Weekly Dish: Nibblers Expands to Berkeley
Pleasant Hill owners taking over Locanda da Eva location; new tenants for Bing Crosby's; Vesu closes; a plethora of Tri-Valley openings; and more in this week's Dish!
Nibblers in Pleasant Hill
Yikes, when it rains it pours. Bunch of Dish this week—let's get started!
Daniel Clayton and Trace Leighton of Nibblers Eatery and Wine Bar in Pleasant Hill are venturing west, bringing their farm-based local, sustainable fare to where it all started. The two co-owners are expanding to Berkeley, taking over the former Locanda da Eva space on 2826 Telegraph Avenue, a somewhat hard-luck location that has seen multiple incarnations over the last several years, including Casa de Eva, Mazzini, Zax Tavern, and Maritime East—Locanda lasted just five months before first time restaurateur and food critic Robert Lauriston abruptly shut down operations earlier this year.
“We really loved the space, I think I’ve been to every iteration of the restaurant spaces there. It's a nice central location without being overrun, so its still got that neighborhood feel to it, and that fits us really well," Leighton said. "Zax Tavern was probably the most successful restaurant there since Casa, and that formula of comfortable, casual food in a nice environment with some great flavors is similar to the approach we’re taking.”
The new restaurant will be called "Origen: a Farm to Fork Restaurant," and, as you may have guessed from the name, the food will be sourced from local, sustainable farms and venders whenever possible (Origen is a Catalan word meaning “from the source”). Leighton says that Origen will offer a daily changing prix fixe menu in addition to a la carte options with an International flair that will also include casual fare such as a burger and wood fired pizzas to take advantage of the existing brick oven. “We’re taking what we do well at Nibblers, some of the dishes that we really appreciate, and expanding upon that."
Leighton says they hope to be open for dinner by late summer, with the intention of eventually being open all day, breakfast through dinner. The emphasis will be less on wine since they'll now have a full bar to work with (and utilize some of their housemade syrups and liqueurs).
And what about Nibblers? Well, Clayton and Leighton aren't sure yet—they're currently exploring whether it makes sense to keep both restaurants or focus their resources in Berkeley. So closing the Pleasant Hill eatery is a possibility, although Leighton says they are definitely still exploring their options. "We're just looking at it from a perspective that we want to make sure that what we’re doing is great."
It's finally settled who will take over the shuttered Bing Crosby's space in downtown Walnut Creek, and it'll actually be two places. Mill Valley-based Moana Hotel & Restaurant Group just signed on to take over one half of the large space with a new upscale gastropub concept—think suped-up pub food and a large selection of craft beers. Moana, which runs several restaurants, including the nine Piatti Ristorantes, hopes to have the as of yet unnamed restaurant up and running before the end of the year. As for the other half? La Boulange, the San Francisco-based chain of Parisian style cafes, will be opening up another location—they recently debuted their first East Bay stores in Danville and Lafayette. Details are still sketchy, but CLICK HERE for the full story.
Also hot off the presses, Vesu restaurant has shut its doors less than a year after making a splashy opening last May. I haven't been able to get a hold of the very nice owners Christopher Velez and Melisa Suitos, but they may have been victims of bad timing: an expensively remodeled restaurant that opened in the heart of a a major recession. CLICK HERE for my full story (such that it is...)
One chef change of note: after five years, executive chef Chuck Courtney and the Lafayette Park Hotel are parting ways, with Courtney returning to his Pacific Northwest roots to work for the Salish Lodge outside of Seattle. He'll be leaving May 10th, and the hotel is currently looking for a replacement. This follows the departure of Arnold Pulido from Va de Vi and Cyrus Irudistan from Havana.Va de Vi replaced Pulido with Shane McAnelly from Zero Zero, while Havana is currently interviewing candidates and expects to make a decision in a couple of weeks (there are apparently some chefs who have some television exposure in the mix, so stay tuned...).
Also, Prima has a new head sommelier, Sydney Paris, who brings experience from restaurants in San Francisco, New York, Cape Cod, Aspen, and France (he lived in Europe for over a decade).
Some new openings to report in the Tri-Valley.
Liang's Kitchen is replacing AA Tofu House in Dublin's Ulfert's Center. Liang's focuses on Taiwanese cuisine, including Taiwanese noodle and dumpling soups, and has nine other locations spread throughout Northern California. Look for a June opening.
Also look for a June opening for Senro Sushi in San Ramon's Diablo Plaza. it'll be the second location for owner Vince Li, who founded the original Senro in Pleasanton. The new Senro's menu will be very similar, packed with affordable sushi, rolls, and teriyaki.
Also in San Ramon, a new Lourd's ice cream and Panera Bread are coming to the Crow Canyon Commons shopping center—not sure yet on the ETA for those—and Saladz n' More has the same owners and a similar menu but changed its name to Fresh Millions. Explanation for the name change? "Our goal is to provide customers with millions of ways to eat fresh and healthy," according to a store manager.
Finally, City D'Lights relocated to San Ramon Square and has morphed into Cafe Atilla. It's the same owners, and they'll still be offering cakes and pastries while adding some savory options to a cafe that will be open 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday.
Finally some openings to report. Toast Wine Lounge held their grand opening Tuesday; Tender Greens is debuting Friday, April 29th; and Whole Foods is set to open May 18th. And Derrek Johnson from Home of Chicken and Waffles (which wins the award for the most asked about restaurant) assures me that their Walnut Creek location will be open by early May.
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