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The very long overdue winter restaurant (and bar!) update

February 16, 2010

I realized it’s been months and months since I did a restaurant rundown, which is no good! Here’s a very quick summary of food news in the ‘hood…

Already here or coming soon in Grand Lake:

  • Zoey’s Afghan Bistro, the newest addition to the growing Middle Eastern scene in the neighborhood.
  • Boot and Shoe Service, Pizzaiolo’s sister restaurant. Yay for pizza even closer to home!
  • Yayu, a new Ethiopian spot on Lakeshore, is coming soon to the spot that housed the short-lived Vine.
  • Heart and Dagger Saloon: There’s a changing of the guards happening at what used to be the Serenader, one of the last remnants of the old Grand Lake. This new bar is due to open this Friday, February 19th, and I’m super curious to see what they do with the space! (If Yelp is to be believed, they will have pinball, video games, and pool. Maybe they can be kinda like the Chatterbox Pub in Minneapolis—a city that has the art of neighborhood bars mastered—except without the 3.2 license….that would make me happy!)
  • Mimosa Café, under new ownership: Rumor has it that this Grand Lake spot isn’t gone for good, but is merely changing hands. We’ll see.
  • Kwik Way, the Sequel: A yet-to-be-named replacement for the long-closed Kwik Way Drive-In on Lake Park by the owners of Somerset is finally under construction. No ETA, though.

Already here or coming soon in Uptown:

  • TrueBurger: Former BayWolf sous chefs do burgers, milkshakes, and fries. Reviews say “better than In ‘n Out”—but with sustainable meats! How can you go wrong?
  • Hibiscus: It’s open! Yay! We have reservations to try the Caribbean food later this month, so I’ll report back then.
  • Era: Okay, it’s a bar, not a restaurant, but still. We’ve been eyeing their empty* windows forever, so I’m glad they’re finally open! Full report once we’ve tried their cocktails out. (*Okay, not actually empty, but filled with cool teasers, which is why we were eyeing them! Let’s go with “vacant” windows instead.)
  • Bakesale Betty: Someday, someday this will come off the “coming soon” list, if the stars are aligned in our favor. I hope. April is the current ETA on this, and there’s activity and a hole in the paper on the windows, so we’re ever hopeful.
  • The other Pizzaiolo sister restaurant, name TBD. They have the beginnings of a liquor license, though it’s still in process. But that’s promising! (I don’t speak ABC so I can’t say exactly why it’s on hold or what that means, though.)

Already here or coming soon on Lower Telegraph:

  • Phat Matt’s BBQ: Loved him at the Grand Lake market? Now he’s got his own spot! We haven’t made it here yet, but it’s just a few blocks away so it’s high on the list. I’m also excited to see more restaurants staking out this stretch of Telegraph, which has struggled to keep retail for years. With Oasis Market opening just down the street a few months ago and several small coffee shops, it’s finally starting to fill out. Yay! Look for him next door to Neldam’s.
  • Remedy Coffee is trying its best to open soon—and you can help out! You can prepay set amounts ($1000, $750, $500, or $250) and get a percentage back in a setup similar to Awaken’s credit system. Check their Facebook page for details. Their sidewalk cart is already up and running, too.
  • SR24: Okay, I can’t believe I missed this one given the name! Anyway, this comfort food spot popped onto the scene this week, replacing Bear Naked Burgers in the little mini-mall across the street from the Temescal library branch.

Already here or coming soon on Piedmont:

  • Sparky’s (maybe?) Something is happening with the space at 4151 Piedmont, which has been vacant forever. Way back in December 2008, a restaurant called Sparky’s (which may or may not be related to Sparky’s Giant Burgers up near the Mormon Temple) had a plan for this space, but there’s been no movement since then, though ABC says they got their liquor license in October. So possibly this is Sparky’s coming back from the dead, or maybe something new is afoot. Keep an eye out!
  • César Latino: Okay, this is really just Piedmont staple César, but the restaurant has reinvented itself as a Latin American hot spot featuring South and Central American dishes, rather than the Spanish tapas it has traditionally featured. So it’s almost like a new restaurant to try!

And leaving us are:

  • Café Noir: This closed eons ago, shortly after it opened. But now they are definitively gone. Not sure what went wrong here, as they weren’t open long enough to even get their feet wet…maybe a change of heart. But a great spot for a new coffee shop, which are in short supply in our neighborhood, so hopefully there’ll be some takers!
  • Louisiana Fried Chicken: This place always seemed busy, so possibly this is just a victim of rising rents. I never ate there, so can’t say I’ll miss the food, but I did think it was going to be funny when there was a quadrangle of fried chicken in Uptown (with variations served at Luka’s, Pican, Bakesale Betty, and LFC). Ah, well.
  • Mimosa Café: I never managed to get to this spot either (maybe all of these restaurants are dropping at my hands?!?) but they had a brunch that was widely loved in the ‘hood. It will supposedly reopen under new ownership soon (see above).
  • Franklin Square Wine Bar: Don’t know details here, but I’m sorry to see Uptown losing one of its newest spots. That means two wine bars have come and gone in the neighborhood in as many years…maybe Oakland isn’t the spot for these? With luck, maybe this will be the magic time for a new restaurateur to come in, lease both the FS Wine Bar and LFC spaces, and take down the wall between the two, since one challenge Franklin Square did have was its tiny, narrow seating area. We’ll see… (Incidentally, not in the neighborhood, but I did recently notice that Wood Tavern in Rockridge, one of our favorites, is doing just this: taking over the adjacent storefront and growing out a bit.)
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10 comments

  1. Check this out!!!


  2. Franklin Square Wine Bar is also closed as of last Sunday.


  3. Thanks—I’ll add it to the list. But so sad!


  4. i wouldn’t hold your breath for BB. Their core customers are people who are being hit hardest by this recession. I like the buzz in the bldg but the longer they can hold off opening probably the better. Even the Luka’s lunch crowd is down. Business at Vo’s looks touch and go. Sad to see FSWB go.


  5. Ralph, I wondered about this—if they’ve already leased the building, aren’t they bleeding money until they open? Obviously costs go up significantly once they’re up and running and staffing the place, but I’d think it’s a money sink until then, too, since there’s not even a chance of being in the black if the doors aren’t open. I completely get the notion of waiting the recession out for those who own their buildings (e.g., the Korean food hall they’re working on across from FSWB) but am curious how people make it work when they don’t own. I guess the answer might just be that, like Cafe Noir, they often don’t. *sigh*


  6. It is sad about FSWB. We walked there pretty regularly for dinner. always enjoyed the food and the ambiance, especially sitting outside. They made that dingy little terrace a nice place to hang out.


  7. Small restaurants come and go, the take-home message here is that many more are opening than closing. I am curious about FSQ though, they seemed busy and obviously it was great. They also had most of their seating outdoors, which seems like a great business model to me, in Oakland. On the other hand, when they signed their lease they probably expected the new office building next door to have more than one tenant.

    Thanks so much for this thorough roundup! See you at Heart And Dagger tomorrow?


  8. You got the Era website backward. It’s http://www.oaklandera.com. (The one you link to is a real estate company.) Otherwise, awesome. Thanks for this.


  9. D’oh! Thanks—all fixed!


  10. dto510, if by FSQ, you mean FSWB, they were full on event nights but absent an event at The Paramount or The Fox, business was slow. I thought the one night when they hosted a play night for kids was a clever idea to entice families to come. In addition to the new building having more than one tenant, I suspect they were thinking there would be a different economic dynamic with the planned housing. If the space is still available when the economy turns, I hope that they are able to return. It is depressing that at least 2 of the 3 lake area wine bars died.



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