Closing of Berkel Berkel Paves Way for Cho Veggie House

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After over two decades of service on Telegraph Avenue, Korean restaurant Berkel Berkel closed its doors last December, yielding its space to the establishment of a new dining spot, Cho Veggie House.

Jon Vicars - property owner of the building that houses Berkel Berkel and Thai Noodle II - approached Sanchai Kheawngeon, owner of Thai Noodle II, with the offer of taking over the space last November when the Berkel Berkel owners decided to retire.

"Both of them wanted to go back to Taiwan," Vicars said.

According to Thai Noodle employee Chutima Buntorn, Vicars thought Kheawngeon's experience in operating two Thai Noodle restaurants - the other is located on Shattuck Avenue - would contribute to his success in managing a third restaurant. Buntorn said Berkel Berkel recently experienced a decline in revenue because the owners had done little to refresh their menu and overall design.

After acquiring Berkel Berkel in November, Kheawngeon maintained the restaurant for about a month, but a declining profit led him to close the eatery and establish a new one.

The restaurant's struggle to generate business toward the end of its tenure is not indicative of other Telegraph restaurants' success or failure, according to Dave Fogarty, the city's economic development coordinator.

"The issues that affect some of them may well be particular to some of those businesses and not related to a pattern," Fogarty said.

When Kheawngeon decided to create a new restaurant, updates to the space were his first priority. To create a more relaxed environment different from the kitschy feel of Thai Noodle, Kheawngeon did not purchase furniture from restaurant mass supply stores, opting for home furniture instead.

Cho Veggie also serves healthier alternatives to the Thai Noodle restaurants' food. Cho uses organic vegetables and tofu instead of meat because Kheawngeon wanted to open a restaurant akin to his own healthy lifestyle.

"(Kheawngeon) takes care of himself," Buntorn said. "He wants to return his lifestyle to society."

Kheawngeon said UC Berkeley students will respond well to the Cho Veggie's nutritious menu because a well-balanced diet leads to a happier life.

"Cho Veggie is about you are what you eat, and if you exercise you will have a long life," Kheawngeon said in Thai. "You'll have a sexy body from this lifestyle."

Rather than just changing the menus for the two Thai restaurants, Kheawngeon said he created an entirely new restaurant to achieve this goal because he thinks there is a market for both types of food genres.

"You have two pockets," he said in Thai. "When people come to Thai Noodle, I get from the right. When people come to Cho, I get from the left."

The restaurant has been open for one month, and despite a slow start Kheawngeon said he is confident that Cho Veggie will be just as fruitful as his other restaurants.


Contact Kate Randle at [email protected]

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