With my apologies to Seinfeld, Christmas 2021 was in a word … festive.
As cold, wet weather sent people inside and the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19 rose, many of the December plans were curtailed for the second straight pandemic year. Rapid coronavirus tests became the new toilet paper – some were given per customer, if available, but mostly sold out. Gatherings were discouraged, thousands of flights were canceled (and Tahoe streets were blocked), and restaurant after restaurant across the Bay Area announced temporary closings due to positive cases among staff.
For those whose holidays have been turned upside down, we hope it was as safe and leisurely as possible. And to everyone who is directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 – we wish you and your loved ones the mildest cases, a speedy recovery and good health in the New Year.
With an already shaky start to 2022, you might want to stop at one of these bold new stores in January to (safely) eat, drink, and grab something cheerful. Such support could help us all start a happy new year.
Happy New Year, East Bay. The last one was sure to be a fool. Again.
With love, [email protected]
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 a variety of dishes and soups, as well as curries, eggplant fries and other quick dishes. 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 KFC and street food at Sather Lane Mall in December. Lim promises a bar with beer and soju, but at the moment the poultry is trendy, fried with different sauces or packed in a bucket with parts to take away. The opening times remain unclear and the spot is still without a website, but the dining room is already busy. KoStop, 2431 Durant Ave. (at Sather Lane Mall), Berkeley – Eve Batey
Rose’s pizzas are “a mix of Neapolitan and New York” kind. Photo credit: Rose Pizzeria / Instagram
ROSE PIZZERIA Berkeley’s beautiful, hidden rose garden on University Avenue is now home to Rose Pizzeria. As Nosh explained, the new Cal-Italian restaurant comes from the couple Gerad Gobel and Alexis Rorabaugh, veterinarians from San Francisco and the previous owners of Chicago’s acclaimed Italianette. Her new restaurant features 13-inch gourmet pizzas that strike a balance between New York and Neapolitan styles, and the results have already received rave reviews. (A Yelper exclaims: “Delicious! Delicious! Delicious!”). Look for a seasonal menu of starters and desserts, including a much-discussed spicy Caesar salad, available for take-away starting January 1st. The charming service and the refreshing aperitifs are also on everyone’s lips. Don’t miss the lovely terrace on nice days. Rose Pizzeria, 1960 University Avenue (between Martin Luther King, Jr.Way and Milvia Avenue), Berkeley
SHARETEA After months of monitoring the location, we somehow escaped the latest Sharetea opening in the fall. The growing, global, Taiwanese Boba franchise now has 24 cafes in Northern California alone and other locations across the country from Alabama to Michigan. Your location on Telegraph Ave. was formerly Zone T. Sharetea Berkeley, 2328 Telegraph Ave. (between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue), Berkeley
SUNNY SIDE CAFE EPICURIOUS GARDEN A door closes, a window opens … into a garden: The Imperial Tea Court moved out of the Epicurious Garden in August, and Berkeley’s Sunny Side Cafe moved in this month. The long-popular local business serves American cafe favorites for breakfast and lunch, and this place is all about Peruvian cuisine for dinner. And when the sun is shining, there are attractive garden seating areas. Sunny Side Cafe in Epicurious Garden, 1511 Shattuck Ave. (between Vine and Cedar Streets), Berkeley
The new succulenta cocktail from Bar Comal (prickly pear juice and xila). Photo credit: Bar Comal / Instagram
BAR COMAL This fresh-faced newcomer was named one of the Bay Area’s Best New Bars of 2021 after just a month in the Chronicle’s Esther Mobley store. (Trust her, she knows her stuff.) Once again, the folks in Comal seem to be killing it as the local Kal-Mexican mini-chain only seems to be more successful rather than fighting during the pandemic. Bar Comal has everything one could want for a casual drinking experience – sultry cocktails, a mezcal menu, local beers, outdoor seating – as well as plates, tacos, and other bar snacks. The bar is located next to Comal Next Door in Oakland, which opened in mid-June 2020 during the pandemic. Bar Comal, 550 Grand Ave. (near El Embarcadero), Oakland
POULTRY + FARE IN THE LODGE Thanks to Tablehopper for connecting Fowl + Fare pop-up owner Will Allen with owner Alexeis Wolff Fillipello. In a pretty big win-win (especially for the customers), Allen’s longtime fried chicken sandwich outfit is now in Fillipello’s award-winning bar, The Lodge (former home of another little pop-up you might have heard of called Lovely’s), embedded. In addition to fried chicken sandwiches and homemade biscuits, Fowl + Fare dishes include vegetarian tacos, burgers and… fried birria chicken sandwiches. Yes, see you in line. Poultry + Food at The Lodge, 3758 Piedmont Ave. (on West MacArthur Boulevard), Oakland
THE GOVERNOR / COD DAMN AT OAKLAND UNITED BEERWORKS These two local fish and chip companies joined forces and recipes a few months ago. Since then, they have stopped trying to deliver their delicious fried goods (formerly from the Oakland Food Hall) and now serve them crispy and fresh as a pop-up at the Oakland United Beerworks in Jack London Square. Find them weekly Friday through Sunday. The Governor / Cod Damn in Oakland United Beerworks, 262 2nd St. (on Alice Street), Oakland
HUNAN YUAN Courtesy of a tipster, Nosh is happy to report on the recent reopening of the Oakland Hills classic, Hunan Yuan, which has risen from its pandemic shutdown and is once again serving satisfied customers from the neighborhood. One of the restaurant’s previous employees apparently bought the space and kept much of the old Sino-American menu (orange chicken, wonton and sizzling rice soups, moo-shu pork) intact. Good news! Hunan Yuan, 4100 Redwood Rd., Suite 11 (in Lincoln Square Shopping Center), Oakland
STINKYS BAR Unsurprisingly, Tablehopper (see Fowl + Fare, above) also announced lodge owner Alexeis Wolff Fillipello’s newest bar project, Stinkys, which opened in December. The dry and inviting drinking hole, formerly Bar Dogwood (also owned by Fillipello), is decorated with a decor of clowns and nostalgic toys, with just a touch of taxidermy and Burt Reynolds for the mood. The atmosphere is disrespectful and inclusive like all exits, and the space even has an on-site movie theater (with free popcorn!) For showing off 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 on January 6th after a vacation break. Stinky’s Bar, 1644 Telegraph Ave. (on 17th), Oakland
The airy, plant-rich Albany area from Flora & Ferment. Photo credit: Flora & Ferment / Instagram
FLORA & FERMENT A savvy friend recently brought Nosh’s attention to this new Albany cider house and bottle store, which has been open since September (mea culpa), attracting even more cider and beer lovers to this section of Solano as the location is directly across from ale Tales lies. A quick visit reveals a spacious and attractive bar area with delicious food on tap and a well-curated bottle shop with coveted and seasonal offerings that are regularly updated by owner Kate Taylor, who has roots in the San Francisco and Sonoma industries. Pamana Plantas’ beautiful, surrounding plants are for sale, with the potential for other local upscale merchandise in the future. And as Nosh staff member Anna Mindess mentioned recently, there is also mead (and kombucha). Thanks – friends (and nosh) are there for tips on great places like this … Flora & Ferment, 1122 Solano Ave. (near Kains Avenue), Albany
SAKIMOTO SUSHI LOUNGE Walnut Creek’s newest sushi restaurant, bar and lounge is creating excitement for its “New York City Nightlife”, namely a striking, modern interior that is dazzled by large screen projections and twinkling lights. The head chef is Kichul Jung, formerly of Pleasanton’s Blue Delta Restaurant Group (Sasa, Blue Gingko). Sakimoto Sushi Lounge, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek
Joanna Della Penna has lived in the Bay Area since 2001 and moved to the East Bay in 2009. She has been writing about restaurants in the area for 20 years and should really be doing more exercise.
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