With apologies to Seinfeld, 2021’s holiday season was, in a word … festive-ish.
As cold, wet weather sent folks indoors and COVID-19’s delta and omicron variants surged, many of December’s plans were curbed for the second pandemic year in a row. Rapid coronavirus tests became the new toilet paper — doled out a few per customer where available, but mostly sold out. Gatherings were discouraged, thousands of flights were canceled (and Tahoe roads were blocked) and, throughout the Bay Area, restaurant after bar announced temporary closure due to positive cases on staff.
To those whose holidays were upended, we hope things turned out as safe and cozy as possible. And to anyone affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19 — we wish you and your loved ones the mildest of cases, speedy recoveries and good health in the new year.
Given 2022’s already shaky start, maybe consider a stop at one of these brave new businesses to (safely) eat, drink and take some merry to-go in January. Such support might help kickstart a fresh year of luck for all of us.
Happy New Year, East Bay. The last one sure was a doozy. Again.
COUSINS ASIAN STREET FOOD Chef Kimberly Gamble has reopened her former Lucky Bird property as Cousins Asian Street Food, serving a menu of freshly made rice noodles in various dishes and soups, as well as curries, eggplant fries, and other fast-casual fare. Cousins Asian Street Food, 1926 Shattuck Ave. (between Hearst & Berkeley Way), Berkeley
KOSTOP This Korean fried chicken spot from (per What Now) nearby Poke Bar owner Chris Lim started serving up KFC and street food in December from inside the Sather Lane shopping mall. Lim promises a bar with beer and soju, but right now the fowl is the thing, fried with a variety of sauces or packed up in a bucket of parts to go. Hours remain unclear and the spot is still sans website, but its dining room is already bustling. KoStop, 2431 Durant Ave. (inside the Sather Lane shopping mall), Berkeley — Eve Batey
ROSE PIZZERIA Berkeley’s beautiful, hidden rose garden on University Avenue is now the home of Rose Pizzeria. As Nosh explained, the new Cal-Italian restaurant is from husband-and-wife team Gerad Gobel and Alexis Rorabaugh, San Francisco industry vets and the previous owners of Chicago’s acclaimed Italianette. Their new restaurant features 13-inch, gourmet pizzas that strike a balance between New York and Neapolitan style, and the results have already garnered enthusiastic reviews. (One Yelper exclaims, “Delicious! Delicious! Delicious!”). Look for a seasonal menu of starters and desserts, including a much-talked-about spicy Caesar salad, all of which is available for takeout as of Jan. 1 . People are also buzzing about the charming service and refreshing aperitifs. On nicer days, don’t miss the pretty patio. Rose Pizzeria, 1960 University Ave. (between Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and Milvia Avenue), Berkeley
SHARETEA After months of monitoring the location, Sharetea’s newest opening somehow slipped past us in the fall. The growing, global, Taiwanese boba franchise now boasts 24 cafes in Northern California alone, and other locations across the country from Alabama to Michigan. Their Telegraph Ave. location was formerly T Zone. Sharetea Berkeley, 2328 Telegraph Ave. (between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue), Berkeley
SUNNY SIDE CAFE EPICURIOUS GARDEN A door closes, a window opens…onto a garden: The Imperial Tea Court moved out of the Epicurious Garden in August, and as of this month, Berkeley’s Sunny Side Cafe has moved in. The long-loved local business serves American cafe favorites for breakfast and lunch, and at this location pivots to Peruvian food for dinner. And there is attractive garden seating for when the sun gets sunny. Sunny Side Cafe at the Epicurious Garden, 1511 Shattuck Ave. (between Vine and Cedar streets), Berkeley
BAR COMAL This fresh-faced newcomer was crowned one of the Bay Area’s best new bars of 2021 by the Chronicle’s Esther Mobley after but a single month in business. (Trust her, she knows her stuff.) Once again, the folks at Comal seem to be killing it, as rather than struggle, the local Cal-Mexican minichain seems to have only grown more successful during the pandemic. Bar Comal features everything one could want in a casual-fancy drinks experience — sultry cocktails, a mezcal list, local beers, outdoor seating — as well as dinner plates, tacos and other bar snacks. The bar is located next door to Comal Next Door in Oakland, which opened mid-pandemic in June 2020. Bar Comal, 550 Grand Ave. (near El Embarcadero), Oakland
FOWL + FARE AT THE LODGE Gratitude to Tablehopper for connecting Fowl + Fare pop-up owner Will Allen with proprietor Alexeis Wolff Fillipello. In a pretty great win-win (especially for customers), Allen’s long-running fried chicken sandwich outfit is now embedded at Fillipello’s excellent bar The Lodge (former home of another little pop-up you may have heard of called Lovely’s). Along with fried chicken sandwiches and homemade biscuits, Fowl + Fare’s dishes include vegetarian tacos, burgers, and…birria fried chicken sandwiches. Yup, we’ll see you in line. Fowl + Fare at The Lodge, 3758 Piedmont Ave. (at West MacArthur Boulevard), Oakland
THE GOVERNOR/COD DAMN AT OAKLAND UNITED BEERWORKS These two local fish-and-chip businesses combined forces and recipes several months ago. They have since ceased attempting delivery of their delicious fried goods (formerly from Oakland Food Hall) and now serve them crispy-fresh as a pop-up at Jack London Square’s Oakland United Beerworks. Look for them weekly, Friday-Sunday. The Governor/Cod Damn at Oakland United Beerworks, 262 2nd St. (at Alice Street), Oakland
HUNAN YUAN Courtesy a tipster, Nosh is delighted to report on the recent reopening of Oakland Hills classic Hunan Yuan, resurrected from its pandemic closure and once again serving happy neighborhood customers. One of the restaurant’s previous employees apparently purchased the space, and has kept much of the old Chinese-American menu (orange chicken, wonton and sizzling rice soups, moo shu pork) intact. Good news! Hunan Yuan, 4100 Redwood Rd., Suite 11 (inside the Lincoln Square Shopping Center), Oakland
STINKYS BAR Not surprisingly, Tablehopper (see Fowl + Fare, above) also had the scoop on Lodge owner Alexeis Wolff Fillipello’s newest bar project, Stinkys, that opened in December. The wry and welcoming drinking hole, formerly Bar Dogwood (also owned by Fillipello), is outfitted in a decor of clowns and nostalgic toys, with just a touch of taxidermy and Burt Reynolds for mood. The vibe is irreverent and inclusive as all get-out, and the space even features an on-site movie theater (with free popcorn!) for screening independent local filmmakers and other works. We’re still not sure if there should be an apostrophe in the name but really, why worry like a sad clown. Just go there and have a drink. Stinkys reopens Jan. 6, after a holiday break. Stinkys Bar, 1644 Telegraph Ave. (at 17th), Oakland
FLORA & FERMENT A savvy friend recently alerted Nosh to this new Albany cider house and bottle shop, open since September (mea culpa), drawing even more specialty cider and beer lovers to this stretch of Solano as the location is directly opposite Ale Tales. A quick visit reveals a roomy and attractive bar space with delicious things on tap, and a well-curated bottle shop with sought-after and seasonal selections updated on the regular by welcoming proprietor Kate Taylor, who has industry roots in San Francisco and Sonoma. The lovely, surrounding plants from Pamana Plantas are for sale, with the potential for other local upscale goods available in the future. And as Nosh contributor Anna Mindess mentioned recently, there is also mead (and kombucha). Thanks — tips on great spots like these are what friends (and Nosh) are for… Flora & Ferment, 1122 Solano Ave. (near Kains Avenue), Albany
SAKIMOTO SUSHI LOUNGE Walnut Creek’s newest sushi restaurant, bar and lounge is generating buzz for its “New York-style, big-city nightlife experience,” namely a striking, modern interior bedazzled in large-screen projections and twinkle lights. Chef is Kichul Jung, formerly of Pleasanton’s Blue Delta Restaurant Group (Sasa, Blue Gingko). Sakimoto Sushi Lounge, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek