For many of us, January’s closing news felt as endless as the month itself, with hit after hit, each shutter more poignant than the last. Nosh wishes rest for the weary, and the best of fresh starts for the good people behind these businesses that have crossed the restaurant rainbow. Also — to have endured so well for so long? Amazing. Miraculous. Hats off.
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BETTE’S OCEANVIEW DINER What to say about this classic Fourth Street brunch destination that legions of fans haven’t already? Opened in 1982, Bette’s was one of the first to put Fourth Street on the food map, and as long-time locals know, maintained its diner-like charms well after the neighborhood grew fancified. It was appropriately beloved for its stylish but nostalgic American breakfasts and friendly service, and has received a well-deserved send-off across Bay Area media, starting with Nosh editor Eve Batey’s in-depth piece on the diner’s origins, its people, and what led to last month’s closure. So long, Bette’s, and thanks for all the pancakes. Bette’s Oceanview Diner was at 1807 Fourth St.
DRAW BILLIARD CLUB Friendly bar and pool hall Draw (and its egg sandwich pop-up Cracked) shut up tight as soon as the March 2020 shelter-in-place order was issued, and has been dark ever since. For anyone still holding out hope for reopening, a change of ownership sign has now appeared in the window promising a new spot coming soon called Morgan Cafe. Maybe they’ll keep the pool tables? (FYI: We’ve heard Cracked has been spotted occasionally at Oakland’s Uncle Morty’s monthly gatherings.) Draw Billiards was at 64 Shattuck Sq.
NORDIC HOUSE We knew it was coming, but now the sad moment is here: After 59 years, Nordic House is no more. For many months, the purveyor of all things Scandinavian, some hard-to-find German and other Euro goods, and the source of some of Berkeley’s best sandwiches, was openly lamented by its community as it approached closure. January saw a final sale and then, adjö. In a matter of weeks we’ve lost The Junket, we’ve lost Nordic House: Where’s a person supposed to procure pickled herring? Cloudberry jam? Canned haggis? Please advise. Nordic House was at 2709 San Pablo Ave.
SABUY SABUY II The East Bay loves its Thai restaurants, and Berkeley old-timer Sabuy Sabuy II was no exception. The boxy little restaurant, painted a similar burnt orange to the Golden Gate Bridge, provided refuge and savory Thai cuisine to countless satisfied diners. Proud owner Bert and his family were famous for offering what some called “Thai omakase” — taking cues from customers and cooking up off-menu dishes to taste. Locals might remember the first Sabuy Sabuy on College Avenue in north Oakland, which became Bangkok Garden in 2018. Regulars noticed Sabuy Sabuy II quietly went dark in December. Sabuy Sabuy II was at 1233 San Pablo Ave.
BROWN SUGAR KITCHEN Oakland lost some treasured icons last month, beginning with Brown Sugar Kitchen, Tanya Holland’s opus that first became famous in West Oakland starting in 2008, and moved into a grand Uptown flagship in 2019. Even Holland’s impressive celebrity was no match for two years of pandemic, and after temporarily closing the modern soul food restaurant over the holidays, the chef eventually made the difficult call to shutter for good. An experimental second BSK location at the Ferry Building in San Francisco had already closed after less than a year in business in 2020. As Holland told Nosh editor Eve Batey for her story on Brown Sugar Kitchen’s final closure last month, “I got to do what I wanted to do for 15 years. But things evolve. Evolution is healthy.” Hear hear. Holland’s legions of fans should know that, per Eater, her association with Oakland Museum of California cafe Town Fare ended on Jan. 31, but the museum will keep some of her creations on the menu. Brown Sugar Kitchen was at 2295 Broadway.
DAUGHTER’S DINER Typically when a restaurant closes after a year or less, the public collectively nods in understanding. “Oh well. It’s a tough business.” But man, sometimes the end of a place that was just getting started gets a deep cry of “why?!” Opened with heart during the pandemic, Daughter’s Diner itself seemed like a fourth member of the young family behind it — chef Keven Wilson and co-owner Justyna Wilson, and their wee daughter Mila. The Wilsons created a modern-classic diner with quality American food — nostalgic but with thoughtful nods to design, technique and ingredients. It was an instant favorite for the neighborhood and the East Bay, and its pivots and parklet kept up with pandemic needs. Despite these best efforts it was forced to close, as tenderly outlined in this reporting by Nosh editor Eve Batey. Rather than rub salt in wounds, we’ll just say — a different time, a different situation, we believe Daughter’s Diner would still be here, and we know it will be missed. Daughter’s Diner was at 326 23rd St.
DRAGON GATE BAR & GRILLE Eater was the first to report on the closure of this atmospheric Taiwanese restaurant and karaoke lounge, that has been a nightlife staple in Jack London Square since 2014. Dragon Gate was at 300 Broadway.
KORYO JAJANG Koryo Jajang’s budget-friendly Chinese-Korean cooking made it a comforting, no-frills stop at Temescal’s Koryo Village plaza for many regulars for many years. The restaurant has already reopened as Gangnam Jajang (see January’s Openings). Koryo Jajang was at 4390 Telegraph Ave.
LUKA’S TAPROOM & LOUNGE Don’t blame the messenger — Nosh editor Eve Batey spent a good part of January breaking sad news, including most of the above, and the stunning closure of this well-loved Uptown Oakland mainstay. For 18 years, Luka’s was where a person went for a beer and a burger, community. It was an Uptown cornerstone, possibly THE Uptown cornerstone, and even after surviving the last couple of years, an unfortunate landlord situation led to it having no choice but to walk away. We have no words, but our readers and indeed the whole East Bay sure had many when this story broke. Luka’s Taproom & Lounge was at 2221 Broadway.
RIKYU Rikyu, from notable chef Tatsuya Koyake, was a sushi go-to in Rockridge for 14 years, and abruptly closed late last year. The Judoku Sushi team (see January’s Openings) packed up their former restaurant a block away and moved in last month. Rikyu was at 5335 College Ave.
SALVAGE HAUSU The SF Chronicle was first to note this sad Instagram post from vegan sushi spot Salvage Hausu confirming their permanent closure. The business began as a pop-up in 2019, the brainchild of Mike Lawrence (Portal, Philomena) and Suki van Arsdale, and later opened inside Crooked City Cider in Jack London Square. Crooked City remains open, but after a temporary closure earlier in the month, the sushi spot shut its doors for good last week. Salvage Hausu was at 206 Broadway. — Eve Batey
PAPPO Opened in 2005, and listed among the best restaurants in Alameda, Pappo’s romantic, Cal-Med appeal made it a well-respected winner for date nights and fancier occasions on the island. Chef-owner John Thiel, an Alameda native, peddled in wine-friendly farm-to-table dishes such as luscious duck bolognese, seasonal fish and lamb dishes, fresh soups, beet and goat cheese salads and addictive nibbles such as fried olives. He also garnered as high of a reputation for giving back to the community as for his cooking, as outlined in this warm closing feature in the Mercury News. Pivots to takeout and a lovely outdoor parklet helped usher Pappo through the pandemic, but Thiel chose to close last month after one final, sold out New Year’s Eve dinner, and the restaurant will be very, very missed. Pappo was at 2320 Central Ave. in Alameda.
TACO BELL EMERYVILLE It might seem like the least dramatic exit on this list, but Emeryville’s Taco Bell was always busy and had a reputation for better-than-average quality and cleanliness. It also seemed a permanent part of the East Bay Bridge Shopping Center. Apparently the location was ghosted in December, news courtesy the E’ville Eye, in an unceremonious mid-pandemic departure after at least 16 years of service. (The exact opening year was unclear as of press time, we’d love to hear your input). Farewell to this Bell. We guess it…tolled for thee. Taco Bell was at 3839 Emery St. in Emeryville.
GALLEGO’S MEXICAN FOOD Nosh thanks the concerned tipsters who alerted us that this old-school, family-owned Mexican restaurant has been dark for about three weeks. We tried and failed to reach the owners, but a kindly neighbor in the building informed us that the restaurant is temporarily closed while a member of the family receives some necessary care. Let’s all plan a visit for some mole when it reopens. Gallego’s Mexican Food is at 2200 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley.