French restaurant Les Arceaux opens in Downtown Berkeley

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Yukun Zhang/Staff

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Les Arceaux, a new Californian and Southern French-inspired cafe and wine bar, has opened on the corner of Shattuck and Hearst avenues.

The restaurant, which uses local produce and ingredients, operates as a gathering space, café and lunch spot during most of the day, according to owner and chef Alana O’Neal. At 5 p.m., the happy hour and dinner options come out and transform the restaurant into a wine bar.

Les Arceaux is owned and operated by O’Neal and Mikha Diaz, who ran Two Sisters Bar and Books in San Francisco before closing the restaurant to focus on Les Arceaux. It takes the place of French restaurant Bistro Liaison, which had been in operation for 16 years. O’Neal said prior to moving to Berkeley, she and Diaz had begun discussing opening up Les Arceaux for about a year and a half.

The daytime and nighttime crowds are composed of different patronage, according to O’Neal. During the day, the food service is relatively quick for those on the go. O’Neal added that she hopes the Wi-Fi and charging outlets will encourage patrons to hang out and get work done “with some good friends and a good lunch, or with a coffee and a nice little pastry.”

At night, the restaurant “turns things up a couple notches” with a wine bar and a more formal menu, according to O’Neal.

“We are hoping to be a neighborhood favorite, the kind of place where you think, ‘Gee, I have a really promising first date’ … or you are on your way home, and you stop in for a nice glass of wine and some happy hour bites,” O’Neal said. “We want to be that sort of place — a very intimate and lingeringly enjoyable experience.”

Dorothée Mitrani, owner of local French Provençal restaurant La Note, said although she has not yet visited Les Arceaux, she feels it is “lovely” to have another French restaurant in the Berkeley community.

“I thought that we were down one when (Bistro Liaison) closed,” Mitrani said. “It’s definitely nice to have some French restaurants peppered around the Downtown. I will make an effort to go meet them and see what they have and welcome them. I’m excited for their journey.”

When O’Neal worked in San Francisco, Two Sisters Bar and Books partnered with the Sprouts Cooking Club to bring children into the kitchen, O’Neal said. In Berkeley, she hopes to bring children to Les Arceaux, as the kitchen has extra space. She also hopes to develop it into a teaching kitchen with interns or junior cooks from various communities.

“We’ve got this beautiful space in a busy neighborhood, and we’d love to fill it up with people,” O’Neal said.

Contact Mary Kelly Ford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MaryKellyFord1.

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