and safety measures the company will practice going forward, including sanitizing stores, halting free samples and self-service areas, installing plastic shields at check stands and new rules for contact-free food delivery.

March 21

LOCAL AUTHORS SUPPORT EAST BAY RESTAURANTS Berkeley authors Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon announced on Twitter that once a week, they will be buying 25 meals from East Bay restaurants to be delivered to the Highland Hospital ER staff. Waldman called for restaurant owners to contact her at ayeletw@gmail.com.

March 20

Cannard Farm in Glen Ellen, which supplies Chez Panisse with produce. Photo: Alice Louise Waters
Cannard Farm in Glen Ellen, which supplies Chez Panisse with produce. Photo: Alice Louise Waters

CHEZ PANISSE FARM BOXES Although Chez Panisse is currently closed, it will be offering CSA farm boxes from Cannard Farm, Bob Cannard’s organic farm in Glen Ellen that supplies Chez with its peak-season produce. In addition, Chez Panisse will also offer wine and pantry goods like olive oil, pasta and rice from California and Italy. Items can ordered online for curbside pick-up at Chez Panisse. The first of the farm boxes sold out an hour after Waters posted about them on Instagram. If you missed out on one, and still need groceries this week, several other restaurants are now offering iterations on farm and provisions boxes, including Co Nam, Golden Squirrel and Tender Greens. And, if you want to help Chez Panisse staff while the restaurant is closed, there’s a GoFundMe employee relief fund.

ABC RELAXES ALCOHOL RULES Yesterday, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control announced it’s temporarily suspending enforcement of certain regulations put on businesses that sell alcohol — including restaurants, bars, tasting rooms and breweries. Two of the biggest changes: Businesses with licenses that allow them to serve alcohol on-site, can now sell the same beverages specified on their license for off-sale consumption; and licensed restaurants can now sell cocktails along with meals prepared for delivery or pick-up, including at a drive-through window. The relaxed measures still have some rules attached to them. For example, beverages must be in manufacturer pre-packaged containers (sealed cans or bottles, e.g.) or come in a container with a secure lid without any openings for a straw or sipping. The ABC’s Notice of Regulatory Relief is an effort to support the alcohol beverage industry, which was hit hard and fast by a series of COVID-19 mitigation measures, including Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 15 call (but not mandate) for the immediate closure of bars, March 16’s Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place order, and yesterday’s sweeping statewide stay-at-home order.

March 19

100,000 JOBS MAY BE LOST The Guardian published a depressing article about COVID-19’s impact on California’s restaurant industry. The piece features two examples from the East Bay: the Kon-Tiki in downtown Oakland, which let go 9 out of 10 of its staffers when the Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place mandate went into effect Tuesday, and Sequoia Diner in Oakland’s Laurel district, which laid off 9 of its 15 employees. The article refers to the recent UCLA Anderson Forecast, which says the U.S. has entered a recession. The forecast reports that California, more than any other state in the nation, will feel the brunt of the economic downturn due to its huge restaurant industry, which according to The Guardian, accounts for $70bn in annual revenue. Forecast director Jerry Nickelsburg told The Guardian, “We’re expecting in the leisure and hospitality sectors, net job loss of about 100,000. So big numbers.”

A WAY TO GIVE WITH GIFT CARDS Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger and his wife Kaitlyn Krieger launched a new website called Save Our Faves, a directory linking to local restaurants, bars and cafés that offer online gift cards. The Kriegers, San Francisco natives, launched the project March 17 as a city-specific site, but today added East Bay, Marin and South Bay establishments to the list. The couple hopes Save Our Faves will help more eateries get through hardships from the closures mandated by the shelter-in-place order, or as explained on the website: “Gift cards help ‘flatten the curve’ of lost income from COVID-19.”

March 18

Monterey Market in North Berkeley. Photo: Pete Rosos

NEW HOURS AT MONTEREY MARKET The North Berkeley produce mecca joins other local markets that have amended their hours. Monterey Market is now open 9 a.m.-6 p.m., daily, until further notice.

KIWI DELIVERS HYGIENIC SUPPLIES Beginning on Monday, robot-driven delivery service Kiwi took on a new role as #DoctorDelivery to service a five-block radius of the UC Berkeley campus with free masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, according to Felipe Chavez, the company founder and CEO. All the robots are sanitized twice a day. Kiwi stopped most food deliveries in late December as it prepares to make changes to its business strategy, but its current fleet of 35 bots is still delivering food from Cancun, Gypsy’s Trattoria Italiano, Boba Ninja, Seniore’s Pizza, and Poke Parlor, said Chavez.
MARKETS AMEND HOURS FOR ‘AT-RISK’ COMMUNITIES Berkeley Bowl, Natural Grocery Store, Safeway, Whole Foods, Target and several other markets and retail stores are setting aside hours just for “at-risk” shoppers, including senior citizens, pregnant women and other people with vulnerable immune systems. Berkeley Bowl allows senior citizens entry at 9 a.m. (one hour before opening to the public); El Cerrito Natural Grocery Co. is open 9:30-10 a.m. for senior shoppers; Safeway invites “at-risk” shoppers from 7-9 a.m., Tuesday and Thursday; Whole Foods invites customers 60 and older to stores one hour before opening to the public; Target reserves the first hour on Wednesdays to “vulnerable guests;” Dollar General reserves the first hour of every business day to senior shoppers.

OUSD OFFERS FREE MEALS FOR KIDS, FAMILIES The Oakland Unified School District tweeted this morning that it has handed out nearly 25,000 breakfasts and lunches on Monday, the first day of its “Grab and Go” free meal program. Run by OUSD’s Nutrition Services Department, the program operates at 12 pick-up locations two days a week (8 a.m.-noon, Mondays and Thursdays) throughout the city for all OUSD students or families and any child under 18 who lives in Oakland. Find a list of locations here.

March 17

CLEOPHUS QUEALY TO CLOSE The shelter-in-place mandate that shut down bars, nightclubs, breweries and wineries today through April 7 will likely sound the death knell for many in the drink industry. Today, we heard news of the first to fall in the East Bay. Five-year-old Cleophus Quealy Beer Company announced on its blog it does not expect to reopen after the shelter-in-place order is lifted. The San Leandro brewery said it plans to “remain in business through the end of April and will continue to assess options to make our final beers available to our customers.”

THE RESTAURANT SCENE HAS CHANGED FOREVER In the wake of March 16’s Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place order, restaurant owners are scrambling to figure out how to keep their businesses alive. Many have made the tough decision to lay off most of their workers, keeping a skeleton crew to cook and operate takeout services. According to Eater, chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen laid off all of her hourly workers, going from a staff of 50 to a team of three salaried employees. As a headline for a story on Eater’s national site eloquently puts it: “Restaurants are fucked — unless they get a bail-out.”

March 16

The line waiting to get into Berkeley Bowl East shortly after 10 a.m. Photo: Pete Rosos

LOCAL MARKETS CHANGE HOURS, SERVICES The shelter-in-place announcement inspires another round of panic buying at local grocery stores. In the meantime, several markets have announced schedule and capacity changes due to the recent uptick in business: Berkeley Bowl is now open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily for “additional cleaning and stocking.” It is also limiting the number of shoppers that can be in the store at once, rationing some “key items,” and suspending some services. All Trader Joe’s locations have shortened daily hours to 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and are limiting customers to purchasing no more than two of the same item. Market Hall Foods has reduced hours for its bakery (now open at 8 a.m.) and Highwire Coffee counter (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) in Rockridge. It is also limiting the number of customers allowed into its stores at a time: 18 adults at Rockridge Market Hall, six adults at Hapuku Fish Shop and Marin Sun Farms, 10 adults at Market Hall Produce and 15 adults at Berkeley Market Hall. Natural Grocery Company‘s new hours will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. until further notice.

SAFEWAY TO HIRE 2,000 MORE WORKERS The grocery chain says it is immediately hiring 2,000 workers to meet the demands of shoppers stocking up on supplies. According to the Chronicle, most of the openings will be at the company’s 165 Bay Area locations.

BAY AREA-WIDE SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDER CHANGES DINING At 1 p.m., health officials from six Bay Area counties announce new restrictions on movement for the general population. The order requires everyone to “shelter in place” at home other than to provide or receive essential services. Bars, breweries and wineries must shutter, but restaurants can remain open to offer take-away and delivery service only. Grocery stores, certified farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores and other places that sell canned food, dry goods, fresh produce, pet food, fresh meat, fish and poultry will remain open. All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a household or living unit are prohibited — so even private dinner parties are out. The order is effective at 12:01 a.m., March 17 through April 7.

March 15

MORE RESTAURANTS DECIDE TO CLOSE As social distancing measures ramp up, more restaurants decide to temporarily close; many continue to offer takeout, curbside pick-up and delivery.

NEWSOM CALLS FOR BARS TO CLOSE Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for — but does not mandate — the shutdown of bars, nightclubs, brewpubs and wineries to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. While the governor does not include restaurants on this list, he specifies establishments should cut occupancy by 50% to keep with recommended social distancing measures of six feet, and that restaurants should “focus on takeout for those isolating.”

March 14

Full grocery cart at Safeway. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

EVERYONE IS PANIC BUYING Locals preparing for longterm self-isolation at home, or those who fear supplies might dry up, start shopping in mass at local grocery stores. The sudden surge in business means long lines to get in and check out, empty shelves and crowds that put both shoppers and employees at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

March 13

URBAN ADAMAH STOPS PUBLIC PROGRAMMING The community farm with Jewish values in West Berkeley has stopped its public programming and closed the farm to the public until the end of March.

BERKELEY CITY OFFICIALS SUPPORT DINING OUT Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and City Councilwoman Sophie Hahn announce showing support for local restaurants by dining-in at Revival Bar & Kitchen. By 4 p.m., they announce they are too busy with the city’s response to COVID-19 for a sit-down dinner. They opt for takeout from Revival instead.

March 12

BERKELEY FARMERS MARKETS REMAIN OPEN The Ecology Center will continue its three weekly farmers markets, but said it will continue to monitor both federal and local recommendations and guidelines daily. Food and Farming Program Director Carle Brinkman told Nosh the Ecology Center has shared best practices with its farmers, vendors and market partners and will be disinfecting “surfaces/objects” at the market regularly. The Ecology Center updated its website to include further information about precautions it is taking, including ceasing food sampling at the market and suspending “high touch activities,” like the Kids’ Patch.

RESTAURANTS HIT HARD Restaurants are seeing a significant drop in customers. A number of East Bay restaurants, including Arthur Mac’s Tap & Snack in Oakland, suspend on-site dining and focus on delivery or counter service instead.

March 11

TASTE OF TEMESCAL POSTPONED The Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District announces it will postpone its 11th annual Taste of Temescal event until May or a future date.

A sign explaining the temporary closure at Buffet Fortuna.
Closed sign at Buffet Fortuna. Photo: Sarah Han

TWO CHINATOWN FIXTURES CLOSE After months of lagging business, two Oakland Chinatown giants have closed. Nosh contributor Momo Chang shares news that popular dim sum hotspot Peony Seafood Restaurant and all-you-can eat restaurant Buffet Fortuna have temporarily shuttered due to financial losses incurred from fears of COVID-19. Although both restaurants aim to eventually reopen (Buffet Fortuna’s San Leandro location remains open), the closures appear to be an ominous bellwether for the neighborhood.

ALAMEDA COUNTY FOOD BANK ASKS FOR HELP The Alameda County Food Bank has an “urgent need” for volunteers to help stuff emergency food bags and prepare food for its partners. The organization said it has increased its cleaning standards to ensure volunteers remain safe from the spread of COVID-19. Sign up on the food bank’s volunteer page.

March 9

CHEF ANDRÉS LENDS A HAND Chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen step in to feed passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland.

CAFÉS STOP ACCEPTING REUSABLE CUPS Following in the footsteps of Starbucks, national coffee chains like Dunkin’ and Blue Bottle suspend filling personal cups to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

March 6

DELIVERY GOES HANDS-FREE Third-party delivery services Postmates and Instacart announce “no-contact” delivery in order to minimize person-to-person contact between delivery staff and customers.

March 4

NO MORE SAMPLES AT COSTCO Due to coronavirus concerns, Costco suspends its popular free food samples, including at its Richmond location, until further notice.

February 12

BUSINESS DOWN 50% FOR CHINATOWN RESTAURANTS Chinatown restaurants across the nation are experiencing a drastic decrease in business, as tourists and locals avoid the neighborhoods due to fears of the novel coronavirus. Eater reports that by mid-February (before any cases are even reported in the Bay Area), business in Oakland Chinatown is down by 50%.