First Bite: Burgers, Squid, and The Divine
Berkeley’s revamped Henry’s spins seasonal magic.
Every once in a while, you hit upon a dish that is divine in its own right, yet reveals a larger truth. In this case: California summer captured in a bowl. Ironically, perhaps, the dish to which I refer is served at Henry’s, a 90-year-old restaurant whose reputation on Cal’s campus had become that of a watering hole and bastion for fried food. On game day, it’s still a madhouse. (Housed in the old Hotel Durant, Henry’s was bought by Graduate Hotels last year and is just a five-minute walk from California Memorial Stadium.)
Even more ironically, the dish I’m waxing poetic on is essentially fried calamari. But not bits and pieces of bready frozen coins; rather, gloriously fresh and crispy forkfuls of Monterey squid resting on oh-so-creamy, just-shucked cranberry beans simmered in fruity olive oil along with whole heirloom tomatoes. Adding seasonal freshness was a duo of lightly blanched pole beans—yellow wax and blue lakes cut into crisp, bite-size batons. And bringing the entire dish together was a double dollop of silky, thick aioli.
The bad news is that since Chris Kronner is an impulsively seasonal chef, the squid preparation may already be gone. The good news is that the dish is merely a reflection of the talents and guile of Kronner, the new culinary director at Henry’s.
Kronner’s menu evolves as fast as a thriving backyard garden, but you can always count on finding a killer burger on offer. (This is the same Kronner behind Piedmont’s now-closed KronnerBurger). His detailed dedication to each essential element—dry-aged beef, pan de mie bun, house-made pickles, secret sauce, and bone marrow (if you choose)—has made him a rock star among millennials.
So, whether you want to experience the Bay Area’s best ingredients in a bowl or just have a helluva good sandwich, check out Henry’s—winter, spring, summer, or fall.
2600 Durant Ave., Berkeley, (510) 809-4132, graduatehotels.com/berkeley/restaurant/henrys. Breakfast and dinner daily. Brunch Fri.–Sun.