Weekly Dish: The Melt Hits Berkeley

Grilled cheesy goodness spreads to Berkeley; get Simply Delicious in Danville this Memorial Day weekend; In-N-Out is open in Pleasant Hill; new details on Beer Revolution in Oakland, Citra Grille in Walnut Creek, and Café Fanny’s replacement in Berkeley;



What is it about melted cheese? Something about that gooey goodness taps directly into our comfort food zone, and judging by the number of deep-dish pizzerias (Patxi's and Zachary's) and menus filled with entire mac and cheese sections (Homeroom, Jack's), restaurateurs have taken notice. The latest to enter the East Bay cheese fray is The Melt, a restaurant that focuses specifically on serving grilled cheese sandwiches (sharp cheddar on potato bread, jalapeño jack on sourdough) and soups (two tomato basil, wild creamy mushroom). Started last year by SF-based FLIP video camera-founder Jonathan Kaplan, The Melt currently has three locations in the city, one at Stanford in Palo Alto, and has national ambitions. This would be the first East Bay store and it's going to be located, wisely, right near UC Berkeley (I know that melted cheese was the unofficial fifth food group during my college days). (credit to Grubstreet for breaking this)

I wasn't able to get a hold of anyone from The Melt team, so no word yet on an opening date, but it'll be taking over a former retail space at 2400 Telegraph Ave, just a couple blocks from campus. I'm assuming the menu is going to be the same (CLICK HERE to check it out), as well as the capability to place your order via smart phone and have it ready for you, gooey and cheesy, upon arrival...


Speaking of techies-turned-foodies, I checked in with Ramin Behtash, a Silicon Valley veteran who is opening Citra Grill across from the movie theater in Walnut Creek. Or trying to open, I should say. The bright-eyed first-time restaurateur was originally hoping to open late last year (with plans to open additional locations at a later date) but has instead received a crash course in the bureaucratic/permitting hell that often accompanies opening a dining establishment in the Bay Area. "Oh man, I'm dying, I'm just dying," an exasperated—but still good-natured—Behtash told me. The good news is that, despite the frequent setbacks, he acquired his permit to bring in food, allowing him to start fine tuning the planned menu of fresh grilled meats and veggies served on fresh-baked bread, plus salads and a few sides and desserts. So what's the new opening date? "I'm really hoping four weeks," Behtash says. "Of course, that's what I said four weeks ago."


If you're sticking around for the Memorial Day weekend, make sure to block off some time on Saturday to check out Simply Delicious Danville. It's a day-long culinary walking tour of Danville's hopping restaurant scene in which $48 gets you tastes from a number of downtown favorites including Amber Bistro, Bridges, AuburnJames Tasting Room, Danville Chocolates, Peasant and the Pear, Mangia Mi, Sideboard, Junebug Bakery, Incontro, and the local farmers market. The event lasts for five hours starting at 10 a.m., so by my math that breaks down to two meals per hour, not a bad deal. (And CLICK HERE to take advantage of a 50% off discount that'll last for another day.)
$48, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., downtown Danville, simplydeliciousdanville.eventbrite.com


Women in Wine 2010Love women? Love wine? Check out Prima's always popular Women in Wine dinner happening tonight, Wednesday, May 23, starting at 6:30 p.m. This year's impressive list of female winemakers in attendance are Carole Meredith from Lagier-Meredith, Carissa Mondavi from Continuum, Remi Barrett from La Sirena, Tracey Brandt from Donkey & Goat Wines, Nancy Walker from School House, and Sabrine Rodems from Wrath. And the dinner menu looks impressive as well (CLICK HERE to check it out). Tickets are $88, call Prima at (925) 935-7780 to reserve a spot. 1522 North Main Street, Walnut Creek, (925) 935-7780, primawine.com.


Alice Water's recently-closed and much-lamented Cafe Fanny will soon have a replacement. Per Berkeleyside, the new restaurant will be called Bartavelle Coffee and Wine Bar and Berkeleyside reports that the joint venture between Chef Suzanne Drexhage and coffee guru Sam Sobolewski should be open in about eight weeks. Drexhage told The Chron that Bartavelle would be "a little coffee and wine bar" in the French and Italian mode with Sightglass Coffee, different toasts and pastries in the morning, and "a small list of frequently rotating wines and 'wine bar food.'"


A few more details on Beer Revolution's restaurant expansion next door in Jack London Square. According to owner Fraggle, he's hoping to open up the Old Depot (it'll be located in an old train depot next door to Beer Revolution) by late summer, early fall. Appropriately, the new restaurant will offer 23 beers on tap, while the food will be "European-vegetarian," with vegan sausages featuring prominently. In fact, Fraggle, who is a vegan himself along with his wife, said the menu would be completely vegan—a chef should be announced shortly. The Trappist // Photo by Colin Burke McClureThere will be a small outdoor patio and it will be open for lunch and dinner. Beer Revolution, 464 3rd St., Oakland, (510) 452-2337, beer-revolution.com.


And more beer news. I spoke with Trappist co-owner Chuck Stilphen, who gave me a few more details on his upcoming Trappist Provisions in Rockridge. Similar in orientation to his ØL Beer Cafe in Walnut Creek, the bottleshop/bar hybrid will be much smaller (800 square feet) and likely have ten beers on tap, 2-300 by bottle, and a just a few bar bites to snack on. Stilphen said he's tentatively shooting for a September opening and would like to stay open as late as 2 a.m.

Of exciting note for beer geeks, Mikkel Borg Bjergso of the renowned Danish brewery Mikkeller will be making an appearance at The Trappist on June 5, the first time he's come to the East Bay. The Old Oakland bar will be pouring 20 Mikkeller beers on tap in honor of the occasion. CLICK HERE for the details. 460 8th St., Oakland, (510) 238-8900, thetrappist.com.


Delica will apparently not be expanding to Walnut Creek. I checked in at the interesting Japanese take-out centric restaurant in San Francisco's Ferry Building that was rumored to be opening a new East Bay location and an employee told me that the project is off. 


On the topic of rumors, there have been a few floating around about the imminent demise of Petar's, the Lafayette institution and home to legendary lounge singer Diamond Dave. Not the case according to owner Nostrat Kermaninejad, who says he has a long-term lease there and isn't planning on going anywhere. 32 Lafayette Cir., Lafayette, (925) 284-7117, petars.com.


A couple closing that have happened. Was sad to hear that Addie's Pizza Pie closed in Berkeley. The joint project between Jennifer Millar from Sweet Adeline bakery and Thomas Schnetz of Doña Tomas served really good pizza and a mean frozen custard. Also, sorry to hear that Hana Sushi, a little restaurant with a big reputation, shut its doors in Danville. No word yet on replacements. Editor's note: Hana Sushi is not closed, we apologize for the error.


Some cool food truck news: San Francisco-based mobile food event organizers Off the Grid are partnering with real estate firm Jamestown to start a once-a-week food truck gathering every Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Alameda South Shore Center in the parking lot adjacent to Petco. Starting this Saturday, June 2, there will be a rotating group of 8-10 food trucks featuring the usual cast of characters including CupKates, Brass Kuckle, Five Ten Burger, Curry Up Now, Hapa SF, Mayo & Mustard, Dosa Truck and Seoul on Wheels. For up-to-date info on who's coming, go to Off The Grid's Facebook page, facebook.com/OffTheGridSF.


Skates on the Bay just unveiled a new renovation to better show off their fantastic location on the very edge of the Berkeley Marina. Skates now has a new raw bar, a glass-walled private dining room, and a new "Pacific driven, seasonal menu" focusing on fresh seafood and classic American dishes. New items include Bloody Mary fresh oyster shooters with Absolut Peppar vodka, tomato, horseradish and black pepper ($4.95);  hamachi sashimi with cilantro, jalapeño, lime, tomato and smoked sea salt ($12.95); smoked salmon chowder with crispy salmon skin, salmon roe and chives ($8.25); house-cured Wild Alaskan Salmon Carpaccio with mustard aioli, cream cheese, capers, pickled fennel and crispy bacon ($12.95); and steamed fresh mussels with Point Reyes Farmstead blue cheese, bacon and green onions ($12.95). 100 Seawall Drive, Berkeley, (510) 549-1900, skatesonthebay.com.


Prima's Women in Wine Dinner Menu

Passed Appetizers
Prosecco Crostini with English Peas, Mascarpone & Mint
Ahi Tuna Spiedini With Orange Toasted Fennel Seed
Pizzette Bianci with Arugula, Prosciutto & Beshamella
Polenta Crostini with Pears, Marinated Red Onion, Gorgonzola & Pinenut

Antipasto: Shrimp and Potato Salad with Olives & Basil

Primo Piatto: Canneloni al Forno Filled with Slow Simmered Niman Ranch Beef, baked in Porcini Sauce with Bechamella

Secondo Piatto: Tolenas Ranch Quail Stuffed with Pistachio Farcito, roasted with Pancetta & Sage Buttered Vegetables

Dolce: Strawberry Tiramisu