The new gourmet ghetto
It’s hard to imagine any neighborhood giving Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto competition as a culinary destination, but the food scene on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland is getting spicy enough to make Shattuck and Vine feel the heat. In fact, two Berkeley favorites, César and Grégoire, have opened second locations on Piedmont Avenue in the past six months. Perhaps the trend can be traced back to the re-opening of Fenton’s, the avenue’s beloved ice cream shop, in 2003.
Opened in February. Featuring a to-go menu identical to the original Berkeley restaurant: rustic French and California cuisine all boxed up and ready to devour, especially those heavenly potato puffs. 4001-B Piedmont Ave., (510) 547-3444, www.gregoirerestaurant.com.
Opened in August. Just like the original César: well-made cocktails, several wines by the glass, and real Spanish tapas. The Oakland location features the mercado, or market, which boasts housewares, ready-to-serve foods, and products imported from Spain. 4039 Piedmont Ave., (510) 985-1200, www.barcesar.com.
Opened in July. Pronounced SIC-lo, this upscale yet casual Vietnamese restaurant took the place of Café Valerian. The restaurant, which is named after Vietnam’s infamous bicycle taxis, offers a large menu of rice paper rolls, noodles, and soups. There’s also a small lounge where you can toss back slickly designed soju and sake cocktails. 4218 Piedmont Ave., (510) 654-2681, www.xyclorestaurant.com.
Expanded in September. This tiny and ever popular Italian restaurant added a wine bar and 20 additional seats for dining. A selection of appetizers, bocconcini—which means small bites—will now accompany the menu of pizza, salad, and house-made pasta and salumi. 4293 Piedmont Ave., (510) 652-3676.
Opened in October 2005. This upscale grocery store offers hard-to-find artisan foods from more than 18 countries. 4301-C Piedmont Ave., (510) 595-3649, www.euromixdeli.com.
Opened in December 2005. This tiki bar replaced the long-lived King’s X. A full bar of tiki drinks and snacks, such as chips and nuts, can be enjoyed amid the elaborate decor. Check out the exploding volcano. 4401 Piedmont Ave., (510) 654-7100.
Messob Ethiopian Restaurant
Opened in September 2005. The former owner of Addis, a much-loved Ethiopian restaurant on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, has brought classic Ethiopian fare to the block. 4301 Piedmont Ave., (510) 428-1122, www.messob.org.