Oakland’s Hawker Fare will close in February. Photo: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

Hurry and get your kao mun gai while you can — after six years in Uptown, James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare will close next month. The San Francisco location of Hawker Fare will remain open, as will Syhabout’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Commis. Syhabout is also working to reopen West Oakland’s The Dock sometime this year.

Citing “uncertainties” in the restaurant’s lease, Syhabout told Inside Scoop last week that a new group of investors had bought Hawker Fare’s building and may be building apartments on the lot. Because he is on a month-to-month lease, he decided to step aside instead of waiting for his rent to increase.

It’s a very personal decision for Syhabout, whose mother ran a restaurant in the same space in the 1990s. Still, he told the Scoop that he “can’t be emotionally too attached” and that many good things — like his upcoming cookbook with Oakland food writer John Birdsall — have come out of the restaurant.

Hawker Fare has built a reputation for offering no-B.S. Lao- and Issan-style food with plenty of funk and heat. It opened as more of a rice bowl kind of place, but gradually expanded its menu to explore a larger vocabulary of Southeast Asian cuisine. Until recently, the restaurant had paused its lunch operation in order to allow for space to work on the cookbook. It hosted weekly pop-ups featuring dishes that were being recipe tested for the book.

Hawker Fare is also home to one of this author’s favorite chicken dishes, the aforementioned kao mun gai — poached chicken served with chicken fat rice, herbs, and a salty fermented bean sauce.

The restaurant’s last day will be Feb. 18. Syhabout said he’d be in the kitchen for the entirety of its last week and will be experimenting with the menu.

Despite the closure, Syhabout seems to be staying upbeat. He wrote on the restaurant’s Twitter feed on Saturday: “we have so much love for all of ya’ll! It has been our absolute pleasure being able to give you the funk for almost 6 years.”


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...