Oscar's restaurant is now closed on Shattuck Avenue. Photo: Kate Williams
Oscar’s restaurant on Shattuck Avenue is now closed. Photo, taken on Oct. 26, 2015, by Kate Williams

The time has come for Oscar’s, the iconic burger and hot dog restaurant on Shattuck Avenue. Oscar’s, a fixture in downtown Berkeley for 65 years, is now officially closed.

We announced the impending closure of the restaurant this spring. Oscar’s, which served up a no-frills menu of burgers, fried chicken, French fries and hotdogs, will be replaced by Washington, D.C.-based “seasonal fast-food chain” Sweetgreen. The new restaurant will serve primarily vegan and vegetarian selection of salads and grain bowls, using ingredients that change with the seasons. 

Sweetgreen was founded in 2007 by three Georgetown students and now has 33 locations on the East Coast and one in Los Angeles. The restaurant chain has plans to continue opening more spots across the West Coast using its recent investment from, among others, New York restaurateurs Daniel Boulud, David Chang and Danny Meyer. Sweetgreen raised $35 million in its last round of funding, bringing its total to $95 million.

We have reached out to Sweetgreen for more details on its construction and opening plans, but it is not ready to announce its opening schedule. A PR representative for the company said Monday it had no updates, but that the company is “really excited about coming to the area and getting to know the community.”

The za’atar salad from Sweetgreen includes chopped romaine, parsley, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, raw beets, roasted chicken, za’atar pita chips and creamy sumac dressing. Photo: Sweetgreen/Facebook

Sweetgreen plans to keep much of the historic architecture of the building intact. It is working with San Francisco-based architecture firm Jensen to preserve the retro design of the burger restaurant. We reported this spring that the designers plan to add an awning and additional outdoor seating.

This preservation move may still only be a condolence prize for loyal Oscar’s customers, who have included thousands of Cal students and faculty, families and pretty much anyone looking for a good-value, no-nonsense burger. Its late opening hours also made it a magnet for those looking for a carb fix after a night of drinking.

The restaurant, which was not known for its “fuzzy” customer service, also made several appearances in the TV show “Parenthood,” whose characters were meant to live in Berkeley.

When Nosh reported the news of Oscar’s imminent demise in the spring, reaction was immediate and plentiful. Our May 26 story was shared on Facebook more than 16,000 times and prompted nearly 150 comments. Perhaps Tom L. Clark summed up the passion for the old-school spot best, when he wrote at the time: “Oscars is one of the few places I can go in Berkeley and be really BAD —
and, furthermore, feel GOOD about feeling BAD. Every town — even Berkeley — needs at least one place where you can buy a good greasy burger and fries. And now what? A new place where I can order up a plate of organic sprouts and snap peas, with a fat-free dressing. There [sic] dozens places in town where I can get super healthy food. But now and then I love to SIN — and Oscar’s was just the right kind of place for that.”

Construction has begun on the sidewalk in front of Oscar’s; Sweetgreen plans to add outdoor seating. Photo, taken on Oct. 26, 2015, by Kate Williams

Other loyal customers have shared their remorse for Oscar’s closure on Facebook over the past few days, after the restaurant shuttered last week:

“Ah man French fries and lemonade from Oscar’s was senior year snack food on many a late night. BOOOO,” said Elizabeth Sudweeks.

Mischa Block called the closure an “end of an era” and Xavier J Figueroa agreed: “Damn.. nothing left from old Berkeley.”

Other readers seemed happy about the change. “No sentiment necessary. That place was a gross grease trap that wasn’t even good by trashy standards (trust me, I’m a connoisseur of trashy food),” said Lisa Tsering.

“I’m sad to lose this bit of my Berkeley past, but sounds like the replacement will be something special,” said Chris Neddersen. “Perhaps a new personal tradition.”

We will keep you updated as construction progresses on Sweetgreen.

Sweetgreen will be at 1890 Shattuck Ave. (at Hearst Street), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sweetgreen: Salads, vegetables to downtown Berkeley (11.25.15)
Oscar’s to close after 65 years in Berkeley (05.26.15)

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Kate Williams

Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...