At the end of every year, East Bay Nosh surveys staffers across Cityside’s newsrooms as well as its regular writers and columnists. The goal: to bring you an overview of the region’s food and restaurant scene from our diverse group of contributors. Please keep checking back every day until the end of the for answers to 2021’s set of dining questions.

Today, our respondents were asked: What new East Bay bar and/or restaurant excited you the most in 2021? (Yes, Instagram-based pop-ups count.) 

Crystal Wahpepah’s new restaurant opened to raves in 2021. Credit: Melati Citrawireja

No question, it was Wahpepah’s Kitchen. I’ve had chef Crystal Wahpepah’s catered dishes before and am crazy about her bison meatballs in blueberry sauce. When I visited her new restaurant in November, I had to order breakfast and then lunch, because I wanted to taste everything. Had a blue corn waffle with maple butter and berry sauce, and then a smoked cedar sweet potato tostada with pumpkin cream and a wild rice quinoa horchata to drink. Wow. Anna Mindess, Nosh contributor and Berkeley-based freelance writer

Bad Walter’s! Non-dairy, bootleg ice cream FTW! Jill Kunishima, Vice President of Development, Cityside 

It wasn’t technically “new” by 2021, but I was thrilled about Mama in Oakland reopening this year. A group of friends and I had been looking forward to trying it and had a reservation in mid-March 2020, which obviously didn’t happen. Before long, the restaurant closed and its future did not look promising. So when Mama announced their reopening this year [Ed note: with a new ownership team and revamped menu], we were thrilled to make another reservation, this time outdoors on a warm summer evening. We enjoyed it immensely after a long and uncertain wait. Moriah VanVleet, Nosh contributor and founder of butter, sugar, flowers  

Manny McCall, chef and former server as Zuni Cafe now owner of Pickle Pana, selling pickles and donating money to those in need.
Manny McCall sells his pickles for $9 a jar, donating a portion of proceeds to a local nonprofit. Credit: Amir Aziz

Back in March, I wrote about Manny McCall and his pickles and bacon business that took off on Instagram. Since he’s been handing out food to the unhoused community. He also put together a private dinner experience (which I sadly missed out on). I know he’s cooking up doing a brunch of sorts, and I just want to see what else he does in 2022. Azucena Rasilla, Reporter: Arts & Community, The Oaklandside 

I don’t know exactly when it opened, but Wawa Thai Food on MacArthur Boulevard is one of the places I discovered this year [Ed note: it quietly opened at the tail end of 2020, when we were all hunkered down], and I’ve had some really enjoyable meals there. Not to mention, I left my shoulder bag out on their patio after dinner one night, and when I came back the following morning, convinced it would be gone, it was sitting in the exact same spot. Nice! Jacob Simas, Managing Editor, The Oaklandside

Daytrip could not have been more fun and delicious, overall just a fantastic experience. When Mägo first opened, I believe I said then that if I had endless funds, I would be a regular there; I feel like Daytrip just joined that list. Our neighbor, who we went with, told me the other day she still thinks about that chestnut dessert we had. Alix Wall, Nosh contributor and Oakland-based freelance writer

Via del Corso executive chef Massimo Orlando, general manager Marco Penitenti and owner Peter Chastain. Courtesy: Via del Corso

We were so sad when Corso closed — it was our neighborhood spot! So we were so happy that Via del Corso opened with a great outdoor dining space. Unfortunately it’s so busy and we never remember to make reservations. We’re hoping to go there soon if we can remember to make a reservation. Doug Ng, News Platforms Director, Cityside

Yunnan Style Rice Noodle: This neighborhood restaurant in El Cerrito opened in 2020 to no fanfare, and serves up consistently delicious food. Try the stir fried lotus root, the beef “burrito” and, of course, the soup noodles that are the signature of the restaurant. — Shirley Huey, Nosh contributor 

I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but I love Italian food, so am most excited about Via del Corso and the dishes I’ve spied on their menu. Haven’t been yet, but…Christmas is coming! Over in Oakland, Tribune seems like a beautiful bet for a sophisticated meal. I’m also a big sandwich fan, so have my eye on Heroic Italian. Can’t wait to check them out. Joanna Della Penna, Nosh openings/closings columnist

The lobster pad Thai at Jo’s. Credit: Angelina Hong

Everyone praising Daytrip and Via del Corso are completely on the mark, as both came out of the gate at a blazing clip and haven’t looked back. As a fan of Bake Sum since their earliest pastry box days (so many Fridays spent speeding across town to pick one up), I love that they have a permanent location now. In that same self-serving “I love you and want you all the time” vein, chef Intu-on Kornnawong’s fantastic pop-ups were so tough to score seats at, so having her behind the menu/in the kitchen of Jo’s Modern Thai is kind of a dream. Eve Batey, East Bay Nosh Editor

Snail Bar, I’m a cliche… Flora Tsapovsky, Nosh contributor and culture writer 

I was very excited about Bombera in the Dimond District of Oakland, and it did not disappoint. The worker-owned Understory in Old Oakland with its rotating menu is a gem. I really enjoyed Lulu in Berkeley; one of the best coffee drinks I’ve tried I had there (tahini caramel cold brew) and their mezze platter is a feast for the eyes, heart, and stomach. I haven’t been yet, but I will be visiting Lovely’s in Oakland soon; based on what I’ve heard, I am sure I’ll enjoy it! — Momo Chang, Nosh contributor and Oakland-based freelance writer