Bleecker Street Bistro: Comfort Food at a Comforting Price
Opening a new dining spot in Berkeley, California—home to a world-famous university—has its endemic challenges. The “People’s Republic of Berkeley” is as famous for its culinary sophistication as it is for the student/teacher population’s penchant toward second-hand garb and cheap eats.
With the abundance of fast and slow food joints in the vicinity of the campus, Bleecker Street Bistro, which recently occupied an enviable large-windowed location on the corner of Telegraph and Dwight, manages to stand out and attract hungry admirers of classic American comfort food prepared with much attention to substance and quality and priced to everyone’s liking.
Executive chef and owner Jason Kwon, a Bay Area native with a degree in economics and business entrepreneurship from Johns Hopkins, explains his success scientifically, based on his own research.
“I’ve observed the impact that Chipotle has had with respect to fast casual dining based on a foundation of seasonally fresh ingredients and have taken that a step farther by offering three meals a day in a comfort food idiom,” said the 29-year-old chef, casually observing his brightly lit establishment, furnished with polished wood farm tables, around which young couples and groups of friends were having a good time with scrumptious buttermilk chicken on a Saturday night.
When I asked, why American comfort food, why not a replica of the popular Joshu-ya Brasserie Kwon opened in another part of Berkeley in 2011, he said his preliminary research of the area, peppered with little Asian restaurants, showed a need for heartier fare, which he decided to present in the highest quality possible at very competitive prices.
On the night we dined, seasonal crispy calamari was elegantly served with dill-yogurt sauce and a wedge of lemon.
Succulent barbecue pork belly sliders were stuffed with slaw and pickles and garnished with freshly made potato salad sprinkled with scallions.
Crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside chicken breast, marinated for a day in buttermilk, had a side of absolutely delicious boiled then fried potatoes and made the most filling and feel-good entrée possible.
Other popular items on the menu offered in a counter-service format or for takeout are a meatloaf sandwich, oversized breakfast burritos, gourmet burgers, and beer-battered fish tacos. Generous portions at affordable prices, fresh bread daily, and fair trade coffee add to the charm of Bleecker Street Bistro. It also has a philanthropic component as 10 percent of all proceeds are donated to orphanages via Build Hope International.
Bleecker Street Bistro is located at 2498 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call (510) 548-8885.