Free House restaurant opens on Bancroft

The space formerly occupied by Adagia is now home to a new restaurant — one with the same management but a different approach that its owner hopes will allow it to succeed when the fine-dining establishment did not.

Free House opened its doors Feb. 2 near the intersection of Bancroft Way and College Avenue, just south of the UC Berkeley campus, with a menu that includes dishes like vegan chili and grass-fed burgers and features ingredients that come from sustainable, locally grown and organic sources, according to owner Daryl Ross.

Ross, who also owns Free Speech Movement Café and Caffé Strada, among others, said he hopes Free House will have a broader audience than Adagia, which went under in June.

“I never really had a connection with Adagia — I didn’t go to places like that with my family, so it makes sense other people wouldn’t,” he said. “I feel like I belong in Free House, and (other) people seem more comfortable as well.”

Ross said his restaurant’s target audience is graduate students, since he said he thinks there are not many restaurants or bars around campus that cater to them. However, he added that Free House will also be accessible and affordable for undergraduates, professors and staff. Currently, all of the items on the menu cost less than $20.

“I want Free House to be the food and drink equivalent of Caffé Strada, where graduate students can hang out and drink at the fully stocked bar and undergraduates can have good food and nonalcoholic drinks,” Ross said.

To avoid Adagia’s fate, Ross got permission to serve food out front, extend hours and have a full bar in the hopes of attracting more customers.

The name “Free House” is one given to a pub that is not tied to one distillery, as is evidenced by the extensive bar, Ross said. The name is also tied to social activism, which Ross hopes to commemorate by adorning the restaurant’s walls with enlarged pictures of social activist movements in Berkeley.

Ross said he would like to have at least one dish on the menu in which a price is suggested, allowing people to only pay what they can afford.

“Food should be accessible to everyone,” he said. “We tend to think of food as a commodity, but it is a basic human right.”

Though the full bar at Free House might potentially pull customers away from other local pubs, Will Jones, general manager of Henry’s, said the restaurant’s opening is positive for the Telegraph area and that he expects there will be enough customers to go around.

Currently, the restaurant is open from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Saturday, though the menu will expand to include lunch items when it opens for lunch in two weeks.