After January’s industry bloodbath, February’s low numbers of food-related closures are a relief. That said, every closure is a loss, and some of the following are enormous losses for their respective East Bay communities.
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SOJO RAMEN This student-friendly ramen shop inside the former Caffe Med (and briefly, Boileroom) space on Telegraph Avenue quietly shuttered around the new year. Last month, Sizzling Lunch took it over (see February openings for more). Sojo Ramen was at 2475 Telegraph Ave.
WRECKING BALL COFFEE From the minute Wrecking Ball Coffee opened in North Berkeley’s most famous dining district in 2019, co-owner Nick Cho’s impact on the area was swift and transformative: In short, he took a wrecking ball to the neighborhood’s name. Together with business partner/then-wife Trish Rothgeb, Cho vigorously spotlighted the outdated (and ironic) inappropriateness of the “Gourmet Ghetto” moniker, and when former Nosh editor Sarah Han brought the discussion further into view, community debate was on.
Wrecking Ball opened in August, and by September the media had descended, tense neighborhood meetings were held, Alice Waters and other chefs had weighed in, and the North Shattuck Association dismantled the area’s Gourmet Ghetto signs. Within weeks, the nickname was effectively canceled, and is now a relic; after two weary years of pandemic it’s kind of fun to remember what a big deal this all was for Berkeley. Also, Wrecking Ball had an attractive vibe and mural, and it served good coffee. Cho, now a social media star known as Your Korean Dad, has since parted ways with Rothgeb and has moved to Los Angeles, and the Berkeley Wrecking Ball closed Feb. 20. It will be missed as a comfortable place for, well, healthy discourse. There remains a Wrecking Ball cafe in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. Wrecking Ball Coffee was at 1600 Shattuck Ave.
COMMUNITY FOODS MARKET West Oakland’s bountiful market project is no more. The full-service grocery store opened June, 2019, after years of careful planning, but did not anticipate the past two years. A straight-forward letter of explanation bears reading in full. “The pandemic has exacerbated racial and economic inequalities and structural barriers, which has further marginalized and isolated our local West Oakland community from the surrounding region,” the group’s farewell announcement notes. “This cut Community Foods Market off from a larger customer base and diminished the spending power of our local shoppers.” To mark its closing, Nosh contributor Alix Wall deconstructed its rise and fall in a two-part report (part one ran on Feb. 24, part two on Feb. 28). Despite being underfunded from the start and vendor problems during the pandemic, Community Foods was an oasis in the food desert, showed tremendous heart and made an indelible difference. Community Foods Market was at 3105 San Pablo Ave.
MASALA CUISINE The SF Chronicle was the first to catch a Facebook post from this mom-and-pop Oakland spot, which announced this month that “after 10 years of service to our dedicated clients, we have made the decision to close our doors due to health issues.” Co-owner Sushil Masih confirmed the closure to Nosh, saying that the closure was “permanent and for good.” The tiny restaurant was known for its handmade, griddled roti and for chef Rooplal Masih’s painstaking service. Masala Cuisine was at 7912 International Blvd. — Eve Batey
MODERN TIMES HOUSE OF PERPETUAL REFRESHMENT The Chronicle let us know that Modern Times brewery has not only shuttered its sunny, new-ish Oakland taproom, but has abruptly closed up three others as well, in Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. Looks like changing times for the San Diego-based craft brewery. Modern Times House of Perpetual Refreshment was at 2410 Valdez St.
SAUCY Friendly Temescal sake lounge and restaurant Saucy is not closing, but it is moving. The group said good-bye to its Telegraph Avenue location in February, and expects to reopen in March in Old Oakland at 468 8th St., in the former Tamarindo Antojeria space. Saucy Temescal was at 3932 Telegraph Ave.
ROCK WALL WINE COMPANY Alameda has lost one of its favorite spots, a haven for both wine and sunshine, with the closure of woman-owned urban winery Rock Wall Wine Company. “We are sad to announce that the rising costs of doing business in the Bay Area, compounded by facilities issues and the lasting financial implications of COVID closures, have created an untenable situation for us to continue to operate,” says the team’s good-bye letter on their website. Owner Shauna Rosenbloom continued, “I keep thinking about how much we accomplished at Rock Wall. We made a safe and comfortable winery space for ALL adults to learn about and engage with wine. We wanted to create a social scene at Alameda Point around wine and food and be a champion for other small businesses and artists, and we did. We wanted to push the boundaries of what was ‘normal’ in the wine industry and give back to our community in a meaningful way, and we did.” The tasting room closed Feb. 27. Rock Wall wines are available for online purchase while supplies last, for shipping or drive-thru pick-up until June 5. Rock Wall Wine Company was at 2301 Monarch St. in Alameda.