The story: A new neighborhood bar and restaurant opens in the former Caffe Venezia space, with owners Nima Shokat and Maianna Voge, offering up seasonal California fare with drinks.
Why I went: My longtime food blogging friend Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging suggested we check out this new place that opened a couple of months ago, and she gathered our other friends Christina of East Bay Dish and Brenda of Bites and Bourbon. Christina was able to get us an invite for a media preview, which meant our dinner was comped.
The vibe: An urban sports bar with two flat screens showing baseball games that turns into a warm cozy community gathering spot with the long communal tables in the center of the open dining room.
The menu: A limited menu with maybe a dozen items, several of them small plates. Probably a reflection of Chef Dana Ryan’s recent stint with State Bird Provisions. The seasonal ingredients with a lot of vegetable touches probably also reflect her time with Gather, also in Berkeley. While the menu might have some comparisons to those two restaurants, it seems like the menu is still in development.
The booze: A specialty cocktail list that includes eight special drinks, ranging from $8 to $10. I tried the Ginger Thistle ($9) because I love ginger. It was made with Cynar, Citadelle Gin, lemon, Bundaberg ginger beer, and a lemon twist. I wished it had more of a ginger flavor, and maybe more liquor, which is probably why the popular drink is the After Hours ($10) made with bourbon and Cointreau.
My favorite dish: Because of the limited menu and there were four of us, we basically ordered everything on the menu. While Brenda thought the best dish was the Marin Atlantic oyster with grilled corn and Old Bay butter ($3 each), I felt the most creative and unique dish was the chicken liver mousse ($6) because of the layer of parsley gelee on top, offering up a slight tartness to the creamy mousse.
Insider tip: The chicharones ($4) look interesting but are much harder than other chicharones out there. Townie’s version seem to be on the tougher side, so I would avoid them.
The last bite: Townie has friendly service and fresh dishes, but the creativity seems to be a bit short-sighted. It may be because the chef is still developing her voice, so for now Townie is a nice gathering spot if you’re in the neighborhood but I wouldn’t make a special trip.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Townie Bar, 1799 University Ave., Berkeley. PH: 510.356. Opened Tuesday through Sunday, 4 p.m. to midnight. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.townie-bar.com
Check out my foodie friends’ take on our meal:
Townie on University Avenue in Berkeley
Pleasant Casual Eatery and Neighborhood Bar in Berkeley
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