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Weekly Dish: Umami Burger Opens in Oakland

Gourmet burger joint debuts in Uptown; artisan cocktails headed for Livermore; Drake's commits to Oakland; Bar Dogwood expanding; a new micro distillery in the Tri-Valley; Smitten to Lafayette? and more in this week's Dish!


Good news for East Bay burger fans. After months of delays, Umami Burger quietly opened its doors this week in Uptown Oakland. The quickly expanding chain started in Los Angeles and made its name by offering gourmet burgers (house-ground, hand-formed meat) with unique, higher-end ingredients. Options include the Manly Burger with beer-cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, and smoked-salt onion rings (this one is great, I’ve tried it); a Truffle Burger with roasted garlic aioli, house truffle cheese and truffle glaze; or the Original with shiitake mushrooms, toasted tomato, caramelized onions, and a parmesan crisp. There are also fun sides like smushed potatoes, tempura onion rings, fried pickles, and fries to which you can add truffle cheese, truffle salt, and beer-cheddar. Interior of Umami OaklandEach location gets its own specialty burger as well. Oakland’s? Loosen your belt: it’ll be a Queso Fundido Burger topped with housemade chile con queso and chorizo fundido sauce (pictured above). There are salads too, by the way.

For what it's worth, I’ve been to the San Francisco location and they really are pretty impressive burgers. Plus, the prices ($10–12) actually aren’t that bad when measured against today’s soaring gourmet burger costs. 2100 Franklin Street, Ste. 2190, Oakland, (510) 899-8626, umami.com/umami-burger/eats/umami-oakland.

In other gourmet burger news, Chris Kronner of San Francisco’s Kronnerburger says he is getting closer to securing a new restaurant location in Uptown. In the meantime, you can check out his burger skills this Saturday in Oakland; he’ll be popping up at noon at Elder & Pine, a vintage clothing store at 423 40th Street.

Some more Uptown news. San Leandro’s popular Drake’s Brewery has officially signed a lease to be open a beer garden on Broadway, according to city officials. Drakes will be a part of the first phase of the new mixed-use retail and housing project at 23rd and Broadway by Signature Development’s Mike Ghielmetti. In addition to Drakes, Numi Tea will be moving its headquarters to the new development (although they apparently will not be opening a tea garden as originally planned), while co-working incubator Hub Oakland will move into another space. It’s been previously reported that restaurateur Chris Pastena, of Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern, and Lungomare, is planning a high-end Mexican restaurant. drinkdrakes.com

And yet more Uptown news… Bar Dogwood, the elegant watering hole on Telegraph Avenue just down the street from the Fox Theater, is expanding. Owner Alexeis Filipello will take over the retail space next door on 17th Street, meaning her bar will soon span that entire tiny block from Telegraph to Broadway. Pretty cool. bardogwood.com

Plenty of booze news out in Livermore…

First up is a new artisan cocktail bar that’s coming to downtown this fall. Pleasanton-resident Rick Dobbs is a longtime bartender who runs a cocktail consultancy business (Cocktails GoGo), and says he’s aiming to offer the type of crafted cocktails with top-shelf ingredients that you might find in a place like Oakland’s Flora. Dobbs along with his wife Theresa, a chef (she externed at Oliveto) and caterer who will be in charge of the food, are taking over a 1,600-square-feet space right next to the newly opened Patxis Pizza. Dobbs, who has been looking for the right location for two years, says he wants his planned bar, The Last Word, to have a friendly but sophisticated vibe and, importantly, no televisions. “That’s a big issue for me—I'll see women all dressed up for a date night and the men will just be staring at a TV behind their head. The idea behind this bar is to have a place to eat, drink, and gather—we want to bring that sense of community back.”

Food will be mostly small plates with a California cuisine bent, plus one larger “blue plate special” entrée. Dobbs says he’s hoping to keep late hours: open until midnight during the week and until 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. As for an opening date? Dobbs is hoping to launch in late September or October.

Dobbs might have a new local liquor to work with as Livermore’s first micro distillery could be open around the same time. Sutherland Distilling Company, the brainchild of brothers Barry and Ryan Sutherland and friend Eric Larimer, will focus on making small-batch, high quality craft spirits with an emphasis on using local ingredients. According to Larimer, the Sutherland team hopes to become street legal (there are a lot of permitting hoops to jump through) by September, and plan to debut with a couple of classics, vodka and rum, before trying anything more experimental. Unlike many small distillers, Sutherland is making its own mash (what the liquor is distilled from) from scratch, rather than outsourcing. “We’re not really interested in purchasing bulk,” says Larimer. “This way, we have complete control over the ingredients and the process, and we think that will reflect in the final product. And that’s the enjoyment of it for us—to sit down, have fun, and come up with some great spirits.”
Check out their Facebook page for more info: facebook.com/SutherlandDistillingCompany

Finally, Livermore’s award-winning winery Cuda Ridge will soon be debuting a new tasting room and winery at 2400 Arroyo Road. The move marks impressive growth in a short amount of time for the winery, whose small lot Bordeaux-style wines have garnered some nice critical acclaim—it’s 2010 Merlot was awarded 89 points by Wine Ethusiast, two others scored 88, and the winery received five medals at this year’s SF Chronicle Wine Competition. The new property across will be the home to the winery’s Estate Petit Verdot, and a 1,500-square-foot tasting room, space for private tastings, and outdoor picnic area. Co-owner Larry Dino says they are currently moving from their previous East Avenue location, and hope to reopen in the new spot on the weekend of August 10–11. cudaridgewines.com

Just a bit more Oakland news…

The Star, the deep dish pizza joint at 3425 Grand Avenue is now open. thestarongrand.com

According to East Bay Express, Curbside Oakland is opening a store in Temescal Alley. Currently operating out of a mobile trike, Curbside has a focus on cashew-based vegan ice creams. curbsideoakland.com. They’ve got a Kickstarter campaign also, CLICK HERE to kick in a few dollars.

And finally, it’s been reported that Smitten Ice Cream, they of the liquid nitrogen, made-in-60-seconds ice cream is opening a new location in Rockridge. Well, rumor is the popular San Francisco-based company could also be expanding to Lafayette, where it could take over the Cold Stone Creamery in Fiesta Square. Should have more info on this next week… smittenicecream.com

Some small bites for you... 

According to Berkeleyside, a new Mediterranean restaurant is set to move into the former Picoso Taqueria space in the Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Garden. It’ll be called Flavor Mediterranean Food from executive chef Ezra Malmuth (she interned at Chez Panisse), who will serve fare with “California simplicity and elevating the flavor with the excitement of Middle Eastern Spice.” Go to facebook.com/flavorberkeley for more info.

Also per Berkeleyside Nosh, it’s a half-victory for Rasputin Music owner Ken Sarachanin in his bid to sell ice cream out of his Berkeley store on Telegraph Ave. CLICK HERE for that story

► In Pleasanton, Walmart’s Neighbrhood Market (seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it?) is opening on July 17 on Santa Rita Road, according to Pleasanton Weekly. It’s replacing the old Nob Hill supermarket.

► Also, VooDoo Kitchen is closed for a remodel, to reopen with a similar concept but now called The Cove.

► Heard from Vanessa’s Bistro 2 owner Michael Nguyen, who said his Vietnamese small plates eatery is back up and running at full strength with a full menu after relocating from North Main Street to 1512 Locust Street. Check ‘em out for “Tapas Tuesdays,” for 50% off all tapas and $6 Avion Margaritas.

► Chinese restaurant Iron Kitchen is replacing the Chinese restaurant Basil Leaf in Moraga, per Beyond the Creek.

Couple o’ foodie events happening…

Pizza Antica in Lafayette is hosting a beer dinner with Walnut Creek resident and Calicraft Brewery founder Blaine Landberg this coming Tuesday, July 16. It’s $45 per guest. Call (925) 299-0500 to reserve a spot and CLICK HERE to check out the menu below:

BUILD Pizzeria Roma in downtown Berkeley will be hosting a Meet the Brewer event with Speakeasy Brewery today (Wednesday) from 5 to 7 p.m. in which a brewery rep will discuss pizza and beer pairings, while the restaurant highlights Speakeasy ales and lagers.

Berkeley’s Café Rouge is hosting a knife skills class this coming Monday, July 15, which will teach home chefs how to “sharpen, care for and use your knife in the kitchen.” 6:30 p.m., $80. call (510) 525-1440 or email marsha@caferouge.net

Camino Berkeley rotates monthly themed prix fixe specials on its Monday menu, and the July version sounds like a winner. This month’s special ingredient? Steak! $45 gets you appetizer and dessert, plus a grilled rib eye steak and shortribs with smoky tomatoes, corn and greens.

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Pizza Antica / Calicraft dinner menu

Ciccioli and Mayfield Bakery & Cafe levain
paired with Cali Coast
Stone Valley farm pork belly, Anson mills grits, braised collard greens
Paired with Summer Wit
Chocolate malt semifreddo
Paired with Oaktown Brown