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S.F.’s Saddest Closures of 2019

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2019 was known for a lot of disappointments, from the Mueller Report to Days of Our Lives firing its cast en masse, but in San Francisco, a lot of beloved places closed. 

There are stirrings of hope, such as how The Punch Line got saved to the return of Blowfish Sushi in the Mission to the predicted resurrections of North Beach Italian classic Tosca and Chinatown legend Empress of China (which closed in 2014 and which the Hakkasan team will reopen as Empress of Boon next year). Bernal Heights’ wonderful butcher Avedano’s Holly Park Market also managed to survive owing to an anonymous rent-paying savior. And The Elbo Room may hace closed on Jan. 1, but reopened as The Valencia Room, which continues its tradition of hosting Litquake and other events.

But closures were plenty — no more so than in the Castro, where mid-range mainstay Chow threw in the towel, succeeded by the sordid and short-lived Cook Shoppe. Although Fable temporarily closed and reopened after a two-month seismic retrofit, many people seemed to assume it was gone forever just because that’s the way of things in that neighborhood. Oakland lost Plum Cocktail Bar and Specialty Foods, the East Bay’s longest-running African market. And The 3300 Club, a fantastic dive on 29th and Mission that closed after a 2016 fire, announced that it was never coming back.

So, with some sadness, we present S.F.’s most notable closures of 2019. Did we miss something that you really miss? Let us know. And always remember: The worst thing you can do to the treasures in your neighborhood is to “love the idea” of them. You need to love them for real!

‘Aina
First alphabetically, first in our hearts. We will miss brunch at this Dogpatch Hawaiian wonder very much.

Aardvark Books
The Castro’s implosion engulfed this independent bookstore in January. Whatever happened to the sign?

Ali Baba’s Cave
Syrian immigrant Husein Dawah served falafel and shawarma for 36 years at 19th and Valencia, but times changed. “I love you all!” he wrote on a sign in the window.

AMC Van Ness
One fewer multiplex to see the latest reboot.

Arlequin Cafe
The Absinthe Group is determined to replace this 18-year-old Hayes Valley wine spot with something.

Aster
Another Michelin-starred block of the once-mighty Daniel Patterson empire crumbled mere weeks after Chef Brett Cooper decamped for L.A.

Ayala
Hotel restaurants are tough, and Melissa Perfit’s seafood-and-pasta spot in Union Square’s Hotel G hung on for only a year.

Behind the scenes at Beach Blanket, BAS interview with star Curt Branom in 2016.

Beach Blanket Babylon
The final performance of Steve Silver’s 45-year musical revue (and way-station for the career of hundreds of Bay Area stage performers) will be Dec. 31. Hopefully, some of those spectacular headpieces find homes in museums.

Belcampo Meat Co. Russian Hill
If you haven’t eaten outside at the Jack London Square location, you’re really missing out.

Belga
Back of the House took this beery, Belgian spot and turned it into the plant-based Wildseed.

Beso
Kiss this Spanish restaurant goodbye, but 4058 18th St. is now the Blind Butcher. Luckily, the owners opened a new hidden speakeasy style Spanish tapas restaurant next to Monarch called Pawn Shop

Bissap Baobab
Feisty and tasty, Little Baobab is all that remains of Marco Senghor’s Senegalese compound at 19th and Valencia, after he had to sell the flagship to pay legal costs over his protracted immigration battle, and sadly the Oakland location will close at the end of the month, too.

The Board
Adam Mesnick’s Deli Board spinoff on Mission Street waved goodbye this year, and it’s now Square Pie Guys. Sandwich pro Mesnick has long had gripes about the neighborhood, but he still seems very committed.

Borderlands Cafe
Attached to a sci-fi bookstore of the same name that’s had its own existential struggles, the cafe wound down in April — but the bookstore itself is stable!

Burger King
Was the Seventh-and-Market location the nastiest fast-food restaurant in all of San Francisco? Quite possibly.

Burgermeister
The sf burger chain closed two locations in 2019,

Coffee Bar
Perhaps the Mission’s original laptop farm, this decade-old, diagonally arranged tech hub on Bryant made it for more than a decade powered by Mr. Espresso.

Commonwealth
Chef Jason Fox closed this superb, Michelin-starred classic after a 10-year run on Mission and 18th streets. It’s now home to a reimagined Prubechu.

CVS
Two of its downtown locations are gone; read into the tea leaves what you will.

Dim Sum Club
It was hard to remember this place was inside the Da Vinci Hotel on upper Van Ness, but it was very good!

Divas
S.F.’s only bar for trans women — as opposed to a drag club — had to end its reign in the Tendernob on none other than March 31, the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

DOSA Valencia
This one caught us off-guard, to be honest. How could such an elegant Indian restaurant with consistently excellent cocktails fold? At least we have DOSA Fillmore and dosa by DOSA in Oakland.

Elite Cafe
After a truly valiant effort to stay fresh, this Fillmore pillar of New Orleans style called it quits after almost 40 years.

Eureka Restaurant
Never flashy, but always dependable, this second-floor Southern-inflected restaurant broke a lot of hearts when it announced its closure after more than a decade in the Castro.

Finn Town
Chef departures and major menu revamps probably didn’t help matters in the end, but you cannot say that this three-year-old Castro restaurant didn’t do its damnedest to hang on before serving its last brunch over Labor Day.

Firewood Cafe
The demise of this middle-of-the-road pizza place in — guess where? — the Castro probably wouldn’t be so sad if it hadn’t lasted 22 years and folded amid the neighborhood’s meltdown.

Glena’s Tacos
Another quiet disappearance, and it’s a real shame, because this Dogpatch restaurant had a chicken torta that was one of the most delicious things in San Francisco.

Green Chile Kitchen
Hatch chilies are having a rough go in their native Land of Enchantment, and the September closure of NoPa’s staple of New Mexico cooking likewise leaves a hole in our hearts.

Howard’s Cafe
After more than 50 years in the Inner Sunset, known for its affordable omelets and pancakes

Hooker’s Sweet Treats
David Williams cited the Tenderloin’s well-known social ills as the main reason why this perpetually wonderful confectionery wound down its nine-year run.

Isla Vida
This inventive Caribbean fast-casual spot was my favorite opening of 2018, hands down. An offshoot of the also-departed farmerbrown, its inability to attract sufficient foot traffic in the Fillmore was heartbreaking indeed.

IXIA
After 36 years, this Castro floral-design firm is no more.

Izakaya Sushi Ran
And of all the Castro closures, this one hurts. First, this ambitious Okinawan restaurant was falsely accused of being anti-homeless because of cultural misunderstanding over a rainbow-painted rock. Second, 2223 Market St. is a cursed space, home to at least half a dozen things in 10 years. They really tried, though. Restaurateurs: The Castro is a party neighborhood. Going high-concept is a bad bet!

Jardinière
Traci des Jardins’ 22-year-old Hayes Valley institution wound down on April 27, a stunning reminder of how much that neighborhood and fine dining itself have adapted.

Jay-Bee Club
Mission dives east of Harrison Street all seem to operate in stealth, but this one really had everything going for it: good vibes, cheap drinks, and awesome pizza.

Kaya
Nigel Jones’ partnership with Daniel Patterson dissolved after only 16 months, thwarting this attempt to revive Mid-Market’s Alta CA. It was a bad year for Caribbean food.

Kennedy’s Irish Pub & Curry House
UPDATE: After a flurry of initial reports that this North Beach institution was closing, it announced “major changes” in November. Whew!

Lucca Ravioli
The biggest tearjerker of them all, and an exercise in collective mourning. But can you really blame a family for cashing out after 94 years?

Mezzanine
Interventions by Sup. Matt Haney and the entire world of nightlife notwithstanding, this SoMa club’s time has run out. A New Year’s Eve performance by Dirtybird’s Claude VonStroke is probably the most appropriate ending, though.

Mission Beach Cafe
Misappropriated funds, bankruptcies, expired business licenses, vermin. Read the entire story of the decline of this once-beloved restaurant, which sounds as if Donald Trump Jr. was running it.

Mission Pie
“Eat pie, live forever” was a great slogan while it lasted. Although they owned the building, Krystin Rubin and Karen Heisler’s 12-year-old, socially conscious enterprise couldn’t stay afloat while staying true to its values.

Mr. Smith’s
A bottle-service-type club with a divey feel on the ground floor, Mr. Smith’s sputtered out after owner Max Young couldn’t take the property crime and drug dealing on Seventh Street.

Papi Rico
It opened, it closed, then it reopened five months later, but this Puerto Vallarta-esque gay bar on Castro couldn’t make it work.

Pete’s Tavern/Pedro’s Cantina
Along with nearby Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria, these two ballpark-adjacent spots struck out in late summer.

The Perennial
Practically the last holdout of the super-sized Mid-Market openings, Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz’s hyper-sustainable project lasted a respectable three years. That Twitter tax break may have been City Hall’s biggest legislative flop of the decade.

Plouf
After 23 years in Belden Alley, this French seafood bistro’s disappearance had an almost onomatopoeic quality to it.

rePlanet
Our low-income or unhoused neighbors (and anyone green-minded) had 284 fewer places to redeem bottles and cans across the Bay Area when this company closed every location in August, laying off 700 people.

Rare Device (Noe Valley)
Although the Divisadero Street location thrives, the 24th Street location of this boutique for local makers and artisans shuttered in February.

Rasputin Music
The six-year-old Upper Haight location of a Bay Area chain founded in 1971 announced its closure in November.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill (Haight Street)
We’re waiting for Berliner Berliner, another sausage-y project from a former Rosamunde employee, to reopen in this Toronado-adjacent spot in the Lower Haight. In the meanwhile, there are still two more!

Sam Jordan’s
The championship boxer opened his eponymous tavern on Third Street in the Bayview in 1959, eventually turning it over to his kids. Eventually becoming the oldest Black-owned bar in the city, it announced its closure in October.

Southpaw BBQ
Another disappearance on Mission Street after practically a decade, this time Southern food from Elizabeth Wells.

Stones Throw
At least low-key Italian classic Seven Hills took over from this five-year-old Russian Hill gem from the Hi-Neighbor Group.

Tacos Club
The Castro is home to a few mediocre Mexican places, so why did the best one have to close?

Tony Gemignani’s Slice House
The repeat winner of Best Pizzaiolo in the Universe has several successful shops around town, including the North Beach flagship. But construction woes spelled the end of this location on Second Street near the ballpark.

Udon Time
Probably the only mis-step the Omakase Group has made. Marugame Udon was better, even though it’s in Stonestown.

Unionmade
The clothes weren’t actually union-made, which always bothered us. But both Castro locations are gone, one of which still has a splashy mural of Juanita MORE!

Whiskey Thieves in San Francisco, Calif. will close Jan. 31, 2019 after 15 years. Photo courtesy of San Francisco Bar Experiment

Whiskey Thieves
This Geary Street dive bar shuttered in January after 15 years, but Thieves Tavern and Blind Cat live on!

Wise Surfboards
Bob Wise opened this surf shop on the Great Highway all the way back in 1968, and it eventually grew to three floors before management announced its demise last month for unspecified reasons.

 

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Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is a total gaylord who was the editor of SF Weekly for kind of a while. His goal is to get to every national park before he turns 40, but they're starting to get really remote now.