The Hulu Series The bear, usually back-of-house in an old-fashioned Chicago sandwich shop, it offers an unwavering display of industrial kitchen stress. (It’s so worth the suspense; the show is, as they say, fire.) It also highlights the double levels of heart and grit needed to put the company out there.
Those same attributes can be said to define every remaining restaurant or bar in recent years – but make no mistake, they also mark those that have been forced to close. Even with the right talent, team and support, countless unexpected challenges can put a strain on a food or beverage-related business at any time. Add to that more than two years of pandemic and unyielding landlords, and… these are the noble local closures we saw in July.
CATAHOULA COFFEE BERKELEY Nosh was sorry to hear from Catahoula Coffee founder Timber Manhart that the company had to close their Berkeley kaffeegarten in Fourth Street and Addison after eight years. “I just wanted to thank all those Catahouligans who have faithfully supported us over the years, especially during the pandemic,” he said via email. He further explained to fans in an Instagram post: “After months of negotiations with Essex Property Management, Catahoula Coffee had to come to the hard realization that no new lease would be signed.” The cafe closed on July 19, and longtime Berkeley barista Andy — as well as all the rewards points for frequent buyers — have moved to Catahoula’s welcoming original Richmond location, where hours have been extended to 4 p.m. coffee and beans are also still available for delivery, a service that has helped many Nosh friends weather the pandemic. Catahoula Coffee’s Berkeley Kaffeegarten was in 2080 Fourth St.
CESAR When Nosh editor Eve Batey announced this news in January, it was arguably the most Berkeley of all restaurant owner disputes. In 2021, the management of Chez Panisse announced (initially privately) that it would terminate its lease with neighboring tenant Cesar. The line between the two restaurants may seem tighter 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 parent restaurant’s actual intention was to close Cesar and start a new venture, perhaps another bar, possibly French; after a few crazy years it seemed time to change, adapt or die. Cesar, however, was his own proud, celebratory success story. The Spanish-inspired bar and tapas restaurant delivered a very different product to Chez Panisse and its cafe, and that was fine with the locals. It was an accessible, friendly hangout – certainly on the higher end of the bar scenes, but a great place to pull up a chair and join a casual group for after-work drinks and Spanish snacks. Why fix what wasn’t broken? Resistance arose. Cesar was given a year’s stay from execution, but when the news spread, Alice Waters and the board of Chez Panisse were 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 would survive anyway, in a new location.) Meanwhile, on July 23, after 24 years, Cesar served his last sangria, Manchego and olives in the beautiful, welcoming space at 1515 Shattuck Avenue.
FLAVIA Unfortunately, Flavia’s seemingly winning formula of quick, flavorful and affordable pasta dishes never quite translated when it moved from the large, original 2019 osteria on Center Street, to a smaller counter around the corner in Oxford Street, and finally to a newsagent in the Epicurious Garden in 2021. Nosh commends the team for the three-part effort to power a wide swath of Berkeley. The takeout location was replaced by newcomer Darband last month (see yesterday’s openings). Flavia was at 1511 Shattuck Ave.
FLYING FALAFEL Of all the fast-casual businesses in downtown Berkeley hit hard by the pandemic, this one seemed to have the easy popularity and stamina needed to survive, with a reliable takeaway and fearless, optimistic management. But thanks to a reader, we found out that the Flying Falafel’s final location was abruptly closed in mid-July, after which the website stopped working and the phone stopped working. Consider the growing shortage of chickpeas, but details are unclear. Attempts to contact owner Assaf Pashut have so far been unsuccessful. Pashut had big dreams for his fast-casual falafel business that once had three locations (including two in downtown San Francisco, and a possible third in the Castro that didn’t quite work out), but what a budding vegan success story seemed grounded for now. The Flying Falafel was at 2114 Shattuck Ave.
THAI NOODLE II Students loved this place, which opened 15 years ago on Telegraph Avenue (the sequel to an original Thai Noodle on Shattuck), then was felled by the Sequoia apartment building fire in 2011. When it reopened in 2012, loyalty was restored for the mix of “sit-down-fancy” yet casually affordable Thai cuisine near campus, with fun, friendly service and a lively street view of student life. On July 1, the restaurant released a statement on Instagram which read: “Unfortunately, this Thai Noodle II had to close due to circumstances beyond our control, and we are sorry we cannot serve you… It has always been a privilege to serve you.” The team hopes fans will visit their other venue, The Noodle, Thai Restaurant in 1936 Shattuck. Thai Noodle II was at 2426 Telegraph Ave.
TORPEDO ROOM We hate to break it for craft beer aficionados, but the handsome Sierra Nevada tasting room in West Berkeley, which opened with much fanfare in 2013, has sadly been torpedoed by all the recent challenges you might expect, including staff shortages and slow foot traffic, as told in a friendly goodbye note on the site’s website. “It was a fantastic run, almost 10 years! We spun those 16 taps like crazy, hosted celebrities like the Pope of Foam, hosted San Francisco Beer Week parties, got all the secrets with the Alpha Hop Society — we even brewed beer in the parking lot. It goes without saying that we will miss the fun. Come and visit one of our breweries and we’ll make it a party.” While it may be hard to believe, Sierra Nevada remains independent and family-owned after 44 years; as stated on each bottle, the company’s two breweries are located in Chico and Mills River, North Carolina. The Torpedo Room was in 2031 Fourth St.
HOLY LAND RESTAURANT A friendly tipster from Oakland informed Nosh that Lakeshore’s beloved 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 all along.” They are right. Owner Miri Levy, whose mother Haya Mizrachi opened the much-loved little kosher restaurant with a dark blue awning in 1989, posted the following letter to Facebook on July 2: “Dear friends, I’m burying my head in the sand. I couldn’t face it or talk about it, but it’s time: After being a vital part of our community for so many years, I had to make the impossible decision to close the restaurant. We have had many wonderful, vibrant moments. Connections and relationships were formed in this place, many of which turned into lifelong friendships. I enjoyed it and am so, so proud that I have been open for 33 (!) years to continue my mother’s dream and passion. Thank you, Mom, for giving me this wonderful gift by teaching me how to prepare your delicious dishes.
Fans may also remember the family’s second Holy Land location in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley, which closed in 2014 after 17 years. Mizrachi passed away in August 2020; Levy was a force during the pandemic, maintaining the Lakeshore restaurant and serving the community as best she could. Levy 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 KITCHEN Thanks to owner John Kim for directly letting Nosh know that July 29th would be the last day of service for Nama sushi and ramen in the Dimond District after 14 years. “We hope the restaurant will reopen in a few months under a new name and owner,” Kim wrote to the community. “Keep supporting the new owner to keep the great Dimond District alive.” Respect to the Nama team and thank you for 14 years of Japanese food and friendly service. Nama Japanese Cuisine was at 3400 Fruitvale Avenue.
TAIWAN BENTO Eater first got the news that Taiwan Bento would be closing in July. Opened in 2014, the welcoming eatery has garnered rave reviews for its fresh, flavorful menu of Taiwanese soups, bao, lovingly presented bento meals, noodles, and other nourishing dishes, and has often been in the spotlight for introducing and popularizing Taiwanese specialties that were otherwise new to local diners. Luke Tsai of KQED thanks young owners and married partners Chef Stacy Tang and Willy Wang for helping pioneer the Bay Area’s now-widespread interest in Taiwanese food. The heartfelt announcement of the couple’s closure cited current industry challenges, as well as the recent loss of loved ones, as an incentive to run away; time is short, running a restaurant eclipses all life. We wish Tang and her family a gentle reunion in Taiwan and a moment to catch their breath. Taiwan Bento was on 412 22nd St.
XYCLOE Nosh was saddened to learn that Chef Vi Lieou’s stylish Vietnamese restaurant and lounge Xyclo was closing, reportedly due to a rent increase. (This phenomenon that seems to continue to hit us hard on the legendary Piedmont Avenue, where the longevity of restaurants is often taken for granted.) Xyclo was open for 17 years, but it felt like longer, so deeply entrenched was the family-run dining room in that neighborhood. Quality and service were reliably above average; it was a popular spot for fancy lunches, date nights, and parties with friends. Regulars have probably already heard that Lieou’s Oakland co-venture Co Nam has caught her eye; those who miss Xyclo’s flavorful Vietnamese cuisine can head to Telegraph Avenue and try their menu. Meanwhile, few details are known so far about Monsoon Vietnamese, the newcomer entering Xyclo space and opening TBD. Xyclo was at 4218 Piedmont Ave.
CITY SQUARE PIZZERIA Nosh really loved this new pizzeria from former Bierhaus owner Mike Finley and his noble sidekick Ollie, but it closed after just two short months. City Square Pizzeria was at 1360 Locust St. in Walnut Creek.
FLAVOR BRIGADE The shocking car crashes and break-in at Dimond District Flavor Brigade ice cream parlor (the fourth store break-in in 12 years) left it completely destroyed and closed indefinitely, breaking local hearts. Shouldn’t there be a code? Leave the people’s ice cream parlors alone? Flavor Brigade is located at 3540 Fruitvale Ave. in Oakland.