December 8, 2022


Sports Really Satisfies

This new Berkeley sports bar reimagines the Hot Pocket

Berkeley’s newest sports bar, 4bells Public House, officially opens Thursday with lobster Hot Pockets and North African-inspired hot wings in the former Doc’s Refresher space — just in time for the Warriors NBA Finals game.

The East Bay’s latest sports pub concept was two years in the making and is a collaborative venture between Jennifer Seidman, owner of Acme Bar & Company, known for its award-winning whiskey collection, and chef Sergio Emilio Monleón, known for his Spanish-influenced tapas bar, La Marcha. 

Monleón told SFGATE that the two restaurant owners became close during the pandemic. Seidman operated the now-defunct Doc’s Refresher space across the street from La Marcha, so they often leaned on each other for emotional support. 

The old-timey wooden bar at 4bells Public House.

Courtesy of 4 Bells Public House

Those pep talks sparked the idea for the concept behind 4bells Public House, with Seidman dreaming up the cocktail side of the business and Monleón creating a food menu that pulls from his childhood nostalgia and blends a variety of cuisine styles he was exposed to through his family’s diverse blend of cultures. 

“I’ve been professionally doing Spanish food for a long time, and while that’s definitely the lens I look at food through, I did have a diverse upbringing,” he said. “So I’ve been looking forward to doing a project that could really expand on a lot of those different things and not feel like I’m constricted to only Spanish ingredients.”

Monleón lived in Spain for three years with Spanish roots stemming from his father’s side. But he’s also proud of his Mexican heritage he gets from his mother. When his folks split and remarried, Monleón said, it opened a new world of flavors that included Italian, Southern American and Tex-Mex food influences. All of this led him to create his take on chicken and waffles, which features a golden Belgian waffle that tastes like a sweet corn tamale.

“My stepdad, he would make me fried chicken and waffles a lot growing up, and my grandmother on my mother’s side made a chocolate mole,” he said. “So I combined those two things and did a mole fried chicken and waffles. The waffle has some of the masa, the corn masa, so it’s a total fusion of the two cultures.” 

Harissa honey-glazed hot wings are on menu at 4bells Public House.

Harissa honey-glazed hot wings are on menu at 4bells Public House.

Courtesy of 4 Bells Public House

With sports bars filling up with rowdy Warriors fans across the Bay Area, Monleón said he’s also ready to feed patrons with a playful menu that stays true to sports bar classics such as hot wings, but of course, has his personal twist. 

“We have classics like buffalo wings, for example, but these are done North African style, so it’s got a harissa honey glaze,” he said. “On my Spanish side, because of the Spanish Civil War, my family moved to Morocco, so my grandmother had a lot of Moroccan and North African influence in the dishes she would make when I was growing up.” 

Then, there’s the confit ribs, slow-cooked in their own lard with “tons of spices” and finished with a Tex-Mex-style barbecue sauce served with a side of crispy french fries. But the lobster Hot Pocket is a creation he’s most excited to serve on game day. 

Tex-Mex-style confit ribs with french fries at 4bells Public House.

Tex-Mex-style confit ribs with french fries at 4bells Public House.

Courtesy of 4 Bells Public House

“It’s an in-house-made Hot Pocket, and it’s got lobster meat, a couple of different cheeses, a ton of herbs and spices, and we bake them fresh per order,” he said. “I even want to try to get the little cardboard pockets that they come in.”

With a blend of aged cheddar, Asiago and manchego cheese, “a ton of chives and thyme,” caramelized onions and garlic, it’s an adult version of the childhood after-school snack, made with about 20 fresh ingredients. It’s the perfect handheld fuel.

“We’ll have the Warriors game on. We’re really excited that they’re making it to the finals,” he said.

4bells, 984 University Ave., Berkeley. Open daily 3 p.m.-9 p.m.