East Bay’s 10 Most Popular Food Stories of 2021
Not every story that Nosh publishes will be a smash hit, and that’s good. As a non-profit media, we don’t have to drive traffic or clicks to stay afloat. That said, we love when one of our posts captures an audience’s imaginations, sparks conversation, or just gets people to try something new.
These are the 10 (or so, I cheated correct a bit) of the stories we posted in 2021 that did one of those things. It was great fun browsing our archives to find these reports, a walk down memory lane that reminded me of how many happy, sad, heartwarming and exciting things have happened on the East Bay food scene this year.
10. Totally bananas: 9 remarkable banana puddings in Berkeley and Oakland
During a summer lunch with Sarah Han, the former editor of Nosh who wrote this guide, I asked what inspired her to write it. “I really like the banana pudding,” she said. Apparently, a lot of other people are enjoying the nostalgic dessert as well, and the story is still catching readers nine months after it was published.
9. Chez Panisse delays its reopening indefinitely
Does Alice Waters know something the rest of us don’t? The iconic Berkeley restaurant had announced a reopening in October in June, during those peaceful post-vaxx days. But as the delta variant caused an increase in cases this fall, the restaurant reversed course and postponed a reopening until 2022. At the time, some reviewers suggested that the restaurant was in the process of being too much careful. But as case rates rise again as I type this, the restaurant’s decision seems downright prescient.
8. One year later, Oakland’s Horn Barbecue is an undeniable success
Horn Barbecue opened in the fall of 2020, and the following summer, founder and pit master Matt Horn promised three more restaurants in East Bay. Journalist Paulina Barrack spoke to Horn about her intense year and when we might expect her new burger spot, new chicken sandwich spot, and breakfast taco trailer.
7. Oakland’s famous Italian restaurant, Oliveto, will close at the end of the year and Berkeley’s popular Rivoli restaurant has died out.
The Oliveto and Rivoli closures could not have been more different, both in practice and in writing. In Rivoli’s case, it was nearly impossible to determine what happened with the spot, which closed without notice after more than 27 years serving loyal customers – many of whom had unused gift vouchers when it closed. . I know this because I always get emails from frustrated and hurt fans of the spot, wondering if it will reopen. Sadly, that won’t be the case, as a company called “Korean Superette” is opening in its old space.
By comparison, Oliveto owner Bob Klein was a beyond-openness book about his decision to shut down, and fans of the 35-year-old Oakland institution have had ample warning. and a sense of closure. Both restaurants were East Bay establishments that spoke of a certain comfortable era and similar clientele. One will be remembered fondly, the other – I’m afraid – with a hint of disappointment at how things turned out.
6. June’s Pizza was a hit in Oakland, until the health department shut it down.
June’s was a cult favorite in East Bay in an area already filled with excellent pizza places. Craig Murli opened his restaurant just days before the Bay Area was closed by the pandemic (March 12, 2020, if you can believe it) and has been doing business at a brisk pace from a shipping container at O2 Artisans Aggregate, handing over thin-crusted slices and pies made with locally sourced flour and a rotating list of toppings. Its closure was less surprising when Murli told journalist Flora Tsapovsky that the operation was not authorized. I suspect we’ll see it with a new restaurant (this time with the proper papers) in 2022.
5. California’s 2021 Michelin Guide Honors 20 East Bay Restaurants as Outstanding, Affordable Places
Michelin, the French guide company that also sells tires (I’ll never tire of writing this) has been criticized for years for what many see as arbitrary distinctions and omissions on its listings. California’s 2021 guide hasn’t escaped such criticism … and yet it’s always nice to see beloved local places like Taqueria El Paisa @ .com, New Dumpling, and Spinning Bones receiving a little love. (and, presumably, increased patronage).
4. East Bay restaurants closed in July and East Bay restaurants opened in June
The open and close reports written by longtime Nosh collaborator Joanna Della Penna are the most reliable features we do. It’s not rocket science: Joanna is a tireless sleuth when it comes to places that might turn dark or turn on the lights, and she writes about every restaurant with expertise and wit. This makes what could be a rote monthly list a pleasure to read. I’m not sure exactly why July was her most popular closing column and why June had her most read openings, but this year, that’s how the cookie fell apart. When I’m just trying to think of a place to eat, I look at Joanna’s work first.
3. Puerto Rican restaurant La Perla might not reopen due to issues with building code
Oaklandside Immigrant Small Business reporter Ricky Rodas had been following La Perla’s journey for months. Jose “Cheo” Ortiz’s restaurant is one of the only Puerto Rican restaurants in the area, and his plan to relocate to a larger space has gained national attention. It was Rodas who learned that the restaurant’s opening was compromised at the last minute by a bewildering and confusing $ 14,000 issue around the floors of the space, which before the advent of La Perla had operated as a sandwich shop. Subway.
2. This Oakland bakery regularly sells pastries within minutes
Miranda Jetter’s report on Green House Bakery is, at first glance, a great story about a pop-up bakery operation. But look a little closer and you’ll notice something unusual: Founder Rachel Caygill has (for now) decided not to open in a permanent location, unlike so much turmoil in the pandemic era. Instead, she says, her small business will stay small. The play is a good reminder that there is more than one road to success.
1. This couple love the Berkeley Bowl so much that they took their engagement photos there
I was worried reporter Alix Wall would return with an Instagrammable saccharine love story when she reached out to Joey Chiang and Melody Yu, the couple who took over Berkeley Bowl West for an engagement photoshoot. My worries were a waste, however, as Alix captured Chiang and Wu’s crackling banter in a way few could. Of course, the photos are lovely and charming and I have no complaints. But Alix took Yu to razz Chiang about his knife obsession and really illustrated why the Berkeley Bowl was the perfect setting for this couple’s courtship and beyond.