Nobody imagined that after the dramatic loss of Pacific Cookie Company in late 2016, the Berkeley food scene could undergo more surprising transitions. But 2017 has brought a smorgasbord of culinary changes — including numerous closures and openings — ushering in a new era of eating experiences.
As one door closes…
We said goodbye to several Berkeley classics and unique dining experiences this year — some irreplaceable in our hearts, others replaced by equally satisfying options.
When the closure of Remy’s was announced in February, everyone immediately had the same sneaking suspicions — the restaurant’s numerous citations for serving alcohol to minors had finally added up to the point of unsustainability (though no one knows for certain). The Mexican establishment was a fan-favorite among large groups of students looking for an affordable margarita pitcher, some delicious salsa and a friendly bar staff. Serving as a perfect hub for student club celebrations or a fun stop along a 21st birthday bar-hopping spree, Remy’s will be sorely missed.
While Remy’s embodied the classic college dining experience, eatsa on Telegraph Ave was all about innovation. Order from a touch screen, and your food would instantly appear in one of the windows, with not a single moment of social interaction required. And while this gimmick was almost certainly at the core of eatsa’s main allure, its health-oriented vegetarian options — yummy salad bowls combining vegetables, nuts and fruits — were what convinced residents to return again and again. The closure was attributed to eatsa wanting to focus on expansion in new markets, but there’s good news: Quinoa devotees can still get their fix at one of the restaurant chain’s San Francisco locations.
Joshu-ya Brasserie was never the most affordable sushi spot in Berkeley, but it was certainly very — if not the most — delicious. After a short walk to the corner of Dwight Way and Telegraph Avenue, you could enjoy an elegantly crafted sushi roll at one of the outdoor tables. In operation since 1978, the restaurant has changed hands many times. But when it became evident that gourmet style sushi was no longer financially supported by the student population, the brasserie’s owners chose to pursue a different, more trendy and affordable dining experience: ramen. Joshu-ya was, consequently, reopened and renamed as Kyushu Ramen (though this restaurant also promptly closed this year in September).
Though it was sad to see many of these restaurants go, the biggest announcement to rock campus was Cal Dining’s reduction of Late Night hours. While incoming freshmen this semester wouldn’t have known the difference, there was something unique to the culture of Late Night that we’ll all surely miss. On the bright side, perhaps restaurants along Durant Avenue with late-night hours — such as Artichoke Basille’s Pizza or Seniore’s Pizza — will benefit from the lack of other options for hungry night owls.
… Another opens
Inevitably, the closures of restaurants pave the way for the openings of several more.
Perhaps the most notable change in the Berkeley food scene is the seemingly sudden influx of poke options. While a few opened in late 2016, 2017 saw the addition of Poke Parlor on Telegraph Avenue, which, especially during peak lunchtimes, is an easily discernible hit. Though on the pricier end (a typical bowl costs around $11), Poke Parlor’s salads loaded with fresh raw fish and unlimited toppings are well worth the investment.
In similarly exciting fashion came the reopening of Mezzo and Raleigh’s restaurants after both had to close following a fire in 2011. Mezzo’s main attraction is its surprisingly filling salad (one that, rumor has it, Smart Alec’s reproduced following Mezzo’s closure — a speculation only further stoked by the oddly coincidental timing of Smart Alec’s closure just as Mezzo reopened). Raleigh’s, on the other hand, is a perfect addition to the bar scene. Though different from each other, both places offer a modern aesthetic with a friendly, relaxed ambiance.
On campus, frequenters of Wurster Hall may have noticed a surprising change — Ramona’s Café is no more, instead replaced by Rice and Bones, a Vietnamese restaurant. The former location of Ramona’s had been under renovations for over a year and, although the former café accepted student meal points, the new eatery does not. In fact, some feel it’s unusually pricey, especially given how few options it seems to offer compared to Ramona’s. That being said, the comfortable seating and convenient location still make it a popular spot for cram sessions and study breaks alike.
While Rice and Bones has been met with mixed reviews, Tender Greens, which opened downtown in February, has been a hit — the ideal blend of well-crafted comfort food and a substantial vegan menu is perfect for any dining occasion, whether it be a first date or a DoorDash order.
And even Chipotle fans also have reason to rejoice — the chain is opening an additional location in Downtown Berkeley, which may finally put a dent in the out-the-door lines its Telegraph location endures daily.
With so many sweet and savory developments taking place in 2017, it’s anyone’s game as to what future Berkeley students will be munching on.
Shannon O’Hara is the special issues editor. Contact her at [email protected].