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Readers’ choice winner

Cesar

It’s not too surprising that the closure of 35-year-old tapas bar Cesar was our readers’ top pick in this category: its loyal (and high-profile) fan base, its reliable food and drinks and an arguable David-and-Goliath narrative behind its eviction by master tenant Chez Panisse all made this a story that was followed across the country. The good news for those saddened by the shutdown: the folks behind Cesar are vowing a return, but haven’t confirmed where or when yet. That’s something to look forward in 2023, as is the new spot— in Alice Waters’s words, a “welcoming restaurant and bar” — that will open in the former Cesar space.

Cityside’s editorial picks

Last year was the Albatross Pub, this year it was Luka’s Taproom. The East Bay is losing its precious, love-worn, atmospheric watering holes. (We’re still rooting for you, Missouri Lounge.) — Nosh openings and closings columnist Joanna Della Penna

I know it’s been written about here and elsewhere, but I’m still heartbroken over the closing of Cesar. I kind of considered it to be my neighborhood bar, and would “sneak out” after my daughter was asleep (with my partner at home) to meet a friend (or by myself) for a “late night” (they were open until 10 p.m.!) cocktail and snack. — Cityside platforms director Doug Ng

For our family, the saddest closure in 2021 was Noodle Theory. It was such a staple in our neighborhood — and a takeout option that everyone could agree on. And it was the first takeout we got 12 years ago when the sale finalized on our Berkeley home just a block away. We hadn’t moved in and the electricity hadn’t been turned on yet but we ate off a cardboard box, sitting on the floor by candlelight with our then toddler (who’s now 6 feet tall). We enjoyed their vibe and their food. They will be missed. — Nosh contributor Elise Proulx

Bad news/good news: first it was Bette’s Oceanview that closed…and then reopened. Same thing with Rudy’s Can’t Fail. But as far as I can tell, Aunt Mary‘s is gone for good and that is very sad. Those grits waffles were so good. — Nosh contributor Risa Nye

The Lede — Cityside CEO Lance Knobel 

Noodle Theory. Until we moved to a different part of Berkeley, this reliably good restaurant with excellent service was on regular rotation for our family. — Cityside editorial director Tracey Taylor

I was heartbroken over the closure of Great Wall, the classic old-school, family-run, no-frills vegetarian Chinese spot in Rockridge. I’d gotten comforting (and cheap!) takeout noodles, hot & sour soup, and fake meat dishes there often throughout the pandemic, and the owners were so friendly. I always asked for extra chili oil. I’m glad Long Life Vegi House is still around in Berkeley, and Nature in Oakland Chinatown. On a very different note, I’m also sad that the Classic Cars West bar closed this year as well. What a fun and creative place.  — Oaklandside housing and homelessness reporter Natalie Orenstein

While not a restaurant, I’m naming the closure of West Oakland’s Community Foods as the East Bay’s saddest closure of the year. My two-part interview with founder Brahm Ahmadi earlier this year showed how the cards were stacked against him from the start, and how there were so many unknown obstacles in his path, despite his Herculean efforts and the years of his life he gave to make this market happen. It certainly was not for lacking of trying on his part. (Editor’s note: Wall was one of the 680 participants in Community Foods’ direct public offering. She has not received any revenue as a result of the purchase of a single share of the business, and does not expect to be repaid, in light of the company’s closure.) — Nosh contributor Alix Wall

I’m still sad that Brown Sugar Kitchen closed after a run of nearly 15 years. Of course, no one doubts that chef Tanya Holland has a sparkling media career ahead of her, and we can all console ourselves by putting her new California Soul cookbook on our Christmas lists. But there’s still a chicken-and-waffles-shaped hole in the heart of Uptown. — Nosh contributor Becky Duffett