Pastena said that the small kitchen in the former space forced creativity. For example, he wanted to serve an oxtail dish but didn't have space for long lengths of tail.
"So we shredded the tails and put them on top of French fries," Pastena said. "That's how our signature oxtail poutine was born."
The old kitchen had limitations, including the fryer, a cast iron pot now displayed on a wooden shelf on the wall of the new restaurant, that could only do so much. With his new deep fryers, Pastena can now serve sides of fries and cook bigger steaks more often. At the old restaurant, fries were limited to poutine, and steak was reserved for Monday nights.
Pastena, who's lived in the neighborhood for almost 15 years, opened Chop Bar as a place where he and his neighbors could hang out.
"When I'd be in the elevator in my building, I'd try to start conversation." Pastena said. "That made people really uncomfortable." Now people recognize him from Chop Bar and start talking to him in the elevator.
Brenda Mercado and Frank Hernandez have beem regulars at Chop Bar for a decade since its opening. They sat at the new bar bantering with the staff and trying a new beer on tap, the Federation Brewing Atrás, a blonde beer mixed with pineapple tepache, a Mexican fermented beverage.
"The people who work here make coming to this restaurant so special," Mercado said.
And Chop Bar still serves a damn-good burger.
No burgers will be cooked at the restaurant's old location for the foreseeable future, however. There, grilled meats have been replaced by salads, tofu scrambles, and delicious vegan doughnuts.
It's home to the newest location of Donut Farm, which owner Josh Levine proudly said were the first vegan doughnuts in the Bay Area. He opened the new spot because he was outgrowing his North Oakland joint at 6037 San Pablo Ave., where he was frying doughnuts and serving vegan breakfasts. Like Pastena, Levine is taking advantage of his new space, now home to Eternal, his new restaurant that serves salads and vegan milkshakes that weren't available at the old Donut Farm space, and the new Donut Farm. Both opened Aug. 17. Dinner and a full bar are in the works for Eternal.
"We're going to have a similar dinner offering to what you'd get at Chop Bar," Levine said. "But it's going to be vegan."
Levine is happy to be working in the Jack London area, where there's more foot traffic than at his previous location. "Business is going to be way better here," he said.
Levine left town the day before the opening and was already enjoying his 15th year at Burning Man when his new restaurant opened, confident that it would all go smoothly. He left manager Kris Lee, a longtime friend, employee, and motorcycle-riding buddy, in charge.
Lee and Levine won't change much of the décor from the old Chop Bar. But they will add a personal touch: Levine's vintage 1962 Harley Panhead and a 1951 BSA will be placed in the dining room so that you can eat vegan doughnuts in style.