Lion Dance Cafe debuts this weekend in Uptown
Oakland’s popular S+M Vegan pop-up launches its brick-and-mortar, Kickstarter-funded Singaporean-Chinese restaurant, Lion Dance Cafe, this Saturday from 5-9 p.m. Service is takeout only, for now. During its soft launch, Lion Dance will ease into the new space by offering a limited menu and an abbreviated schedule. And because crowds are likely otherwise, Lion Dance requires customers to order online (up to two days in advance) and choose a 15-minute time slot for pickup.
In an email shared with Nosh, owners Marie Chia and Shane Stanbridge said the opening menu will feature some iteration of its shaobing sandwich, along with a few S+M pop-up favorites and new items they’ve been working on to debut at the restaurant, including a tomato and roselle leaf sambal salad with grilled okra, fresh tofu and fried shallots. Starting next week, they’ll be open Friday and Saturday; eventually, they’ll add Sunday brunch and be open Thursdays “once we are confident enough in our kitchen systems and COVID safety protocols to start hiring.” Chia tells Eater SF that prices will range from $5-6 for desserts, $10 for salads and $14-18 for larger portioned fare. Contactless delivery is available to customers within a 5-mile radius through Oakland’s Vegan Transporter, but will require one-day advance notice. Lion Dance Cafe, 380 17th St. (between Franklin and Webster streets), Oakland
Broke Ass Cooks get shut down by health department
Broke Ass Cooks, the pop-up led by three unemployed chefs operating out of their West Oakland kitchen, announced last night that they have shut down by the Alameda County health department. In August, Nosh interviewed chefs Bilal Ali, Hoang Le and Keone Koki, who first met while working at Michelin-starred Commis in Oakland and started the home-based business out of desperation when they lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis. “Our industry is destroyed — we don’t know if we will have a job — and we are doing this because we need to survive,” Ali told Nosh. Broke Ass Cooks is one of many businesses started by unemployed or underemployed chefs who lost their jobs or hours when shelter-in-place orders decimated restaurant operations, but in the eyes of the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health, home-based gigs are unpermitted, illegitimate and are subject to “closure and further enforcement actions.”
While Broke Ass Cooks have been able to operate under the radar of health officials for long enough to receive several praise-filled write-ups and reviews from local food writers, officials appear to be catching on. Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that health officials shut down Mona Leena Michael’s mana’eesh pop-up in Emeryville after a neighbor alerted them of her illegal operation. Michael told the Chronicle she is looking into how to operate the pop-up above board (which, until Alameda County opts in to give permits and create inspection processes to allow home kitchen operations to legally operate, would mean she’d have to cook food in a permitted facility, receive a food safety certification, among other requirements). As for the Broke Ass Cooks, they also vow to return: “This is not the end for us!”
Finally, an opening date for Horn Barbecue
Another Oakland pop-up turned brick and mortar is also launching this month. Eater SF reports that nationally lauded pitmaster Matt Horn will open Horn Barbecue, his highly anticipated Texas-style barbecue restaurant, on Sept. 26, nine months after its original intended grand opening. Horn has been stymied by a series of construction and permitting issues since last year, and not surprisingly, things got further delayed when COVID-19 reared its ugly head. At the former Brown Sugar Kitchen space in West Oakland, Horn Barbecue will serve takeout and seat up to 80 diners outside. BBQ lovers will find much to savor on the menu, including Horn’s famous brisket (which he’ll offer on a tray and in a sandwich), pulled pork, house-made sausages, beef ribs and oxtails, along with sides like collard greens, potato salad and black-eyed peas. Horn Barbecue, 2534 Mandela Pkwy (at 26th Street), Oakland
Hope floats at The Ivy Room
With live concerts on hold, music venues have taken a major hit during the pandemic. Earlier this spring, when Nosh spoke to Lani Torres and Summer Gerbing, co-owners of dive bar/rock club The Ivy Room in Albany, they were still figuring out how they’d be able to reopen. A few weeks later, they launched a to-go service, selling bottles of spirits and beer, cocktail kits and Ivy Room merch, and started hosting ticketed virtual concerts. They’ve also raised more than $34,000 of their $50,000 fundraising goal on GoFundMe that will help keep the club going while shows are on hold. In August, The Ivy Room teamed up with next-door restaurant Aangan so they could offer outdoor seating. Now, guests can pick up Indian-Nepalese eats at Aangan, order a drink — like one of its refreshing frozen margaritas — at the Ivy Room and then enjoy both at one of the socially distanced tables in a roped-off area right outside the bar. While the Ivy Room is holding on for now, the venue is in a precarious position until it can host live events again. Earlier this month, Torres and Gerbing participated in #RedAlertRESTART, a campaign to raise awareness and public support of the RESTART Act that could provide financial assistance to small music venues. But until then, takeout and outdoor food and drinks are keeping hope alive. The Ivy Room is open 4-8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; 2-6 p.m., Sunday. Ivy Room, 860 San Pablo Ave., (at Solano Avenue), Albany
Lights off at the Uptown
Meanwhile, we have some sad news to share about an Oakland music venue. The East Bay Times reports that on Sept. 4, The Uptown officially closed its doors for good. The 15-year-old nightclub had been being closed since mid-March when shelter-in-place orders were first announced, but according to a note posted on its website, it “just cannot afford to continue to pay our rent and other expenses with no income in the foreseeable future.” Over its tenure, The Uptown showcased both local and national acts and was a key player in establishing Oakland’s First Friday events. Although The Uptown survived the Great Recession and was resurrected from the dead twice, in 2007 and 2015, it looks like the lights may be out for good this time. The Uptown was at 1928 Telegraph Ave.
Huge outdoor sports garden coming to Oakland
On Monday, the Athletic Club Oakland announced details about Town Garden, an approximately 3,000 square-foot outdoor food, drinks and sports garden that will start operating this Thursday in time for the NFL kickoff. The Athletic Club has been closed since March, and since then, has been concentrating on Town Garden as a safe way to reopen. According to the bar, it worked with the city of Oakland and partnered with the Uptown Downtown Oakland Community Benefits to create the fenced, but open-air outdoor venue, which a rendering shows will feature picnic benches, umbrellas, heat lamps and several tv screens set up on a closed-off Webster Street right outside the bar.
Co-owner Aaron Dolores told KRON4 that Athletic Club wanted to create a place for sports fans and their small group of friends to watch games together. He said the business would ensure safety through staff training, signage and direct one-on-one communication with guests. He added that guests need to temper their expectations. “We don’t want people to come out and assume that everything is back to normal. This is going to be the new normal.” Athletic Club Oakland‘s Town Garden will be on Webster Street at Grand Avenue, Oakland
Taste of Temescal canceled, Picnic on Telegraph happening instead
On March 17, hordes of hungry diners were supposed to be crawling along Telegraph Avenue, rubbing shoulders with friends and strangers and eating samples handed out from area restaurants participating in the annual Taste of Temescal. Of course, that was the date when shelter-in-place orders were issued across the Bay Area (talk about bad timing!) putting the kibosh on events and on-site dining at restaurants. Organizers at Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District hoped they could postpone until May, but when that month passed, Taste of Temescal was rescheduled further down the line, on Oct. 4. Now, with that date fast approaching and the pandemic still in full swing, the Temescal Telegraph BID has officially pulled the plug on this year’s festivities, but has come up with an alternate event.
Picnic on Telegraph will take place on a closed down Telegraph Avenue (from 39th to 55th streets), where Temescal businesses will set up expanded outdoor seating and other socially distanced displays and services for a day of shopping and dining outdoors. Organizers say closing 15 blocks of Telegraph Avenue to car traffic will allow visitors to safely support local businesses. Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner, executive director of the Temescal Telegraph BID told Nosh, “We will definitely have staff on hand to ensure safe protocols, in addition to ample signage. We are making the event footprint pretty large and not inviting outside vendors, in order to ensure that people can spread out safely on the 73-foot wide street.” Kessner added that the event will have “more of a Sunday Streets vibe than Temescal Street Fair.” Event hours are still TBD.