16 long-lived Bay Area restaurants we said goodbye to in 2022 - The Mercury News

16 long-lived Bay Area restaurants we said goodbye to in 2022 – The Mercury News


Bay Area diners said farewell to so many beloved restaurants in 2022.

The ones we pay tribute to here had been favorites for generations. Some chefs and owners decided to retire. Others couldn’t weather the costs of doing business in this pandemic era, faced rent increases or lost their leases to redevelopment plans.

Here, in order of longevity, were 16 restaurants in business for 30 years or more that shut their doors, plus three revivals we’re thrilled about. Let us know if we missed one of your favorites.

ROOSEVELT TAMALE PARLOR, San Francisco, 103 years

Just how historic was this old-school Mexican eatery in the Mission district? That’s Teddy Roosevelt depicted in the logo, not FDR! Established in 1919, this restaurant was one of the city’s most enduring, surviving for decades under a succession of owners and chefs. Aaron Presbrey and Barry Moore took over this community institution in 2012 and modernized the food and cocktail menus while maintaining the “world-famous tamales” — the classic chicken, pork or beef plus Tamal de Frijol, Tamal de Elote and Tamal de Chiva, filled with caramelized butternut squash, purple potatoes and goat cheese. However, they couldn’t find a way out of the post-pandemic business malaise, they told Mission Local, and had to carry both the front and the back of the house themselves. New ownership, a new name and a new menu are in the works.

The venerable Alioto's at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf was known for its steamed Dungeness crab. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
The venerable Alioto’s at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf was known for its steamed Dungeness crab. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) 

ALIOTO’S, San Francisco, 97 years

For nearly a century, there has been an Alioto’s at Fisherman’s Wharf. First it was Sicilian immigrant Nunzio Alioto’s fish stand, which opened in 1925, then a few years later, a seafood bar offering crab and shrimp cocktails and freshly cracked crab. Credit goes to his widow, Rose, reportedly the first woman to work on the wharf, for opening the restaurant in 1938, right after the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were completed. More than 80 years later, in 2020, Alioto’s paused for the pandemic and, with its tourist business sinking, never reopened. This year, the Port of San Francisco and the still-family-owned restaurant negotiated an early end to the lease, the San Francisco Business Times reported. The website, however, still boasts tempting photos of cioppino, crabcakes and calamari, and Alioto history.

Customers line up outside the A Taste of Denmark Bakery on their last day of business in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. The bakery, which was founded by George Neldam in 1929, is closing after 93 years. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Customers lined up outside Oakland’s A Taste of Denmark Bakery on its last day of business. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

TASTE OF DENMARK, Oakland, 93 years

Oct. 23 was a sad day for lovers of Danish pastries and cookies. The bakery called A Taste of Denmark (formerly Neldam’s) shut its doors after nearly a century on Oakland’s Telegraph Avenue. Many customers couldn’t believe they were seeing a venerable business close — especially one that opened near the start of the Great Depression and survived an ownership change eight decades later during the Great Recession, when a group of employees purchased the shop from the Neldams. Standing in line was Doug Landin, 73, a customer for at least six decades, who said: “We’re here to smell that fragrance one last time.” (Luckily the Bay Area is still home to a number of bakeries that specialize in Danish pastry and Danish butter cookies; here’s our bakery list.)

Co-owner Ramon Luna works at the A Taste of Denmark Bakery on their last day of business in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. The bakery, which was founded by George Neldam in 1929, is closing after 93 years. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
Co-owner Ramon Luna serves treats on closing day at Oakland’s 93-year-old A Taste of Denmark Bakery. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

VAL’S RESTAURANT & LOUNGE, Daly City, 70 years

Steaks, chops, prime rib, French dip sandwiches. All served with cocktails and a great midcentury vibe since the early 1950s. You have to love a place with a Sinatra quote displayed prominently on the website: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” But the last martini has crossed the bar at this Daly City landmark. The Chronicle first reported the closing, noting that the Taylor family, which took over ownership in 1975, had suffered a loss in business when the pandemic limited indoor dining. Co-owner Greg Taylor greeted an overwhelming number of old customers during Val’s final days this month.

WING FAT, San Mateo, 64 years

Generations of families kept this downtown San Mateo restaurant operating over the decades, so it only seemed fitting that generations of customers would stop by to say goodbye to the Wing Fat staff and order their favorite char siu, chow mein and noodles before the July 24 closing. The restaurant’s roots may even date back to the 1940s, according to the Peninsula Foodist. The entire block is being demolished for a mixed-use development. There’s a “New Wing Fat” nearby, but customers can’t agree whether it’s a legit member of this longtime restaurant family or not. One thing seems certain: You can’t replicate decades of seasoning on the woks, and it’s that deep flavor that Wing Fat fans remember.

NORDIC HOUSE, Berkeley, 59 years

Since 1962, Nordic House — whether in Oakland or at the current Berkeley location — had been a destination shop for Scandinavians in search of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian culinary specialties from smoked fish to salted licorice. Owner Pam Klausen shut down early in 2022, saying she just couldn’t stay afloat any longer. “Unfortunately, our import laws are just too strict, which makes it impossible for a small store like ours to survive,” she told Berkeleyside. But she was kind enough to give her customers enough warning so they could stock up on imported and housemade goodies.

THE OLD PRO, Palo Alto, 58 years

This legendary Palo Alto sports bar and Stanford fan hangout won’t see any more Big Games. Or Super Bowls. Or World Series. After decades on Ramona Street and El Camino Real before that, the memorabilia-filled Old Pro shut down just after Father’s Day. Owner Steve Sinchek lamented that the slow return to normalcy after the pandemic made the decision inevitable: “The biggest thing, beyond the rising costs: Tech parties never really came back.” With its trendy menu, the Old Pro appealed to more than just sports fans. Some good news: The farm-to-table fare lives on at Sinchek’s Local Union 271 on University Avenue.

MARIE CALLENDER’S, San Jose, 48 years

Once word got out that the Marie Callender’s was closing Feb. 28 after nearly five decades on Blossom Hill Road in San Jose, the pie lovers came out in force. Razzleberry. Chocolate cream. Apple. Pumpkin. “I got pie! I’m happy,” said San Jose resident Mary Jo Berry, who showed up with her family. “They didn’t have my favorite, rhubarb, but that’s OK.” Franchise owner Ron Garald — a Bay Area restaurateur who at the age of 17 was the first general manager of this location in 1974 — said he “tried like heck” to keep it open, but the pandemic economy made it impossible. The closing left just one of the venerable Marie’s pie palaces in the Bay Area — in Sunnyvale — along with locations in Modesto and Sacramento.

VILLA D’ESTE, San Francisco, 44 years

Supper club elegance in an art deco setting, accompanied by a menu of Northern Italian classics. That’s what diners found when venturing into the Villa D’Este courtyard off busy Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. One visitor from the East Coast wrote on Yelp, “The decor is sort of astonishing and makes you want to dance like a flapper.” Another diner, a local named James M., said, “The restaurant really is a hidden gem of old San Francisco. It felt like a gut punch to learn they are closing. Luckily, my fiance and I were able to get a reservation before they become just a fond memory.” Ramon Oropeza Sr., who opened the restaurant in 1978, decided to take his memories into retirement on June 28. “We are incredibly proud of our legacy and the relationships we have enjoyed through these 44 years,” he wrote on his website.

RICKY’S CORNER, Rodeo, 44 years

This family-owned and operated restaurant in Rodeo served its last buckets of garlic fried chicken and plates of potato wedges on June 25. Founded in 1979 by owners Rick and Judy Bratton, the American restaurant was also known for pasta and seafood, including spaghetti and meatballs and popcorn shrimp. The family first announced the closure via Facebook, stating: “We have made so many unforgettable memories throughout these 44 years. So many of you, our faithful patrons, have become family… It has truly been an honor serving this wonderful community for more than four decades.”

FISH MARKET, Santa Clara, 43 years

Chalk another one up to the coronavirus economy. Just two years after closing the San Jose location, the owners of this West Coast seafood restaurant chain said they had no choice but to shutter the Santa Clara location, which dated to 1979. In a July note to employees and customers, company president Dwight Colton blamed “the uncertainty of the economic times and the current labor shortage.” Longtime fans mourned on Yelp. “I am particularly sad about the Fish Market bar and staff. It was always a great place to watch a game, get a bite to eat, and the friendly bartenders made it the best (they always remembered what you like and how you liked it),” one wrote. Two Fish Markets remain open in the Bay Area: Palo Alto and San Mateo.

WINDY CITY PIZZA & BBQ, San Mateo, 40 years

No more deep-dish. Nor more Italian beef sandwiches. No more Sunday football gatherings for Da Bears fans. San Mateo’s Windy City closed Nov. 20 after 40 years of serving iconic Chicago food to Bay Area residents with Chicago roots — and other aficionados. “I was raised on this place,” said shocked customer Bennett Blosser, who grew up in San Mateo. He didn’t know he and his relatives were enjoying their last Windy City Combo pizza until he heard owner Bob Yeats’ news. “It’s sad,” said Yeats, who never intended to get into the restaurant business when he bought the place 30 years ago but managed to make a career of it. In the end, the economic obstacles — inflation related to rent, labor, cost of goods, plus third-party delivery fees — were too hard to overcome.

A deep dish spinach, mushroom, and sausage pizza at Windy City restaurant in San Mateo, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group)
San Mateo’s Windy City closed Nov. 20 after 40 years of serving iconic Chicago food to Bay Area residents. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

BUFFALO BILL’S BREWERY, Hayward, 39 years

Hayward Chamber of Commerce president Kim Huggett called it a tragedy when this trailblazing Hayward brewery closed its doors in June after nearly four decades on B Street. Geoff Harries, who owned the business since 1994, shared the news on Facebook and was flooded with heart-warming comments about the brewery’s significance to the community and nation. Original owner Bill Owens opened Buffalo Bill’s in 1983, just one year after then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 3610 into law, making it legal for breweries to sell beer directly to consumers. In 2017, Buffalo Bill’s Buffalo Bill’s was inducted into the Smithsonian American History Museum as the most historic brewpub in America.

BREWED AWAKENING, Berkeley, 35 years

This family-owned Berkeley coffee shop brewed its last cup of joe to laptop-toting Cal students on April 22, after the owners couldn’t reach an equitable deal with their landlord, who proposed a rent increase after the COVID pandemic, according to SFGATE. Owners Samir and Juju Nassar opened across the street from North Gate Hall in 1987. Over the years, Brewed Awakening became a go-to spot for tea, coffee, smoothies and avocado toast. In the work-from-home pandemic era, however, business was continuously down by 60 percent, the Nassars said.

CASA VICKY, San Jose, 33 years

The charming Spanish Revival building that dates from the 1930s still sits on the corner of 17th and Julian streets, but it’s no longer Casa Vicky’s. Owner Maria Aguilar sold the business — a go-to for enchiladas and housemade tortillas — to the Tequila’s restaurant group this past summer after 33 years in the family. However, she told our columnist, Sal Pizarro, the roots go back much further. Aguilar’s mother, Victoria Aragon, opened Vicky’s Cafe in downtown San Jose in 1968 and then a few years later, Casa Vicky on Market Street, which moved to the Tropicana shopping center in 1975. Aguilar needed a rest after 54 years on the job. “It is difficult to do that if I stay at the restaurant,” she told Pizarro. “It is time. It is bittersweet. I miss my patrons, my employees and the restaurant.”

CHINA BEE, San Mateo, 30 years

Together with their daughter, Nancy, owners David and Ellen Bee ran this successful Taiwanese restaurant in San Mateo for three decades before shuttering on Dec. 18. China Bee was famous for its stinky tofu, spicy beef and noodle soup and Chinese sausage fried rice. The Bees shared the news across social media, saying “it has been our greatest honor to not only build our family business but to share with our community the recipes we’ve carried across generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to have served you, and our hearts are full with the memories and stories we have exchanged.”


BETTE’S OCEANVIEW DINER, 39 years the first time: Less than one month after this iconic Berkeley breakfast institution flipped its final pancakes, Bette’s Oceanview Diner was saved by its own staff. A group of seven former and current employees banded together to save the beloved Fourth Street diner after then-owner Manfred Kroening decided to close Bette’s on Jan. 16. Now functioning as an employee-owned co-op called The Oceanview Diner, it serves the same fluffy scrambled eggs, challah French toast, housemade chorizo and oven-baked souffle pancakes.

LEHR’S GERMAN SPECIALTIES, 48 years the first time: After selling its prized liverwurst, sausages and fresh rye bread in San Francisco’s Noe Valley for nearly a half century, owner Brigitte Lehr abruptly closed the doors of this old-school German gourmet emporium in mid-August. In September, longtime customer Hannah Seyfert, who moved to San Francisco from Germany in 2016, made the announcement that she was buying Lehr’s, revamping the interior and re-opening in time for the holidays, according to SFGATE. Lehr’s celebrated its soft re-opening on Nov. 27.

VITAL VITTLES, 46 years the first time: Back in March, legions of whole-grain bread fans mourned the news that longtime owner Huong Tran was planning to close Vital Vittles in Berkeley. But it never happened. Altamirano Restaurant Group, which owns several Peruvian restaurants, including Barranco in Lafayette and Paradita in Emeryville, swooped in and saved the cult-favorite bakery. “We’ve made some upgrades since taking over the 45-year-old-plus bakery in March/April that will help us not only continue to produce Vital Vittles breads, but allow the bakery to produce a new and exciting bread line for wholesale and retail,” says chef Carlos Altamirano. The bakery was closed to the public for the latter half of 2022, but the chef says they plan to resume a retail presence at the beginning of 2023.


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December 19, 2022 at 11:48AM

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