Welcome to the Year in Eater 2023 — an annual tradition that looks back at the highs, lows, and in-betweens of the San Francisco Bay Area’s restaurant scene. Today, the Bay Area’s top food writers, editors, reporters, and other industry experts share the most disappointing restaurant closures of the year.
Madeline Wells, senior food reporter at SFGATE: Probably the most high-profile one of the year also hit the hardest: Anchor Brewing. Still doesn’t feel real!
Paolo Bicchieri, Eater SF reporter: Malibu’s on Piedmont Avenue was the closing wherein I got the news, gasped, cursed, then texted my wife. The vegan burgers and shakes, namely the ube chocolate shake, gave me so much life. The business isn’t gone for good, I hope, as the Bay might not be able to go on without an order of Hella Hella Fries every once in a while.
Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle food reporter: So many this year that it’s hard to say (I desperately miss Berkeley’s Pie Society) but I’d have to say Queens in San Francisco. The Korean business defined definition — was it a “superette”? A restaurant? A wine bar? All of the above? I think often of Queens’ large-as-a-plate haemul buchu jeon (seafood pancake), superlative tomato kimchi, and shelves full of treats imported from Korea by owners Clara Lee and Eddo Kim. Happily, their housemade products are still available in other Bay Area stores, and they’re working on launching a major retail effort.
Kevin Alexander, author of Burn The Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End: There are two different ways to look at this. The first is to say Automat, because I thought the foods Matt Kirk and that crew were doing were absolutely delicious, and the scope of trying to do all elements in-house and keep the price point as accessible as they could was a worthy goal, and the pedigree behind it was ridiculous. So to see that still fail, mostly because the numbers just don’t add up for a place like that in a city like San Francisco is a bummer.
The second is to say Piperade. This is for the exact opposite reasons. It was open 22 years and chef Hirigoyen says he just wanted to retire, and I’m sure that’s all true, but any time a restaurant has that sort of run and closes its doors, I worry that there won’t be another Piperade coming in behind it, able to sustain the same sort of run. It’s a magical thing and it can’t be taken for granted. Plus, it’s not like the city is teeming with Basque restaurants.
Lauren Saria, Eater SF editor: I was so surprised and saddened at the closure of Chezchez on Valencia in February. I loved that bar — with its spritzes, martinis, and all-day blood marys — from the day it opened.
Intu-on Kornnawong, chef and partner at Jo’s Modern Thai: Hearing about the closure of Turtle tower was really disheartening. It’s one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants in SF. We’re also friends of the owners.
Andrew Calisterio, photographer based in Sacramento: Simon’s in Midtown Sacramento recently announced that they’re closing. It’s one of those legacy places with a fun bar, great food, and every walk of life Sacramento has to offer.
Dianne de Guzman, Eater SF deputy editor: It is the East Bay restaurant closures that crushed me the most, especially as an East Bay dweller who spends her off time at these restaurants. Le Cheval was the spot for family dinners when I was a teen, for instance; Palmetto was a new-to-me-favorite from the Kon-Tiki folks. Sister became my daytime go-to around the lake, while Longbranch was just a Berkeley-San Pablo Avenue mainstay. The East Bay restaurant scene is a vibrant one, but it dims a bit with every closure. I know not everything can stay, but … I wish it didn’t have to feel this terrible.
Josh Decolongon, audience engagement producer (and host of “No Crumbs”) at KQED Food: Although not technically restaurants per se, the closures of La Cocina Marketplace and Anchor Brewing Co. really bummed me out.
Astrid Kane, senior editor at the San Francisco Standard: In fairness to the question, Anchor Brewing wasn’t a restaurant — although it had a taproom that served food! — but losing our eternal icon of craft brewing because some union-hating conglomerate got bored with it from across the ocean was a dagger to the heart. And Hawker Fare’s closure in January was such a bummer, too.