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How These Bay Area Restaurants Stepped Up for the Community in 2022

A moment to recognize the restaurants that went above and beyond

Cafe Ohlone’s new iteration on the UC Berkeley campus.
Patricia Chang

Welcome to Year in Eater 2022, Eater’s annual tradition of celebrating the past 12 months with help from some of the Bay Area’s top food and restaurant industry experts. Between now and the end of the year, Eater SF will post daily questions about the Bay Area restaurant scene with answers from those who know it best.

A few players come to mind: Fluid Cooperative Cafe, the coffee outfit for La Cocina, spent a lot of time raising funds for transgender and queer nonprofits, notably showing up over and over again at Rooftop Elementary for craft fairs and fundraisers. Milk, a cafe in the Mission District, played host to numerous craft and maker fairs for queer creators, obviously critical amongst the rising tide of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate and policy. Lastly, and the least locally but still significantly, [Birch & Rye] chef Anya El-Wattar raised over $100,000 in Ukranian relief funds throughout the year.

— Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter

I’m just a fan of El Garage. They are always involved in local events and are a reliable staple in the community. They’re a homegrown, Latina-owned business that genuinely reflects the neighborhood they serve.

— Alan Chazaro, food reporter at KQED

I’ve really appreciated the care and understanding that lead to the opening of Oakland’s Calabash this year. Chef Nigel Jones had a vision of an all-day gathering space for Oakland, filled with good food and drinks, and the lofty goal of alleviating some of the tensions between new and longtime Oakland residents. The business uplifts others by featuring POC makers through its marketplace filled with coffee beans and condiments, and a menu that highlights Persian food on a grander scale. It’s an ambitious project, but one done with heart and intention that may actually achieve those goals effortlessly.

— Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor

The first place that comes to mind is the new iteration of Indigenous restaurant Cafe Ohlone. To open at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the UC Berkeley campus is such a historic and meaningful step in celebrating Ohlone culture and making it more visible in the local community.

— Madeline Wells, SFGATE food reporter

Kitchen Istanbul. They welcome all people into the restaurant. It is warm and welcoming. They are aware of the issues going on in the world. They are conscious and they make the guests aware as well. It’s community. This same culture is alive and well at Nopa.

— Tonya Pitts, sommelier and wine director at One Market Restaurant

I think it’s dope that Smish Smash did a toy drive in Oakland. Also, all the folks who showed up to celebrate the life of the late hometown hero Jun Anabo of Lucky Three Seven in Oakland. I went to the block party and was moved to see the team behind La Perla Puerto Rican Cuisine emcee the event and all the outpouring of love for Anabo.

— Cesar Hernandez, associate restaurant critic at the San Francisco Chronicle

Not a local cause per se, but I loved that Michelle Polzine, owner of the now-shuttered 20th Century Cafe, raised thousands of dollars for Ukrainians by selling her infamous honey cakes earlier this year.

— Nick Bastone, reporter at Axios SF

When I’m not managing Omnivore, I coordinate chef participation for Foodwise’s fundraising events in support of their farmers markets and educational programming, which means I witness the incredible generosity of so many San Francisco chefs all year long. It’s impossible for me to call out just one. Bay Area chefs are so supportive of the farmers who grow our food and act as stewards of our land — it’s a really beautiful community centered around some of the best produce in the world.

Sarah Henkin, manager at Omnivore Books

The student UC Berkeley population is unquestionably at the figurative and literal heart of the city. It is no secret, that, historically, dining options through UC Berkeley Dining have been riddled with problems. But, I have learned that the proximity of Viks Chaat House and its well-stocked freezer section is a boon to college kids of Indian origin. Starved, both of decent food and of the flavors of home, whatever they can purchase, freeze, and reheat in their dorm rooms becomes comfort food. I know of at least one student who relied on them during finals week — satisfying their need for convenience, and comfort. I applaud Viks for having many freezer-friendly meal options and encourage other establishments to seize this opportunity to better serve our young.

— Nandita Godbole, writer at Curry Cravings