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…and even MORE new restaurants in the ‘hood!

December 23, 2008

Unfortunately, I haven’t made much progress on the existing list of new neighborhood restaurants to try….but apparently I’ll have a whole new batch to add to the list in 2009, says the Chron (and assorted Craigslist ads). I don’t exactly understand this wave, in light of the economy. I mean, I understand that some spots were in the planning stages years ago, but many of these are new leases. Is there an advantage (low rent on longterm leases notwithstanding) to opening a restaurant during a recession? I love the Oakland cornucopia, but sometimes worry for them, especially the brand-new spots.

More new places coming to a neighborhood near me include:

  • Dopo is opening up Adesso, a new restaurant on Piedmont Avenue that the Chron reports will be a small plates/wine bar style place. We love Dopo, but their line is crazy, so we only go on the very rare occasions when I bike home down Piedmont and remember to put our name in. Maybe the new place will help! It’s also a little unclear where this will be—the Inside Scoop lists the address as 4524 Piedmont, which would put it smack in the middle of Mountain View Cemetery. That’s possible, but seems pretty unlikely. My best guess is that it’s going into the new Il Piemonte condo building, where they’ve been trying to get an Italian restaurant for a while.
  • On the lake, Zax veterans are opening up Sidebar on Lower Grand where Trio used to be. This one’s been on my radar for a while, as they were advertising jobs a while back, but I didn’t realize it was the Zax team. We only ate there once; it was good but not outstanding. Their location on Telegraph near the Berkeley border never quite got them (or any of the restaurants preceding or following them) the foot traffic they needed to stay afloat, though, so we’ll see how the new place goes. Their ads describe it as a gastropub, which sounds promising.
  • The Lake Chalet from the team behind San Francisco’s Beach Chalet (yay for original names….) might finally open one of these days in the boathouse on Lake Merritt—your tax dollars at work! (Well, not the restaurant itself, but the boathouse and dock restoration, at least.)
  • Ave Restaurant and Lounge, coming soon to Uptown, will apparently feature “the hottest cocktails” and “New American and World cuisine.” That’s about all I was able to glean from their jobs posting and (not-yet-functional) website….
  • We noticed last weekend that Horseshoe in Temescal has a sign up that Burma Superstar, which also has a branch in Alameda, is taking over the liquor license. So Horseshoe, only a few months old, may not be long for this world….(and dammit, I haven’t even made it there yet!)
  • Finally, still no word on who’s taking over Jojo on Piedmont in the new year. (I’d initially guessed perhaps Dopo was looking that direction—wrong again! Plus, their new spot doesn’t really match Curt Clingman’s description of the new place as “something that nobody else is doing” [on Piedmont, I presume]. So it’s not a pizzeria, taqueria, pub, ice cream shop, coffeehouse, Nouveau American place, wine bar, Italian joint, or Asian or African of any variety. Umm, dessert restaurant? Diner? McDonald’s?) The Inside Scoop does report that James Syhabout, formerly of Coi, PlumpJack Café, and Manresa, among other places, is headed for the East Bay. They don’t say Oakland, but I do—he’s a native Oaklander, after all, and this is (apparently) the place to be if you’re in the foodie restaurant game.

The spawning of East Bay restaurants is an interesting phenomenon. While we have an insane number of new spots opening up, virtually all are second (or third or even fourth) restaurants for local restaurateurs. Let’s see, 2008 brought us Flora (Doña Tomás crew), Marzano (Garibaldi’s), Ozumo East (Ozumo), Mua (Soizic), and Franklin Square Wine Bar (Luka’s), among others. 2009 promises the spots listed above plus a second Bakesale Betty’s, a potential new Doña Tomás taqueria, a possible Pizzaiolo by-the-slice spot—and I recently saw a sign up downtown that Tamarindo is planning a new taqueria near City Center, while À Côté is apparently opening up shop in the Glenview. Jack London is also crawling with child-of-x openings and newly-inked leases. Not that I’m complaining—this is a list of some of my favorite Oakland spots! (Hey Wood Tavern, where’s your second restaurant?? We’ve been saving you a spot by the lake….) But it does seem to be a pronounced trend; possibly new restaurants are more manageable in this economy when they’re the offspring of established spots. They get a little name boost (and a financial/logistics boost, I imagine, in contrast to a complete newcomer). Only time will tell if there’s room in Oakland for the both of them, though.

One last piece of good food news this week: the Alameda County Community Food Bank received a $50,000 grant from Chevron yesterday to help see them through the winter. They still need much more help, though, especially in this economy—and they’re one of the most effective organizations you can support, dollar for dollar. So don’t forget about them as you enjoy your holiday meals over the next week.

Looking forward to a tasty 2009….and thinking good thoughts for Oakland’s newest restaurants and shops as we weather this recession as a community!

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One comment

  1. OMG! I couldn’t be more excited that the Zax team is back. A friend of mine cooked there for a couple of years and it quickly became my favorite Berkeley restaurant. I was so upset when they closed. I still dream about their soups and the goat cheese souffle with the apple and fennel salad.

    But the news about Horseshoe is so sad. I just went there on Sunday and it sounds like they’ll at least be open through January so I encourage you to check it out before they close. It’s one of the only breakfast spots in my neighborhood so I’ll greatly miss it.



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