It’s only day two at Elmwood Cafe, a newly opened French-style brasserie in the old Ozzie’s space on College, and the place is packed. Owner Michael Pearce says business has been great and he didn’t expect it.

He shouldn’t be so surprised. Elmwood locals have been monitoring the careful restoration of the old soda fountain for months — Ozzie’s was a much loved neighborhood institution and its closing and subsequent renovation was bound to trigger curiosity.

First came the expansion of Mrs Dalloway’s bookstore into part of the former pharmacy-cum-soda fountain. Now we have Elmwood Cafe.

The cafe comes with impeccable pedigree — and being such a foodie town, that fact had also piqued interest. Manager Kara Hammond has run the Chez Panisse-spawned Cafe Fanny for the past eight years. Her partner in management, Rachel Ericsen, worked at Camino and Mr Espresso, while pastry chef Mark Chacon — whose beautiful apple torte, fleur-de-sel shortbread and cranberry coffee cake are currently displayed on the front marble counter — also hails from Cafe Fanny.

Much care was taken in restoring the 1920s interiors. Pearce is an expert in antique musical instruments and is a believer in leaving original woodwork well alone. “We saved everything we could from the original Ozzie’s,” he says. “And I insisted the craftsmen did not refinish anything.” An appealing aspect is the way the interior windows provide views into the book-lined Mrs Dalloway’s next door.

The menu is short with an emphasis on healthy, organic choices: breakfast, which is served from when the cafe opens at 7am, might be levain toast with Donna’s jam and prosciutto, granola or five-grain rolled porridge. Lunch possibles include paninis, soups and salads; while for dinner there’s just one dish, currently Sante Fe stew with sweet potatoes, black beans and pork. The cafe closes at 10pm and is open seven days a week.

Pearce says the cafe is going to operate on a novel business model — half of its profits will be donated to charities and customers will have a say as to which are selected.

Meantime, if the weekend crowds are anything to go by, the 18-strong staff will be kept on their toes. Recommended: the artisanal pear soda and the farro and roasted vegetables salad.

Photos: Tracey Taylor.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. The Elmwood is new and still needs to work out the kinks. Give them some time before you give up on them. I doubt they completely understood the expectations the neighborhood had for them (to be Ozzies, of course!). On the day they opened I was standing behind a father and son who we there for a milkshake and would have settled for a Lime Rickey. Neither of which is on the menu.

    I’ve been there four times now and the first two times, my lattes were lukewarm. The more recent times, they were piping hot (I think some of the baristas has more experience than others). But I do like sitting there with my coffee and looking out over College Avenue. I

    As for the prices, the last time I ate at “Ozzies” which I realize was not the real Ozzie’s, was sometime during the last three months of its final iteration, I paid $7.00 for a toasted egg salad sandwich with black olives and a handful of Ruffles potato chips and, if I recall correctly $4.00 (maybe $5) for a not so great milkshake. For example, sandwiches at Cafe Fanny run $6.75 to $9.75 and the only side you get with those are a couple of olives or three little Cornichons (tiny tart pickles).

    My point is that the prices at the new Elmwood Cafe are not that out of line with most other places of their kind (upscale, organic, locally sourced, etc.). Yes, I know you can get a cheaper, bigger sandwich at EZ Stop on Shattuck but it’s just not the same experience.

    Personally, I really like the sandwiches at the Summertime Kitchen Bake Shop, which is up the street next to Ici. The prices are in the same range and worth every cent (but they don’t come with anything on the side, either).

  2. not only are the coffees lukewarm and expensive but jeeeez folks, could you at least fill up the cups. Much as I would like to patronize this cafe and become a regular, there ARE limits. Nice location, okay ambience, but tooooo expensive!!

  3. Just ate there. The prices are OUTRAGEOUS. Our sandwiches ( no side, nothing) were only ok and were mostly bread ( delicious bread, but still) and cost $8 a piece.

    Not going there again. Ever.

  4. I was curious about the new cafe because I grew up in the Elmwood. In fact for a time I lived in the apartment house that used to stand where the parking lot behind the cafe is now.

    This morning’s bacon and gruyere quiche was perfect (smooth inside and flaky outside); the scone was yummy, but the jazz was too jumpy for a relaxed morning visit. Since they say they don’t have wi-fi because they want people to be sociable, let’s have less intrusive music.

  5. If the folks at Elmwood Café are reading this blog. I love what you’ve done with the place. The music (so far it’s been jazz each time I’ve been in) and the pastries are fabulous.

    My only complaint is about the coffee. Not the price (you get what you pay for and the house blend is delicious). But I’ve now ordered three cafe lattes (different times of the day and each time a different barista) and all three were lukewarm. Please, train your baristas to make a good, hot latte (like they do at Cafe Fanny!).

  6. Seems like a great place, but my kids and I had more fun at down at the heel Ozzie’s with its soda fountain, bandaid collection and magazine stand than we probably could have had at a fancier eaterie.

  7. I’ve been trying to reach into my screen and grab one of those cupcake-eclair-parfait looking things but so far it’s not working.

  8. Kate: I opted for brasserie because Elmwood Cafe is a relaxed, higher end sort of place, open for breakfast through dinner, and serves food and/or drinks and coffee. I probably should have said brasserie-style rather than French-style. But, well, no-one’s perfect. Thanks for the nit-pick (:

  9. Sorry to nit-pick, but the fact that it is called Elmwood Café makes me think it is perhaps more like a French-style café than a French-style brasserie, n’est-ce pas?