If you’ve ever dined or drunk in Berkeley's North Shattuck area, you’ve consumed calories in what’s known as the ‘Gourmet Ghetto.’ But, keepers of the new “all-inclusive” Berkeley cafe from Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters hope to change that name for something, say, more PC.
In a very Mariah Carey-like, we don’t know her fashion, co-CEOs Trish Rothgeb and Nick Cho are adamantly pushing back on the epicurean nickname for the area, made popular in the 1970s.
Cho, specifically, is asking that the North Shattuck Association (that, yes, has their URL as gourmetghetto.org) begin the process of axing the use of the arguably problematic name. Cho, too, hopes the neighborhood — which contains addresses of such well-known eateries like Chez Panisse, The Cheeseboard Collective, and Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen — will soon be free from those “Gourmet Ghetto” banners that line certain streets.
“We should be prioritizing diversity in the Bay Area,” Cho said in an earlier piece on Berkleyside, penned by Sarah Han. “It’s surprising that it’s gone on so long without pushback. People who live here forget about it, but when I bring younger people here they say, ‘Does that really say Gourmet Ghetto on that banner?’ — it’s not OK.”
To Cho’s point, he does raise a valid cultural conundrum worth fleshing out further; the North Shattuck area has been historically exclusive of “non-whites,” and, particularly, could be seen as discriminatory toward African Americans and those of Latin descent.
Since that piece’s August 22nd publishing, Cho’s been approached by “100 people either through comments or messages coming in, saying that they’ve been bothered by [the name] for a long, long time,” per Caleb Pershan of EaterSF.
That said, there’s no denying the area’s cemented importance in our state’s gastronomy — epithet, and all. “[The Gourmet Ghetto] was one of the birthplaces of California cuisine, as we know it today,” says former Drip Line chef Nora Haron — who now oversees the culinary direction of SF’s Local Kitchen and the tongue-in-cheek bakery FYUB — to SFist. “It’s an important part of the Bay Area’s culinary history.”
Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, now five years since Cho and his wife (Trish Rothgeb) started the business in San Francisco, intends to remain unwavering in how it approaches both service and acceptance: “We want to show hospitality, but also be intentional that this is our space that they’re welcome in,” Cho said about the cafe in that same Berkeleyside piece.
Located 1600 Shattuck, Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters’ East Bay destination is larger than their Folsom Street location in SF, giving them literally more room to feature baked goods and sippable creations, and features a new array of Modbar espresso machines.