East Bay restaurant openings and closings in May

Learn about the 12 newly opened food and drink venues in Berkeley, Oakland and elsewhere in the East Bay, along with 7 businesses that shuttered permanently.

Beef barbacoa plate from Cali Alley in Berkeley.
Beef barbacoa plate from Cali Alley in Berkeley. Photo: Cali Alley

A growing number of East Bay restaurants that temporarily closed due to coronavirus concerns earlier this year have started to tentatively reopen for takeout and delivery. Nosh continues to update its list of East Bay food businesses offering contactless pickup and in-house delivery (additions welcome) as well as to provide general food industry news and alerts in the time of COVID-19.

The following spotlights the few East Bay food and drink venues that are newly opened at this time, and those businesses that have shuttered permanently. If you know of others, please let us know in the comments or by emailing nosh@berkeleyside.com.

Berkeley

Open

CALI ALLEY An “artisan food counter” tailor-made for the times from local chef Dov Sims and his family-owned California Rose Catering, this small West Berkeley curbside window serves comforting choices such as elaborate burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, ribs, rice bowls, macaroni and cheese and other plates, including family-sized portions of some dishes, all for takeout only. The restaurant opened April 1. Cali Alley, 1012 Grayson St. (between Ninth and Tenth streets), Berkeley

The Farmers crepe from La Crêpe à Moi is filled with Nutella, banana, organic strawberries, and topped with whipped cream.
The Farmers crepe from La Crêpe à Moi is filled with Nutella, banana and organic strawberries, then topped with whipped cream. Photo: La Crêpe à Moi

LA CRÊPE À MOI Berkeley’s Northside neighborhood has a new brick-and-mortar crêperie as of Memorial Day weekend from married owners Dj and Rebekka Dahmani, who have been in business at local farmers markets and events since 2010. Bonus: Online ordering and contactless pickup is available of the eatery’s sweet (made with white flour) or savory buckwheat crepes, along with walk-up service with social distancing. La Crêpe à Moi, 1854 Euclid Ave. (between Hearst Avenue and Ridge Road), Berkeley


PARADIGM PIZZAS Paradigm Pizzas owners Jose and Cristal Cortez said the pandemic was “the final kick in the pants” they needed to open their “hole-in-the-wall pizza spot,” with the intention of helping to employ and feed the local community. Paradigm opened May 4 and for now, is operating as a pop-up out of the Clark Kerr dining facility at UC Berkeley, but Cristal Cortez tells Nosh they hope to open in a new location in the future. Customers can order pizzas, “not pizzas” (pasta with pesto or bolognese sauce, or macaroni and cheese) or other items, such as Buffalo wings and tiramisu, online for pickup or third-party delivery. Paradigm Pizzas, UC Berkeley, Clark Kerr dining facility, 2601 Warring St. (between Derby and Parker), Berkeley

YIN JI CHANG FEN Yin Ji Chang Fen quietly opened its first Berkeley outpost on Center Street just before the coronavirus lockdown, adding to the chain’s growing number of U.S. locations. (The first U.S. branch opened in Pleasanton in 2019.) The Guangzhou-based international franchise serves rice noodle rolls, noodle soups, a menu of congee, dim sum and other snacks for takeout for lunch and dinner daily. Yin Ji Chang Fen, 2132 Center St. (between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street), Berkeley

Closed

Guillermo “Willy” Perez taking lunch orders at Guacamole 61 at Epicurious Garden. Photo: Nancy Rubin

GUACAMOLE 61 A reader alerted Nosh that the Guacamole 61 takeout stall inside Epicurious Garden has permanently closed. The Mexican eatery, opened in 2016, was from Berkeley native, Cheese Board alum and Sliver co-owner Guillermo “Willy” Perez. In 2017, Perez opened a second, sit-down location of Guacamole 61 at 2142 Center St., but the larger dining room only lasted a year. Business at the high-end North Berkeley food court outpost, however, was consistent, and the speedy ease of “Guac 61” takeout will be missed by many. A sign at Epicurious Garden says a new Mexican restaurant will take its place. Guacamole 61 was at 1511 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.

Oakland

Open

Between the Bun lobster roll.
Between the Bun lobster sandwich. Photo: Between the Bun

BETWEEN THE BUN Seafood lovers might be pleased to hear about this casual Temescal spot specializing in seafood sandwiches and soups, that opened just before the lockdown. Note to East Coast transplants: Don’t expect New England-style “rolls” here — these are hearty sandwiches filled with piles of lobster meat, crab or shrimp. Between the Bun, 4920 Telegraph Ave. (near 49th Street), Oakland

JUNE’S PIZZA It’s the kind of place fans don’t want media types to discover or mention, so… apologies, but Craig Murli’s new pizzeria June’s Pizza serves naturally leavened, farm-to-table pizzas out of a West Oakland shipping container, and reviews are enthusiastic. The operation is located on O2 Artisans Aggregate land, the compound of eco-minded artisans whose list of tenants also includes Soba Ichi. Murli serves about 40 wood-fired pies a day in two styles — always a margherita and then a weekly special, covered in what’s freshest and in season from one of several farm collaborators. The chef is an East Coaster, originally from Connecticut, and his mom June was an investor, hence the name. Note: June’s Pizza’s phone line opens at 3 p.m., and the pies usually sell out within 30 minutes. June’s Pizza, 2311 Magnolia St. (between 24th Street and Grand Avenue), Oakland

MOUNTAIN MIKE’S California-based pizza chain Mountain Mike’s has a new Oakland location as of May 22, on Hegenberger Road, near the Oracle Arena and Oakland airport. The new pizzeria is the chain’s fifth Oakland property, and despite its 2,200-square-foot dining room, is available for takeout and delivery only for now. Mountain Mike’s Oakland Hegenberger , 646 Hegenberger Rd. (at Baldwin Street), Oakland

PALMETTO New modern-tropical restaurant and bar Palmetto, from the team behind The Kon-Tiki, opened May 11, in Uptown’s famed former Flora restaurant space. On current offer is an abbreviated to-go menu of flavorful starters, salads and meaty entrees, as well as rum-based cocktails and wines. For a splurge, check out the restaurant’s Prime Rib Wednesday special featuring prime rib, creamed kale, garlic mashed potatoes, a chop salad and a double gin martini. And don’t forget to peek through the windows for a glimpse of the gorgeous, newly-designed interior from Wylie Price Design. Palmetto, 1900 Telegraph Ave. (at 19th Street), Oakland

PETIT CAFÉ A nod to veg-friendly Petit Café that opened for business in Oakland’s Pill Hill neighborhood in February for breakfast, lunch and coffee drinks, and has since temporarily closed. Watch their Instagram for a reopening, hopefully in June. Petit Café, 411 30th St. (near Summit Street), Oakland

Closed

The Lede shares its dining room and patio with Studiotobe.
The Lede at Studiotobe closed its doors for good this month. Photo: Tracey Taylor

THE LEDE [Updated, June 10: As reported by Nosh, The Lede lives on as a pop-up at Café Encina under chef Carlo Espinas, and continues to provide free meals for local nonprofit and community partners.] Members of the food and media industries, and fans of both, are mourning the loss of The Lede, Cal Peternell’s small, well-intentioned eatery inside Oakland’s Studiotobe. True to form, Peternell closed the restaurant to the public at the beginning of the lockdown in order to focus on the larger story: serving the greater community with more than 1,000 free meals delivered to those in need, and actively supporting and collaborating with local nonprofits during the crisis. This month, Eater SF reported that the Lede closed for good when it lost its lease. The Lede team sent this note to Nosh: “We are sad to have to permanently close The Lede at the 906 Washington location. We appreciate the support of the community and are grateful to The Lede staff for making it such a wonderful, if brief, world. We wish the very best to our fellow restaurants and bars during this challenging moment for our, and so many, businesses. Cal is at work on his fourth cookbook while dreaming of making more episodes of Cooking By Ear, the podcast he co-created with producer Kristina Loring. Meanwhile, he’s cooking for his family, tending a new kitchen garden, and walking his dog Benny at night down the middle of weirdly silent streets.” The Lede was at 906 Washington St.

SPECIALTY’S CAFÉ & BAKERY For more than three decades, Specialty’s fresh-baked pastries, hearty sandwiches, salads and still-warm cookies were an integral part of Bay Area corporate life, as the breakfast and lunch café chain originally founded in San Francisco seemed to multiply within financial districts and cater specifically to office professionals. (San Francisco’s downtown alone had plus-or-minus eight locations.) Of the group’s more than 55 cafés that closed this month in California, Washington and Illinois due to COVID-19, two were in downtown Oakland, and two were in Pleasanton, where the group also moved its headquarters in 2014.


Jay Reatard at the Stork Club, Nov. 2007.
Stork Club, Nov. 2007. Photo: Sarah Han

STORK CLUB Hearts broke all over Oakland and beyond with the news of the historic Stork Club’s demise at Telegraph Avenue and 24th Street, yet another gathering-place casualty of the coronavirus lockdown. Darwin BondGraham, news editor of Berkeleyside’s forthcoming Oakland newsroom, reported via Twitter that the 102-year-old, gritty dive bar, and live performance venue may rock again, just in a new location. The Stork Club moved to 2330 Telegraph Ave. in 1999, after a long stint on 12th St. as a country music bar. Stay tuned, and keep your spirits up, Oakland.

Beyond

Open

Lao spring rolls from Bhan Mae Vane Restaurant in Alameda.
Lao spring rolls from Bhan Mae Vane in Alameda. Photo: Bhan Mae Vane

BHAN MAE VANE It opened just before the shelter-in-place order, but Alameda’s new Bhan Mae Vane still managed to elicit many positive reviews for its Lao and Thai cuisine before the doors closed on its welcoming dining room. Now available for takeout and delivery only, the family-owned restaurant continues to please, and delivers orders of $60 or more for free within two miles of their West End neighborhood address. Bhan Mae Vane, 1511 Webster St. (between Haight and Santa Clara avenues), Alameda

CHICKEN MEETS OYSTER Call it a lockdown pop-up: Emeryville sports bar Hometown Heroes has started re-hosting Chicken Meets Oyster, with new scheduling announced on Instagram. Launched pre-pandemic, the monthly pop-up features hot fried chicken sandwiches, fried fish sandwiches, charbroiled oysters and other decadent fare. Chicken Meets Oyster at Hometown Heroes, 4000 Adeline St. (at 40th Street), Emeryville

LIVERMORE BUTCHER SHOP Diablo Dish first revealed Livermore’s newest, family-owned and operated meat purveyor Livermore Butcher Shop, that opened May 16. The shop features a wide range of high-quality meats and poultry, housemade sausages, custom sandwiches, prepared deli salads and other butcher-shop fare. Livermore Butcher Shop, 282 S L St. (at Third Street), Livermore

Closed

ARMADILLO PIZZA El Cerrito’s Armadillo Pizza, open since 1988, is no more. A Facebook post in November revealed that kindly owner-operator Nash Aziz, who ran the pizzeria beginning in the early ‘90s, had died suddenly the previous month, and his daughter Ashley and her husband had taken over the business. In a May 12 post, Ashley announced the restaurant’s permanent closure. “There were many factors that led to this decision, and while we attempted to hand off the business to others, now is not a great time for many people to take on the challenge of owning a pizza shop,” she wrote. “Thank you for letting us help you at the end of a long day, fill your party guest’s bellies, and be at the center of your family time.” She let Nosh know that future sales of her father’s well-loved sauce and pizza dough might happen on a monthly basis at local markets. In the meantime, thank you, Armadillo Pizza, for all those well-fed bellies. Armadillo Pizza was at 10180 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.

Reader Tom Newton captured this photo of the sign at Caspers in Albany coming down. Photo: Tom Newton
Reader Tom Newton captured this photo of the sign at Caspers in Albany coming down. Photo: Tom Newton

CASPERS FAMOUS HOT DOGS ALBANY Another East Bay old-timer has said farewell. The Albany location of Caspers Famous Hot Dogs, known and loved for its vintage properties and sausages’ snappy bite, lowered its distinctive, retro sign on May 17, after 51 years. The family-owned, East Bay hot dog chain was originally launched in Oakland in 1934, by Armenian immigrant and Chicago expat Kasper Castigian, and has a story as interesting and complex as most family histories (in short: cousins, offspring, Kasper’s, Caspers, spats and reunions). The chain still operates seven locations in the East Bay and sells sausages wholesale. A May 24 social media post reads, “It’s always a difficult decision to close one of our stores, and we’d like to thank our Albany employees for their part in keeping this location open for over 50 years. Albany customers, we hope to see you at the nearby Richmond and/or Oakland locations for your Caspers fix. To all of you, thank you for being the best customers on the planet, because without you, we wouldn’t have been able to sustain our business for 86 years over four generations!”

THE SADDLE RACK The Saddle Rack has closed after 44 years as one of the Bay Area’s most beloved country-music bars, as first reported by the Mercury News. The spirited bar and music venue with several dance floors and a mechanical bull first opened in San Jose in 1976, and moved to its larger space in Fremont in 2003. The Saddle Rack’s good-bye letter is a poignant tribute to decades of live country music, entertainment, line dancing, special events and fun nights out for its country-loving community. The Saddle Rack was at 42011 Boscell Rd. in Fremont