Three New Restaurants Spice Up Northside

Photo: Customers order food from Vinnie's Cheesesteaks, Northside Cafe and Urbann Turbann (top to bottom), three recently opened eateries on the corner of Euclid and Hearst avenues. The businesses aim to target students as a key group of customers.
Emma Lantos/Staff
Customers order food from Vinnie's Cheesesteaks, Northside Cafe and Urbann Turbann (top to bottom), three recently opened eateries on the corner of Euclid and Hearst avenues. The businesses aim to target students as a key group of customers.

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Following years of vacancy and neglect, the area of North Berkeley just outside of UC Berkeley's North Gate Hall is undergoing a revival after the opening of three independently owned restaurants on the corner of Euclid and Hearst avenues.

All three food service businesses began leases in the same building last fall and opened within just weeks of each other after renovations to the building were completed in June. Dave Fogarty, Berkeley's economic project development coordinator, said that the property owner is "very good at selecting tenants who complement each other," and that this may contribute to the businesses' success in the future.

Chandler Mahal, co-owner of Urbann Turbann - an "on-the-go" Indian food restaurant and one of the three businesses - said that she and her husband decided to lease on Northside after realizing that the lease would be half the price of a location on Southside and coming to "observe the crowd" of potential customers in the area.

Next door, Vinnie's Cheesesteaks, which now occupies a space in the building that was vacant for 10 years, is likewise targeting students as its key customers, according to co-owner Izat Eliyan.

"We feel that this area is next to campus, and it's a good neighborhood in terms of (the) lunch business crowd," Eliyan said.

The final business in the trio, Northside Cafe, was able to expand upon its current services offered at its primary location Downtown, the deli Grub-N-Go, because the space in the building is three times as large.

"This just has the right balance of everything we look for in a location, from the foot traffic to the rent and the cleanliness," co-owner Suheil Nassar said.

Still, prior to renovations, the building was run down and in need of repair, according to Mahal.

"It was an eyesore," she said. "People used to say they hated walking up Euclid on this side of the street."

But after starting in their new locations during a summer lull, business at all three establishments has increased with the start of the school year at UC Berkeley.

While students in transit to and from campus contribute to a busy lunch hour, Eliyan said he hopes to improve evening activity at the location.

The three restaurants share similar low price-points that appeal to their customer base of students. According to Fogarty, a model such as that shared by the businesses may work to their advantage even during difficult economic times.

"It appears from the evidence we have that the restaurants with a high price-point are struggling, whereas the restaurants that are relatively inexpensive are sometimes doing very well," Fogarty said. "(Students) do tend to eat out a lot, but they don't have a lot of money on average."

The businesses will also rely on customers other than students, however, particularly in the summer and holiday months when many students leave Berkeley.

"At 30,000 out of 108,000, students comprise a substantial segment of the city's population, but not the majority," Fogarty said.


Hannah Moulthrop and Hailey Parish cover local business. Contact them at [email protected]

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