Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.
Augie’s Montreal Deli has moved to a new location in Berkeley. According to owner Lex Gopnik-Lewinski, the lease was up in its space near Berkeley Bowl West, on Potter Street, and this was an opportunity to expand the deli’s outdoor dining space. Augie’s is now occupying what was once Brennan’s, near the Fourth Street shopping district.
The location is more than meant to be for Gopnik-Lewinski, who grew up as a regular at Brennan’s. In 2019 he even paid tribute by offering a St. Patrick’s Day special of smoke meat with boiled red potatoes and cabbage.
Noting that Augie’s is taking over only part of the space, Gopnik-Lewinski said “we will have our Brennan’s Plate special on the menu to pay our respects to the location and all the folks who worked and patronized Brennan’s for so many years…We are juiced to be bringing some life back to this former Berkeley institution.”
Brennan’s was an Irish hofbrau and sports bar that closed in 2018 after 60 years in business. Augie’s, which opened that same year, serves Montreal-style smoke meat, which was brought to Canada by Romanian Jews and is known as a Montreal delicacy. Gopnik-Lewinski spent his childhood in Montreal until his family moved to Berkeley. Augie’s new address is 700 Essex Way, Berkeley.
In October, we reported on Chocolate Heaven, a retail store at San Francisco’s Pier 39 that had just celebrated 40 years in business. The store was owned and operated by Terry Friedkin and John Naylor, with their daughter Jennifer Blumenfeld recently joining the family business to handle the pandemic pivot to online sales. While at the time of the article some foot traffic had returned to the popular tourist destination, the latest shelter-in-place order meant a drastic drop in sales once again. The chocolate store had its last day Dec. 27 and has transitioned to an online-only business.
The family made the decision to donate thousands of pounds of chocolate from in-store inventory to local charities such as Samaritan House and Toys for Tots.
Friedkin said she is feeling a number of emotions, among them loss, sadness and grief. “March 16 was like a terminal diagnosis, and these months were a vigorous race to try to find a cure.” Without knowing when the foot traffic of Pier 39 would return, she said, it was impossible to earn a profit.
“May her memory be forever a blessing,” Friedkin said, referring to the store. “We have experienced a death and what has felt like 10 months of shloshim [the traditional 30-day mourning period], and in our grief we have found meaning in our reimagined business, Chocolate Heaven online. Check us out.”
El Lopo, the Spanish wine bar owned by Daniel Azarkman in San Francisco’s Polk Gulch that we wrote about at the end of 2019, is one of those small businesses that has been rolling with the punches as the restrictions keep changing. In its latest incarnation, it is offering food pop-ups put on by staff members. Over New Year’s weekend, there was birria, a traditional goat stew made by El Lopo’s head bartender, who hails from the western Mexican state of Jalisco. To stay in the loop, follow its Instagram account.
When those year-end “best of” food lists float around, bagels are rarely on them. Even in a year when all dishes were limited to takeout, local food writer Carolyn Jung, aka Food Gal, singled out the new, freshly baked bagels at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley. “I don’t know the last time I’ve had bagels this spectacular,”she wrote. “If there can be any benefit to this pandemic, it’s the fact that Saul’s was prompted to take its bagel game to the next level by boiling and baking them on site, rather than buying pre-baked ones.” High praise, indeed.