Bernadine Sewell’s restaurant, Pinky & Red’s, occupies a small kiosk in UC Berkeley’s student union food court. But despite its diminutive size, the eatery packs a whole lot of heart and soul. Sewell, nicknamed “Pinky” for her pink hair, welcomes students, faculty, alumni, and community members to her restaurant with a smile and invites them to put a record on the record player. On the menu are items like fried chicken sandwiches that draw from six generations of family recipes from Texas and Louisiana, meant to recreate the experience of Sunday dinners in a Black household. It’s an oasis for students who are homesick or stressed.
Pinky & Red’s is a home away from home for many — and it’s not limited to those who can pay. If a student is unable to pay for a meal, she’ll provide one free of charge. Last fall, Sewell hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner, and 150 students and faculty members attended. She also regularly purchases extra bread, eggs, and veggies to donate to UC Berkeley’s student and faculty food pantry. And Sewell’s spirit of giving extends beyond the university. Every other Friday, she donates food to the Here There community. For Easter, she went up and down Shattuck Avenue donning a pair of rabbit ears and handing out meals to her unhoused neighbors, and this summer, she handed out food and water to people on Telegraph Avenue. Some restaurants might call themselves “community” restaurants, but at Pinky & Red’s, it’s the real deal.