A new lunch counter from a couple of Chez Panisse alums has opened up in Berkeley’s prime “gourmet ghetto” dining territory. Fava is a tiny spot at only 340 square feet, but it seems to be punching above its weight, offering a sweet and simple menu of salads, soups, and flatbread sandwiches starring lots of seasonal produce from local farms.
Fava’s daily menu is posted on a board, and may be tweaked from week to week. But it’s always to include a few salads, a couple of flatbread wraps, one soup, and two sides. At the moment, that looks like a warm lentil salad with beets and yogurt, red lettuces with feta and bulgur, and roasted eggplant with tomatoes and chiles. The best seller so far — the business opened August 6 — has been a braised lamb sandwich with harissa, cabbage, and herbs. It’s served on freshly baked flatbread, and only 50 are available per day.
Fava chefs and owners Sylvia Osborne-Calierno and Jeremy Scheiblauer met more than a dozen years ago as cooks at Chez Panisse. Osborn-Calierno, an artist, and Scheiblauer, a musician, opened restaurants in Spain and New Zealand, respectively, before circling back home to the Bay. Osborne-Calierno actually grew up in Berkeley, and attended the Edible School Yard, Alice Water’s urban farming and public education project. They always wanted to open a small restaurant together, the duo says, allowing them to balance cooking with family life and artistic pursuits.
When the Juice Bar Collective relocated, Osborne-Calierno and Scheiblauer jumped at the chance to take over its space. That former Berkeley institution, opened by a group of hippies in the ’70s, served juice and social justice to the community for 42 years. It occupied prime Berkeley real estate, two spaces down from the original Peet’s Coffee, and around the corner from Chez Panisse and Cheese Board.
Fava may have deep roots in the community and connections to local farms, but don’t expect fine dining. “Despite our backgrounds with Chez Panisse, our philosophy and style is different now,” Osborne-Calierno explains. “We’re not interested in finely slicing or dicing anything. Our food is more homey, with handfuls of herbs, big squeezes of lemons, and lots of chiles.”
Fava is now open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 2114 Vine Street, Berkeley. The tiny space is limited to counter-service only, but there are a few tables out front.