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Charles Phan Plans to Expand Slanted Door Empire with UC Berkeley Café

The café would offer fast, affordable options to students.

Wurster Hall
Wurster Hall
Michael S Bergin

It appears that former Cal student and restaurateur Charles Phan (The Slanted Door) is plotting a return to the collegiate world, with plans to open a café in UC Berkeley's Wurster Hall. According to Berkeleyside, Robert Lalanne, Vice Chancellor of Real Estate at UC Berkeley, proposed the idea of a fast-casual concept to Phan several months ago, and the two men "feel confident that they will strike a deal" in the near future. Phan has a personal connection to the project: he was an architecture student at Cal and spent quite a bit of time in Wurster, which houses the College of Environmental Design.

The new concept comes on the heels of several unsuccessful ventures from Phan, including the recent shutter of his short-lived, British-inspired concept, The Coachman. The restaurant closed after only ten months, due to lack of business and in the wake unflattering views from SF critics. In 2014, he closed several other concepts, including Wo Hing General Store in the Mission, as well as the Academy Cafe and The Moss Room at the California Academy of Sciences. He also revamped the menu at South at SFJAZZ in an effort to bolster that business (which remains open).

Phan grazed over the subject of past struggles in his interview with Berkeleyside, saying he doesn't shy away from experimenting and taking organic and sustainable food into unlikely places. "It has always been our model to change the world… we’ve got to make good food and change the way people eat," he said. In this case, he wants to give hungry youngsters a healthy, affordable option. "My goal is to take care of the students," he says.

The proposed café is still awaiting an agreement between Phan and administrators, a deal that Phan says he is "99% sure" will happen. If the deal goes through, UC Berkeley plans to redo the plaza outside Wurster Hall for the new café and open it in the fall.