East Bay restaurant openings and closings in March

Understory, Low Bar, Square Pie Guys, others opened; Cosecha, Fat Cat Cafe, others closed.

Oakland's new worker-led restaurant Understory offers a rotating menu of cuisines from around the world. The opening menu features Filipino fare.
Oakland’s new worker-led restaurant Understory offers a rotating menu of cuisines from around the world. The opening menu features Filipino fare. Photo: Understory/Instagram

Despite the sweet relief of spring, vaccines and relaxed pandemic restrictions, it’s still impossible to predict ongoing COVID-19 challenges for the restaurant industry in the coming weeks. 

As more and more staffers are vaccinated, and diners are tempted by reopened outdoor and, in particular, indoor dining spaces, Nosh encourages continued safe support of local businesses. Don’t let those guards (or masks) down just yet, and as always, please send any tips to nosh@berkeleyside.com.

Berkeley

Open 

El Talpense, formerly Celia’s Mexican Restaurant, on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

EL TALPENSE Bites filled us in on this Northside switch: Regardless of any remaining signage, Celia’s Mexican Restaurant is now El Talpense. New owners Jesus and Pedro Madrigal are long affiliated with Celia’s; the brothers worked with the Lopez family, who owns the local minichain, for decades — in Pedro’s case, nearly four of them. El Talpense is the Madrigals’ first venture, and the brothers have crafted a new menu that features plenty of vegan Mexican options along with some old Celia’s favorites. El Talpense, 1841 Euclid Ave. (near Hearst Avenue), Berkeley 

PIZZA GUYS BERKELEY The Pizza Guys have arrived in Berkeley (not to be confused with those other guys, the Square Pie Guys, new to Oakland, below). The 35-year-old Sacramento-based pizza brand features pies topped with crowd-pleasing ingredients such as pepperoni, Hawaiian toppings or Buffalo chicken, as well as a selection of Impossible-brand plant-based meats. The menu also includes “cheezee bacon rolls” and similar novelty bites, calzones, wings, salads and pasta dishes. The Pizza Guys franchise has more than 70 locations in California, Nevada and Oregon. Pizza Guys, 1109 University Ave. (at San Pablo Avenue), Berkeley 


The namesake Stand-Up Burger featuring an Impossible patty and a vegan chocolate shake from downtown Berkeley’s new plant-based burger joint. Photo: Sarah Han

STAND-UP BURGERS Launched March 10, at the corner of downtown Berkeley’s newly named Kala Bagai Way, is the Veggie Grill-owned Stand-Up Burgers (replacing the former Veggie Grill). On offer are stacked, grilled Impossible burgers and plant-based crispy chicken sandwiches, as well as salads, falafel wraps, fries, onion rings and vegan shakes. Veggie Grill is the largest plant-based group in the United States; look for competitive flavors in those nostalgic, 100% vegan bites, and more U.S. locations soon to come. Stand-Up Burgers, 2000 Kala Bagai Way (at University Avenue), Berkeley

Closed

CELIA’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT As Bites first reported, Celia’s on Northside — on Euclid since 2008, and before that on Fourth Street in Berkeley for more than 30 years — has been sold to brothers and former Celia’s employees Pedro and Jesus Madrigal. The brothers have reopened the Euclid space as El Talpense (see Open, above). Celia’s Mexican Restaurant was at 1841 Euclid Ave.

Oakland

Open

AWAZI KITCHEN In February, Old Oakland welcomed a new Ethiopian restaurant with the opening of Awazi Kitchen. As first reported by Hoodline, Awazi Kitchen took the place of Siam Bay, and is open for lunch and dinner, with dishes such as tibs, wot and kitfo. Awazi Kitchen, 1009 Clay St. (between 10th and 11th streets), Oakland 

BIG A SANDWICHES The former Fusion Mediterranean (see Closed, below) is under new ownership as Big A Sandwiches. Before readers jump to conclusions, the “A” in the shop’s name might stand for many things — founder Ahmad Alloun, whose goal is to cook for a range of diets, from vegan to carnivorous to halal; aliens; the Oakland A’s. But given the size of Big A’s creations, it probably means what we think it means. Expect halal shawarma, kebab and falafel wraps, salads, plates and sides such as dolmas and air-fried French fries. Also, late AF hours. Big A Sandwiches, 475 14th St., Oakland

Birria tacos from The Dunkin Taco. Photo: The Dunkin Taco/Instagram

THE DUNKIN TACO AT THE WOLFHOUND The Wolfhound’s actual wolfhound Rufus and his regal, bewhiskered mug isn’t the only reason to visit this convivial Golden Gate neighborhood bar. Lately, regulars (and maybe Rufus?) have been enjoying street food from relative newcomer the Dunkin Taco, pop-up purveyor of birria as well as vegan tacos, tortas, burritos and more. The Dunkin Taco pop-ups are on Sundays only for now. (Note: Aburaya also regularly serves up crispy chicken sandwiches and other fare here.) Look for the dog presiding at the door, and the horse on the roof. The Dunkin Taco at The Wolfhound, 5516 San Pablo Ave. (between 55th and 56th), Oakland

JUICE HOLICK We missed this one back in the winter: Downtown Oakland has welcomed new juice bar Juice Holick (“juice-aholic”), a family-owned juice cafe that serves healthful bowls, soups and toasts, as well as clean, fresh-pressed juices, wellness drinks and smoothies. Juice Holick, 377 17th St. (between Franklin and Webster streets), Oakland

LOW BAR Setting a new bar in Uptown is Low Bar, now softly open where Hawker Fare used to be. The approachable little tavern features an appealing food menu of American and Mexican-inflected pub food, as well as classic and specialty cocktails, such as the shiso-tincture-based “Shiso Lovely.” Low Bar, 2300 Webster St. (between 23th and 24th streets), Oakland

Kebabs, gyro and more Mediterranean and Arabic fare from Mosaic Mediterranean Cafe in Jack London Square. Photo: Mosaic Mediterranean Cafe/Facebook

MOSAIC MEDITERRANEAN CAFE Greek, Turkish, Arabic and other Mediterranean flavors are served at this new cafe (with a friendly patio) in Jack London Square. Expect fast-casual kebabs, gyros, grilled vegetables, fish and lamb, as well as classic dips and salads. (If the menu and signage seem similar to previous restaurant Mediterranean Kebab House, it’s because new owner Ali is from the same extended family.) Mosaic Mediterranean Cafe, 468 Third St. (between Washington Street and Broadway), Oakland   

Fragos Peruvian Rotisserie is one of a few new Oakland Food Hall residents. Photo: Fragos

OAKLAND FOOD HALL New takeout and delivery-only eateries inside this conglomerate ghost kitchen of more than 50 businesses include Arigato Burrito, packing Japanese ingredients and flavors into burritos and tacos; Kavya Indian and Nepalese Cuisine; and Fragos Peruvian Rotisserie. (Help Nosh spotlight your favorite from this ever-evolving ghost kitchen via comments and tips.) Oakland Food Hall, 2353 E. 12th St. (at Miller Avenue), Oakland 

ROASTED AND RAW We wrote about this plant-based, fast-casual window opening in Jack London Square back in January, but Roasted and Raw has since moved into the handsome brick-and-mortar restaurant space at 550 Second St. (formerly Encuentro). Felicitations! Roasted and Raw, 550 Second St. (at Clay Street), Oakland

SNAIL BAR Another bar, although one of a different shell altogether: Nosh contributor Lauren Bonney took a close look at Temescal’s new Snail Bar from notable chef Andres Giraldo Florez, featuring a focus on natural wines and Slow Food. Snail Bar takes over Temescal’s former Stay Gold Deli property, and though only virtually open for now, offers (free) local delivery of natural wines. Snail Bar, 4935 Shattuck Ave. (at 51st Street), Oakland

SOBRE MESA This one is more of a reopening, but only just: Chef Nelson and May German’s long-awaited Afro-Latino cocktail bar Sobre Mesa first opened March 5, 2020 — and was forced to fully shutter mere days later due to the pandemic. The now doubly long-awaited re-opening took place March 4, and the results are twice as hot. There’s a tropical parklet, brunch, sultry live music, specialty cocktails and flavorful bites for dinner, and it doesn’t hurt that chef German spent the interim competing on a little show you may have heard of called Top Chef. Sobre Mesa, 1618 Franklin St. (at 17th Street), Oakland

Square Pie Guys’ pepperoni pizza is called “The 6×8” because it comes topped with 48 slices of pepperoni. Photo: Sarah Han

SQUARE PIE GUYS San Francisco-based Square Pie Guys and its cult-worthy, Detroit-style pizzas landed in Old Oakland March 1, inside the former Benchmark space. Pizzas here are, yes, square, and addictively plump, with crisped edges and a bevy of eclectic toppings; new to the Oakland location are cocktails and a Calabrese-style hot chicken sandwich. Square Pie Guys, 499 9th St. (at Washington Street), Oakland

UNDERSTORY It’s a great story: Understory, fresh from its March 27 grand opening, provides experience for budding immigrant and refugee chefs, allowing them to train in the field while earning income. Understory’s ever-changing menu depends on who’s cooking, but might lean Burmese, Filipino, Mexican, Moroccan. (Check updates for this week’s culinary treats.) Eighth Street Collective and Oakland Bloom are the groups responsible for this positive and eclectic new destination on the Oakland culinary scene. Understory, 528 Eighth St. (between Washington and Clay streets), Oakland

What the Cluck specializes in Thai chicken dishes, like khao mun gai. Photo: What the Cluck/Instagram

WHAT THE CLUCK Three-year-old San Francisco eatery What the Cluck, makers of gingery Thai comfort-food staple khao mun gai (chicken with rice), chicken soups and other nourishing dishes, is now feeding Old Oakland diners as of mid-March. Lucky clucks. What The Cluck, 815B Washington St. (between Eighth and Ninth streets), Oakland

Closed

AS B-DAMA Nosh is grateful to contributor Momo Chang for finding out the story on Japanese chef Chikara Ono’s four East Bay properties (and newer pop-ups Dela Curo and Sundo). As mentioned in Chang’s feature, Ono’s izakaya AS B-Dama inside Swan’s Market is now closed. Fans might know the Japanese restaurant simply as B-Dama, and might remember the move from its original location at 4301 Piedmont Ave. to Swan’s in 2014. (Notably, the well-loved izakaya was also an alma mater to Fish & Bird’s Shin Okamoto, Yoshika Hedberg and Asuka Uchida.) AS B-Dama was at 907 Washington St. 

Cosecha had its last day of service on Saturday, March 27. Owner Dominica Rice-Cisneros plans to open her new restaurant, Bombera in Oakland’s Dimond neighborhood in the coming days. Photo: Sarah Han

COSECHA Speaking of well-loved, Bites let us know that Cosecha, an Old Oakland cornerstone for California-Mexican cuisine for 10 years, closed permanently this month at the conclusion of its Swan’s Market lease. Chef Dominica Rice-Cisneros is quoted in Berkeleyside wondering, “how does a chef retire?” and, lucky for Oakland, has answered that question for herself by instead launching a new eatery in the Dimond neighborhood. Look for a possible April opening for Bombera at 3455 Champion St. in Oakland. Cosecha was at 907 Washington St. 

FAT CAT CAFE Uptown’s longtime neighborhood sandwich and soup spot the Fat Cat Cafe permanently closed during the pandemic. The sweet cafe was known for its friendly customer service, and for naming its generous hot and cold sandwiches after famous cartoon cats (Garfield, Felix, Tom). Fat Cat Cafe was at 1720 Telegraph Ave.

FUSION MEDITERRANEAN This downtown Oakland buffet-style lunch spot has fully morphed into Big A Sandwiches (see Open, above), with a new menu and new owners. Fusion Mediterranean was at 475 14th St.

MEDITERRANEAN KEBAB HOUSE is permanently closed, as the owner retired. The restaurant is now Mosaic Mediterranean Cafe, see Open, above. Mediterranean Kebab House was at 468 Third St.

Beyond

Open

Alameda got a new boba tea shop with the March 5 opening of Ding Tea on Park Street. Photo: Ding Tea/Facebook

DING TEA Fresh bubble tea for Alameda. Ding Tea is a global franchise based in Taiwan with more than 1,000 shops worldwide (and growing). The Alameda location softly launched March 5, and is garnering positive boba reviews so far. Ding Tea Alameda, 1342 Park St. (between Marti Rae Court and Alameda Avenue), Alameda

ELAINE’S GOURMET CHINESE Friendly, locally-owned Elaine’s Gourmet Chinese offers a new choice for Chinese takeout, including a menu of Szechuan options with varying degrees of heat. Fans say not to miss Elaine’s chicken wings. Elaine’s Gourmet Chinese, 2520 Santa Clara Ave. (between Everett Street and Broadway), Alameda 

OLEIS FUSION CUISINE Island flavors at new Oleis in Emeryville hail from around the Caribbean as well as from Guam (Chamorro cuisine) and other tropical destinations. Specialties include fried and grilled salmon; chicken kelaguen served over red rice or stuffed in empanadas; garlic noodles with shrimp; and Chamorro grilled chicken. There is also a fried chicken sandwich with house-pickled cabbage. The Puerto Rican-inspired “Freakin Rican” features braised Dungeness crab stew over white rice with corn and potatoes. Look also for wings, tropical salads, sweet plantains and cooling beverages such as a daily infused lemonade, to calm the heat of finadene, a specialty Chamorro pepper sauce offered as a condiment here. Oleis Fusion Cuisine, 4125 San Pablo Ave. (between 40th and 45th streets), Emeryville 

Pamela Braxton (left) and Gayle Tule-Chen are the friendly co-owners of El Cerrito’s new bakery, PennDel’s Bakehouse. Photo: Joanna Della Penna

PENNDEL’S BAKEHOUSE Tipped by a kind Nosh reader, Bites had the sweet story on this new El Cerrito bakeshop. Named for Pennsylvania and Delaware, the home states of the two baker-owners Pamela Braxton and Gayle Tule-Chen, the roomy bakery features cakes, muffins, streusels, biscuits, scones, cookies and other sweet and savory treats crafted with organic ingredients. Look also for specialty gluten-free and vegan options. PennDel’s softly opened March 27, and as expected, the counter of the friendly neighborhood shop was completely cashed by closing time (as were the chocolate chip cookie and slice of red velvet cake Nosh purchased strictly for reporting purposes). PennDel’s Bakehouse, 6491 Portola Dr. (near San Pablo Avenue), El Cerrito

PHILZ COFFEE BISHOP RANCH The sixth East Bay location of Philz Coffee (also located in Berkeley, Oakland, Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Fremont) opened March 29, within San Ramon’s City Center Bishop Ranch complex. The San Francisco-based coffee empire now has 63 total locations in California, Washington, D.C., and the Chicago metropolitan area. Philz Coffee Bishop Ranch, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Rd., San Ramon

Albany’s rotisserie and charcuterie spot Picnic is open for pre-order pickup on Saturdays. Photo: Sarah Han

PICNIC Nosh is sorry to realize it had not yet mentioned this fresh Albany spot in Openings, despite coverage around its winter opening in Bites, so here’s a little extra mention a couple of months in: The corner counter shop at San Pablo and Solano avenues is drawing lines for its prepared foods such as savory rotisserie chicken, porchetta, roasty and marinated vegetable sides and cheeses, as well as cured, smoked, moussed, blended and rendered specialty deli meats. Heading home to a larder rather than a picnic? There are also soups, eggs, honey, jarred pickles and other pantry items for pickup. Note that Picnic is open for pre-order pickup on Saturdays only. Pre-order online between noon, Wednesday and 5 p.m., Friday for Saturday pickup. Picnic, 862 San Pablo Ave. (at Solano Avenue), Albany

LOCAL KITCHENS Lafayette’s ghost kitchen has added food from Glaze Teriyaki and ice cream from Humphry Slocombe to its list of takeout and delivery-only options. Order through the main website. Local Kitchens, 3455 Mt. Diablo Blvd. (at Second Street), Lafayette 

Closed

ARZU UYGHUR CUISINE As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, this Newark Uyghur food restaurant has closed. An update from the owner on Yelp assures customers that Arzu will reopen at a different location in the future. Arzu Uyghur Cuisine closed on Jan. 31; it was located at 39119 Cedar Blvd., Newark

Scott’s Seafood Walnut Creek location has permanently closed. Fortunately, its Oakland location has recently reopened. Photo: Scott’s Seafood Walnut Creek/Facebook

SCOTT’S SEAFOOD WALNUT CREEK In good news for Jack London Square diners, the Oakland location of local chain Scott’s Seafood is reopened and refreshed after a long pandemic dormancy. Unfortunately, the Scott’s Seafood in Walnut Creek, known for decades as much for its pretty dining rooms and event spaces as its classic seafood, is now permanently closed. The original Scott’s Seafood opened in 1976 in San Francisco’s Marina District; the Walnut Creek location opened in 1987. Scott’s Seafood Walnut Creek was at 1333 N. California Blvd. 

Temporarily closed

DELAGE AS B-Dama is closed, but there is still hope for chef Chikara Ono’s second Swan’s Market property, the omakase restaurant Delage. Look for a reopening within the next couple of months. In the meantime, fans can still order off the Delage menu for takeout only (with pickup at Berkeley Bowl West). Delage is at 536 Ninth St. in Oakland. 

HOMETOWN HEROES EAST BAY Nosh had noticed very little activity at this usually bustling Emeryville patio in recent weeks. (A notice on Yelp says it is temporarily closed, with a reopening date of July 1.) However, the owners let Nosh know just before press time that the bar plans to reopen in April. Happy spring! Hometown Heroes East Bay is at 4000 Adeline St. in Emeryville.

UTZUTZU As with his Oakland eatery Delage (see above) and Masabaga, reported temporarily closed in January, Chikara Ono’s sushi restaurant Utzutzu in Alameda is also on the chef’s wish list to reopen as the days continue to brighten. Utzutzu is at 1428 Park St. in Alameda.