It’s always a shock to discover that your go-to cafe has gone for good, seemingly without notice. In this weekly report, we at Nosh seek to track every notable East Bay restaurant closure. Since, unlike restaurant openings, these shutdowns often happen quietly, your tips and emails are what keeps this column going. They’re always welcome at editors@eastbaynosh.org.

Joanna Della Penna is on vacation, so I’m stepping in to cover this week’s closures. She’ll be back next week with Nosh’s openings and closings roundups, never fear. — Eve Batey

Alchemy Collective

Alchemy Collective, a worker-owned South Berkeley coffee shop, abruptly closed in recent days after over a decade in business. The Lorin District specialty coffee shop opened in early 2012 with a staff of six owner/baristas, after a start as a coffee cart at local markets. While its website recently announced a temporary closure, and promised “more info coming soon,” a sign posted to its door says that the cafe has closed for good, and that “we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” but that they “hope to reach out to people who have realistic ideas of how to use the space.” Alchemy Collective was at 1741 Alcatraz Ave., in Berkeley.

Chica

Mexi-Bowl with Carnitas at Chica in Oakland. Credit: Sarah Han

Mexican/Latin American restaurant Chica opened in Oakland about six years ago, the permanent location of a pop-up turned San Francisco takeout window from Oakland resident Maria Esquivel. It quickly became a neighborhood favorite for its seasonal and locally-focused menu of bowls and breakfasts. The restaurant announced via Instagram that its last day in business was Sept. 18, and that it would relocate to a space in San Francisco’s Levi’s Plaza that would allow it “to grow & be even more mas cabrona.” Part of that rebirth is a rebrand and renaming — it will now be known as Xica when it reopens across the bay. Chica was at 303A Oakland Ave. in Oakland.

The Original El Charro 1947

“Didn’t El Charro already close?” you might be asking, and you wouldn’t be wrong! The family-friendly Lafayette restaurant, which opened in 1947, shut its doors in early 2021, but NorCal restaurateur Ben Seabury (Little Star, Ben ‘N Nick’s and several others) bought the business, moved it to Walnut Creek and gave it its longer moniker and a menu of “more contemporary” Mexican classics. Sadly, it didn’t take: after nine months, the revived restaurant closed for good, it announced on its website. While Seabury hasn’t spoken about the closure, the San Jose Mercury News writes that “while we don’t know what caused El Charro to shutter,” the inevitable customer comparisons to the original restaurant likely didn’t help. The Original El Charro 1947 was at 1470 North Broadway in Walnut Creek.

Zazzi Foods

Cassandra Chen. Credit: Cirrus Wood

Cassandra Chen opened Berkeley “artisan market” and cafe Zazzi Foods a few years after she acquired the rights to Cafe Fanny granola from founder Alice Waters; the original plan, in fact, was to call the business Cafe Fanny, Nosh reported in 2017. Though that didn’t pan out, Chen’s plan to open a coffee shop and storefront for goods like her CC Made line of sweets and popcorns certainly did, serving customers for over five years. Chen told Nosh that she “had been struggling with staffing issues for the café and supply chain issues for Café Fanny Granola and CC Made,” and decided to shut all three businesses down. “It’s been difficult to keep reliable staff after COVID,” Chen said, “and the supply chain issues for sourcing ingredients and the increasing cost of all of it made it really difficult to continue.” Zazzi Foods was at 1398 University Ave. in Berkeley

Sept. 15

Jebena Cafe

Ethiopian cafe Jebena Cafe in Oakland’s Pill Hill neighborhood only just opened — but the storefront has already been taken out by a car crash, according to a concerned reader. Attempts to reach the owner have so far been unsuccessful, but the internet marks Jebena temporarily closed for now. We’re hopeful that the Ethiopian coffee shop can reopen soon. Jebena Cafe is at 2930 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. 

Nong Thon Vietnamese Restaurant

A dish from Nong Thon. Credit: Nong Thon/Facebook

For 12 years, El Cerrito’s Nong Thon anchored the businesses flanking the Art Deco-era Cerrito Theater. It was known for its generous portions of traditional Vietnamese cuisine and intricate, airy dining room with high ceilings and lots of woodwork. Newcomer Tigon has quickly opened in its place, with a similar look and classic Vietnamese menu, but new ownership. Nong Thon was at 10086 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.

Subway (Watergate, Hollis)

Thanks to the E’ville Eye for letting us know that Emeryville has lost two Subway sandwich shops in recent months with no explanation from HQ. Both sites seem fully closed across the Internet, and phones are down. Note to local fans (and there are many, given Emeryville’s plentiful workers looking for fast lunch): Subway remains active in Emeryville at 5858 Horton St. and 3999 San Pablo Ave. in the East Bay Bridge Shopping Center. The closed Subway locations were at the Watergate Shopping Center at 2350 Powell St. (which had been open for 11 years), and 6472 Hollis St. in Emeryville.

Sept. 7, 2022

The Halal Guys

A Halal Guys combo platter drenched in its famous “white sauce.” Credit: The Halal Guys SF Bay Area/Instagram

When these Guys opened on Center Street in early 2018, Berkeley was thrilled to finally count itself among the white sauce club. But recently readers started sharing doubts with Nosh about the future of this outpost of the East Coast chain, noting covered windows and apps that didn’t work.

Sadly, they were right to be nervous: A Halal Guys rep confirmed with Nosh by email that though all 101 other national Halal Guys locations remain open, the Berkeley location permanently closed on Aug. 22. Though there was no further explanation, no closures surprise us anymore, not even the ones with rabid cult followings located steps from a college campus. Sorry, guys. Halal Guys was at 2126 Center St., Berkeley.

Maejoo Wings

A selection of wings from Maejoo. Credit: Maejoo

A reader wrote in to inform us that Maejoo Wings, a Korean fried chicken restaurant in San Leandro’s Pelton Plaza, has closed its doors while its owner looks for a new place to serve up its menu of wings, house-made dips and rice bowls. According to its website, its last day in business was Aug. 27, and it will “announce on social media when we move to our new location.” Maejoo was at 185 Pelton Center Way, San Leandro.

West Coast Pizza

A deluxe combo from West Coast Pizza. Credit: West Coast Pizza/Yelp

Reader Dan J. wrote in hopes that West Coast Pizza wasn’t closed, given a parent’s need for large quantities of inexpensive pizza to feed teenagers. But unfortunately for him, and for the teens, as well as all our local college students, bar hoppers and late-night, cheap-pizza lovers, the 26-year-old pizza shop’s website is down and phone number leads to nothing but perpetual hold music. Don’t be fooled by that limbo; West Coast Pizza is closed. (Readers: Where to turn to next for good, budget-friendly pizza?) West Coast Pizza was at 1706 University Ave., Berkeley.


Featured image: Alchemy Collective members (left to right) Maya Simone, Shante Robinson, Mariela Lua,, Miel Amial-Dominguez, Jaime Olivia, Chris Tarus-Myers, Jasmine Reynolds, and Charles Glover. in 2020. Credit: Pete Rosos