Montreal-style smoke meat sandwich from Augie's Montreal Deli. Photo: Augie's Montreal Deli
Augie's Montreal Deli will bring its smoke meat brisket to 700 Essex Way, the former home of Brennan's Restaurant. Credit: Augie's Montreal Deli

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Augie’s Montreal Deli to take summer hiatus due to supply chain issues

On Monday, Augie’s Montreal Deli announced that it will be temporarily closed, starting June 1. According to a post on Instagram, the summer hiatus is “due to the unprecedented labor shortage and supply chain issues that the restaurant industry is currently facing.” Owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski told ABC7 that despite business being slightly up at Augie’s, the high costs are “negating all that and we would burn through all of the money we have if we were to stay open over the next couple months.”

When Nosh spoke to Gopnik-Lewinski on Tuesday, he was optimistic about the planned closure, which he said will likely last until fall, when he hopes the cost of goods will come down. “It’s not a bad thing, it’s a smart thing,” he said. “We’re seeing the price of food going up [at grocery stores], that’s also going up in the restaurant world as well. We are trying to be conscious of that and get ahead of it.” Gopnik-Lewinski said the price of raw brisket — the deli’s mainstay — has gone up from around $2 per pound to more than $4 per pound, an increase in cost that he’d have to pass off to customers if he wanted to stay open. In the meantime, he noted that while more restaurants are reopening their dining rooms, many diners are still hesitant and nervous about eating on-site. “Everyone’s open, but not everyone’s coming back,” he said.

Gopnik-Lewinski clarified that while his restaurant hasn’t struggled with retaining staff, labor shortages have been affecting the wholesale side of the business; his co-packer in Redding has had trouble hiring people. Still, having the wholesale business is also one of the reasons Augie’s can take this 4- to 5-month hiatus but still generate revenue. While the location at 700 Essex Way is closed, Augie’s fans can get their fix of brisket pastrami, pastrami sausages and smoked turkey at retail locations, including Berkeley Bowl. Augie’s also plans to host a few pop-ups this summer, which it will announce on its website and social media platforms.

In the Instagram post announcing the hiatus, Gopnik-Lewinski implied that when it reopens, Augie’s may be at a new location, but he told Nosh that it’s too soon to say if that will be the case. What he was more sure about was that “Augie’s Montreal Deli 3.0” will have a full bar — he’s working on getting a full liquor license to add cocktails and other adult beverages to the menu.

Gopnik-Lewinski said that he’s grateful to Augie’s diners for their support and understanding during the last year and a half. “The community has been so supportive and so great. It makes the grind really worth it.”

Whole Foods Temescal update

Whole Foods signs are now up at the upcoming Whole Foods location in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. Credit: Sarah Han

In January 2019, Nosh reported that the 365 by Whole Foods Market was not coming to the mixed-use development at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 51st Street in Temescal. The Amazon-owned grocer entirely scrapped the 365 brand, but held onto the property, hinting that it might open a regular Whole Foods Market in its place. In recent months, we’re finally seeing evidence that the company is definitely opening a traditional Whole Foods at the space, what will be a second Oakland location for the grocery giant. In late April, the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District retweeted a post of signage going up at the building, adding that the market will open in late 2021. Nosh reached out to Whole Foods Market to confirm an opening date, as there haven’t been recent updates about the Temescal location on the store’s website. A Whole Foods Market spokesperson responded to our query and was able to “confirm that a Whole Foods Market location in Oakland, CA is in development,” but added, “At this time, I do not have additional information to share.”

While Whole Foods didn’t share details, in February 2020, a Rockridge News article, written by Whole Foods’ city planning and development consultant Dwane Kennedy, revealed some information about the store to come. “The new store will offer high-quality foods, beverages, beauty supplies, household products, as well as beer, wine, and distilled spirits for consumption off-premises. The store is also proposing to provide instructional tastings of wine, beer, and spirits in the main shopping area,” Kennedy wrote. In December 2020, Kennedy submitted a proposal with the city of Oakland to allow Whole Foods the ability to sell alcoholic beverages and hold instructional alcohol tastings at the location (the permit was approved in February 2021). According to Kennedy’s article and proposal, the market will take up 31,011 square feet in two ground-floor areas. Main customer entrances into the store will be on Telegraph Avenue, off of 51st Street through a breezeway between the two buildings, and from the stairs and elevators from the underground parking garage; there will also be bicycle parking for both customers and employees. The store expects to hire about 150 full-time and part-time employees. Whole Foods Market will be at 5110 Telegraph Ave. (at 51st Street), Oakland

Flint’s Barbecue will return to North Oakland

Oakland’s legendary Flint’s Barbecue will return to the town, in a new North Oakland space yet to be announced. Credit: Flint’s Barbecue/Facebook

Oakland will soon welcome back a local barbecue legend — Flint’s Barbecue, a family-owned business established by Willie Flintroy in 1968 and which had multiple locations until the last one closed in 2010. Since 2019, Flintroy’s granddaughter Crystal Martin has made it her mission to bring Flint’s back to the Town, first with pop-ups and catering gigs, but with the ultimate goal to open a new brick-and-mortar restaurant. Yesterday, Martin announced via social media yesterday that she has signed a lease for a location in North Oakland.

KQED reported in March that Martin had hoped to bring Flint’s back to its original spot at 3114 San Pablo Ave., and was in negotiations to lease the space, but the plans fell through. Martin shared in yesterday’s announcement that a buyer has purchased the building and plans to use the commercial space themselves.

For now, Martin has decided not to share the exact location of the restaurant but said it’s on the border of Oakland and Berkeley. She plans to announce more details closer to the grand opening, which has also not been announced yet. Stay tuned on Nosh — we’ll continue to share updates.

Noodle Belly brings customizable garlic noodles to Fruitvale

Garlic noodles are the specialty at Noodle Belly in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. Credit: Noodle Belly/Instagram

A new Asian-inflected noodle spot has opened next to Oakland’s Fruitvale BART. Softly opened since May 20, Noodle Belly specializes in garlic noodles that diners can order with add-ons, including proteins such as BBQ pork belly, grilled flank steak and popcorn chicken and roasted or sauteed vegetables. Starting today, May 26, Noodle Belly will be open for lunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday); for now, service is takeout only; delivery is also available via third-party apps like Grubhub and DoorDash. Noodle Belly, 1014 Fruitvale Ave. (near San Leandro Street), Oakland

Two Bay Area-based chain restaurants open in the East Bay

LB Steak opened a second location in San Ramon. Credit: LB Steak

Bay Area fast-food chain Starbird Chicken opened its ninth location this week in Walnut Creek. Offering fried tenders, wings, sandwiches, salads, tacos and other dishes featuring chicken and Gardenbird, the restaurant’s plant-based poultry alternative. Starbird Chicken is open for dine-in, takeout and contactless delivery through its website and various third-party delivery services. Starbird Chicken, 2849 Ygnacio Valley Rd. (near Via Monte), Walnut Creek

Meanwhile in San Ramon, Vine Hospitality, the restaurant group responsible for Left Bank Brasserie, Meso Modern Mediterranean, among others, opened a second location of its American steakhouse LB Steak at City Center Bishop Ranch, a follow-up to its 12-year-old sister restaurant in San Jose. Headed by Roland Passot, former owner of recently closed La Folie in San Francisco, LB Steak offers a menu of hand-cut Prime steaks and wagyu beef, as well as appetizers, salads and entrees featuring seafood and poultry, along with a full bar. Executive chef Jonah Oakden, formerly of Boulevard and Prospect in San Francisco, heads the kitchen. The restaurant is open for indoor and outdoor dining on the patio, as well as takeout and delivery. LB Steak, City Center Bishop Ranch, 6000 Bollinger Canyon Road, Suite 1614, San Ramon

Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch to go dark on May 31

Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch will end live streaming the line outside the College Avenue Trader Joe’s on May 31. Credit: Adrian Moyer

One of my favorite Nosh stories from earlier in the pandemic was about Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch, a project started by Adrian Moyer, who lived in an apartment building near the market and set up a live stream of the queue outside the College Avenue market during its open hours. She started the project when lines to get into grocery stores could be hundreds-deep and up to an hour-long wait; Moyer saw the feed as a public service, a way to give locals an idea of how long they’d have to wait in line to get inside at one of the area’s most popular markets. She hosted the feed on www.rockridgetjsline.com, where she also asked visitors to donate money to the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

While many shoppers appreciated Moyer’s efforts, some were concerned about privacy, including Trader Joe’s itself, which did not endorse the project and moved the line to the other side of the building in an attempt to stop the live stream. When this happened, Moyer enlisted the help of another neighbor on Oak Grove Avenue who had a view of the line from her home. Despite its detractors, Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch continued to stream and raised about $7,000 for the food bank in the process. But the project is nearing its end. Moyer got in touch with Nosh last week to let us know Rockridge TJ’s Line Watch would end on May 31. Before she sunsets the project for good, Moyer is hoping to meet her $10,000 donation goal to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and is offering a free vaccine cardholder for every $5 donation.

As for Moyer, a lot has changed in her life since Nosh last heard from her. “Since launching the live stream I’ve managed to buy a house, move to another part of Rockridge, and have a baby. He is 3 months old now, and his name is Miles after the street we lived on when I launched this project.”

Richmond’s La Alma Del Sol taco truck to open restaurant

La Alma De Sol restaurant is scheduled to open this summer. Credit: La Alma Del Sol/Instagram

Over the weekend, year-old MacDonald Avenue food truck, La Alma De Sol previewed a photo of its upcoming restaurant on San Pablo Avenue, former home of Genesis Mexican Restaurant. Like its mobile operation, the brick-and-mortar location will offer Mexican taqueria fare, such as tacos, burritos, mulitas, quesadillas and tortas, but the restaurant will have some new items that aren’t offered from the truck, including gorditas and empanadas. La Alma De Sol aims to open the restaurant this summer. La Alma De Sol will be at 12545 San Pablo Ave. (between Clinton and Solano avenues), Richmond

Just Fare launches a delivery-only service

Mediterranean-inspired dishes offered from Just Fare’s delivery-only restaurant. Credit: Just Fare

Last September, writer Alix Wall wrote about Fare Community Kitchen (now called Just Fare), a pandemic-born social enterprise project from Fare Resources, an Emeryville-based food consulting and catering company in Emeryville that in May 2020 pivoted from feeding tech workers to food-insecure communities. Just Fare has donated more than 230,000 nutritious, high-quality meals to various Bay Area organizations working with underserved communities and has recently launched a delivery-only service, offering its scratch-made, organic, Mediterranean-inspired meals to East Bay diners. One percent of revenue goes to supporting Just Fare’s community-focused initiatives. The menu, developed by chef Eric Anderson and Just Fare co-founder and chef Gabriel Cole, includes appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and a la carte dishes, such as house-made labneh dip, beet and farro salad, whole roasted tahini chicken and harissa braised pork. Diners in Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley can order Just Fare through its website and various third-party apps, including DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub. Hours are 5-9 p.m., Wednesday through 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.