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Alongside the usual brave crop of brand new restaurants, long-awaited restaurant and bar reopenings continued this month — in some cases after nearly a year and half of pandemic dormancy. As jittery crowds gathered, so did new questions for the industry: Who should wear a mask and when? Should customers present proof of vaccination? When will the supply chain recover? Will there be enough staff?
Given ongoing shortages, risks, and the surging delta variant on top of all the usual challenges to the business of food and drink, Nosh encourages patience, support and common courtesy. And as always, please be generous with opening or closing tips via firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOBA GUYS Bicoastal tea chain Boba Guys quietly opened its newest location this month in the old Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Parlor on College Avenue. Look for milk teas, matcha and hojicha drinks, and specialty drinks such as Korean banana milk, horchata, and ube lattes. Fun fact: Boba Guys small-batch boba is made right here in Hayward. (Also, it must be said not all of the company’s coverage has been positive in recent months.) Boba Guys, 5925 College Ave. (near Chabot Road), Oakland
DON BLANC Nosh first caught wind of Korean barbecue restaurant Don Blanc in the early days of 2020, when its sign went up in Temescal’s Koryo Plaza. According to an Instagram post from the restaurant, it opened for business in mid-July, and diners are already praising it for its specialty pork (Mugifuji, a breed raised in the Canadian wilderness) and Korean-style beef intestine dishes. Don Blanc, 4390 Telegraph Ave. (at 42nd Street), Oakland
ENSSARO Not a new opening, but a resurrected favorite — 15-year-old Ethiopian restaurant Enssaro was shuttered in April 2020, and is back in business as of this month. Despite the Covid-relevant timing, the reason for the closure was damage from a kitchen fire at Kinja Sushi next door. Enssaro’s reopening this month is a great example of the type of resilience that keeps us inspired here at Nosh. Enssaro, 357-A Grand Ave. (near Perkins Street), Oakland
JO’S MODERN THAI Jo’s Modern Thai is a breezy, cool, new, Thai-California concept restaurant in the Laurel District from chef Intu-on Kornnawong (Kin Khao, Intu-On) and new restaurateur Kao Saelee, whose family owns Berkeley’s Racha Cafe. Seasonal plates include bold yet approachable Thai flavors, built to pair well with tropical cocktails from a drinks menu crafted by Starline Social Club’s Tayler Sampson. Look for more detail from Nosh contributor Shirley Huey. Jo’s Modern Thai, 3725 MacArthur Blvd. (between 38th and Loma Vista avenues), Oakland
MOTIVAT COFFEE ROASTERS Now open in the former Slojoy Coffee Roasters spot is Motivat, a family-led, small-batch coffee roastery with a similar vibe to Slojoy. Motivat (pronounced “motivate”) has operated as a coffee caterer since 2014; this is their first brick-and-mortar. Motivat Coffee Roasters, 1528 Webster (between 15th & 17th streets), Oakland
OAKLAND FOOD HALL Chowdah, meet the guv’nah: In this month’s Oakland Food Hall news, two notable local purveyors of fish and chips have joined forces inside the ghost kitchen, where one, The Governor, with very English roots, has operated since 2020. The other, Cod Damn, is an East Coast-style fish and chips pop-up last seen at the Hidden Cafe’s Hidden Kitchen and Berkeley’s Way Station Brew. Together, they are now collaborating on beer-battered cod and hand-cut chips (fries). Their menus also include English steak and ale pies, Rhode Island-style chowder, this deadly-delicious-looking corned beef sandwich, and, in a stroke (wrong word?) of genius…English poutine. Chip, chip, hooray. Order off either menu for take-out or delivery. The Governor/Cod Damn, 2353 E 12th St., Oakland
OKO The Bussdown chefs Solomon Johnson and Mike Woods launched an Oakland supper club this summer that now runs once a month, with an eye towards a future, permanent brick-and-mortar. OKO is pan-African fine dining that honors and celebrates the roots of African cuisine. Tickets are available here, with changing monthly dates. The next OKO experience is August 29. (Past events have been held at L Twelve Loft Space).
OLD SALT MERCHANTS It’s not a restaurant, but gourmet salt, sugar, spice, tea and cookbook purveyor Old Salt Merchants has a new flagship in Temescal Alley as of this month. Old Salt Merchants, 470 49th St. Suite C (Temescal Alley), Oakland
PLA DAEK THAI ESAN FOOD Piedmont Avenue is excited for this newcomer in the former Orchids Thai space, featuring pungent and distinctive Issan and Lao-influenced flavors from Thailand’s northeast corner. Chef is Wawa Maneewan, fresh from opening her first restaurant Wawa Thai; Maneewan’s mother and father are both chefs, and she grew up in the industry in Thailand. “Pla daek” refers to the chopped fish used to created the fermented sauce that features prominently in many dishes; expect specialties focused on actual whole, steamed fish as well as slow-cooked and crispy pork, salads, clear-broth soups and curries. Not your usual Thai fare, this food is, in the words of one Yelper, something special. Pla Daek Thai Esan Food, 4133 Piedmont Ave. (between 41st Street and Ridgeway Avenue), Oakland
SNAIL BAR One of the hottest openings this month has one of the least assuming names: Snail Bar, featuring modern, seasonal small plates and natural wines, has launched inside the former Stay Gold Deli space in Temescal. Chef-owner is Andres Giraldo Florez (Saison), who has worked at some of the world’s most exclusive restaurants, and his bar marries those high-end foodie expectations with Temescal’s approachable vibe. Natural wines are also available for sale by the bottle. (Note: As at a growing number of bars and restaurants, please don’t visit without proof of vaccination.) Snail Bar, 4935 Shattuck Ave. (at 51st Street), Oakland
TIK DAK New pop-up Tik Dak has been operating out of Blind Tiger for the last few weeks, to enthusiastic reviews. The outfit serves Korean fried chicken, onion rings, and other drink-friendly fare. Tik Dak inside Blind Tiger, 2600 Telegraph Ave. (at 27th Street), Oakland
DUMPLING KITCHEN This Berkeley dim sum and dumpling spot appears to be a third location of a popular San Francisco restaurant, which also has an outpost in San Mateo. This new option near campus offers dumplings, dim sum, soups and noodle dishes, including frozen dumplings to go. Dumpling Kitchen, 2517 Durant Ave. Ste. A (near Telegraph Avenue), Berkeley
MAINICHI SUSHI Taking over the former Sushi 29 space on Solano Avenue is Mainichi Sushi, featuring a robust menu of sushi, sashimi, bento boxes and specialty rolls. There is also udon, ramen, plenty of vegetarian rolls, and a tiny Japanese-style kid’s menu featuring teriyaki and gyoza. The striking interior features large windows onto the street. Mainichi Sushi, 1647 Solano Ave. (between Tacoma and Ensenada), Berkeley
CUPCAKIN’ WALNUT CREEK Chef and baker Lila Owens continues to conquer the East Bay one sweet tooth at a time with her newest Cupcakin’ location in Walnut Creek. This brings her shop total now to four, including two in Berkeley. Cupcakin’ Walnut Creek, 1388 N. Main St. (near Cypress Street), Walnut Creek
CURRY PIZZA HOUSE This stylish new Indian pizza parlor in San Ramon is part of a growing local mini-chain that’s gaining some buzz. Curry Pizza House, 12191 Alcosta Blvd. (near Montevideo Drive), San Ramon
MANGOSAY New, tiny, traveling food cart Mangosay serves various East Bay locations, and features mango smoothies and seasoned mango noodle dishes. The schedule is on their website. Mangosay, various locations.
TAHINA FRESH MEDITERRANEAN Alamedans seem extremely taken with this new Mediterranean kiosk softly open inside the Alameda Marketplace, featuring mezze, falafel and shawarma plates, pitas, wraps, salads and bowls. Tahina Fresh Mediterranean, 1650 Park St. (at Buena Vista Avenue), Alameda
Interim Nosh editor Eve Batey contributed to this report.