La Santa Torta feeds farmworkers affected by wildfires; Mama Oakland to close indefinitely

Plus: People’s Cafe, 1951 Coffee in Rockridge have closed; Stay Gold and Porque No? Tacos reopen; more East Bay food news.

La Santa Torta’s birria tacos with consomé. Photo: Sarah Han

La Santa Torta feeds farmworkers affected by the fires

On Monday, instead of posting up and serving its delicious birria tacos at its usual spot in Jack London Square, La Santa Torta’s truck headed down the 101 to the fields in Watsonville and Salinas to feed free meals to farm workers and others affected by the wildfires. On Instagram, co-owners Victor Guzman and Leo Oblea wrote, “This something very dear to us. Being immigrants and DREAMERS, it really means the world to be able to give back.”

According to Eater SF, La Santa Torta gave away between 130-150 hearty meals — chicken, pork or birria over a plate of rice and beans — and Guzman and Oblea hope to feed more communities in need in the coming days. In addition, they’ve partnered with another Bay Area taco truck, Al Pastor Papi, to donate 10% of sales to fire relief for undocumented farmworkers, and have encouraged their fans to donate to UndocuFund, a nonprofit providing wildfire relief to farmworkers affected by the Sonoma county fires.

Wildfire smoke affects dining

Bay Area restaurants that have been depending on outdoor service have had another wrench thrown in their spokes by the spate of unhealthy air quality from the complex wildfires. Health officials are advising people to stay indoors with windows and doors sealed until the air quality is good.

While that means eating outside is definitely on hold, some experts are also warning against activities that could lead to more air pollution within the home, including cooking. The San Francisco Chronicle spoke with officials, like Kristine Roselius, acting communications officers for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and Jeff Williams, an air pollution expert for the California Air Resources Board, about how to stay safe from the hazardous air quality blanketing the Bay Area. Experts said cooking, including frying and boiling without a range fan on, can cause indoor air pollution.


Oakland Kosher expands with New York-style deli and hummus bar

Over the weekend, Oakland Kosher on Grand Avenue opened its new New York-style deli and hummus bar in its expanded digs. The deli offers rotisserie chickens, pulled brisket and house-made corned beef, along with made-to-order cold-cut sandwiches and about 25 prepared salads. The hummus bar serves up bowls, pita or baguette sandwiches featuring Abba’s hummus, along with toppings like shawarma, falafel, kebabs, schnitzel and ground meats (beef, lamb or a vegan option).

According to Alix Wall, who wrote about Oakland Kosher’s expansion for J., the kosher specialty store has doubled in size when owner Yuval Atias took over the space last occupied by a gift shop next door. Besides the deli and hummus bar, Oakland Kosher has an improved layout, expanded baking capacity and a new partnership with Bishulim SF, which will be making desserts, like malabi (Persian milk pudding) for the store. Oakland Kosher, 3419 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland

The interior at Mama in Oakland.
Mama Oakland opened as a sit-down restaurant focused on hospitality; it pivoted to takeout sandwiches in April, but has decided to close until restaurants can serve on-site again. Photo: Emma K. Morris

Mama Oakland to close indefinitely

On Monday, Mama Oakland posted sad news to its Instagram followers: This will be the Adam’s Point restaurant’s last week of takeout sandwiches, as owners Stevie Stacionis and Josiah Baldivino have decided to indefinitely close until indoor dining can resume once again.

Like all restaurants during these trying times, Mama has struggled to keep the business going. First opened as a sit-down, prix-fixe Italian restaurant, Mama closed in March when the shelter-in-place orders shut down indoor dining. In April, Mama returned as #Sandwichinplace, a carry-out sandwich shop, offering meatball subs and Italian cold cut sandwiches. By early May, the restaurant decided it would keep this new model going for the foreseeable future, but it remained cautious in overpromising anything given the uncertainty of it all. In their recent announcement, Mama owners explain their decision: “We choose to press pause and await more clarity. We vote that it’s not in our best interest to keep playing along when the rules aren’t yet written. Our and your safety and livelihood are too valuable to risk literally losing it all. We will keep our sanity and health and hard-earned earnings in tact [sic] and pray we then are in a position to come back stronger and more confidently than ever when our leaders and world and community of guests are fully ready.”

This week, before it’s too late, order a sandwich from Mama for pickup (and might as well stop into Mama’s sister wine shop Bay Grape for a bottle or two of vino while you’re in the area). We hope to see Mama again when we reach the other side of this madness. Mama Oakland, 388 Grand Ave. (between Perkins and Staten), Oakland


More Oakland restaurants on break

A mural at the Rockridge location of 1951 Coffee.
The Rockridge location of 1951 Coffee is closed indefinitely. Photo: Sarah Han

1951 Coffee reopened its Rockridge cafe in May, but over the weekend, closed the Oakland location again. According to the nonprofit coffee company, which works to support, train and employ refugees, 1951 Coffee is focusing on its flagship cafe in Berkeley (2410 Channing Way) at this time. In the meantime, it continues to help its past employees and barista program graduates apply for unemployment and find new jobs.  

In mid-July, Magpie, the North Oakland pizza and beer spot at 375 40th St., hosted a final weekend brunch before closing its doors. Co-owner Krista Granieri told Nosh the plan is to eventually reopen, but for now, business has been extremely slow. “The neighborhood has been very, very quiet since the 85% drop in BART ridership, followed by the opening of outdoor dining around the Bay Area. We hung in for as long as we could. We have closed temporarily and are trying to figure out how to move forward. We are working in getting some additional outdoor space built and are hoping to re-open in the next few months,” Granieri said in an email. Magpie’s sister German restaurant, Brotzeit Lokal (1000 Embarcadero), which has a large, inviting biergarten on the Oakland waterfront, remains open. While it’s too smoky to eat outside right now, keep it in mind for when the smoke clears. Hours are noon to 8:30 p.m., daily.

Meanwhile, nearby at 308 41st St., The Lede, which has been operating as a pop-up Thursdays and Fridays evenings out of Cafe Encina, also announced they’d be taking a break. However, based on its new green logo on Instagram and fancier new website, its appears Chef Carlo Espina and crew aim to be back sooner than later. Expect to see The Lede up and running within a week or so (fingers crossed).

And more Oakland restaurants come back

Stay Gold Deli in West Oakland. Photo: Stay Gold

While Stay Gold Deli’s Temescal location has closed for good, its original West Oakland location lives on. Stay Gold on San Pablo Avenue reopened Aug. 14 with an updated menu of BBQ plates, po’boys and deli sandwiches that can be ordered for takeout, delivery via Grubhub or enjoyed on the deli’s large outdoor patio. A few things to note for those who plan to eat on-site when the air quality improves: Diners must use the wash station before sitting down at a table, wear a mask when not eating and clean and clear their own tables. No groups larger than six allowed. Hours are noon to 8 p.m., daily. Stay Gold Deli, 2635 San Pablo Ave. (at 26th Street), Oakland

Porque No? Tacos, the pop-up dishing out American breakfast and Mexican taqueria fare, last seen at Pucquio Peruvian restaurant in Rockridge, is back in business at a new venue, Half Time Sports Bar in downtown Oakland. Chefs Omar Lopez and Antonio Luquin moved to the new digs on Aug. 10, where they’re winning over new fans in the neighborhood with their tacos, burritos, tortas and chilaquiles. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily. Porque No? Tacos, inside Halftime Sports Bar, 316 14th St. (at Harrison), Oakland


People's Café owner Anson Abdulla stands outside the downtown Berkeley café.
Anson Abdulla closed People’s Cafe this month, citing high rent as the reason. Photo: Katrina Lee

People’s Cafe in downtown Berkeley has closed

As of last Friday, People’s Cafe in downtown Berkeley (61 Shattuck Sq.) has closed. According to owner Anson Abdulla, the rent was too high to keep the business going. Last year, Abdulla forged a partnership with House Kombucha owner Rana Lehmer-Chang, and together, planned to open a zero-waste grocery store at the cafe. And just this month, People’s Cafe began serving eats from Baladi Egyptian Kitchen, run by cousins Hani and Ahmed Desouky.

Abdulla told Nosh he is looking to operate Baladi as a pop-up at another location in Oakland. Baladi specializes in Egyptian street foods — like falafel made with fava beans; Egypt’s national dish, kushari; and lamb meshwi on freshly baked pita — with a “healthy, local, sustainable twist.” In the meantime, Abdulla and Lehmer-Chang’s partnership continues at their Southside Berkeley grocery store, People’s Local Market.

Zoom wine tasting with a Georgian winemaker

Evidence of the world’s earliest winemaking, dating as far as 6,000 B.C., has been found in Georgia — the country, that is. Today, Georgian vintners still use many of the traditional methods in making wine, including using qveri, or the egg-shaped clay vessels, for fermentation and aging. With Georgian food and drink newly on the radar of food enthusiasts around the world, more restaurants and wine shops, especially those with a leaning towards natural wines, are carrying and recommending Georgian selections.

For those looking to learn and taste more about why everyone is jumping on the Georgian wine bandwagon, join Vintage Berkeley and Gotsa winemaker Beka Gotsadze for a Zoom tasting this Friday at 7 p.m. Attendees must purchase a two-pack ($60) or four-pack ($110) of Gotsa wines from Vintage Berkeley to get an invitation to — and drink along with — the online tasting.

Trinchero Family Estates now owns Tres Agaves Tequila

The world’s second-largest family-owned winery, Napa’s Trinchero Family Estates, has recently acquired Tres Agaves Tequila, an organic tequila line launched in 2010 by Berkeley businessman Barry Augus and partners Eric Rubin and Chris Alvarez. Tres Agaves and Trinchero have been partners since 2012, but the winery decided to buy the boutique spirits company based on the growing popularity of tequila. According to a press release from Trinchero, Tres Agaves has grown 10-fold under the forged partnership.