Like fluctuating March weather, many of the following venues were vibrant success stories until the pandemic and its bleak fallout. A few were decades old and will go down in East Bay history.
As always, please send closing tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PAPPY’S GRILL & SPORTS BAR Pappy’s was the latest incarnation of venerable bar Larry Blake’s, a bastion for Cal students (and sports fans in particular) for 71 years. When Blakes closed for good in 2011, Pappy’s opened in the space early the following year, with two levels of drinks, sports, food, pool and dancing. Throughout its 10 years, the bar under Pappy’s management was never quite a slam-dunk with the greater Berkeley community — it developed a bit of a reckless reputation, lost its liquor license, and was, at times, a gateway for unfortunate events on Telegraph Avenue. Nevertheless, Nosh suspects there are many former Pappy’s regulars out there who are mourning its loss. We’ll be curious to see what’s next for the storied bar. Pappy’s Grill & Sports Bar was at 2367 Telegraph Ave.
VITAL VITTLES It was 46 years old and one of Berkeley’s best-loved companies, but organic bread bakery Vital Vittles closed March 31, for reasons ranging from pandemic-related issues to the well-being of its owners. Founded by Kass Schwin and her ex-husband Joe Schwin in 1976, Vital Vittles became famous for nourishing, whole-grain bread products so coveted by fans that the brand was in demand across the country and literally sent into space. The Schwins sold the bakery in 2006 to dedicated employee Huong Tran, whom they hired in 1981, and her brother Binh Tran. For 16 years, the siblings worked tirelessly alongside staff to maintain the bakery’s high standards, but as explained by Nosh contributor Anna Mindess in her closing feature, when 2020 hit, peak pandemic supply chain issues (remember the shortage of flour?) and dwindling demand for perishables such as fresh breads rapidly depleted the company. By the time Vital Vittles closed, it was just brother and sister running the bakery, and they were understandably tired. We pay tribute to them and the bakery’s local legacy and wish them a well–earned rest. Vital Vittles was at 2810 San Pablo Ave.
YOMIE’S RICE X YOGURT Surprisingly, this purple rice drink chain never quite gained enough foot traffic at its Berkeley location near campus, according to sources in the franchise, and closed after only several months. Yomie’s locations remain open in Oakland and San Leandro. Yomie’s Rice X Yogurt Berkeley was at 2107 Addison Ave.
MISS OLLIE’S Chef-owner Sarah Kirnon’s 10-year-old Caribbean haven Miss Ollie’s made an impact far beyond good cooking. As described by Tablehopper: “Miss Ollie’s is much more than just a place renowned for its skillet-fried chicken— Sarah is a builder of friendships, a teacher to many in the Bay Area culinary community, and at Miss Ollie’s, is nurturing a sacred space for her community to gather in, a place where Black and queer folx are celebrated, seen, cared for, honored, uplifted, and yes, well-fed.” That fried chicken, though. From its opening in 2012, Miss Ollie’s, named for Kirnon’s Barbadian grandmother, was often on the Bay Area’s superlative lists; in 2015, food writer and former Chronicle food editor Paolo Lucchesi called Kirnon’s cooking among his best meals of the year. In 2021, with pandemic lessons to go on, Kirnon eyed a possible restructure of Miss Ollie’s traditional restaurant format into more of a nonprofit refuge with rotating guest chef pop-ups, but her vision, called Sanctuary, didn’t come to pass in that space. Doesn’t mean the restaurant wasn’t one, though, and doesn’t mean Sanctuary won’t happen. In fact, as KQED’s Luke Tsai explains in his thoughtful closing feature, Kirnon hopes to find future Oakland locations for both Miss Ollie’s food and the Sanctuary project. But for now, Miss Ollie’s was at 901 Washington St.
AMERICAN OAK Pour a little out: Handsome whiskey bar and steakhouse American Oak closed March 26 after 15 years. From the venue’s Facebook page: “We are extremely grateful to and appreciative of our thousands of wonderful customers over the years — especially our loyal core of diehard regulars. You know who you are and we will never forget you. Please stay safe and healthy and remember to be kind to one another. Thanks again, we will miss you.” American Oak, Alameda will miss you back. Thanks to a kind tipster for the alert. American Oak was at 2319 Santa Clara Ave. in Alameda.
TAQUERIA EL SALVA MEX Grateful to a reader for letting Nosh know that this eclectic El Cerrito taqueria known for its Salvadoran and Mexican dishes closed in February after nearly 10 years. Despite its signage, the cash-only eatery was only ever referred to as El Salva Mex. (As one Yelp reviewer wrote, “The ‘Taqueria’ is silent.”). It was a go-to for many for carnitas tacos, chiles rellenos, pupusas, menudo and other specialties. El Salva Mex was at 11252 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.
AWAZI KITCHEN According to owners, Oakland Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant Awazi Kitchen is temporarily closed for a few weeks while the restaurant undergoes a refresh. Awazi Kitchen is at 1009 Clay St. in Oakland.
ENDLESS SUMMER SWEETS Endless Summer Sweets’s temporary closure (since December) probably seems endless to fans. Keep calm and watch for updates, Sweets enthusiasts — the dessert shop will reopen ASAP in its new digs at 2358 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
GAY4U West Oakland vegan eatery Gay4U’s closure situation might be the most positive hiatus on this list. In fact, it’s less of a closure and more of an empowered migration, as gender-expansive owner Ginger Espice ventures forth to take their vegan specialties and mission — as described by KQED’s Paloma Cortes, “to make queer and trans people of color feel welcomed, seen, accepted and supported” — on the road for a multi-state pop-up journey. You go, friend. But please don’t forget to come back to us. Gay4U was at 1327 Peralta St., and might return, stay tuned.