In the past two years, The Grease Box (942 Stanford Ave.) gluten-free food business has gone from being a jury-rigged fried-chicken street cart that popped up every now and again to a full-fledged barbecue restaurant in North Oakland. Now, owner Lizzy Boelter is reinventing her business again — this time as a gluten-free bakery.
So the new Gilman District plaza in West Berkeley, at the intersection of Gilman and 9th streets) is shaping up nicely. First, the new Philz Coffee opened; then, we got a firm date for Whole Foods' impending arrival.
The latest newcomer? The new location for the Temescal Alley filled-doughnut specialist Doughnut Dolly, which just announced that its Berkeley shop will open next Wednesday, August 6, bright and early at 7 a.m.
The long slog of the winter fruit season is finally coming to an end, and as much I love a good apple or orange, enough is enough. Thankfully, May and June are peak strawberry season in the Bay Area, and the ruby-red beauties at the local farmers’ markets have been getting sweeter and sweeter with each passing week. That also means East Bay restaurants and dessert shops are now serving up strawberry-centric items you won’t be able to find during other times of year. Here are five you’ll want to check out:
Gregory’s Gourmet Desserts (285 23rd St.) sits in the basement of a nondescript beige brick building on a side street in Uptown Oakland. The entrance, marked only by a small sign, looks more like the back door to a cut-rate basement apartment or secret weed dispensary, so, inevitably, first-timers do a confused double-take before heading down the short flight of steps and peeking inside.
Gregory’s might, in fact, be Oakland’s tiniest and least conspicuously located retail bakery. But for regular customers, who swear that the shop sells the best cheesecakes and cobblers in the Bay Area, the hidden-away location and odd hours — just Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — are no deterrent.
Almost every morning, Pizzaiolo (5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) opens its doors early, not to sell pizzas or gin-and-tonics or frilly frisée salads, but instead to sling doughnuts, espresso drinks, and — most precious of all — the sweet, sweet nectar of a free wi-fi connection. The Temescal institution is one of a growing number of restaurants that are taking advantage of the morning hours, when their dining rooms would normally sit empty, to dabble in the coffee-shop business.
For the restaurants, it’s a win-win: The cooks are in the kitchen all morning anyway, prepping vegetables or tending to big pots of stock. Why not whip up some pastries, add an extra revenue stream, and generate a bit of goodwill in the community while you’re at it?
If you blinked (or spent the long weekend sleeping off Thanksgiving’s gustatory excesses) you missed it, but the latest Bay Area restaurant to get in on the Cronut craze was Pizzaiolo (5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland), whose morning coffee-and-pastry program is one of the best in town.
The Cronut, for the uninitiated, is New York City pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid, a pastry so wildly popular that it’s spawned imitators all around the country — a one-day pop-up at Stag’s Lunchette was the most prominent East Bay appearance. This past Friday and Saturday mornings, Pizzaiolo sold a miniature version, dubbed the “Cronini,” for $3 a pop, and it was outstanding: all of the flakiness and crunch you’d want from a fried croissant; a smooth, refreshingly cool pastry cream filling; and a sweet (but not cloying) white glaze on top.
By now surely you’ve heard of the Cronut, New York City pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid that has, within the span of a few months, become a worldwide sensation. Fried-dough lovers continue to line up at Ansel’s eponymous Manhattan bakery at 5:30 a.m. each morning, and hundreds of copycat versions have been spawned — everywhere from Zurich to Taipei to San Francisco.
Up until this point, it hasn’t, to our knowledge, been possible to snag one of these indulgent pastries in the East Bay. Oakland restaurateur Lexi Filipello (Stag’s Lunchette, Bar Dogwood) and independent pastry chef Amie Bailey are teaming up to rectify that situation by hosting a croissant-doughnut pop-up at Stag’s Lunchette (362 17th St.) this Sunday, September 8, from 9 a.m. until the pastries sell out.
A public service announcement for fans of Jaynelle St. Jean's excellent (and much-lauded) pies: If you're thinking about picking up a slice from the PieTisserie pie window located inside of the Mexican restaurant Nido (444 Oak St., Oakland), you can save yourself the trip. Sadly, as of a couple of weeks ago, the pie shop has closed.