The Gourmet Gulch on Shattuck in Berkeley is both getting too crowded and spinning off restaurants like crazy to more affordable storefronts in Oakland.
I get up to the East Bay five or six weekends a year on business for the nonprofit I chair. The best restaurant in the world, so far as I’m concerned, is Camino on Grand, owned and run by Allison and Russ, two Chez Panisse graduates. Absinthe, duck cracklings, big local sardines and more duck with a Beaujolais at a business dinner Friday night — yikes. You won’t find better food, or food served more down home and easy, either: long communal tables made of huge planks of found redwood.
Saturday night after the five-hour board meeting it was more seriously downtown, the Broadway-based neighborhood for which Jerry Brown when he was mayor set a goal of 10,000 new residents. My dinner companion, artist Keith Wilson, related the story: “And how many of those units would be ‘affordable,’ Mr. Mayor?” “None! so far as I am concerned. I want people who can spend and make the place safe!” He got it. The streets were bright and amazing, fancy but welcoming joints on every corner, and the restaurants and clubs were more truly integrated — African Americans, whites, Asians and Latinos, with most tables actually not segregated in the least — than any I’ve ever seen in the world.
After dinner Saturday night at a cool spot I’ll remember the name of any minute owned by a Korean-American architect who showed us around — the sign at the door, “No hats,” was a leftover from the pimped-out days of the neighborhood — we went back to the Grand Lake neighborhood for prosecco and cannoli at a spot, pictures above and below, called Boot and Shoe Service, same signage, same moniker as the business it took over — why change the funky name? It’s also run by a graduate of the Chez Panisse pizza oven.