Dine & Drink for the Greater Good at Gather
Jun 28, 2018 08:59AM
By Fran Miller
BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER
Gather, at the corner of Allston and Oxford in Berkeley, beats the restaurant odds. Described by The New York Times and San Francisco Magazine respectively as the "Omnivore's Solution" and a "Michael Pollan book come to life,” the Michelin Bib Gourmand spot (a quality restaurant with reasonable prices) is going on nine successful years. “That’s like 90 in restaurant years,” jokes owner Eric Fenster.
Few restaurants so artfully and deliciously meld both vegetarian and meat-centric options on a menu that appeals to all diners. Executive Chef Anthony Lee spotlights hyper seasonal and locally and humanely sourced ingredients in all of his dishes and is proud of Gather’s affiliations and suppliers – each selected on principles of quality, commitment, and ecology. With a diverse background at top Bay Area spots such as Alta, Saison, and The Fifth Floor, Lee incorporates a variety of modern and old-world techniques and global flavors into his dishes and continues Gather's nose-to-tail butchery with homemade charcuterie, sausages, and rillettes. He applies techniques classically used for proteins to create Gather's hearty vegetable dishes such as Potato Gnocchi with yukon veloute, sunburst squash, English peas and slow yolk.The Heirloom Tomato features corn cream, shio koji, kimchi, black lime and herbs. Heartier protein-focused fare includes Summer Chicken with cranberry beans, collards, massa brown rice, jerk, lime, and coconut.
Lee's whole hog usage is beautifully illustrated in his Massa Farms Pork Rillette (pictured at top), a small tureen of creamy and flavorful pork served with levain and grain mustard. And no better example of Gather’s commitment to local sourcing is the Rooftop Greens salad (chariot radish, carrot, fennel, and rosemary vinaigrette), the ingredients of which are harvested from a rooftop garden just steps from the restaurant. The Kashiwase Nectarine Tartine is an homage to summer and features cultured cheese, basil, pistachio, and North Oakland honey. Sweet and creamy, it's often ordered as a dessert item.
The restaurant's dynamic cocktail menu, crafted by Bar Manager Jacob Kardon and Beverage Director Dan Sheel (named a 30 under 30 Zagat star for 2016), highlights small batch ingredients and hand-crafted house made liqueurs, sodas and seasonal infusions. Wines (including all night Wine Wednesday specials) focus on West Coast producers committed to sustainable, low impact viticulture practices; the beer selection showcases independent craft brewers. The current cocktail menu features ‘Cocktails for Change; Making a difference one drink at a time!' All profits from each of four thirst-quenchers is donated to a varying cause. The Aquamarine (aquavit, mezcal, agave, and cherry bitters) supports 5 Gyres and its action against global plastic pollution. Remember Me? (rye, dry vermouth, crème de noyaux, and absinthe) supports Run4Salmon and its efforts restore salmon runs. The Resistance! (mezcal, citrus, and lavender syrup) supports Inequality Media, Robert Riech’s The Resistance Report. And Golden State (grand poppy, cocchi Americano, and citrus) supports the Earth Island Institute. Enjoy each delicious and noble cocktail during Gather’s “510 Happy Hour,” 5 – 6:30pm Monday through Friday when each is just $10 and draft beer is $5.
Gather’s location and interior design are as sustainable as its menu. Situated in a four-story, LEED Platinum certified building (the ‘greenest’ building in the East Bay) that houses environmental and social justice organizations, Gather features recycled leather belts that serve as upholstered bench seats, fisherman netting encases distinctive chandeliers, a rough-hewn fallen tree wood slab serves as a countertop and a wall art installation in the bar is balanced by tables, banquettes, and doors made from a former water tank and school bleacher benches. A charming heated (and shaded) urban garden patio features a cozy fire pit and couch seating.
Gather’s longevity is really no surprise. Delicious fare and libations served in a warm, welcoming environ by conscientious ownership that constantly evolves to meet both palate and social tastes is worth another nine years at the least, if not more.
Gather Restaurant: 2200 Oxford, Berkeley. Ample street parking in the evening, and many lots in the area.