The proposed space. [Photo: Google Maps]
The duo behind popular Berkeley Mexican spot Comal, John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman, are in expansion mode, with plans for a new restaurant in the former Wright's Garage in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood. According to Berkeleyside Nosh, the as-yet-unnamed restaurant will specialize in Northern California cuisine, with a full bar featuring craft cocktails and both lunch and dinner service. Paluska, who was the longtime manager for the band Phish before opening Comal, says he's looking to emulate the style of Zuni Cafe and Nopa, though a chef hasn't been hired yet. "We want to be a great neighborhood restaurant in what we see as a really special neighborhood." The space is large, at 3,400 square feet, and is intended to have a similar vibe to Comal in terms of decor.
Fans of Comal shouldn't get too excited yet, though, as there's a big permitting gamut to navigate before construction on the new restaurant can get under way. They'll have to apply for a change-of-use on the old garage and overcome Elmwood's quota system, which has been put in place to create variety among local businesses and which the new restaurant would exceed. A previous attempt to put a restaurant in the space, in 2007, did not succeed, and it's remained vacant since. If you'd like to show them support or express a grievance, Paluska and Hoffman will be meeting with neighbors on Monday, July 1, at 7 pm, at the space (2635 Ashby Ave.)
For those unfamiliar with Comal, it opened a little over a year ago, serving upscale Mexican cuisine from chef Matt Gandin and cocktails from the Bon Vivants. It's one of Berkeley's more bustling and popular spots, and also received a three-star benediction from Bauer, making his Top 100 in its first year. Other honors include a Bib Gourmand nod from Michelin and a Best New Restaurants pick from Diablo magazine.
· Comal owners plan to open new Berkeley restaurant [Berkeleyside Nosh]
· Oaxaca-Inspired Comal Gears Up For Early May Opening [~ ESF ~]