East Bay restaurant openings and closings in August

Seventeen restaurants opened, eight closed for good, and many more are on temporary hiatus.

Lox tartine waffle from Mise en Place Kitchen in Berkeley. Photo: Mise en Place Kitchen

This month, the pandemic-devastated Bay Area restaurant industry faced further challenges when hundreds of wildfires ignited across Northern California. The fires have burned more than 1.6 million acres; damaged produce farms and wineries; endangered the lives of thousands, including farmworkers; and temporarily smoked out opportunities for outdoor dining. Still, food-related businesses continue to open.

More than ever, we appreciate and hope to support local restaurants as they persevere. The following highlights spots that are brand new, have closed permanently or are taking an indefinite break. If you know of others, please let us know in the comments or by emailing nosh@berkeleyside.com. 

Berkeley

Open

Customer Victoria, originally from the Midwest, enjoys an A&W pineapple sundae. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

A&W The Smokehouse remains closed, leaving room, to be fair, for a new retro-style burger and hot dog shack to open along this stretch of Telegraph Avenue. Enter A&W, the orange-roofed, root-beer-centric franchise dating back a century, now operating a less-orange, more modern fast-food counter alongside the newly reopened Chevron at the corner of Telegraph and Ashby. Note: Don’t be fooled by what it says on the website — it is not, alas, a drive-thru. (It does, however, have a small outdoor seating area.) A&W, 2996 Telegraph Ave. (at Ashby Avenue), Berkeley

Bunz is a new burger joint on Southside in Berkeley. Photo: Sean Rouse
Bunz is a new burger joint on Southside in Berkeley. Photo: Sean Rouse

BUNZ Vigilant tipster Sean Rouse alerted Nosh to another fast-casual burger shop, this time on Southside in the former Smoke’s Poutinerie. Bunz serves an indulgent array of richly stacked burgers, milkshakes, cheesesteak sandwiches, wings and other student-friendly American grub. Bunz, 2518 Durant Ave. (between Bowditch Street and Telegraph Avenue), Berkeley


GARDEN VARIETY Fresh food from a fresh eatery on University Avenue is helping to satisfy downtown Berkeley soup-and-salad cravings. The new counter-service spot (in the former Dora’s space) also boasts one of the area’s prettiest back patios, shared with neighbor The Butcher’s Son (and temporarily closed Pedro’s Brazil Cafe). Read more about Garden Variety’s chef Jeff Wampler and his vision for the spot in this opening story from Sarah Han. Garden Variety, 1966 University Ave. (at Milvia Street), Berkeley

Pernil (slow roasted pork shoulder) with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and maduros (sweet plantains). Photo: La Perla

LA PERLA AT PASSIONE CAFFE Beloved Oakland-based Puerto Rican eatery La Perla hosted the first in a series of pop-ups from inside Passione Caffe’s temporarily closed cafe this month, spicing up downtown with pernil, mofongo, pasteles and some much-needed positive energy from chef Cheo. Look for weekend pop-up dates on La Perla’s Instagram. La Perla pop-up at Passione Caffe, 91 Shattuck Sq. (at Addison Street), Berkeley

MISE EN PLACE KITCHEN Softly opened Aug. 8, in the former Maison Bleue space (see Closed) next to the Berkeley Public Library, Mise en Place is a new cafe with charms galore. The menu, from Brazilian-born chef Theully Calderwood, is mostly French-inspired — pastries, tartines, crepes, omelets, and quiche, with fresh, local ingredients and choices for diverse diets — but its new happy hour of light bites might include some Latin American touches. Coffee drinks made with RoastCo Coffee are a specialty, including a lavender latte and double ristretto espresso. The enclosed outdoor patio adds to the cafe’s appeal. Mise en Place Kitchen, 2020 Kittredge St. (between Milvia Street and Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley

Noble Cow Creamery, formerly a Three Twins scoop shop, on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

NOBLE COW CREAMERY Because ice cream (or non-dairy sorbet) is what we all need right now, the good people of now-defunct Three Twins Ice Cream on Fourth Street nobly reopened this summer as Noble Cow Creamery. The shop’s 16 small-batch flavors offered in rotation are made with local ingredients such as farm-fresh fruit and Straus organic dairy base, and dished ice cream scoops are topped with little waffle cones. Way to take a year of lemons and make lemon cookie ice cream. Thanks, Noble Cow. Noble Cow Creamery, 1809-A Fourth St. (between Delaware Street and Hearst Avenue), Berkeley

OUT FRONT AT THE UC THEATRE Check Instagram for dates, times and guidelines on joining this socially distanced, festive outdoor pop-up Friday and Saturday evenings hosted in front of the temporarily closed UC Theatre, featuring drinks and food from Cali Alley and other local vendors. Seating is first come, first served. Out Front at the UC Theatre, 2036 University Ave. (between Milvia Street and Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley


Closed

E TEA (YI TEA) Born as E Tea in late 2019, this snack and tea shop hastily rebranded to Yi Tea to avoid (?) confusion with an unrelated boba chain, but then kept both names on the awning for good measure. Names aside, the boba shop had favorable reviews when it first opened, but we’re guessing the pandemic economy led to its closure, as it has not shown signs of life for many months. Yi “E” Tea was at 2041 University Ave. 

A full house at Famous Bao on Durant Avenue.
A photo taken last year at Famous Bao on Durant Avenue. Photos: Sarah Han

FAMOUS BAO Owner Frances Sun confirmed with Nosh that both locations of Famous Bao have permanently closed. The first Famous Bao opened on Durant Avenue near Cal in 2016 (Sun is a UC Berkeley alumnus), and the second location on Shattuck opened two years later, both serving fast-casual Shaanxi cuisine and noodles to student and office crowds. Despite a 2019 menu refresh leading to positive reviews, Sun said troubles began looming as early as January, when travel restrictions meant international student numbers began to thin. Sales continued to dip as coronavirus fears rose, and when the shelter-in-place order hit, Sun told Nosh his landlords were unwilling to negotiate on rent despite the pandemic. When properties were allowed to reopen for takeout and delivery, his employees, many of them in their 50s and 60s, chose not to return given virus concerns, leaving Sun and his father to attempt to maintain both restaurants until it was no longer feasible. Sun’s story is sadly one of many from 2020, and we wish him a fresh start in happier times. Famous Bao was at 2431-A Durant Ave. and 2116 Shattuck Ave.

Maison Bleue closed after a three-year stint at 2020 Kittredge. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

MAISON BLEUE Chronicle food critic Soleil Ho first had the scoop that casual French cafe Maison Bleue has closed up shop, handing the cafe reins to Mise en Place (see Open). Maison Bleue bistro and creperie took over from Cafe Clem in 2017, and had recently expanded into catering before the onset of COVID-19. Maison Bleue was at 2020 Kittredge St.

PEOPLE’S CAFE Just as it began hosting Egyptian pop-up Baladi, the People’s Cafe — notable for its plant-based cuisine and waste-free practices (though its status as “the most Berkeley cafe ever” might be debatable) — abruptly cleared out of its space this month. Owner Anson Abdullah told Nosh editor Sarah Han that the rent was simply too high for the current level of business downtown; the newly vacant space is flanked by abandoned Yoga To The People, and dormant Draw Billiards along this once-vibrant strip. People’s Cafe was at 61 Shattuck Sq.

Oakland

Open

BROKE ASS COOKS West Oakland’s new chicken pop-up founded by Bilal Ali, Hoang Le and Keone Koki has been more buzz than broke lately, especially after this glowing write-up from Soleil Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle. Here’s more of their story from Nosh contributor Daphne White. Broke Ass Cooks, 2127 Filbert St. (for curbside pickup only), Oakland


Chef Annabelle (Ann) Goodridge in front of her new Caribbean restaurant Coco Breeze in East Oakland. Photo: Coco Breeze

COCO BREEZE After a soft opening in July, Caribbean restaurant Coco Breeze officially launched in East Oakland on Aug. 1. The new family-run eatery from chef and caterer Annabelle (Ann) Goodridge features Caribbean cuisine (roti, curry, jerk chicken), fresh-squeezed tropical and “superfood” juices, plenty of vegan options and vegan baked desserts. Limited outdoor seating offers a chance to linger over an island-style lunch. Coco Breeze, 2370 High St. (at Fairfax Avenue), Oakland  

GOT JUICE The Laurel District has a new spot for juices, fruit smoothies, frozen-yogurt shakes and “elixirs,” along with acai bowls, in an airy shop featuring a living plant wall. Nosh feels refreshed just having described it. Got Juice, 3483 MacArthur Blvd. (at Patterson Avenue), Oakland

A plate with a cut burrito, tortilla chips and escabeche from Porque No? Tacos.
Porque No? Tacos recently moved to Halftime Sports Bar in Oakland. Photo: Alix Wall

PORQUE NO? TACOS At long last, Bites had the scoop that former Rockridge favorite Porque No? Tacos has officially relaunched, now operating from within downtown Oakland’s Halftime Sports Bar. The taqueria serves breakfast, lunch and now dinner for takeout daily. Porque No? Tacos inside Halftime Sports Bar, 316 14th St. (at Harrison), Oakland

UARHI TAQUERIA Lake locals have welcomed new, no-frills Uarhi Taqueria to the neighborhood with enthusiasm. The Mexican take-out window is located in the long-dormant Lagos Taqueria space, and serves the usual suspects, including tacos, burritos, bowls and quesabirria, at friendly prices. (Fun fact: “Uarhi” means woman in Purepecha, the indigenous language of Michoacan, Mexico.) Uarhi Taqueria, 134 14th St. (between Madison and Oak streets), Oakland

Yellow Door offers sweet and savory bites, like this triple chocolate cookie with Spanish peanuts. Photo: Yellow Door

YELLOW DOOR Montclair has an enticing new little neighborhood cafe in Yellow Door, featuring American breakfast and light lunch fare for takeout from Wednesday through Sunday. The crowd-pleasing menu includes pastries and breakfast sandwiches, frittata, soups, lunch sandwiches and salads, with coffee drinks, hot chocolate and tea to drink. Yellow Door, 6466 Moraga Ave. (between La Salle Avenue and Medau Place), Oakland

Closed

BEAUTY’S BAGELS UPTOWN As reported by Nosh and J Weekly contributor Alix Wall, San Francisco-based Wise Sons Delicatessen has purchased local, Montreal-style bagelmakers Beauty’s Bagels, and will use the acquisition to expand into both of Beauty’s former Oakland locations. The Uptown Beauty’s Bagels shop, opened in 2018, has closed completely to be rebranded as a Wise Sons Deli, possibly as soon as this coming month. The flagship Temescal location will keep the name Beauty’s, but will sell popular Wise Sons bagel products instead of Beauty’s signature, wood-fired, denser and more robust versions. It’s the end of an era for Oakland, but we are grateful to both companies for doing whatever’s required to keep good bagels in the Bay at this uncertain time. Beauty’s Bagels Uptown was at 1700 Franklin St.

LA BOULANGERIE ROCKRIDGE According to its website, three of the eight Bay Area locations of La Boulangerie de San Francisco have been closed since March, ostensibly temporarily, but a sharp-eyed reader shared that the Rockridge closure is more than temporary. A “for rent” sign appeared in the window recently, and a call to a San Francisco shop confirmed that the Oakland location has indeed closed for good. La Boulangerie de San Francisco Rockridge was at 5500 College Ave.


Beyond

Open

DIA Y NOCHE Opened at the end of July, this new restaurant in Walnut Creek has outdoor seating to enjoy its menu of Mexican eats and drinks. Takeout and delivery also available. Dia y Noche, 1421 Locust St., Walnut Creek

THE FACTORY BAR Thanks to a Richmond tipster for sharing that The Factory Bar, with patio seating, is now open on San Pablo Avenue near Tacos El Tucan as of Aug. 6. On offer: Fourteen local brews; cocktails (such as the rum, pineapple, cardamom and rose concoction The Riveter, named for Rosie of course); no-proof cocktails for the alcohol-free set; rotating food specials from area purveyors; and plenty of Richmond-local love. Note: Reservations required, 21 and over. The Factory Bar, 12517 San Pablo Ave. (between Clinton and Solano avenues), Richmond

KAORU SUSHI A new Japanese restaurant in the Pacific East Mall featuring sushi, udon, bento boxes and more. Kaoru Sushi, Pacific East Mall, 3288 Pierce St., suite A 107, Richmond

Solano Junction, formerly Sunny Side Up, in Albany. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

SOLANO JUNCTION As Nosh first reported in Bites, the new team behind this bright, corner cafe near the Albany-Berkeley border, formerly Sunny Side Up (and before that, the Sunny Side Cafe) hopes to continue the long-loved spot’s casual breakfast and lunch fare and relaxed, come-as-you-are appeal. Look for dinner and wine in the new cafe’s future. Solano Junction, 1499 Solano Ave. (at Curtis Street), Albany

Closed

KARA’S CUPCAKES WALNUT CREEK Diablo Magazine and the East Bay Times have reported that Kara’s Cupcakes in downtown Walnut Creek has closed its doors after 10 years. There are three remaining Bay Area locations currently open, in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Napa.

SUNNY SIDE UP CAFE ALBANY Though it changed hands and names six years ago, some regulars will always think of this corner restaurant as the Sunny Side Cafe, a casual brunch and lunch spot known for its eco-minded business practices that opened on Solano Avenue in 2003. (It was Albany’s first green-certified restaurant.) In 2014, the cafe morphed under new owners into the similarly named Sunny Side Up Cafe, and much of the former incarnation’s menu and spirit remained. As of this summer, Sunny has been sundowned, and new owners have renamed it Solano Junction (see Open). Meanwhile, Sunny Side Cafe is still open on Oxford Street in Berkeley. Sunny Side Up Cafe was at 1499 Solano Ave. in Albany.

Temporarily closed

The pandemic has led to a new state of almost eerie hibernation for many local venues. Some are calling it quits “for now” and determined to return; some are in a sort of limbo, less clearly reopening or fully closed. If we hear of a restaurant that is temporarily shut but with a firm reopening plan, we won’t write about it here. The following are temporarily closed spots whose hiatuses seem a bit more lengthy or indefinite.

Berkeley

Will Berkeley’s affordable Burmese spot Tharaphu reopen? We hope so. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

THARAPHU BURMESE STREET FOOD This budget-friendly, Burmese street food standby in downtown Berkeley has generously fed happy customers since 2016, and we hope that continues after the pandemic. Marked temporarily closed on Yelp, Tharaphu appears fully closed in reality, and its phone has been disconnected. Attempts to reach the owners have gone unanswered, so we hope we’re wrong. Say it ain’t so, Tharaphu. Tharaphu Burmese Cuisine is at 2037 Shattuck Ave.

MISSOURI LOUNGE A concerned reader emailed Nosh wondering about the goings-on at beloved West Berkeley dive Missouri Lounge at 2600 San Pablo Ave. “There’s a big dumpster in the parking lot + new Kaiser building is shadowing in! Do you know?” Nosh reached out to owner Ali Eslami, who reassured us that the closure is temporary. As for the dumpster, Eslami said he’s taking advantage of the downtime to upgrade the bar’s sewer line, bathrooms and kitchen, and, if permitted, to expand its outdoor dining area for better social distancing once Missouri Lounge can reopen. 

Oakland

Bierhaus Oakland has been closed for several months. Photo: Allan Ezial

BIERHAUS OAKLAND The Oakland location of Bierhaus has been temporarily closed for several months, with no sign of reopening any time soon. Fans might know that the location in Walnut Creek, with a spacious outdoor patio, remains open and busy. Bierhaus is at 360 40th St.

DUENDE This celebrated Spanish restaurant and bodega from chef Paul Canales has played host to countless upscale dates (The pintxos! The paella!), festive groups and pre-concert gatherings across the street from Uptown’s Fox Theater for nearly 8 years. For the charismatic chef, temporarily shuttering the restaurant on Aug. 2, was “utterly heartbreaking,” but “the right decision for now.” Duende is at 468 19th St. 

ETERNAL Josh Levine, owner of Donut Farm, opened Eternal in late 2019, in the former Chop Bar space, to provide an attractive sit-down gathering place for indulgent vegan brunch. Then came COVID-19, and the April Facebook post that said, “We tried.” But hope springs…you know the rest. Patronage of Donut Farm at 6037 San Pablo Ave. for counter-service vegan donuts, comfort food and retail, or Levine’s cafe (with vegan donuts!) Coffee Conscious at 1312 Gilman St. during this time helps support the possible future reopening of Eternal, in either Jack London Square or a new location. For now, however, it remains temporarily closed until, “sometime.” Eternal is at 247 4th St. 

HADDON HILL CAFE Owner Isaac Lim’s Oakland properties Haddon Hill Cafe and Leaning Tower restaurant are both currently boarded up, as many spots are these days, but the good news is, both are in operation out of the Leaning Tower location. Visit 498 Wesley Ave. for Haddon Hill pastries and coffee drinks, as well as Leaning Tower pizza and salads. The Haddon Hill address will remain temporarily closed for now. Haddon Hill Cafe is at 504 Wesley Ave., and currently operating out of Leaning Tower at 498 Wesley Ave.

MAGPIE The North Oakland pizza and beer spot at 375 40th St. has been closed since mid-July due to an 85% drop in business. Co-owner Krista Granieri told Nosh they’ll be temporarily closed for the next few months and will be looking into building additional outdoor space and “a way to move forward.”

Mama served its final takeout sandwiches last week before closing indefinitely. Photo: Sarah Han

MAMA Mama, the pasta house passion project from husband-and-wife team Josiah Baldivino and Stevie Stacionis, temporarily closed this month to “preserve… remaining resources for a future hopeful reopening.” Mama had restructured from a red-sauce restaurant into a takeout sandwich shop to survive the pandemic, and was loyally supported by many (including this mama and Italophile who enjoyed a prosciutto sandwich on her birthday). The couple’s wine shop Bay Grape remains open and ready to help Mama fans drown their sorrows in a good bottle of red. Mama is at 388 Grand Ave. 

1951 COFFEE ROCKRIDGE The lease isn’t up, but the Rockridge location of this cafe and nonprofit is closed for now. Reminder: 1951’s flagship location at 2410 Channing Way in Berkeley remains open with outdoor seating, and every cup supports the professional training and empowerment of refugee communities. 1951 Coffee Rockridge is at 6021 College Ave.  

SHAWARMAJI After seven months operating out of Forage Kitchen (478 25th St.), it’s a wrap for Shawarmaji, the Jordanian-style street food vendor that ended its residency Aug. 30. Chef Mohammad Abutaha is currently in the process of opening a restaurant of his own in downtown Oakland, where he plans to serve up chicken and lamb shawarma and launch an Arab-style fruit cocktail program. 

SLICER PIZZERIA Not that Nosh plays favorites, but if we did…this easy, flavorful, New York-style slice house on Piedmont Avenue would be up there. Which is why it’s tough to share that a reader and fellow fan recently noticed the shop had gone dark, and the phone number has been removed from its website. Since there has been no formal announcement or posted notice, and Slicer reps have not returned our emails, we’re adding the pizzeria to this list for now and hoping the darkness is temporary. If not —for seven years, you had a little Slicer of our hearts, and will be missed. Slicer Pizzeria is at 4395 Piedmont Ave.

Beyond

The sign at Potala Organic Cafe has come down, leaving us wondering if the temporary closure is permanent. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

POTALA ORGANIC CAFE Closed until further notice, vegan destination Potala has made some fans nervous with the removal of the restaurant’s well-known sign on San Pablo Avenue. A note on the door says, “Closed due to coronavirus, we will reopen soon.” Attempts to reach the owners have not been fruitful, but we are rooting for the notable little restaurant’s post-pandemic return. Potala Organic Cafe is at 1045 San Pablo Ave. in Albany.

Sarah Han contributed reporting.