Tuesday, July 26, 2016

East Bay Bars and Restaurants Embrace the Pokémon Go Craze

When a Pidgey walks into a bar.

by Jasmine Guillory
Tue, Jul 26, 2016 at 12:46 PM

A wild Doduo in its natural habitat — perched on a cocktail glass at Make Westing. - JASMINE GUILLORY
  • Jasmine Guillory
  • A wild Doduo in its natural habitat — perched on a cocktail glass at Make Westing.

Hudson Bay Cafe, Blue Bottle, Rockridge Cafe, Homeroom, Pizzaiolo, Luka’s Taproom, and Cafe Van Kleef. A restaurant and bar crawl to take an Oakland newcomer from day to night? That too, but this is also a list of PokéStops and Pokémon Go “gyms” in the East Bay.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Legit Poke Festival Debuts in Bay Area This Weekend

by Nick Miller
Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 2:39 PM

Traditional poke at Pa'Ina Cafe in Oahu, which will be in the Bay this weekend at the I Love Poke Festival.
  • Traditional poke at Pa'Ina Cafe in Oahu, which will be in the Bay this weekend at the I Love Poke Festival.
I'm a no-frills eater, and so the simplicity of a dish like poke has always appealed. A light dressing of sesame oil, some sea salt — and of course smartly sourced, fresh, and sustainable tuna or other fish. That's it. Perfect.

But now that poke is an emerging food trend, there are all sorts of spots popping up that serve hybridizations (and bastardizations) of traditional poke. I'm not hating. A sturgeon poke with yuzu ponzu sauce and topped with avocado and served over sushi rice is pretty damn tasty. But is it really poke?

Nino Camilo might argue that it isn't. Which is why the former islander, now mainlander started his "I Love Poke Festival" series in 2010. And he's finally made his way to the Bay Area this weekend, with an inaugural "I Love Poke Festival" this Sunday at Pacific Catch in San Francisco.

The event will be an intimate gathering of fewer than 200 and where guests can sample a wealth of traditional poke, including from Pa'Ina Cafe, whose team is flying out from Oahu for the occasion. Hutch from Oakland will also be there, in addition to the excellent Fish Face Poke Bar in Sacramento.

Learn more at Onoyum.com, and purchase tickets here.

The Express sent Camilo three quick question in advance of Sunday's big poke-monstrosity (I know, I'm sorry): 

EBX: Where is poke on the "trend scale" in the Bay Area and beyond? Is it in frozen yogurt or cupcakes territory, or pork belly, or? Basically, what I’m asking is: Is poke the next big thing?

Nino Camilo: I like to break the poke game down like this: There's Hawaii poke which is just in a league of it's own. We are really fortunate to have Pa'ina Cafe (Oahu) fly out for the event. They will be judging the poke contest as well as serving one of their signature poke recipes.

Then, there are the OG's of the mainland poke game, like Pacific Catch, who have been serving poke for 13 years, as well as Pono Hawaiian Grill (Santa Cruz) who are actually from Maui. These guys starting serving poke back in the day simply because it's a part of the passion and the culture of any Hawaiian or seafood style eatery.

And then there's the third wave of poke ("third wave", let's steal that term from our coffee brothers and sisters).  These poke places have all opened up within the last year or two. In fact, most of the spots I visited last month in San Francisco were only four days to four weeks old!

I am going to be honest and say that at least 50 percent of these places are not actually serving poke, but they are serving varietals of raw fish bowls with mixed veggies and sauces. One day, we will give these bowls a name. But for now, let's just say they are not poke. And I hope people really start paying attention to what they are serving and what they are claiming.

Big ups to the guys that are actually doing it right. Let's be responsible with our sourcing and respectful to the culture of which poke came from. Poke is the next big thing, but only some are doing it right.

Describe the perfect poke?
Everybody loves a simple poke because that's what poke is ... simple. "It's like, how can something with such little ingredients taste so good?" But poke has to be fresh. Just some shoyu, sesame oil, onions, chili flake and Hawaiian salt.

But, I also love new styles of poke where chefs get creative. The key to this is to make sure that whatever ingredients you use, blend [them] together well. You can't just throw things in there to be different.

How long have you been putting on poke festivals?
I started our flagship event, I Love Poke San Diego, back in 2010. I started a food blog back then that focused on Hawaiian food in California.

The thing missing from every menu was poke, so I started the event to help satisfy the cravings of my family, friends, and followers living on the mainland. I'm not crazy enough to open up a restaurant, so I chose an annual event instead. We have also done the event in Huntington Beach and Seattle, and we are so stoked to make our debut in the Bay Area this year.

This event is not about consuming mad amounts of good poke, that is just the added benefit of what we are trying to do. By doing this event, we are sharing, celebrating, educating and preserving a culture that we all love.

I Love Poke Festival is Sunday, July 24, at Pacific Catch (1200 Ninth Avenue in S.F.); 4-7PM, $85 in advance, $100 at the door.

Third Annual Ales for ALS Beer Festival Tomorrow at Faction Brewing in Alameda

by Nick Miller
Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 10:19 AM

There are probably too many beer events and festivals each year, and this makes it difficult to pull the trigger on tickets, for sure, as it can get expensive. But here's one that's definitely worth the price of admission and more: the third-annual Faction Brewing Co. Ales for ALS gathering at their brewery in Alameda on the old naval base.

Killer location with inimitable Bay views, some of the best beer in California, and a good cause (supporting research to treat ALS). Plus, breweries go out of their way to make special beers exclusively for this event.

This year, such awesome breweries at Beachwood, Rare Barrel, Societe and more will be in attendance this Saturday. 

Tickets are $45 in advance, $55 at the door. Learn more at Faction's site.

Oh, and bring sunscreen, because it is bright and burning on Faction's deck and patio!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mid-Week Menu: T-Rex Changes Owners, Nizza La Bella and Belli Osteria Close, and Gio’s to Replace Giovanni

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 5:28 PM

The Berkeley barbecue spot is in flux once again. - T-REX
  • T-Rex
  • The Berkeley barbecue spot is in flux once again.

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) When it comes to East Bay barbecue restaurants, it almost feels redundant at this point to say that another one has bitten the dust. So it is with some trepidation that I share the news — via Berkeleyside Nosh — that T-Rex (1300 10th St., Berkeley) has been purchased by the Monteros group, which owns several Mexican restaurants in the area, including La Crema and Taqueria Talavera. No word yet, though, on whether T-Rex will continue to be mainly a barbecue restaurant, though it appears the name of the business won’t change.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Why Does the Berkeley City Council Care About a Dog Meat Festival in China?

On animal rights and moral grandstanding.

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 10:02 AM

The animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere staging a protest in the Berkeley Whole Foods Market (via Youtube).
  • The animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere staging a protest in the Berkeley Whole Foods Market (via Youtube).

Buried way down on the consent calendar for the July 19 Berkeley City Council meeting is a somewhat surprising item — a recommendation to abolish the Lychee and Dog Meat Festival, which takes place every June in the small city of Yulin in Guangxi, China. Sponsored by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the item calls for an end to all “consumption, illegal trade, killing, and abuse of animals” related to that festival.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Trappist Provisions in Rockridge Soon to Become Mikkeller Oakland

by Nick Miller
Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 2:45 PM

One of the East Bay's best brew destinations will undergo some minor tweaks this summer. Trappist Provisions, the cozy neighborhood beer bar and bottle shop on College Avenue in Rockridge, will become Mikkeller Tasting Room and Bottle Shop next month.

“It should happen sometime in August. We don’t have a set grand-opening date yet," co-owner Chuck Stilphen told the Express this afternoon.

He said Provisions will not close during the transition, but there will be “little changes every day until it looks like a Mikkeller bar.”

Stilphen plans for twelve taps, nine of them offering Mikkeller beers brewed in San Diego, which focuses on the famed, eclectic Danish brewer's hoppy West Coast-style offerings. There will also still be bottles to-go.

Mikkeller Oakland is the latest location after locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Keep an eye out for more at MikkellerOakland.com.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mid-Week Menu: Stag’s Is Closing, FuseBOX Will Expand, and Human Interaction-Free Quinoa Comes to Berkeley

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 1:42 PM


Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) Today’s big news out of Uptown Oakland is that Stag’s Lunchette (362 17th St.), one of the city’s better sandwich shops, will close on August 1. In a Facebook post, owner Alexeis Filipello wrote, “Over that past year organic food, labor, and every facet of this business has gotten more expensive and we just realize that our organic/sustainable business is barely sustainable.” As of this posting, I haven’t heard back from Filipello about her next steps — but according to Tablehopper, she’s not giving up the space entirely. Instead, it seems Stag’s will be replaced by a new concept focused on “box lunches and company lunches.” Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Study Finds that Bay Area Restaurants Have the Largest Race-Based Pay Gap in the Country

Oakland restaurant owners respond.

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 1:41 PM

  • ROC
Many Bay Area residents pride themselves on their enlightened stances on the urgent sociopolitical issues of our times. But when it comes to how the local restaurant industry treats its workers, it seems the Bay Area is no better than the rest of the country. And in some cases — most strikingly, in the way that fine-dining restaurants pay employees of color — it might even be quite a bit worse.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mid-Week Menu: LocoL Expands to West Oakland; Burma Bear and Agave Open Uptown

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Jul 6, 2016 at 1:25 PM

  • Instagram @ridingshotgunla
  • LocoL's West Oakland digs.

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) LocoL (2214 Broadway), the “revolutionary fast food” restaurant whose Uptown Oakland location is the subject of this week’s dining review, made another big announcement on Instagram: It looks like chef-owners Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson will be opening a small coffee shop in West Oakland, at the corner of Market and 35th streets — the old Tomm's Bar-B-Q spot, I believe. Details are scarce at this point, but Choi’s Instagram post mentions savory pastries.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mama’s Royal Cafe Is for Sale

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 10:04 AM

The counter at Mama's Royal (via Facebook).
  • The counter at Mama's Royal (via Facebook).

Attention prospective East Bay restaurant owners: It’s not every day that you have a chance to buy not just a popular dining establishment, but also a piece of Oakland history. That’s the “once-in-a-generation” opportunity that George Marino, the longtime owner of Mama’s Royal Cafe (4012 Broadway), has made available — to anyone who can afford the $395,000 asking price, that is.

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