Matiki Island BBQ & Brew opens Berkeley location

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Amanda Ramirez/Senior Staff

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Matiki Island BBQ & Brew opened its second Bay Area location Saturday, bringing classic Hawaiian flare to Northside Berkeley.

The restaurant specializes in Polynesian-style barbeque prepared to order and doubles as a sports bar with various types of craft beer. The Berkeley location, which was opened by Joseph Mendoza, Criz Raneses and Joseph Mangova, now stands in the space previously occupied by The Daily Pint, a restaurant and bar which recently closed its doors.

“We started in San Jose — we’re like a block away from San Jose State, and we were really successful there,” Raneses said. “We then found this great location and thought ‘Oh, we’re a block away from UC Berkeley,’ and decided to open a Matiki’s here.”

Matiki’s roots are in Southern California. The first location was founded by Melvin “Uncle Mel” Liufau, a fire dancer who immigrated to the U.S. and met his wife Ricki “Aunty Ricki” Liufau, a hula dancer. The couple then opened a Hawaiian dance studio in Anaheim, according to Raneses, and when a spot opened next to the studio in 1996, Uncle Mel decided to open a restaurant.

According to Mendoza, Matiki’s recent move to a family-run franchise was originally his idea.

Mendoza said he told Uncle Mel that he wanted to open a Matiki of his own outside of Southern California since he had to move for his previous job. Uncle Mel and Aunty Ricki initially had their doubts about this idea, and while it was clear that Mendoza wanted to take Matiki with him, it took five years of convincing to make the move to the Bay Area.

“I have always been into food,” Mendoza said. “I used to cater, and my mom had a café. When I tasted their recipes, I knew that their food could grow.”

The restaurant’s menu includes big beef ribs, short ribs and a traditional Lau Lau plate with pork and fish wrapped in taro and banana leaves. Matiki also offers spam musubi —  grilled spam with rice wrapped in seaweed — as well as kalua pork and cabbage, a plate that takes five hours to prepare, according to Raneses.

The average price of a plate is $12.50, though Matiki also offers bowls with smaller portions for less than ten dollars. Raneses added that the owners make extra efforts to let students know about their more affordable options. Matiki also offers a catering service and hosts private parties.

“I think it’s good for new businesses to move in,” Benito Ochoa, a cook at the nearby La Burrita, said. “I don’t think (Matiki) will affect us — I feel we have our own customer base already.”

Though customers have not been consistent, Raneses said she thinks business is picking up with both the food and the bar. Mendoza added that he wants to create a family environment with a “chill vibe” for Matiki’s customers.

Contact Clara Rodas at [email protected]/a> and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.