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Weekly Dish: Ike's Opens

Ike's sandwiches debut in Oakland; Bakesale Betty to extend hours next door; Tender Greens has a new chef; Havana gets a celeb shout-out; two new East Bay cooking schools; and more in this week's Dish!


Photo by Rudy R. // Yelp.com

Good news East Bay sandwich lovers: The well-known sandwicheur (if I can use that as a word) Ike Shehadeh debuted his newest spot, Ike's Lair, in Uptown Oakland on Monday. Located right in the heart of things at 2204 Broadway near Plum, Ozumo, and Luka's Taproom, among other foodie favorites, Ike's brings the eclectic, comprehensive sandwich menu to the East Bay (more than 80 custom creations) that made his shop so popular in San Francisco. Ike's Lair will also carry two Oakland originals: the Foxy Boxy, essentially a horseradish steak sandwich, and the Al Davis, spicy roast beef with bacon, horseradish, and cheese. Referencing nearby Bakesale Betty's reduced hours (the Uptown location is only open on Tuesdays) Shehadeh pointed out that Ike's will be open 7 days a week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. "For those missing Bakesale Betty, you can rest assured that Ike's will always be open for you." Shehadeh also said that he hopes to open his Santa Rosa and Cupertino locations by February and his San Francisco State shop by March. Ike's Lair, 2210 Broadway, Oakland, ikeslair.com.

Speaking of Bakesale Betty, I spoke with Betty herself (owner Alison Barakat) who said that they would soon be expanding the Uptown store's hours to Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting the week of February 28. The Temescal location will remain the same, open lunchtime Wed.-Sat. Barakat and her husband slashed hours at their two Oakland stores last year due to "lifestyle concerns" (they have three children), but Barakat says they hope to eventually go back to seven days a week, breakfast through lunch, at both locations—but don't expect to see that happen for at least a year or so.  bakesalebetty.com.

Tender Greens' Sean CanavanOpening day executive chef Charles Hechinger is out at Walnut Creek's Tender Greens and will be replaced by Sean Canavan. A native of Germany, Canavan brings an impressive, diverse culinary resume that includes stints as chef du cuisine at Roland Passot’s Left Bank Brasserie and renowned Greek restaurant Kokkari, and most recently as executive chef at American brasserie Bluestem in San Francisco. Canavan says he hopes to continue the relationships he built while cooking at Left Bank, specifically sourcing grass-fed beef from Marin Farms and pork from apple-fed pigs from Salmon Creek Ranch in Bodega Bay. I had a nice chat with Canavan, who took over on January 4: CLICK HERE to read the full Q&A. 1352 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-5100, tendergreens.com.

Random food-related email that made me drool: Pizza Antica is bringing back a few winter favorites including this fantastic-looking burrata bruschetta (pictured left). Their description is even better: "Freshly baked ciabatta from our sister restaurant Mayfield Bakery & Cafe is toasted and gently rubbed with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh garlic, topped with tender Tuscan kale and creamy burrata cheese, then finished with a sprinkle of sea salt." I think I know where I'm going for lunch today... Pizza Antica, 3600 Mount Diablo Blvd., Lafayette, (925) 299-0500, pizzaantica.com.

We're big fans of Walnut Creek's Havana restaurant (especially on Mojito Mondays) and so too, apparently, is the Food Network's Robert Irvine. The host of restaurant makeover show "Restaurant Impossible" was in town filming a new episode (he's tackling Pappas restaurant in Benicia) and stopped by Havana for dinner. His slightly garbled rave review via Twitter: "Just had a great meal at Havana in Walnut Creek. Rom the manager, monica our server and we net the owner Joelle:-) YOU have to go and tryit." Sounds like Irvine might have had a couple of those mojitos himself...

Co-owner Joelle Scott also told me that Walnut Creek is in the final stages of approving plans for the new Havana cafe, which they're hoping to open in May. Also look out for a couple of tempting new lunch items from executive chef Nick Di Arenzo coming to the menu in the next couple weeks: a bacon-wrapped hot dog with mango salsa, and a chorizo and beef burger with guava BBQ sauce, shredded lettuce, crispy onions, grilled peppers and cakebox bun. Oh yeah! 1516 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4555, havanarestaurant.net.

A couple of cooking school updates: I spoke with Lisa Evaristo, one of two sisters starting Back to Table cooking school in Lafayette, and she said that construction has started and they're hoping to open at 271 Lafayette Circle and begin classes by April 15. Back to Table will offer a wide range of classes from making your own baby food, to basic cooking techniques and sauces, to Sri Lankan and French food, to lessons geared for adolescents and soon-to-be college students. backtothetablecookingschool.com

And in Berkeley, the casual-gourmet cooking school Kitchen on Fire, located on Shattuck in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto is debuting its second location this Saturday, January 28 in West Berkeley near the new Berkeley Bowl. Founding chefs Olivier Said and MikeC (yes, that's them on the left) will have a little more room to work with: the new school is 2,500 square feet, double the size of their first one. It's located in an off-the-radar section of Berkeley near 7th and Ashby, in the middle of a cluster of wholesale restaurant suppliers and artisinal food producers. If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, they'll be holding a grand opening party this Saturday night from 7 to 9 p.m. where you can meet the chefs and get a signed copy of their new book Kitchen on Fire! Master the Art of Cooking in 12 Weeks. CLICK HERE to read a quick interview with Said (the one on the right). 2940 7th Street, Berkeley, (510) 548-2665, kitchenonfire.com

A couple of new late-night happy hour specials:

Bocanova's deviled eggs for just $1.75!FIVE restaurant in Berkeley's Hotel Shattuck Plaza has a pretty cool new deal: they'll be offering an "After Hour Happy Hour" from 7 to 9 p.m. that includes $3 beer, $5 wine, $8 cocktails, and $5 "nosh" including one of my personal favorites, chef Banks White's delicious mini orzo mac and cheese with tomato jam. 2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, (510) 225-6055, five-berkeley.com.

Once you're done snacking at FIVE, you can just head on over to Jack London Square and hit up Bocanova's ”Late Nite Boca Bites” from 9 to 10:30 p.m., Thurs.-Sat. Drinks include specialty cocktails for $5, Linden Street brew for $2.50 and wine for $6, while the "bocaditos" selection has some nice options including yucca and cheese fritters ($4), daily taco with pickled cabbage ($3.50), and their addictive Dungeness crab deviled eggs with chipotle aioli ($1.75). 55 Webster St., Oakland, (510) 444-1233, bocanova.com.

Speaking of specials, don't forget about all the restaurant week deals out there in the Tri-Valley, Oakland, and San Francisco. It's a great way to check out some top restaurants on the cheap!

Shout-Out of the Week: Nama Sushi

I love sushi. I remember my parents taking me as a kid to the only sushi restaurant in my hometown (Sakura Tokyo, amazingly still around), and being hypnotized by the whole ritual: picking out the exotic fish that I wanted from the picture menu, mixing my wasabi in the soy sauce, and of course the chopsticks (the chefs there used to rig mine with rubber bands so that they would close automatically). Anyway, Nama reminds me a little of Sakura Tokyo, a fun, unpretentious place with really good, fresh sushi. It's normally packed for lunch, but they always seem to find a spot for me right away. I went the other day and ordered my favorites (salmon and hamachi) along with the fun selection of assorted other bites served in the bento box for $11. Not a bad deal, especially for such high-quality fish. And by the way, I can work those chopsticks all by myself now... Check 'em out! 1502 Sunnyvale Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 932-9540.

Please e-mail me with dining news at dish@maildiablo.com

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Interview with new Tender Greens executive chef Sean Canavan

Diablo: So how did you get hooked up with Tender Greens?
Sean Canavan: I've known Tender Greens owner Erik Oberholtzer for a long time. I was pretty excited about Tender Greens and the concept, so when the Walnut Creek location became available I jumped on board.

So what are you hoping to do there?
Over the years, 17 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, and especially at Left Bank and Blue Step Brasserie, I've developed some pretty strong ties and friendships with local ranchers. So buying grass-fed beef and grass-fed lamb, pork that is fed on specific feed programs, goat, veal, whole-animal menus: I plan on bringing those kinds of items here. Because at Tender Greens, obviously we have a core menu, but they are chef-driven restaurants and that’s exactly what Eric wants so I think it’s a perfect fit.

Is it a challenge letting people know that there is more at tender Greens than just the set menu?
Not a bigger challenge than any other restaurant. I think it's just a matter of getting the word out and doing it. Obviously the restaurant is eight-months-old and there’re still a lot of people who don’t know about us. And I'd like to keep getting the word out that we’re not just a premier lunch spot—and our food is great for lunch: fresh salad with protein is exactly what everyone wants for lunch—but implementing these specials and special dinner items will definitely help us in building our dinner business. Because our price point is definitely an incredible value: if you get a plate of locally raised meat with a great salad with a vegetable and a side for $10.50, you tell me where else you can get that?

You seem to have more of a fine dining background: what’s it like for you to come to a more casual format?
It’s definitely completely different from what I’ve done through my entire career. But it’s interesting having the customer contact and seeing people’s faces when you set a great lunch salad or plate in front of them. It’s definitely fun.

Is this the way the restaurant industry is headed?
What I think is that people are tired of being gouged for smoke and mirrors. Fancy restaurants with beautiful décor: there’s definitely a place for that and I’m a big fan. But an honest well-cooked meal for a great price will always be in demand. Especially with the way things are going now, even more so. Is the restaurant industry in general headed in that direction? Well, judging by how many burger places are popping up and how many Michael Minas of this world are opening up their second and third casual restaurants. And people that are high-profile chefs giving up the white tablecloth restaurants and opening up sandwich spots and food trucks. I think there’s definitely a trend going in that direction. We live in an area saturated by great restaurants and there are plenty of choices for white tablecloth dining: some great, some not so great. But if you can get that excellent value on the plate for something another restaurant would charge twice as much for—I think that is definitely a trend, as well it should be.


Interview with Kitchen on Fire co-founder Olivier Said

Diablo: So tell me about the new location?
Olivier Saed: It’s bigger and it can accommodate bigger traffic and more events. It will also relieve the first one (On Shattuck Avenue), which is busy all the time.

Why this particular location?
Well, we got a very good deal. Plus we’re moving into the Rockets [Rocket Restaurant Resource supply store] which is really cool, because there will be a store with all the equipment that people need, so if they want to buy something after taking a class they can. And it’s right behind the new Berkeley Bowl, so people can buy food ingredients too. So no more excuses for not cooking!

How is it different from the old store?
It’s not so much different, but it has newer equipment. And it has parking and it’s close to the freeway so it’s a lot more convenient for people to get there. 

What kind of classes will you have?
We’ll really expand our selection with the new school. We’ll do stuff like one-day special cooking classes, we’ll have a new Asian-based series, a bread baking class. We’re still figuring out the format for the classes, but we’d like to do all-day classes and workshops.

It’s impressive that you’re expanding even given the economy…
Well, the interesting thing is that not a lot of people can afford to go out to eat so instead they’re learning how to cook better for themselves. You can save a lot of money in the long run, and people are also trying to be more conscious about their health and cooking for yourself is almost always more healthy.

Do you have any favorite restaurants where you do like to eat out?
I like Gather in Berkeley. Wood Tavern and their sandwich shop next door, Southie. I like Hudson, they’ve got a really great Happy Hour. True Burger in Oakland.

You used to be the bar manager at Caesar: any interest in getting back into restaurants?
It’s very possible: Maybe open a little bar some day. But for now I think I’m a little busy.