Mid-Week Menu: Commissar, Bourbon and Beef, and Chop Bar’s First Pig Roast of the Season



Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.

1) Inside Scoop reports that Berkeley’s zoning board has approved plans for a multi-use complex in the former Cody’s Books space (2454-64 Telegraph Ave.) called Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media. The project is the brainchild of Rasputin Music founder Ken Sarachan, and will include a performance space; a store selling books, records, and tapes; a flower shop; and a full-service restaurant known as Commissar, which will serve mostly-vegetarian “upscale peasant’s and worker’s food.” According to Inside Scoop, the restaurant component will be run by Craig Becker of Berkeley’s Caffe Mediterraneum and Scott Cameron of Oakland’s Guest Chef.

Berkeleyside Nosh has more of Sarachan’s comments from the zoning board meeting, including this gem of a quote: “We’re not gonna have gangster rappers. We might have rappers more like Tupac, who have poetry, who speak to educate people, but … it’s not gonna be a dance club with DJs and bou bou bou bou stuff. That gives me a headache.”

2) Happy news for soul food lovers: Dimond neighborhood favorite Southern Cafe (2000 MacArthur Blvd.) — closed since 2008 — has reopened, according to Tablehopper. A frequently mentioned contender in “best fried chicken in Oakland” discussions back in the day, the restaurant had its grand reopening last month. So, after what had seemed to be a decline, Oakland is awash with good, inexpensive soul food options: Soul’s, Lena’s, Genny’s BBQ, and now Southern Cafe.

3) A new Latin-inspired, family-style restaurant called Bourbon and Beef is coming to the former Water Lounge space (5634 College Ave.) in Rockridge, according to Diablo Dish. Look for a late summer or early fall opening.

4) Berkeleyside notes Zensen Sushi Express’s impending arrival to 2516 Durant Ave., in Berkeley. The Taiwan-based fast food chain is your standard conveyor belt sushi operation — a convenient setup, and fun if you’ve never tried it.

Grand Lake Coffee House (via Facebook)
  • Grand Lake Coffee House (via Facebook)
5) There’s a new ice cream option for folks in Oakland’s Lake Merritt neighborhood: Tara’s Organic Ice Cream is now being sold at the Grand Lake Coffee House (440 Grand Ave.).

6) Sweet Bar Bakery (2355 Broadway, Oakland) will host a mac and cheese pop-up this Thursday, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., in collaboration with the artisan pasta maker Baia Pasta. The $15 prix-fixe will include the mac and cheese, a salad, and a dessert. RSVP to cupcake@sweetbarbakery.com.

7) As summer approaches, ’tis the season for assorted food festivals and outdoor cooking events. First up: Chop Bar’s first pig roast of the season will take place on Sunday, May 19, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Linden Street Brewery (95 Linden St., Oakland). Tickets will be $20.

Flickr.com user avlxyz/Wikipedia Commons
  • Flickr.com user "avlxyz"/Wikipedia Commons
8) Also taking place this weekend (as noted by East Bay Dish) will be the Oakland Greek Festival, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension (4700 Lincoln Ave.). Food options will include whole lamb on a spit, gyros, and — my favorite bite from last year’s festival, and where you’ll probably find the longest lines — the syrup-soaked doughnuts known as loukoumades. Here’s a handy map to help you strategize your noshing. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $6.

9) East Bay Dish also notes an event called Cupcakes & Treats, which will take place at Oakland’s Humanist Hall (390 27th St.) this Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The free event will feature sweet treats from ten up-and-coming local bakers. RSVP here.

10) Finally, ICYMI, I checked out the 99-cent menu at Lena’s Soul Food Cafe. Spoiler alert: It was good.

Got tips or suggestions? Email me at Luke (dot) Tsai (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com. Otherwise, keep in touch by following me on Twitter @theluketsai, or simply by posting a comment. I'll read ‘em all.