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The coronavirus pandemic continues its grim culling of venues, visibly altering the urban landscape and transforming formerly lively areas into blocks of boarded-up storefronts. East Bay restaurants, cafes and bars that are persevering (or even thriving) after seven months of COVID might thank rent breaks and business models that favor takeout, delivery or outdoor dining. They can also credit dedicated staff, and customers doing their best to provide stewardship.
Indoor dining is this month’s elephant in the room. Though newly allowed in Alameda County as of last week, diners and restaurateurs are hopeful but treading carefully, keeping one eye on coronavirus resurgences across the eastern parts of the country and Europe. Even at 25% capacity, many East Bay venues are hesitant to reopen their doors; others are excited to invite customers inside.
Through everything, new eateries continue to open. The following highlights places that are brand new, permanently closed or are taking an indefinite break. Please let us know if we missed a spot at email@example.com.
AIN’T NORMAL CAFE Bites let us know that this Rockridge cafe and coffee catering company in the former Bica space is now open for coffee drinks from a rotating array of specialty coffee makers, including many local roasters, and breakfast pastries daily. Ain’t Normal Cafe, 5701 College Ave. (at Miles Avenue), Oakland
BURMA BITES Touted across the media for counting DoorDash as an investor, is new takeout and delivery eatery Burma Bites, opened Oct. 28 as a fast-casual Burma Superstar. Expect quick-service takeout and delivery of the San Francisco-based chain’s tea leaf and rainbow salads, famed noodles and curries. Burma Bites is just down the street from Burma Superstar on Telegraph Avenue, which is currently redirecting diners to this new outpost while it undergoes a remodel. Burma Bites, 4911 Telegraph Ave. (near 49th Street), Oakland
CHUAN YU Now sharing restaurant space with downtown Oakland’s Sakura Bistro is Chuan Yu, serving Szechuan and Hunan cuisine. The group formerly operated San Francisco’s now-closed General Tso Kitchen. Chuan Yu, 388 Ninth St. (between Franklin and Webster streets), Oakland
DAUGHTER’S DINER This innovative new diner from husband-and-wife team Justyna Wilson and chef Keven Wilson — whose pedigree includes Restaurant Michael Mina, Perbacco and RN74 — melds nostalgic with contemporary in both food and vision. Read more on their opening story from Nosh contributor Lauren Bonney and intriguing menu highlights from Nosh editor Sarah Han, and we’ll see you in the take-out line for a retro-modern milkshake and Double D Homewrecker burger very, very soon. Daughter’s Diner, 326 23rd St. (between Webster and Valdez streets), Oakland
HORN BARBECUE Months of build-up and permitting delays only lent this very special opening and its dedicated owner added mythical status. Young Bay Area pitmaster Matt Horn’s Texas-style barbecue, tended for hours over white oak in his famous custom smoker Lucille, is the stuff of local (and national) legend. After five years in mobile business, Horn’s first brick-and-mortar finally opened inside the former Brown Sugar Kitchen space on Oct. 24. “Amidst the chaos, we have a safe haven,” writes one Yelp reviewer, and he’s not talking about the pandemic or the election or the fires, he’s talking about brisket when it’s done well, slowly and with vigilance. An impressive line of patient people formed for three long West Oakland blocks on opening day, focused only, for one peaceful moment, on that brisket (and ribs, and hot links). Order for takeout, or outdoor seating is available with a view onto Lucille. Horn Barbecue, 2534 Mandela Parkway (at 26th), Oakland
IZZA Reviews are universally positive so far for this new Japanese izakaya, now open nightly for takeout, tented outdoor dining and limited indoor dining at the former KangNam Pho space in Temescal. Izza, 4419 Telegraph Ave. (between 44th and 45th streets), Oakland
LAYALINA RESTAURANT This new Middle Eastern/Mediterranean halal restaurant opened about two weeks ago on Telegraph Avenue on the border of Pill Hill and KONO. Layalina offers a variety of kebab and shawarma plates and wraps, but there’s also pizza and a cheeseburger on the menu. Diners can choose to order food for takeout, indoor dining at 25% capacity or to enjoy at two tables outside. The restaurant has applied to open a patio for additional outdoor seating. Layalina Restaurant, 3109 Telegraph Ave. (at 31st Street), Oakland
MAGNOLIA STREET WINE LOUNGE & KITCHEN Nosh featured the full scoop on chef Leilani Baugh’s new restaurant and wine lounge, livening up the San Pablo Avenue Corridor in West Oakland with Cajun-Creole cooking with Asian inflections. Magnolia Street has been softly open since August, but today marks the start of limited-capacity indoor dining for the restaurant, joining takeout service and an outdoor dining area. Magnolia Street offers festive weekend brunch, lunch and dinner to start, and will expand hours to Wednesday through Sunday in the coming days. Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen, 3443 San Pablo Ave. (near 35th Street), Oakland
MR. DEWIE’S CASHEW CREAMERY Back in February, Nosh reported on the closure of the Oakland location of Lush Gelato, to make way for Berkeley-born, vegan, dairy-free creamery Mr. Dewie’s. Newly opened during the pandemic, Mr. Dewie’s popular new shop on Piedmont Avenue joins one other dedicated location on Solano Avenue in Albany. (Note: A third location, a kiosk inside the Public Market Emeryville, is temporarily closed.) Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery, 4184 Piedmont Ave. (at Linda Avenue), Oakland
MUJIRI NIGIRI A welcome addition to this stretch of San Pablo Avenue is Mujiri, from first-time restaurateur Jane Sun, serving nigiri, sashimi and maki selections in repurpose-able wooden containers. Fish is seasonal and fresh, and menus are posted daily on Instagram. Takeout only. Mujiri Nigiri, 6501 San Pablo Ave. (near 65th Street), Unit B, Oakland
PETIT CAFE Nosh has reported on this little vegetarian cafe before, but only to say it opened for a hot minute before the pandemic shut it back down almost immediately. This month, the bright, airy cafe in the Pill Hill neighborhood fully reopened for takeout with tempting, simple cafe fare for weekday breakfast and lunch. Go get ‘em, Petit Cafe. Petit Cafe, 411 30th St. (at Summit Street), Oakland
SEABREEZE ON THE DOCK Hoodline was the first to report on this new Jack London Square waterfront restaurant in the old Il Pescatore location, serving casual seafood with patio dining, including seafood boils, sandwiches, salads, shrimp cocktail and oysters from the raw bar. Seabreeze on the Dock, 31 Webster St., Jack London Square, Oakland
BINNEY PARK Certain East Coasters who contribute to Nosh were excited to report on this opening last fall, but then… pandemic. Binney Park’s short-lived, New-York-style, egg-on-a-roll sandwiches, you will be missed. Binney Park was at 409 14th St.
CHOPSTICKS EXPRESS An Oaklandside tipster let us know that this speedy, affordable Chinese take-out spot in the Laurel District has closed. Chopsticks Express was at 4104 MacArthur Blvd.
DOPO It was a Sicilian funeral for Italophiles across the Bay Area when Piedmont Avenue standout restaurant Dopo announced it was to close after exactly 17 years on Oct. 3. Husband-and-wife owners Jon and Kayta Smulewitz did not shy from sharing their frustration and grief, lamenting the current struggle for restaurants everywhere, even ones like theirs with such a dedicated fan base. As Sarah Han reported in Bites, from Dopo’s inception in 2003, the Cal-Italian restaurant was a diner magnet, beloved for its casual sophistication, great pizzas, housemade pasta, and Italian specialties; its second nearby neighborhood restaurant, Adesso, open from 2009-2017, was equally popular for its charcuterie program and wine-friendly bites. It’s hard for fans to imagine Piedmont Avenue now without either neighborhood destination. Nosh is glad to report that the Smulewitz’s latest restaurant project, Pollara, serving pizza al taglio on Fourth Street, remains open. Ci vediamo, Dopo. Dopo was at 4293 Piedmont Ave.
BAKE SUM New to Berkeley is Bake Sum, founded earlier this year in San Francisco by the pastry-making team of Elaine Lau and Joyce Tang. The duo has since parted ways and the business is now led solely by Tang, who was already known in the East Bay pastry scene for her La Chinoiserie Asian-inflected pastries. Bake Sum creates similarly lush, colorful, high-end pastries, cookies and other creations layered with sweet and savory Asian flavors, sold by the box for takeout only. Place orders online for pick-up (from The Bread Project facility). Bake Sum, 1615 University Ave. (at California Street), Berkeley
RED BAY COFFEE VAN (SHATTUCK) As of this month, Chez Panisse has not only started serving prepared meals, desserts and beverages for carry-out for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday (on top of its Sunday marketplace), but the inviting Red Bay Coffee Van now regularly parks out front of the restaurant in a win-win for the North Berkeley community. Follow the Red Bay van’s schedule for coffee, espresso drinks and pastries via Instagram (and if it’s on the menu, try the candied yam latte). Red Bay Coffee Van outside Chez Panisse, 1517 Shattuck Ave. (between Vine Street and Cedar Street), Berkeley
ZOONIE’S CANDY SHOP The former Powell’s Sweet Shoppe local mini-chain, rebranded as Zoonie’s in 2018, and under new proprietor David Harrison since 2019, has launched a small kiosk inside the Epicurious Garden. For sale are handmade chocolates, Jelly Belly products, colorful lollipops and a rainbow-array of nostalgic candy. Customers pay at the adjacent Lush Gelato counter, also owned by Harrison as of early this year. This new kiosk is a little experiment, according to Harrison, who is quickly becoming a sort of Bay Area Willy Wonka. Sounds like a Golden Ticket to us, as the community still misses the Powell’s/Zoonie’s candy shop in the Elmwood that closed last July. Zoonie’s Candy Shop at the Epicurious Garden, 1511 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine Street), Berkeley
AU COQUELET For almost 50 years, Au Coquelet was more of a living room than an eatery for downtown Berkeley, and its demise this month has left the community bereft. The closing was described as “one more death” caused by COVID-19 in a letter posted in Au Coquelet’s window, and a story about the cafe’s mid-October shuttering from Nosh contributor Eden Teller inspired hundreds of reactions online. Customers described first dates, midnight-oil study sessions and nearly five decades of casual dining and coffee rituals at the homey cafe and restaurant. Its regulars loved that you could come as you were and linger for as long as you liked, well into the night, with a plate of food, coffee or a cocktail. “Who in Berkeley didn’t scratch out a paper there at one time or another?” said one fan to Nosh, and another called it, “my number one place to do lesson plans, correct papers, meet friends and eat blueberry custard pie…this was the chosen place, where we would catch up and just feel nourished and satisfied when we parted.” Au Coquelet was at 2000 University Ave.
CHEESEQUAKES This San Francisco-based cheesecake outfit never really took off inside the Epicurious Garden, and from its March 2019 launch, gradually morphed from a cheerfully staffed sales counter into a small, stocked cooler. It has since closed to make way for a Zoonie’s Candy Shop (see open, above). Note: Fans can still find CheeseQuakes products for sale at the Zoonie’s kiosk, online, and across the bay at the dedicated CheeseQuakes Ferry Building stall. CheeseQuakes was inside the Epicurious Garden at 1511 Shattuck Ave.
LITTLE HUNAN This family-owned Chinese eatery with the familiar red sign on Shattuck at Addison was a friendly go-to for fast, budget-friendly dining in downtown Berkeley for an impressive 34 years. Sadly, the eatery’s quiet closure during pandemic lockdown has been labeled permanent across the internet, and attempts to reach the owners for more detail were unsuccessful. Farewell, Little Hunan —thanks for feeding students, workers and theater-goers with kindness for three decades. Little Hunan was at 125 Berkeley Sq.
PEDRO’S BRAZIL CAFE (UNIVERSITY) Nosh has confirmed that this dressier Berkeley location of Pedro’s Brazil Cafe, with its cozy, colorful interior and beautiful back garden patio, has sadly joined the “shack” in officially going out of business. Lovers of Pedro’s tri-tip sandwich should bring that love ASAP to the one remaining Brazil Cafe, located inside the popular Westbrae Biergarten. Pedro’s Brazil Cafe (Rose Garden) was at 1960 University Ave.
SECRET SCOOP “I will miss Secret Scoop,” commented Berkeleyside co-founder Lance Knobel when Nosh broke the news of the Thai gelateria’s impending Oct. 18 closure. The comment echoed the sentiments of many local fans, who have enjoyed the sweet spot’s eclectic flavors and treats since Bangkok native and Cal alum Funn Fisher opened Secret Scoop in 2017. (The news is not all sour for Berkeley, however: On deck for the small space is new Hawaiian dessert shop Ono Bakehouse, from chef Desi Valencia of Ono Snax, coming soon.) Secret Scoop was at 1922 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
LUCIA’S CRAFT SANDWICH Opening today in Crockett is a new sandwich shop from husband-wife owners, Randy Valdez and Faith Harrison. Although both of its owners are veterans in the fine-dining industry, Lucia’s — named after the couple’s daughter — is their first go at owning a food business. Valdez told Nosh that he has wanted to open a sandwich shop ever since he left culinary school years ago, and once the pandemic hit, he decided it was “time for me to do my own thing; no more working in someone else’s restaurant.” Well, it’s not quite just his own thing; Harrison is also running the ship, and together, they’ve created an expansive — and affordable — menu of enticing sandwiches, salads and focaccia, which includes vegan and gluten-free options. Some standouts from the menu include a grilled cheese with Proscuitto and fig spread, and another with kimchi and bacon; a salad with octopus, potato, red onion and Peruvian peppers; and smoked trout toast with leeks, potatoes and gremolata. Lucia’s Craft Sandwich, 611 Second Ave. (at 1oth Street), Crockett
RAMEN HIROSHI Relaxed little ramen shop Ramen Hiroshi has opened a second location at City Center Bishop Ranch. The restaurant has another location in Walnut Creek. Ramen Hiroshi, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Rd., San Ramon
ROAM BUTCHER SHOP (LAFAYETTE & SAN RAMON) Roam Burgers has spun off a new string of high-quality, full-service butcher shops, now open for takeout and delivery. Choose meats a la carte or opt for a curated butcher’s box. A Roam representative told Nosh that the Roam Butcher Shop in Lafayette will deliver to residents in Rockridge, Montclair, Lamorinda and Walnut Creek. Roam Butcher Shop, 23 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette and 6000 Bollinger Canyon Rd., San Ramon
The pandemic has led to an unsettled state of stasis for an ever-growing list of local venues. The following spotlights “temporarily closed” spots that are in a sort of limbo, on hiatus for a lengthy or indefinite time.
CORSO Berkeley standout Corso has been dormant since June, when the restaurant announced it was going into “hibernation” until further notice. Though its website remains up, Corso’s phone is disconnected, and attempts to reach management have gone unanswered. The Italian restaurant has been a Berkeley touchstone for higher-end evenings out since 1994 — but it sure seems dark behind that glass door. If reopening really is in the cards, Nosh and Corso’s multitude of fans would love to know more. Corso is at 1788 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
ENSSARO In August, Bites reported the temporary closure of this long-loved Ethiopian restaurant near Lake Merritt, precipitated by an April fire at next-door Kinja Sushi (see below). Recent attempted emails bounced, and phone calls to Enssaro no longer seem to reach the caring owner as they once did. Crossing fingers the misleading website is updated with more news soon, as hopeful diners continue to travel to Enssaro only to find the restaurant very closed. Enssaro is at 357A Grand Ave. in Oakland.
ITABA It doesn’t look good for Itaba on Piedmont Avenue, as the number for this Japanese restaurant and sushi bar is not in service, and Yelpers are calling it permanently closed. The restaurant is not boarded up, nor marked anything but temporarily closed on its door, but… it doesn’t look good. Itaba is at 3920 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland.
KINJA SUSHI OAKLAND A reminder that after a fire this spring, Kinja Sushi’s Oakland location remains boarded up and the phone is disconnected, with no update yet. Fans can still find Kinja Sushi in Concord. Kinja Sushi is at 357 Grand Ave. in Oakland.
MOD PIZZA EL CERRITO PLAZA El Cerrito MOD Pizza fans have had to drive a little farther afield than the Plaza for their fix, as although Alameda’s and Pinole’s MOD locations remain open and active, the El Cerrito branch has been closed since pandemic lockdown began. The closure is marked temporary on the national franchise’s website, but no word yet on reopening. MOD Pizza El Cerrito is at 5040 El Cerrito Plaza in El Cerrito.
NICK’S LOUNGE Popular Berkeley karaoke bar Nick’s Lounge, temporarily closed since March, is now for sale, but according to Bites, owner Bryan Smith is optimistic about the bar’s survival. Nick’s Lounge is at 3218 Adeline St. in Berkeley.
NICK’S PIZZA As reported in Bites, North Oakland’s Nick’s Pizza is NOT CLOSED, it’s moving just down the street! Look for it soon (and its appealing new outdoor seating) at 6400 Shattuck Ave. at Alcatraz in Oakland. The former Nick’s Pizza, closed on Oct. 13, was at 6211 Shattuck Ave. in Oakland.
NOAH’S BAGELS (BERKELEY WAY) The shiny new branch of Noah’s that opened on Shattuck next to Marugame in Berkeley last November has been closed since lockdown, but a representative for Noah’s said the closure is only temporary — at least for now. (Whatever the future brings for this large franchise that began long ago with a simple Berkeley shop, it’s safe to say the East Bay is otherwise happily bagel rich at the moment.) Noah’s Bagels is at 1919 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
ROAM BURGERS (UPTOWN OAKLAND) Roam Uptown is closed, but according to the franchise, only temporarily for now. Roam Burgers Uptown Oakland is at 1951 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
SEASONS OF JAPAN The very small, laminated sign behind the sealed-up gate of this seven-year-old downtown Berkeley mainstay says, “…unfortunately we will be closed for a while.” We’d feel more hopeful if we knew a bit more, but for now the restaurant is inactive, with no update on the (still active) website. Seasons of Japan is at 2122 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
STARLINE SOCIAL CLUB The Starline, home to fun, funky, fantastic shows and mecca for cutting-edge food pop-ups and artisan cocktails, is for sale, as first reported in this detailed story by KQED. For Oaklanders and performers who treasure this place, there remains hope that a buyer will save the venue, but for now it is dormant. Stay tuned. The Starline is at 2236 Martin Luther King, Jr. Wy. in Oakland.
VEGGIE GRILL BERKELEY The downtown Berkeley branch of this veg-centric franchise has been dark these seven months, but the location remains on the central website. A check in with an open branch yielded no firm intel; we should remind diners that locations in Walnut Creek and Corte Madera remain open and active. Veggie Grill Berkeley is at 48 Shattuck Sq. in Berkeley.
Nosh editor Sarah Han contributed reporting.