Sweet stuff: There are two signs that Taiwan's fast-pastry phenom, the 85°C Bakery Cafe, has moved into your neighborhood: First are the telltale lines, the length of which we haven't seen since Krispy Kreme invaded the West. Second are the cries of "fresh bread!" whenever hot loaves of milk bread, red bean bread or mango bread come out of the oven.

Launched in Taiwan in 2004 (the founder was said to have been inspired by Starbucks, but with lower prices in mind), the 85°C chain moved into Southern California in 2008 and has been expanding rapidly ever since. There are 745 locations worldwide, the vast majority in Taiwan and mainland China. But for you, the closest locations are in Newark, the first for Northern California, and the just-opened San Jose cafe.

Besides breads, the cafe specializes in freshly baked Euro-style danishes, Asian-style buns, dessert cakes and coffee and tea drinks. Although the name is derived from the company's belief that coffee holds its flavor best at 85 degrees Celsius (which translates into 185 degrees Fahrenheit), the chain's signature coffee drink is an iced coffee topped with sea salt foam.

The long, late hours at 85° are also a hit -- from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days (8 a.m. Sundays), until midnight Friday-Saturday. Details: 1183 S. De Anza Blvd., San Jose; 408-252-7885. And 35201 Newark Blvd; 510-796-8585. Online: http://85cafe.us.

Seafood finger food: We'd mentioned a while back that Nelson German would be opening alaMar Kitchen & Bar in Uptown Oakland this spring. The doors swung wide this week with craft cocktails by Rob Wertheimer and sensual eat-with-your fingers fare, including oysters, blue crab poppers and Louisiana crawfish, as well as braised Black Angus oxtail, quinoa-stuffed plantains, and cardoon and tofu beignets. Open Mondays through Saturdays from 4:30 p.m. on, with lunch service and Sunday brunch still to come. Details: 100 Grand Ave.; www.alamaroakland.com.

DIY 'za: Build-your-own whatever restaurants are popping up everywhere. Next up? Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza is opening its first Northern California outpost this summer at Fremont's Pacific Commons Shopping Center, with five more Bay Area and Sacramento sites to follow. The company was founded by the folks behind Wetzel's Pretzels, and 250 Blazes are being readied for grand openings in the near future. The concept? You choose the ingredients for your personal pie from a hefty list of possibilities, ranging from bacon to artichokes and arugula, then "pizzasmiths" -- their name, not ours -- fire that creation in a blazing hot pizza oven that cooks it in a flash. A three-minute flash. Peek at the menu at www.blazepizza.com.

Speaking of build-your-own fare, The Counter just opened a burger joint in Fremont's Gateway Plaza. If you've been to the Counters in Walnut Creek, San Jose or on the Peninsula, you know how it works. You choose your protein (Angus beef, organic bison, ahi tuna and so on), then adorn it with your choice of 16 cheeses, 23 sauces and 45 toppings, which range from grilled pineapple and "carrot strings" to bacon and fried eggs. By the time you get to the seven bun choices, you may be tempted to just say, "Surprise me." If you find the prospect of that many decisions daunting, don't fret. They have predesigned burgers, too. Details: www.thecounterburger.com.

Send your restaurant tips to jburrell@bayareanewsgroup.com and lzavoral@mercurynews.com.