The Hulu series The Bear, set mostly back-of-house in an old-school Chicago sandwich shop, offers an unflinching depiction of industry kitchen stress. (It is so worth the tension; the show is, as they say, fire.) It also spotlights the twin levels of heart and grit required to stick out the business.
Those same attributes can be said to define any surviving restaurant or bar after the past few years — but make no mistake, they also mark those that have been forced to shutter. Even with the right talent, team and backing, countless unexpected challenges can tank a food- or drink-related business at any moment. Add two-plus years of pandemic and unyielding landlords, and…these are the noble local closures that we saw in July.
As always, please send closing tips to email@example.com.
CATAHOULA COFFEE BERKELEY Nosh was sorry to hear from Catahoula Coffee founder Timber Manhart that the company had to close their Berkeley kaffeegarten at Fourth Street and Addison after eight years. “I just wanted to thank all those Catahouligans who have faithfully supported us throughout the years, especially during the pandemic,” he said via email. He went on to explain in an Instagram post to fans that, “After months of negotiations with Essex Property Management, Catahoula Coffee had to come to the harsh realization that a new lease would not be signed.” The cafe closed July 19, and faithful Berkeley barista Andy — as well as all frequent buyer coffee rewards points — have relocated to Catahoula’s welcoming original location in Richmond, which has expanded its opening hours until 4:00 p.m. Side note: The company’s bagged ground coffee and beans are also still available for delivery, a service that helped many Nosh friends weather the pandemic. Catahoula Coffee’s Berkeley Kaffeegarten was at 2080 Fourth St.
CESAR When Nosh editor Eve Batey broke this news back in January, it was possibly the most Berkeley of all restaurant landlord dispute stories. In 2021, management from Chez Panisse announced (at first privately) that it would end its lease arrangement with next-door tenant Cesar. The border between the two restaurants might seem more rigid now, but Cesar was first opened (and funded) by Chez Panisse in 1998, spearheaded by a trio of Chez Panisse alums. Now after more than 20 years, the mother restaurant’s matter-of-fact intent was to close Cesar and launch a new venture, maybe another bar, possibly French; after a crazy few years, it seemed time for a change, adapt or die. However, Cesar was its own proud, festive success story. The Spanish-inflected bar and tapas restaurant provided a very different product than Chez Panisse and its Cafe, and for locals, that was just fine. It was an approachable, convivial meeting place — on the higher-end of bar scenes, sure, but a great spot to pull up a chair and join a casual group for an after-work drink and Spanish nibbles. Why fix what wasn’t broken? Resistance ensued. Cesar was given a year’s stay of execution, but, as the news spread, Alice Waters and the board of Chez Panisse remained undeterred, and turned a deaf ear to protests from Cesar’s outspoken and heartbroken community. (Support for Cesar was so determined that there is hope it might survive after all, in a new location.) Meanwhile, on July 23, after 24 years, Cesar served its last sangria, Manchego and olives at the wonderful, welcoming space at 1515 Shattuck Ave.
FLAVIA Flavia’s seemingly winning formula of quick, flavorful, and affordable pasta dishes sadly never quite translated as it moved from its large, original 2019 osteria on Center Street, to a smaller counter around the corner on Oxford Street and finally to a kiosk inside the Epicurious Garden in 2021. Nosh commends the team for the three-part attempt to feed a wide swath of Berkeley. The carry-out location was replaced last month by newcomer Darband (see yesterday’s openings). Flavia was at 1511 Shattuck Ave.
FLYING FALAFEL Of all the fast-casual downtown Berkeley businesses hit hard by the pandemic, this one seemed to have the easy popularity and staying power required to survive, with a dependable take-out product and fearless, optimistic management. But thanks to a reader, we learned that the Flying Falafel’s final location abruptly shuttered mid July, then found the website down and phone no longer functioning. The growing chickpea shortage comes to mind, but details are unclear. Attempts to reach owner Assaf Pashut have so far not been successful. Pashut had big dreams for his fast-casual falafel business that once had three locations (including two in downtown San Francisco, and a potential third one in the Castro that didn’t quite work out), but what was a burgeoning vegan success story seems grounded for now. The Flying Falafel was at 2114 Shattuck Ave.
THAI NOODLE II Students loved this spot, opened 15 years ago on Telegraph Avenue (the sequel to an original Thai Noodle on Shattuck), then felled by the Sequoia Apartment Building fire in 2011. When it reopened in 2012, loyalties were reinstated for the restaurant’s blend of “sit-down-fancy” yet casually affordable Thai fare near campus, with fun, friendly service and a lively streetside view onto student life. On July 1, the restaurant released a statement on Instagram that said, “Sadly, this Thai Noodle II has had to close due to circumstances beyond our control, and we regret not being able to serve you…It has always been a privilege to serve you guys.” The team hopes fans will visit their other location, The Noodle, Thai Restaurant at 1936 Shattuck. Thai Noodle II was at 2426 Telegraph Ave.
TORPEDO ROOM We hate to break it to craft beer lovers, but west Berkeley’s handsome Sierra Nevada tasting room, opened to much fanfare in 2013, has unfortunately been, well, torpedoed by all the recent challenges one might expect, including staffing shortages and slow foot traffic, as told in a friendly farewell note on the location’s website. “It was a fantastic run, almost 10 years! We rotated those 16 taps like crazy, hosted beer celebs like the Pope of Foam, threw San Francisco Beer Week parties, got all secret with the Alpha Hop Society — we even brewed beer right in the parking lot. Goes without saying, we’ll miss the fun. Come visit one of our breweries and we’ll have a blast.” Though it may be hard to believe, Sierra Nevada remains independent and family-owned after 44 years; as noted on every bottle, the company’s two breweries can be found in Chico and Mills River, North Carolina. The Torpedo Room was at 2031 Fourth St.
HOLY LAND RESTAURANT A kind Oakland tipster let Nosh know that Lakeshore’s treasured Holy Land Restaurant had closed. “I’ve been in the ‘hood for about 25 years,” the reader wrote. “And I’m pretty sure it’s been here this whole time.” They are correct. Owner Miri Levy, whose mother Haya Mizrachi opened the beloved little kosher restaurant marked by a dark-sky-blue awning in 1989, posted the following letter on Facebook on July 2: “Dear Friends, I put my head in the sand. I couldn’t face it or talk about it, but it’s time: after so many years of being a vital part of our community, I had to make the impossible decision to close the restaurant. We’ve had many wonderful, vibrant moments. Connections and relationships were formed in this place, many of which turned into lifelong friendships. I enjoyed and am so, so proud of being open for 33 (!) years, continuing my mother’s dream and passion. Thank you, mom, for giving me this amazing gift by teaching me how to cook your wonderful dishes.”
Fans might also remember the family’s second Holy Land location in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood, which closed in 2014 after 17 years. Mizrachi died in August of 2020; Levy was a force during the pandemic, maintaining the Lakeshore restaurant and serving the community as best she could. Readers should note that Levy remains open for business as a caterer, and is an instructor for private or group cooking classes. Anyone who has tasted her family’s recipes (the falafel! the mint lemonade!) knows what an opportunity that would be. Holy Land Restaurant was at 677 Rand Ave.
NAMA JAPANESE CUISINE Thanks to owner John Kim for letting Nosh know directly that July 29 would be the last day of service for Nama sushi and ramen in the Dimond District after 14 years. “Our hope is that in a couple of months, the restaurant will once again reopen under new name and ownership,” Kim wrote to the community. “Please continue to support the new ownership to keep the great Dimond District vibrant.” Respect to the Nama team and thanks for 14 years of Japanese food and kind service. Nama Japanese Cuisine was at 3400 Fruitvale Ave.
TAIWAN BENTO Eater first had the news that Taiwan Bento would close in July. The welcoming eatery opened in 2014 to enthusiastic reviews for its fresh, flavorful menu of Taiwanese soups, bao, lovingly presented bento meals, noodles, and other nourishing fare, and was often spotlit for introducing and popularizing Taiwanese specialties that were otherwise new to local diners. In fact, KQED’s Luke Tsai credits youthful owners and married partners chef Stacy Tang and Willy Wang with helping to pioneer the Bay Area’s now prevalent interest in Taiwanese food. The couple’s heartfelt closure announcement cited current industry challenges but also the recent loss of loved ones as impetus to walk away; time is short, running a restaurant eclipses all of life. We wish Tang and her family a gentle reunion in Taiwan and a moment to breathe. Taiwan Bento was at 412 22nd St.
XYCLO Nosh was sad to hear that chef Vi Lieou’s stylish Vietnamese restaurant and lounge Xyclo was closing, purportedly due to a rent increase. (This phenomenon that seems to keep hitting us hard on storied Piedmont Avenue, where restaurant longevity is often taken too much for granted.) Xyclo was open for 17 years, but it felt like longer, so entrenched was the family-run dining room in that neighborhood. Quality and service were reliably above average; it was a popular spot for higher-end luncheons, date nights and celebrations with friends. Regulars have probably already learned that Lieou’s Oakland co-venture Co Nam has drawn her focus; those who miss Xyclo’s flavorful Vietnamese cuisine can head down to Telegraph Avenue and give their menu a try. Meanwhile, details are scarce so far on Monsoon Vietnamese, the newcomer heading into the Xyclo space, opening TBD. Xyclo was at 4218 Piedmont Ave.
CITY SQUARE PIZZERIA Nosh was really rooting for this new pizzeria from former Bierhaus owner Mike Finley and his noble sidekick Ollie, but after only two short months it has closed. City Square Pizzeria was at 1360 Locust St. in Walnut Creek.
FLAVOR BRIGADE The shocking car-ramming and burglary of Dimond District ice cream shop Flavor Brigade (the shop’s fourth burglary in 12 years) has rendered it totally destroyed and closed indefinitely, breaking local hearts. Shouldn’t there be a code? Leave the people’s ice cream shops alone? Flavor Brigade is at 3540 Fruitvale Ave. in Oakland.