Rotten City Pizza’s Jonas Bernstein ready to unveil his latest creation: Branch Line Bar
Jonas Bernstein is a bit of an Emeryville Historian. He should be, he’s been doing business here for 17 years. Like any good business person, he pays attention to what’s going on around him and tries to stay ahead of the curve. His second business in Emeryville took what some would construe as derogatory reference toward Emeryville, and he decided to own it. “I took a bit of a gamble naming a pizza place ‘Rotten City’ ” recounts Bernstein, referencing the famous D.A. Earl Warren Quote. “It ended up working out OK though.”
Rotten City has a loyal following and pies like the Porchetta helped put them on the map in a crowded field of competitors. Pizza has and always will be popular, but there are still peaks and valleys as Burgers gained the spotlight, followed by Fried Chicken Sandwiches … who knows what’s next. Bernstein thinks he know what’s next for E’villains by opening Branch Line Bar.
Before Emeryville was “Emeryville”, it was apparently just referred to as “Shellmound” and a segment of the Berkeley Branch Line extended from Downtown Berkeley along what is now Stanford Avenue, to the Shellmound Tower station. The route facilitated travel to SF by ferry and established Emeryville as a destination and fed its industrial growth in the late 1800’s.
Bernstein thinks modern Emeryville is still underserved and he’s taking another gamble that its growth will continue despite a challenging business climate administered by the city. The forthcoming Wareham transit center could make the area a hub of activity and he’s hoping more workers will decide to hang out and enjoy happy hour before getting back on the Emery Go-Round or Amtrak. New developments including Parc on Powell & Emme across the Amtrak Bridge should make this a destination for locals as well. “I’ve had my eye on that spot for a while and I really think Emeryville could use another good spot where their workforce and residents alike can grab a drink and a bite and enjoy a private conversation. We also think the time has come for the dining scene in E’ville to mature a bit.”
Bernstein’s pedigree is with the Culinary Institute of America, but he’s stepped out of the kitchen for Branch Line’s menu and it’s the creative process that he now values. A former chef, Bernstein has a vision for what he wants for the space and the menu “There’s going to be a little heat to everything in our menu”. Cody Gimbel, who previously worked for Berkeley’s Gregoire, has been given control of the menu and found opportunity in the kitchen’s limited space. “We don’t have an oven, we don’t have a hood” added Bernstein “so we have to be creative and Cody has accomplished that for us”.
Their Warm Cheese plate above consists of Cowgirl creamery Mt. Tam, fig, oyster mushrooms, maitake, fried alliums, port, balsamic & walnut levain. In addition, Branch Line will serve Oysters, Home Made Salumi and Tuna Poke.
The food at Branch Line is delicious, but the soul of Branch Line is a bar (a “high-end” dive bar as Jonas puts it) and run-of-the-mill cocktails aren’t going to fly in an area that includes the likes of Prizefighter and Honor Kitchen. Bernstein turned to seasoned bartender Cortney Logue to formulate the cocktail menu that compliments their culinary creations. Logue has crafted unique concoctions fueled by as many as 30 different house made-bitters and even value-priced cocktails on tap.
In addition to classic cocktails like the Manhattan above, Barkeeper Logue has formulated a mix of custom cocktails including the Tiki Tom Cat (Barr Hill Gin, Key Lime Bitters & Coconut Water), the Red Bandana (Tequila, Mezcal, Hibiscus Tincture & Orange Bitters) and the Christy Brinkley shown below (Vodka, Rhubarb Bitters & Champaign) among others.
“A mixologist gives you a drink that you’ll remember from that night, a bartender gives you a night to remember” added Logue about her personal philosophy in drink-making. Branch Line has also made a conscious effort to embrace local brands like St. George’s Spirits, Hanger One Vodka & Oakland’s up & coming Ghost Town Brewery. “Cortney is a very dangerous bartender because she makes drinkable drinks” added Bernstein.
Branch Line will have three TV’s that will broadcast local and major sporting events. Branch Line is slated for its Soft Opening on Monday July 6th.
BranchLineBar.com (Coming Soon)
5885 Hollis Street, Suite 25
(59th St. between Peladeau & Hollis)