Oakland firefighters putting out the blaze that destroyed multiple Chinatown businesses on Sept. 16. Credit: Oakland Fire Department

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Save Our Chinatowns raises money for restaurants ravaged by fire

On Sept. 16, a blaze that started in a dumpster and became a five-alarm fire destroyed several restaurants and businesses in Oakland Chinatown. T&K Cafe, Gum Wah Restaurant, Huangcheng Noodle House, Great Wall Company, Rang Dong and Aloha Market, on Webster and Eighth streets, were damaged extensively and are currently closed.

Owners from two of the businesses, Huangcheng, a neighborhood go-to since 2018 for its Shanxi knife-cut noodles, and Rang Dong, a longtime mom-and-pop specializing in classic Vietnamese cuisine, told Luke Tsai at Eater that they had already been struggling due to COVID-19 and were scraping by when the fire hit. Both restaurants plan to reopen at the same location, but the months-long process of rebuilding will be determined by what their insurance companies can provide. Save Our Chinatowns and Good Good Eatz, two community-led initiatives that have been assisting Chinatown businesses since the pandemic started, have started a GoFundMe campaign to help Huangcheng Noodle House and Rang Dong eventually rise from the ashes.

Indoor dining coming soon to Berkeley, Oakland?

Yesterday, Alameda County moved into a less restrictive tier of California’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines, meaning additional indoor activities, including dining, may be allowed in the coming weeks. Although the “red tier” (four to seven daily new cases per 100,000 residents and between 5-8% of tests coming back positive) indicates Alameda County is eligible for reopening restaurants for indoor seating at 25% capacity (or 100 people, whichever is less), local health officials will make the final call. Health officers will look at several indicators — including case counts, PPE availability and hospital capacity — to determine if and when to move forward. (Nosh is wondering how you feel about eating inside at restaurants. Is it too soon or not soon enough? Are you excited? Scared? Share your thoughts with us on the matter by filling out this tips form or sending us an email at nosh@berkeleyside.com.)

CoCo Noir toasts women and minority winemakers

CoCo Noir founders Alicia Kidd and Mari Kemp. Credit: Screenshot from video by CoCo Noir

CoCo Noir, a Black-owned wine bar will open next year in downtown Oakland. Its founders, wine entrepreneur Alicia Kidd and tech executive Mari Kemp, say they want CoCo Noir to be a “disrupter in the hospitality industry and the wine industry” by shining a spotlight on women and minority makers and welcoming a more diverse audience to the world of wines. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, CoCo Noir will stock its shelves with 50%-80% wines made by women, Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Along with wine sold at retail and by the glass, CoCo Noir will offer tapas-style bites, host art shows by Black artists and provide a co-working environment that the founders compare to the Starbucks experience — but with wine. CoCo Noir will be found at the Atlas apartment complex in Oakland’s Black Arts Movement Business District. Kidd and Kemp are currently looking for investors through the WeFunder platform to help them open. CoCo Noir will be at 385 14th St., suite C-1, Oakland.

Yakiniku joint heading to Old Oakland

A selection of meat and other ingredients are cooked on a tabletop grill at Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ. Credit: Gyu-Kaku

Hoodline reports that Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ will be opening soon in Old Oakland. Gyu-Kaku is an international chain with more than 700 franchise locations throughout the United States and Canada. The Oakland outpost will join Northern California locations in Cupertino, San Mateo and San Francisco. Gyu-Kaku offers yakiniku, or grilled meat, that guests cook themselves on smokeless in-table grills. Although some locations are currently open for limited indoor and patio dining, many are open for takeout and delivery only. We have reached out to Gyu-Kaku for an opening date and further information about how the new Oakland location will operate under Alameda County’s shelter-in-place restrictions. Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ will be at 459 Eighth St. (at Broadway), Oakland

Town Revival will focus on hospitality in a (hopefully) post-COVID Oakland

John Cahill, Darrin Ballon and Omri Aflalo. Credit: Marc Fiorito/Gamma Nine Photography

Three fine-dining industry veterans are joining forces to open Town Revival in downtown Oakland next summer. Omri Aflalo, John Cahill and Darrin Ballon are the friends and founders, who will bring their love of Oakland (Aflalo and Ballon are Oakland natives), their distinct influences (Aflalo’s Moroccan heritage, Cahill’s West Virginia farm background and Ballon’s Southern roots) and their specific strengths (Alfalo and Cahill’s fine cookery, Ballon’s front-of-house expertise) to the table. Town Revival’s menu will offer housemade pastas and seasonal entrees prepared in a wood-fired hearth, local wines and classic cocktails. According to the Chronicle, Town Revival will feature a full bar, a lounge area, a private dining area and an outdoor patio. A press release shared with Nosh states the restaurant’s focus will be on “high-touch hospitality,” so here’s hoping that by the time it’s ready to open, diners will be able to safely enjoy the full-service experience. Until then, the trio will be testing out dishes with a series of pop-ups in October. Town Revival will share updates and pop-up details on Instagram. Town Revival will be at 1500 Broadway (at 15th Street), Oakland

Learn to make German pretzels for Oktoberfest

It was 13 years ago, at an Oktoberfest celebration in Oakland, that Uli Elser started selling his German-style pretzels, a business he’d later officially start under the name Squabisch. Elser was born in Sindelfingen, Germany, but was raised in California — his pretzels, made with a family recipe, are an homage to his heritage. So, it’s no surprise that Oktoberfest is a special event for Elser, and even though most official gatherings are canceled this year due to COVID, the local pretzel maker is celebrating by making his twisted baked treats with others — from the safety of a Zoom room.

Elser will teach three interactive classes this week and next: a beginner’s class ($19, 45 minutes) on Sept. 29 will teach participants how to bake pretzels with baking soda; and two advanced classes ($39, 90 minutes) on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1will delve deeper into the craft, teaching both the baking soda method and the lye method.

Of course, if you’d rather just eat some pretzels — I don’t blame you — you can get ready-baked pretzels made by the expert himself. Elser offers curbside pickup of Squabisch pretzels at the Bread Project (1615 University Ave., Berkeley) or delivery in Berkeley and Albany on Saturday mornings; Squabisch also has a stand at the Kensington farmers market on Sunday.

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Sarah Han is Senior Editor, Food for Oaklandside and Berkeleyside. She has worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Read more stories by Sarah Han on Berkeleyside.