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Weekly Dish: SF Housing Head Opening Berkeley Restaurant

Embattled Housing Authority chief turns to comfort food; Shane McAnally dishes on new Healdsburg spot; opening updates on Penrose in Oakland, Ikes in Walnut Creek, and Patxis in Livermore; and more in this week's Dish!


So what do you do when you're nudged out of the top public housing position in San Francisco? You start a comfort food restaurant across the Bay, of course. Fresh from taking a leave of absence from his position as executive director of the city's Housing Authority, Henry Alvarez and his wife Dionne Roberts are taking a stab at the dining biz with plans to open up Next Door Restaurant at 3290 Adeline Street, the former home of Addie's Pizza Pie in Berkeley.

Alvarez has made local headlines in recent months after a series of stories by the San Francisco Chronicle raised questions over his leadership of the city's Housing Authority, which he has helmed since 2008 and where he is the subject of several lawsuits.  Alvarez took the leave of absence in late January and will not renew his contract when it expires on June 12. Reached over the phone, Alvarez said he and his wife have been talking about opening a restaurant for more that three years, more earnestly in the last 18 months since he's neared the end of his contract.

Henry Alvarez"Maybe it's a midlife crisis, I'll let you know in about a year," Alvarez joked about his first restaurant venture. "We're moving forward on this dream and we'll see how it goes—it just might be easier than [working at the Housing Authority.]"

As for the concept, Alvarez said they would be serving global comfort food, with International dishes joining classic hearty American fare like steak, pork chops, ribs, and fried chicken. The idea of Next Door, says the Oakland resident,  is to "create a comfortable community space where you can hang out and meet your neighbors." He's brought on an experienced Oakland hand to run the kitchen in former Purple Plum chef Sharon Lorraine, who cooked at César Berkeley before that and has been working as a caterer and private chef more recently.

While Alvarez declined to talk about the controversy surrounding his departure from the Housing Authority, he did cite his professional experience in helping him do his homework on the new restaurant location. "I definitely did my research and looked at the demographics," he said. "We were really excited about what we found: there are a lot of new young families and middle income folks coming into that neighborhood, and as far as I can tell, there isn't any dinner facility within a mile, so we think that could be really good for us."

Next Door will be open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner, plus weekend brunch. Look for an opening around May 1. 3290 Adeline Street, Berkeley, nextdoorberkeley.com.

Hey, before I forget, remember to vote for your favorites, food or otherwise, in Diablo's Best of the East Bay. We just put up the ballot, so CLICK HERE to vote it up!

Let's talk Walnut Creek rumors, shall we?

Following news of Tara's Organic Ice Cream headed to Pleasanton, I heard slightly more specific rumors about ice cream sandwich specialist CREAM coming to Walnut Creek. The scoop? They're eying Bonanza Street specifically for their new shop, although nothing has been signed.

Also, word on the street, is that the long-delayed, much-anticipated Ike's sandwich shop near Buckhorn Grill could be open in as soon as a week. Actually, that's not a rumor, owner Ike Shehadeh told me that himself—he's just waiting for one final permit before opening his doors.

Beyond the Creek reports whispers of a new Pinkberry coming in where Brandy Melville used to be downtown. Nothing definite yet thought.

Anyone who drives around downtown Walnut Creek will know that there's a major new development going up at 1500 Newell Ave near the Kaiser hospital. Well, rumor has it the developers of that mixed use project (that's a rendering of it at left from the north perspective) are in talks with a high-end Italian chain restaurant, as well as a brewpub, to anchor the ground floor. I'll get specifics as soon as I have them. 

And as intriguing as that is, the buzz on the restaurant that will occupy the über high-profile project at 1500 Mt. Diablo Blvd is even louder. It's such a prime (kitty-corner to Neiman Marcus with views of Mt. Diablo) and challenging (the plan is for the restaurant to spread out over three floors) location, that it's believed developer Brian Hirahara is looking to bring in a big-time restaurateur, possible from San Francisco, who can make it a real destination dining spot (click below for a virtual fly-by of the preliminary plans). Based on Hirahara's track record—Sasa, Va de Vi—it should be very interesting to see what, and who, winds up there...

Speaking of Va de Vi, I had a chance to catch up with former executive chef Shane McAnelly, who filled me in on the exciting new project he's involved with up in Wine Country. Hired on by investor and winery owner Bill Foley, McAnelly is helping open and will be the executive chef of Chalkboard Bistro & Wine Bar, which is replacing the lauded Cyrus restaurant in the Les Mars Hotel in Healdsburg. The former Va de Vi and Zero Zero chef told me that Chalkboard would be very similar to Va de Vi in its approach and philosophy: shareable small plates with plenty of wine, but keeping a fun, casual, unpretentious environment. "It's going to have that same no-rules vibe: we're not going to tell you what to eat and drink," he said. Along those same lines, they'll be tearing down the drapes, putting in hardwood floors, and opening up the kitchen in an effort to bring some more energy into the dining room. "Cyrus was awesome, but we're just looking to do something different here."

Rather than Va de Vi's global small plates, however, McAnelly said the menu would emphasize modern Californian cuisine with a serious emphasis on farm to table. Foley's Chalk Hill Winery is devoting three acres to growing produce just for the restaurant, even including home-grown mushrooms. Needless to say, McAnelly is excited. "I'm just pinching myself, it's like a chef's dream up here." Look for Chalkboard to debut in late April, early May. 29 North Street, Healdsburg.

Couple more updates on high-profile spots. I checked in with Pizzaiolo and Boot & Shoe Service–owner Charlie Hallowell, who told me his planned Penrose & Company Fine Meats & Spirits (now that's a name) is now on pace to open in June. Penrose, which sounds like its been a bit of a slog to get open, is a departure for Hallowell in that it's a more meat-centric, bar and grill concept. And while it looks like he won't have room for his planned butcher/meat shop at that Grand Ave location, Hallowell said he is close to securing another spot for it nearby. Anything else happening for Charlie? Not likely, as the always cheeky Oakland restaurateur told me jokingly (I think), that after Penrose opened he might just "pull a Bilbo Baggins" and disappear altogether. Let's hope not...

Commis chef-owner James Syhabout's new Box and Bells project has been hosting a series of pop-up dinners at his Hawker Fare to test out the planned Rockridge restaurant's menu. Feedback has been mostly positive about the food, which sounds like it'll be eclectic and indulgent: Berkeleyside reports Syhabout and executive chef Benjamin Coe describing it as the kind of food that chefs like to cook for themselves on their off day or after work. Here's a link to the second pop-up menu, which includes such items as fried chicken with raw oyster mayonnaise, duck eggs and mushroom pickle with green garlic and spinach, and poutine with blood pudding gravy, cheese curds, and gravy. So yeah, eclectic and indulgent... CLICK HERE for Berkeleyside's nice round-up of the meal.  Last time I checked, they were aiming for a May opening.

Also looking at a May opening is the aera's other upcoming high-profile restaurant, A16 Rockridge.

More openings updates...

Blue Gingko sushiBlue Gingko and Sasa–owner Philip Yang's new Momo sushi restaurant is officially opening tonight in downtown Pittsburg: Look for a similar menu to Blue Gingko and an all-day happy hour starting at 3 p.m. Sweet...

Patxi's pizza in Livermore is set for a late April debut.

Jason's Hot Pot, coming to 1845 Willow Pass Road in Concord, will apparently be Contra Costa County's first hot pot and dumplings full service restaurant, for what that's worth. Check out the progress on Facebook.

The popular Troy Greek in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood is opening up a new restaurant, replacing the shuttered AG Ferrari on Solano Ave.

Jamaican eatery Kingston's 11 is coming to 2270 Telegraph in Oakland according to East Bay Express.

Coconut Macaroons at Cake // Photo by Erika PinoSome bittersweet news to report, as Scream Sorbet in Oakland officially closed its doors, while leaving open the possibility of reopening if an angel investor appears.

Also closed down unexpectedly is Cake, the great little bakery that replaced Teacake in Fiesta Square and which just opened last year. There is hope however, as I got in touch with owner Andrea Quinn, who told me she was hoping to reopen pending "restructuring." Nothing definite yet, but I'll keep you posted...

Closed for "remodeling" as well is Destino, the Mexican concept from former Somerset-owner Gary Rizzo that also opened last year on Grand Avenue near Camino.

Finally, Eat + Lounge, which replaced Sea Salt on Berkeley's San Pablo Ave is already closed. It actually debuted earlier this year, so that didn't last long...

Speaking of Camino, the Grand Ave restaurant is debuting Kebob Mondays all this month with a three-course prix fixe menu featuring different spins on the mighty kebob. Exact menu and price change weekly, but CLICK HERE to check out last Monday's menu...

Also happening:

The always delicious Élevé debuted its long-awaited front patio with outdoor seating. Should be a nice place for lunch once the weather officially warms up.

Jack London Square's Lungomare, the Italian restaurant that replaced Miss Pearl's, debuted its adjoining cafe and weekend brunch service. Dishes include Blood orange French toast, organic eggs with braised pork shoulder hash and wild arugula, and red kuri squash ravioli with brown butter and sage.

Lafayette's Pizza Antica is hosting a decadent-sounding porchetta dinner next Tuesday, a three-course meal for $60 featuring chef Bradley Ceynowa’s housemade porchetta paired with "pig-friendly Italian wines." CLICK HERE for the menu.

Bocanova's Rick's Supper Club dinner is happening tomorrow (Thursday), and the theme is platanos (plantains) paired wines from Saintsbury of Napa. $68 will get you a five-course family-style meal with plenty of plantains: CLICK HERE to check out the menu.

District opened it's Carriage House, which offers to-go only service out of the backside of the Old Oakland restaurant, including Boston clam chowder ($4/$7), spiced lamb meatballs ($10) with charmoula sauce and Manchego on an Acme baguette; and buttermilk fried chicken ($9)

Belcampo in LarkspurI wrote about Belcampo Meat Company a while ago, it's a cool concept from Eat Real Festival founder Anya Fernald, who owns and operates her own ranch, slaughter house, and butcher shops, the first of which just opened up in Larkspur—humane, free-range, the whole deal. Well, you can now get cuts of their meat delivered to your front door via a new online store (that includes a full 28-pound rack of Wagyu beef for $2,000). There are cheaper options as well... Tablehopper has a nice round-up of new delivery-based companies that focus on quality, local products: CLICK HERE to check it out.

I Dished a few weeks ago about the new Marrow lunch spot from mobile food vendor pioneer Jon Kosorek, founder of Jon's Street Eats. Berkeleyside Nosh has a nice story about how other food truck folk are going wheel-less with brick & mortar spaces (while not necessarily ditching their trucks), including Gail Lillian of Liba Falafel and Roland Robles of Fiveten Burgers.

Also via Berkeleyside, yet more ramen and a Top Dog in Berkeley switches to (gasp!) pizza. Now that's just odd...

Finally, a quick shout-out to Enoteca Molinari in Oakland. Had a really nice meal at this tiny little Italian wine bar the other night. Enoteca is a place that does light Italian really well, and offers some of the best, most refreshing salads, I've tasted in the East Bay, including the below dazzler with shaved fennel, blood orange, pickled red onion and olives. Super simple but interesting (I wouldn't have thought olives would pair nicely with blood orange, but they did) and reasonably priced at $8. Great antipasti (below right) as well with spicy coppa and a wonderful fontina-like Taleggio cheese. Check 'em out!

5474 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 428-4078, enoteca-molinari.com.

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Porchetta Dinner menu at Pizza Antica

frisée, arugula, and shaved fennel salad,
pecorino romano, saba
pecorino, la valentina, abruzzo 2011
house made porchetta,
shelling bean ragu, rapini
langhe nebbiolo, martinenga, marchesi di gresy 2011
rosso di montepulciano, poliziano 2010
panna cotta,
winter citrus, polenta shortbread cookie

exclusive of tax and gratuity. To reserve, call us at 925 299 0500.

KEBAB MONDAY MENU at Camino~ $38

-- Puntarelle, radish and beet salad with boiled egg

-- Grilled duck breast kebab and duck-brisket-walnut kofte kebab with red lentils, rutabaga, herbs, chiles, yogurt and grilled flatbread

-- Yogurt-sesame pudding with citrus

Platanos a Plenty at Rick's Supper Club

Shrimp & Plantain Empanadas—escabeche sauce
Ecuadorian Plantain & Seafood Soup—toasted peanuts
Citrus, Avocado & Tostones Salad—burnt grapefruit vinaigrette
Plantain-Crusted Sea Bass—pepper salsa
Roasted Marinated Pork—onion salsa
Roasted Plantain & Eggplant—guiso sauce
Braised Drunken Plantains—red wine & brown sugar
Plantain Tart Tatin – pobalno ice cream
Housemade Chocolates 

Happy Hour Bar & Bites at
The Cooperage

Monday through Friday
3pm – 5:30pm


This isn’t your typical happy hour. This quintessential neighborhood spot offers high-quality craft cocktails on tap and tasty bites. Menu features: $10 cocktails on tap, $5 select beer & wine, $1 oysters, $7 bacon cheeseburger sliders, $7 crispy beer battered shrimp sliders, $9 sashimi-grade ahi tuna tartare. 

32 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette
​Reservations: www.thecooperagelafayette.com or 925.298.5915

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