It’s a watershed moment across every industry, with whole blocks of businesses in transition around the East Bay. There’s hope, but there is also a sense of flux and uncertainty and moving on. In short: If that little place on the corner that has been there forever is still there, and it still takes cash, be grateful.
Which food-related closures did we miss? As always, please send tips to email@example.com.
JUMP’N JAVA From an April tipster, we learned that Oakland has lost longtime neighborhood cafe Jump’n Java. Thanks to owner Mike Dawoud for 20 years of care and coffee, as artsy neighborhood coffee shops are becoming a rare breed. In hopeful news, fanciful new cafe Damask Rose has already opened in the space. Jump’n Java was at 6606 Shattuck Ave.
MUDLAB No one could have predicted the past two years when MudLab first came into being in 2019. Even when the team moved its forward-thinking shop and cafe to within view of Lake Merritt, the business remained uncertain. “It is with great sadness that we announce the closure of MudLab,” says a note on the company’s website. “Because of continuing issues with our location and the costs of staying open, we are not reopening.” The coffee shop and kitchen was zero-waste, sustainable, and community-minded, and we hope the people involved keep those flames alive. MudLab was at 440 Grand Ave.
OLIVETO Many of us, including Nosh, said our good-byes to Oliveto when its closure was first announced late last year, and it shuttered in December, 2021. But in a surprising turn of events, the team chose to resurrect the iconic restaurant for a few more busy months, allowing for many last suppers and farewells. April 23 really was the final final night, though, and Oliveto and Oliveto Cafe really, truly are now closed for good. Wonder what’s next for the space? Oliveto and Oliveto Cafe were at 5655 College Ave.
ROAM Roam Artisan Burgers was on the temporarily closed list several months back, and has since matured to permanently closed, especially given last month’s opening of Hotbird in the space. That really clinched it. Roam Artisan Burgers was at 1951 Telegraph Ave., #2.
A&W A loyal tipster alerted Nosh that the saga of Berkeley’s zombie A&W at Ashby and Telegraph has finally come to a close. New signage indicates that a forthcoming Aliberto’s Mexican franchise location will take over the space. A&W was at 2996 Telegraph Ave.
BREWED AWAKENING In a true rude awakening, owner Samir and Juju Nassar’s 35-year-old Northside neighborhood cafe and refuge closed for good on April 22. Their son and cafe manager Soosh Nassar gave a poignant explanation to SFGate, citing the family’s inability to negotiate a manageable lease after the pandemic-prompted business dormancy and long fallout. Thirty-five years! Yet another deeply ingrained community space gone. Brewed Awakening was at 1807 Euclid Ave.
CAFE NOSTOS For Greek-born owner John Samaras, Cafe Nostos (the name means “coming home”) was a labor of love. Samaras owned other businesses before opening this, his first cafe, crafting the buildout and overseeing the construction himself before opening his doors in 2017. Though only open a relatively short time, the comfortable cafe had an entrenched and loyal clientele, there for strong coffee, gentle service and house-made and imported Greek and Italian sweet and savory pastries. “It has been quite an experience,” Samaras said by phone. “We have so many nice customers and have made a lot of friends.” He credits those customers with supporting the cafe through the pandemic and offers heartfelt thanks. “We are sad to go,” he said. “But we just have to move along.” Cafe Nostos’s last day was April 28; Samaras has sold to new business Cafe Etoile, details forthcoming. Cafe Nostos was at 1930 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
GAI BARN THAI SOUL FOOD Elmwood’s Gai Barn Thai has closed. The sunny, soulful Thai small-plates restaurant opened in January 2019, part of the same extended family that includes Giin Thai Canteen and the now closed Gecko Gecko. A reader kindly let us know about the quiet closure, and that there is already signage posted for an upcoming pizza place in the narrow space. We’ll keep you updated. Gai Barn Thai Soul Food was at 2985 College Ave.
GOOD 2 GO CURRY AND MART This little red cottage of a convenience store run by the Aggarwal family (first the father Ashok, then son Vikas) served locals and young students for years with packaged foods, snacks, drinks as well as samosas and other Indian specialties to go. During the worst of the pandemic, it was appreciated as one of our treasured safe, small grocery suppliers around town. The store was repainted and reopened last month under the new ownership of Aggarwal’s brother, Vikram, as Anya’s Deli, with new menu items such as boba, sandwiches and ice cream. (Unleash the local middle schoolers!) Vikas has since moved on to manage a new business in Alameda. Good 2 Go Curry and Mart was at 1343 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
HAPPY HOOLIGANS This vegan comfort-food chain has already departed its Milvia Street space after less than one year. Though all signs on the Interwebs suggest a temporary closure, the windows are covered, and a reader (thank you!) spotted signage that a new Vietnamese restaurant would be opening there soon. Happy Hooligans was at 2101 Milvia St.
POKI POKE Sadly, Poki Poke has served its last custom-made spicy tuna bowl after nearly five years at University Avenue. The group’s second location in Fremont remains open. Poke Poke was at 1941 University Ave.
SUNNY SIDE CAFE OXFORD STREET Students and brunch lovers will be dismayed to learn this long-time favorite across from Cal will no longer be their sunshine. At least not on Oxford Street. The good news is that the team has already transitioned to very pretty new digs inside North Shattuck’s Epicurious Garden, a short walk away, and now serves American breakfast and lunch, and Peruvian specialties for dinner, with lots of outdoor seating. The cozy, Cal-adjacent cafe’s last day was April 30, after 13 years. (The first location of Sunny Side Cafe opened in 2003 in Albany.) Sunny Side Cafe Oxford was at 2136 Oxford St.
VENUS SHATTUCK & VENUS SOLANO Throughout the pandemic, readers wondered about the status of perpetually dormant Venus in downtown Berkeley. Now that the Solano location is also marked shut online, a call to owner Deepak Aggarwal reveals that yes, both locations are now fully closed. The original Venus opened back in 2000, under chef Amy Murray, and quickly developed a following (thanks, in part, to a notable review from Kim Severson) for its seasonal California-style brunch. Aggarwal took over ownership in 2017, keeping the menu intact, and in 2018, launched the Solano location to piggyback Venus brunch fare on already-established restaurant Khana Peena. Khana Peena remains open, and Aggarwal will soon reopen the Shattuck location of Venus as a brand new bar and restaurant called Tip-Sea. Expect more news on that developing story soon, but for now, Venus as Berkeley knew it for 22 years has closed. Venus was at 2327 Shattuck Ave. and 1889 Solano Ave.
BIERHAUS WALNUT CREEK This popular German-style gastropub, which was originally based in Mountain View, seemed poised for local success when, during a contentious landlord dispute, it relocated to Oakland in 2018. It then launched a second location in Walnut Creek, with even more garten, and fans with giant steins prosted the business in two cities. When Oakland’s Bierhaus never reopened after the March 2020 lockdown, folks were surprised (it’s now the newest location for Monster Pho); and even though the Walnut Creek bar did revive during the pandemic, it has now been dormant since last year’s holidays. Attempts to reach the owners have been unsuccessful, but we did spot that Bierhaus is marked permanently closed on Facebook. From toasted to ghosted… (Update: Beyond The Creek has confirmed a new pizzeria called City Square will soon move into the space). Bierhaus Walnut Creek was at 1360 Locust St. in Walnut Creek.
RANDY’S ICE CREAM It was the mid-pandemic lift we all needed: Chef and Albany local Brandon Nguyen, in a jaunty paper cap, slinging small-batch ice cream from his little nostalgic ice cream cart at the Albany end of Solano Avenue. Weekend after weekend, the chef gathered lines and smiles, and his flavors were truly special. The ice cream cart ran for exactly one year, from April 23, 2021, to April 23, 2022, until it had to cease for personal reasons. Randy’s Ice Cream was a street cart on Solano Avenue in Albany.
OK’S DELI This cult sandwich pop-up has secured keys to the former Saucy space on Telegraph Avenue, and has temporarily closed as it ramps up its first brick-and-mortar. Ok’s Deli was a pop-up inside Mago at 3762 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland, and will soon be located at 3932 Telegraph Ave. near 40th.
PASSIONE EMPORIO SHATTUCK Downtown Berkeley’s “piazza” property, the giant Passione Emporio cafe, wine bar and gelateria, briefly reopened last year and has since reshuttered. A recent chat with Fabrizio Cercatore promised yet another reopening of the sprawling cafe soon, hopefully within the next few months. Speriamo! In the meantime, Passione Emporio on Fifth remains open for pasta, pizza and gelato. Passione Emporio Shattuck is at 91 Shattuck Square in Berkeley.
Featured photo: The exterior of zero-waste grocery store MudLab. Credit: Cirrus Wood