February 18 will be the last day of service at Oakland’s Hawker Fare, the Thai Isaan eatery from chef-owner James Syhabout. The reason: the building has been sold to a group of investors, along with the surrounding buildings, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes condos.
Syhabout told Eater that he saw the writing on the wall when his lease went month-to-month. “The buying agent told me ‘You’ll never meet these people’ when the building was sold. The writing was on the wall.”
Though the closure is saddening, Syhabout says that he’s rolling with the organic way that the restaurant has always operated since he took it over from his mother in 2011. “It’s natural,” said Syhabout. “The genesis of Hawker Fare was never a business plan; it landed in my lap as a bailout plan for my mom to move out of the country, so I want to keep that natural path.”
“I think I’m going to call a time out for now,” Syhabout said. “It’s on my radar to bring [Hawker Fare] back, I just don’t know when and where.” To that end, Syhabout says that he’s going to try to keep some of his employees on board, in various parts of the company; the SF location will remain open as usual.
The chef has plenty to keep him busy in the meantime, with the impending publication of his first cookbook and memoir, rebranding The Dock and taking over the brewery there, and a potential expansion of his two Michelin-starred restaurant, Commis (though that hasn’t yet been finalized).
As for the final days of Hawker Fare Oakland, the chef says he plans to spend the last week playing around with dishes from his cookbook that never made it to the menu, plus items that might not have been as traditionally appealing to customers, “with bitterness and funk and spice.” “I just want to throw it out there, do the food and cuisine justice, and go down with guns blazing for lack of a better term.”
- Oakland’s Hawker Fare to Close [Inside Scoop]
- Oakland’s The Dock to Take Over Linden Street Brewery Space [ESF]
- All Coverage of Hawker Fare [ESF]