Karaoke hotspot Nick’s Lounge is for sale; Ain’t Normal Cafe is open; Poppy Bagels pop-up

Plus, a new gluten-free craft beer taproom; Halloween and Election Day events for food lovers; more.

Nick's Lounge in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han
Nick’s Lounge in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

Nick’s Lounge is for sale

A couple of eagle-eyed readers sent us tips that Nick’s Lounge, a popular karaoke bar in Berkeley, is currently for sale. Both the business and the building with residential units upstairs are up for grabs. Nick’s (3218 Adeline St.) has been closed since March due to the pandemic, but owner Bryan Smith told Nosh that the reason he’s selling the establishment is so he can retire. Smith has owned Nick’s since 2011; at the time he bought it, the bar was nearly 50 years old, and Smith revamped it, making it the neighborhood hangout and karaoke and open mic destination it’s known as today.

Smith does not believe this is the end for Nick’s Lounge, as he said several parties are interested in buying the bar. In fact, when Nosh spoke with Smith on the phone on Monday, one of the prospective buyers was on-site. But as karaoke bars are not so COVID-friendly, we wondered if Smith and the potential new owner had considered how they could safely reopen, when allowed. (For now, bars that do not serve food cannot reopen, either indoors or outdoors.) Smith said that he had started brainstorming ideas back in May or June, when he had originally hoped Nick’s could reopen, and had come up with pandemic-safe ideas like limiting capacity inside, separating the performing karaoke singer at a safe distance from everyone else and banning duets. A few of his regulars had some ideas too: “Some of our customers are so hardcore, they said they’ll buy their own microphones,” Smith said. In the meantime, fans who’ve been missing Nick’s have donated more than $8,600 to a GoFundMe campaign, which Smith said will go to paying rent.

When asked what will happen to Nick’s Lounge if he doesn’t sell the place, Smith said: “Well, I think we will. I suppose if we really don’t, I would consider reopening myself.”

Ain’t Normal Cafe is open in Rockridge

Ain't Normal Cafe in Rockridge opened Oct. 21, serving coffee from a variety of Bay Area roasters. Photo: Ain't Normal Cafe
Ain’t Normal Cafe in Rockridge opened Oct. 21, serving coffee from a variety of Bay Area roasters. Photo: Ain’t Normal Cafe/Instagram

With an especially apt name for the times, Ain’t Normal Cafe opened on Oct. 21 in Rockridge. It takes over the cozy corner space occupied for nearly 10 years by Bica Coffeehouse. Like Bica, Ain’t Normal offers a variety of coffees from various roasters, and for its debut, it’s highlighting seven Bay Area makers: Ritual Coffee, Mother Tongue Coffee, Cute Coffee, Red Bay, Hedge Coffee, Lady Falcon Coffee Club and Big House Beans. Ain’t Normal, which was founded by Faunus Lucas, has operated for the past two years as a specialty coffee catering business that also sells coffee making equipment. The new cafe has a demo bar, where both home coffee enthusiasts and professional baristas can try out espresso machines, grinders, scales and other wares before they buy. Ain’t Normal Cafe is open 7 a.m. to noon, daily. Ain’t Normal Cafe, 5701 College Ave. (at Miles Avenue), Oakland

Poppy Bagels pops up at Roses’ Taproom

Coronavirus has spawned a bagel renaissance, and the latest darling on the scene is Poppy Bagels. Like another homesick East Coast-native turned bagel maker, Reesa Kashuk didn’t have any professional baking experience before starting Poppy about a year ago, just a desire to eat a good New York-style bagel in the Bay Area. “Bagels represent a lot of different things to me: home, family, Jewish food, and the best cure for a hangover,” Kashuk explains on Instagram. She started making bagels at home, and when she felt they were good enough to sell, quit her full-time advertising agency job to focus on her baking business.

According to Eater SF, Kashuk uses a traditional process to make her bagels: hand-rolling the dough, cold-proofing the shaped bagels for up to 48 hours before boiling them in lye and finally, baking them. The results are a thin-skinned, shiny bagel with a good chew. Kashuk bakes her bagels at Port Kitchens Marketplace in Jack London Square and sells her bagels by the dozen on Mondays via Mini Mart for Wednesday pickup in the East Bay at Port Kitchens or for delivery with a $5 fee. But if you’re interested in getting a taste before committing to 12 bagels, Kashuk will be bringing Poppy Bagels to Roses’ Taproom (4930 Telegraph Ave.) in Temescal this Saturday, Oct. 31, for a special Halloween pop-up with Oakland’s Flowerhead Tea and San Francisco’s Jar Jar Jams. The pop-up takes place from noon to 3 p.m.

Gluten-free eats and beer at Buck Wild Taproom

Outdoor tables at the new Buck Wild Taproom in Jack London Square. Photo: Buck Wild Brewing
Outdoor tables at the new Buck Wild Taproom in Jack London Square. Photo: Buck Wild Brewing/Instagram

Updated Thurs., Oct. 29: Oakland’s Jack London District will welcome a new 100% gluten-free beer bar and kitchen called Buck Wild Taproom. Buck Wild is California’s first gluten-free beer brewery. It opened a brewing facility in Oakland last year, where it produces its wheat, barley and rye-free brews. For its new taproom, Buck Wild will offer eight of its own beers on tap — including its light, refreshing pale ale, three hoppy IPAs, and a chocolately oatmeal cocoa vanilla stout — as well as wine, hard sparkling agua frescas and kombucha on tap. To eat, Buck Wild partnered with San Francisco’s gluten-free restaurant Kitava, which will offer a menu of healthy comfort foods for diners with dietary sensitivities to gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, refined sugar and seed oils. Expect dishes like grain bowls, fish and chips made with a gluten-free batter and tacos served on cassava flour tortillas.

Although Buck Wild Taproom originally planned to open on Saturday, Oct. 31, its grand opening has been postponed to the following Saturday, Nov. 7. Kitava owner and co-founder Bryan Tublin explained, “Given the current environment, we want to ensure our staff and space are fully ready to serve the public in a COVID-compliant manner.” For those who want to get a preview of what’s to come at Buck Wild, the taproom is offering food and select beers for delivery through Doordash and Caviar this Thursday through Sunday.

Grand opening hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 8. Buck Wild’s regular hours will be Wednesday through Friday, starting at 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sundays, from 11 a.m. Buck Wild Taproom, 401 Jackson St., (at Fourth Street), Oakland

Flint’s Barbecue founder’s granddaughter to open soul food restaurant


Eater has the scoop that the granddaughter of Willie Flintjoy, founder of Oakland’s Flint’s Barbecue, is opening a new  restaurant in Oakland called Lady Flint’s Creole Soul. But chef Crystal Martin won’t be following in her grandfather’s barbecue footsteps, instead she’ll be serving up Southern Creole dishes from recipes passed down through the family, like Louisiana red beans and rice, Jamaican-style mustard chicken and shrimp Creole. Lady Flint’s doesn’t yet have a location, but aims to start hosting takeout-only pop-ups starting in January.

Halloween and Dia de los Muertos treats

La Guerrera’s Kitchen is offering meal, snack and drink kits in honor of Día de los Muertos. Choose from (or mix and match): pozole verde meal for two (choice of chicken or a vegan option with chayote, mushroom and green beans), a dozen tamales (choose from seven options featuring chicken, pork, vegan and vegetarian choices), atoles and chumpurrado kit (thick, rich masa-based drinks; kit makes three cups and includes one pan dulce from La Favorita bakery), a michelada mix kit, and various chips and salsas. Order online for pickup between noon and 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 to Sunday, Nov. 1, at Ale Industries (3096 E 10th St., Oakland).

Cosecha (907 Washington St., Oakland) will be serving mole tamales, peanut mole and pomegranate margaritas for Día de los Muertos. Reservations will be required for on-site dining, but Cosecha will also be selling meal kits to-go.

Northern Chilean street food pop-up Llama en Llamas is throwing two “Haunted Hotdog” outdoor pop-ups at two East Bay bars. Dress up in costume and gobble down completos, or Chilean-style hot dogs with the works — avocado, tomato and sauerkraut on a homemade bun (veggie option available) — from 3-8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 29 at Novel Brewing Company (6510 San Pablo Ave., Oakland) and 4-8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 31 at Little Hill Lounge (10753 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito).

Daughter Thai (6118 Medau Pl., Oakland) in Montclair has two Halloween specials, available Friday, Oct. 30 to Sunday, Nov. 1: Creepy Crabby, a Southern Thai crab curry served with Anchan vermicelli rice noodles, vegetables and boiled egg in a whole pumpkin; and a cranberry-hibiscus cocktail called Boo Y’all, made boozy with Absolut Elyx, Lofi Amaro and Dolin Dry.

Patatas Patio Deli (3986 Adeline St., Emeryville) is hosting two socially distanced Día de los Muertos altar-making workshop with Two Mamacitas Pop-Up Kitchen. Guests will make and take home altars (cost is $44 for the kit), and enjoy a special Day of the Dead menu from Patatas Patio Deli and $5 Oakland United draft beers. 5-7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30 and 1-3:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 2.

Skull sugar cookies will be available over the weekend at Arizmendi Lakeshore. Photo: Arizmendi Lakeshore/Instagram
Skull sugar cookies will be available over the weekend at Arizmendi Lakeshore. Photo: Arizmendi Lakeshore/Instagram

Arizmendi Lakeshore (3265 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland) There’s still time to pre-order pan de muerto (soft sweet bread flavored with anise and orange zest) to pick up on Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, Nov. 1. When you pick up your order, add on a box of decorated skull sugar cookies.

Crooked City Cider Taphouse (206 Broadway, Oakland) in Jack London Square invites dogs and their humans to dress up in costume to get 10% off any crowler of cider to-go. The deal is valid Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31.

Farley’s Coffee (33 Grand Ave., Oakland) also wants to see your pooch in a costume. Bring your pup to the cafe at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31 to march in the outdoor pet parade. Or, if you and the dog want to stay socially distanced at home, snap a pic of your costumed dog and share it with @farleyscoffee on Instagram with the hashtag #farleyspetparade for a chance to win a monthly subscription of coffee delivered to your door. Read more details on Farley’s Instagram page.

Election day events

We have a feeling Nov. 3 is going to be a looooong day, so you might want to take up 1951 Coffee Company‘s offer of free drip coffee on election day at its flagship location on 2410 Channing Way in Berkeley. The cafe will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Super Duper Burgers is also offering an election day freebie: a free order of fries for guests who bring their “I voted” sticker or ballot stubs to any Super Duper location. Nearest locations are in Berkeley (2355 Telegraph Ave.) and at the Public Market Emeryville (5959 Shellmound St.).

If you’re interested in watching the election results in the company of others, Revival Bar and Kitchen (2102 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) is hosting a physically distanced outdoor screening event starting at 4 p.m. The restaurant will be closing up Addison Street, setting up two TV screens in its new parklet and serving up happy hour specials and comforting menu items through 10 p.m. Reservations are suggested; masks are required.

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