Like so many fine dining restaurants, Gather, the iconic farm-to-table restaurant in Berkeley, was forced to close when the coronavirus pandemic hit. But in its 10-year run, the restaurant had a reputation as the go-to spot for celebrating birthdays or enjoying a luxurious pre-theater meal — all while appealing to omnivores and vegetarians alike.
It still will, but everything else about the new Gather, which opens today at noon, is different. Owner Eric Fenster has unveiled an evolved concept that he hopes will resonate with everyone, not just those who can afford a spendy night out.
“Our focus these past several months has been essentializing Gather,” Fenster says. “How does it go from being perceived as a special occasion restaurant to more of an everyday kind of place?”
The new Gather Kitchen, Bar & Market is a comprehensive, fine-casual eatery for our times: It offers contactless ordering, a grab-and-go market brimming with produce and prepared meals and outdoor seating for up to 75 people.
Starting today, you can also find Gather on major delivery platforms, including Mercato, the grocery delivery site.
In addition to lower prices and a new menu focused on what Fenster calls “hyper-local, farm-focused healthy comfort food,” starting next week, look for one-for-one Gather Give Back Boxes on a sliding scale ($45-$65). They’ll be filled with things like produce, meats or prepared foods.
“We’ll donate one for every box purchased,” he says. “We want healthier food and food from regenerative farms to be more accessible to everyone.” Each box will include information on partner farms and a little culinary surprise from the kitchen.
At the helm of the new Gather kitchen is executive chef Jessica Whiteman, who most recently worked at Bluestem Brasserie in San Francisco and Bridges Restaurant & Bar in Danville. Her revamped menu takes Gather’s most popular dishes and expands upon them.
Instead of just one burger — that epic Marin Sun Farms burger with Grazier’s sharp white cheddar — there will be three ($13-$14), including a new vegetarian Falafel Burger with sesame-vegetable slaw. Pizzas ($16-$18) will include classic and seasonal favorites and, for the first time, gluten-free crust as an option.
You can also build-your-own pizzas and burgers, another first for Gather. Look for bowls ($14-$16) and salads ($13-$14) as well as draft beer, wine by the glass and bottle and cocktails.
“We had this amazing, decade-long 1.0 chapter where we experimented with everything from molecular gastronomy to global flavors and comfort foods,” Fenster says. “But we have decided to build on those comfort foods, which is what we’re all craving these days.”
You no longer need a reservation to dine at Gather, either. When you arrive, grab an empty table in the interior courtyard along Oxford Street or right in front of the restaurant at Allston & Oxford streets. Scan the QR code on the table’s placard and menus will pop up for the kitchen, bar and market.
Order your burger, salad and beer for lunch and take home bottled salad dressing, batched cocktails and a cookie dough kit.
“We’re just trying to be more dynamic with our space and also respect people’s time,” Fenster says. “I just dream that this will be functional and that we can build on it.”
Gather Kitchen, Bar & Market is open from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays at 2200 Oxford St., Berkeley.