Le Cheval, a storied Old Oakland Vietnamese restaurant, announced Friday that it would close at the end of September after 38 years in business.
The news was posted to the restaurant’s Facebook page with a message from the owners, the Tran family.
“While this chapter of Le Cheval comes to a close, the Tran Family (Son, Minh, Nguyen, Christine, Lan, Q, Van, Lam, Thao, Naomi ~ Grandma & Danh RIP) thank you for your support and will be looking for ANOTHER location to continue to serve you their famous dishes!”
The restaurant’s last day of service will be Sept. 30. and fans of Le Cheval’s spicy wings, stir-fried noodles, claypot fish, pho and lemongrass chicken reacted quickly on social media to the departure of the Oakland dining institution that has hosted countless special occasions.
“Oh no! So many memories, so many delicious meals,” one commenter posted to Facebook.
“I no longer live in the Bay Area, but every time my travels took me to Oakland, I made sure to come to Le Cheval. It became my favorite when working nearby nearly 30 years ago,” another Facebook poster shared.
The restaurant shut down for two years during a dispute with the Clay Street landlord. Eventually, the former landlord was found guilty of fraud and Le Cheval reopened in its original location in 2012.
Reached by phone on Monday, Son Tran said the family started discussing the possibility of closing the restaurant at the beginning of the year, as business had fallen by roughly half since prior to the pandemic. Employees and family members cried when they were told of the decision, he said.
“It broke my heart, but we were bleeding. We don’t have any money left,” Tran said. “We tried to survive until the end of the year, but we couldn’t.”
Tran added that crime around the restaurant had gotten worse in recent months and customers were weary of car break-ins, which further depressed business.
“We have great customers, they love our food and love my family,” Tran said. “But they worry about a $50 meal becoming a $550 meal because they have to pay for a broken window.”
Tran said the family is looking for another location to relaunch Le Cheval, but the process of finding a new home for the restaurant was just beginning.
The Tran family first opened Le Cheval in 1985. The restaurant’s mix of French, Chinese, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian flavors won it a loyal following, and it was heralded for pushing Vietnamese cuisine forward with a more upscale, fine-dining approach.
Le Cheval grew into a collection of restaurants that included Le Petit Cheval in Berkeley and a second Le Cheval in Walnut Creek, but those closed in 2014 and 2019 respectively.