Located in the greenest building in the East Bay, Gather at the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley is a restaurant, café and organic bar designed to inspire community. Featuring a menu of seasonal farm food, carefully sourced and thoughtfully prepared to appeal equally to vegetarians and omnivores, Gather offers a place people can, well, gather, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Gather team of Ari Derfel and Eric Fenster, who founded Back to Earth, the nation’s first organic catering company eight years ago, partnered with interior designer Nicole Sillapere to bring their vision to life. Sand and honey-hued colors blend with re-used leather and rough-hewn woods. Reclaimed wood and other materials that have literally been “gathered” from around the Bay Area.
A former water tank from Marin County has been turned into tables, counter-faces and a door; bleachers from a Sonoma high school are now banquettes and tables; while the lights over the bar have been crafted out of recycled vodka bottles.
“What excites me most about Gather is bringing together the community for a delicious meal in an atmosphere that draws on the colors, shapes and elements of the earth itself, and for the opportunity to connect with where our food comes from,” says Fenster.
“We also set out to build a restaurant that has the highest level of commitment to sustainability stressing purity of ingredients and researching distribution systems and sources that insure that the farmers who bring us the gifts of each harvest, plus their workers, are fairly compensated,” says Derfel.
Executive Chef Sean Baker will focus on the sweet spot of each season, using fruits and vegetables when at their peak to create a menu that while 50 percent vegetarian (with strong vegan options — and meat and fish dishes). Baker’s experience includes a sous chef position at Millennium, a consulting chef position at the Bonny Doon Vineyards Tasting Room and a position at Santa Cruz’s Gabriella Café.
“The team at Gather cares … about the way the food has been cultivated … ,” says Baker. “In addition to eschewing artificial additives of any kind, we are committed to only choosing animals that have been humanely raised without hormones or antibiotics.”
Gather is now open. The initial dinner menu offers small plates (priced from $8 to $14) such as crispy cardoons with almond pepper sauce and grilled scallion salsa; Monterey Bay Squid with leek tomato ragout; and cinnamon-braised Sonoma lamb with chicory, apple, mint and yogurt. There are daily changing organic pizzas ($12 to $14); large plates; a house burger; and several and vegan and vegetarian options.
Wine advisor is Christie Dufault who has worked with Gary Danko, Quince and RN74. There are sustainable wines by the glass and bottle. Also, creative cocktails made with organic spirits. Pastry Chef is Amy Pearce who, among other things, offers a hazelnut streusel cake and goat cheese panna cotta. General Manager Alex Desquiron comes to Gather from Berkeley’s Corso.
In addition to full, sit down service, Gather also offers a casual, all day café section with a to go menu. The separate bar will appeal to Zellerbach and Berkeley Rep audiences.
Open seven days a week, Gather is at 2200 Oxford Street at Allston in downtown Berkeley on the first floor of the David Brower Center. Parking is available in the building and reservations are available online.