Welcome to p.m. Intel, your lunchtime (or so) roundup of Bay Area food and restaurant news from publications near and far. Tips are always welcome, drop them here.
- A fire in Oakland’s Chinatown grew to five-alarm status Wednesday morning inside a building located at 718 Webster Street, ABC 7 reports. It was reported at around 8:20 and was under control by 10:15, officials say, but by then it had spread to an adjoining building, scorching a significant portion of the block. Oakland Interim Fire Chief Melinda Drayton tells the Bay Area News Group that it appears that the fire began in a dumpster behind the buildings, then “raced up between the two buildings in a really tight space and got inside,” with “heavy fire” reported in the building’s upper floor. It’s unclear how badly the building’s ground level businesses — which include popular Vietnamese spot Rang Dong, KPIX notes, as well as Huangcheng Noodle House — were damaged in the blaze.
- KPIX reports that Berkeley’s Feng Cha Teahouse, a boba shop on Durant Avenue, was the site of a “bizarre blowtorch attack” at an indeterminate date. The broadcast station has surveillance footage of the incident, in which a man walks into the restaurant, sprays what was later identified as WD-40 on a few patrons, then attempts to light them on fire. The motive behind the attack has not been determined, and the suspect was arrested at the scene.
- SF Weekly sums up the conundrum of dining out in the COVID-19 age in two lines: “For remote workers with money to spend, enjoying an outdoor meal may involve weighing luxury and convenience against the fear of infection. But for locals working in food service with no other means of income, the choice is more fraught: accept the risk that comes from feeding others, or risk not being able to feed themselves.” The rest of the piece, which speaks to customer-facing workers at cafes across the city, is also worth a read.
- A supergroup of local restaurant luminaries, including Wayfare Tavern and Mourad vet Omri Aflalo; Prospect and Pabu Izakaya’s John Cahill; and Darrin Ballon of Gary Danko, State Bird Provisions, and the Progress have banded together to open a new restaurant in Oakland called Town Revival, the SF Chronicle reports. The group had planned to open this year, but now they say they will wait the pandemic out and open in the summer of 2021. Until then, the “contemporary California cuisine” spot will hold pop-ups at locations they’ll announce via Instagram.
- As you likely know, the air in the Bay Area has gotten significantly better in the last day or so, an improvement that’s allowed restaurant owners — whose outdoor dining operations were hamstrung by the smoky conditions of the last several weeks — to breathe a bit easier, KRON 4 reports.
- Iconic Berkeley restaurant Gather has been shuttered since the pandemic hit. It reopens right as this item is published (noon on September 16), the East Bay Times reports, as a grab-and-go market with outdoor seating that can accomodate up to 75 diners.
- Berkeley-based personal chef Marla Simon’s business has been put on hold by the COVID-19 crisis, so she’s started making a hot sauce called “Scarlet Fire,” Berkeleyside reports. The name’s a nod to two oft-conjoined Grateful Dead songs: Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain, and fans of the band are snapping the spicy sauce up.
- The pandemic has made California’s food insecurity issues the worst they’ve been in decades, maybe longer. [SF Chronicle]
- Newly-opened Berkeley bakery and restaurant Mise en Place Kitchen signed their lease in February, when the world was one way, and opened in July, when everything was different. [East Bay Express]