“Closing the store is the brave thing to do,” says Jean Stapleton’s character Birdie to Meg Ryan’s bookshop owner Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail, one of many nostalgic movies currently streaming comfort into pandemic-era living rooms. We might be long past the sounds of the 1998 film’s dial-up modem, but its theme remains: Appreciate and pay tribute to special places before they — and we — must dare to move on, as reality usually trumps sentiment. Have a sandwich.
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DOC’S REFRESHER For those hoping for a happy ending to the saga of Doc’s Refresher, Nosh has good news: After a year of reconstruction thanks to a DUI crash into the building, the location has reopened … but just not as Doc’s Refresher. Now open in the handsome, old-timey bar space is new sports bar venture 4Bells Public House, from Doc’s owner Jennifer Seidman and chef Sergio Emilio Monleon of nearby La Marcha. See more in Wednesday’s openings roundup. Doc’s Refresher was at 984 University Ave.
WINDMILL COFFEE HOUSE Neighborhood cafe Windmill Coffee House has closed after three years on Durant Avenue near Cal. The space has already been reopened under new owners (but with similar offerings) as the Gold Bean Cafe. Windmill Coffee House was at 2131 Durant Ave.
BLESSED GARDEN This no-frills Uptown Chinese restaurant fed many a hungry local for 12 years. Note to fans: Some of Blessed Garden’s fast-casual Chinese dishes might still be available on the “secret menu” of new Seoul Bird & Soju, now open in the space. Blessed Garden was at 419 15th St.
DOWNTOWN WINE MERCHANTS Opened in a former coffee shop in 2014, Downtown Wine Merchants from owner Susanne Breen and chef Christopher Ahr was a charming, approachable destination for locals for happy hours and sophisticated mingling, often rising to the top of favorite lists for its lovely interior, wine, food and service. A note on their website simply says, “After 8 fantastic years in Oakland, our beloved wine bar is now closed. It will reopen under new ownership in July. We will miss you all!” As reported by the SF Chronicle, natural wine bar Slug, helmed by Snail Bar chef-owner Andres Giraldo Florez and friends, will open later this summer in the space if all goes to plan. Downtown Wine Merchants was at 102 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, in the Lionel H. Wilson Building at 14th and Broadway.
GREAT WALL CHINESE RESTAURANT A Rockridge mainstay for at least 30 years, and one that bucked the mostly fancier trend of the neighborhood, Great Wall was a family favorite for its budget-friendly dishes favoring vegetarians and seafood lovers. Customers were especially impressed that even during the pandemic, service remained kind and fast, and the food stayed consistently comforting and nourishing. A note on the restaurant’s door explains, “My wife and have decided to start a new journey, and have sold the establishment to a new owner. It was with great pleasure we were able to be part of the Rockridge community.” Thanks to a reader for first alerting us to this looming closure back in April. Great Wall was at 6247 College Ave.
LITTLE SHIN SHIN For 40 years on Piedmont Avenue, Little Shin Shin was the quintessential Chinese American dining room, a roomy, festive restaurant to take children, parents and grandparents for lingering family meals and celebrations. Nosh personally knows many folks whose nostalgic hearts will be bruised and broken by the news of its closure, and wishes Little Shin Shin owners and staff, some of whom served customers there for many of its years, the very best. Note: Though the hasty sign posted on the door reads, “Thank you for the past two decades,” Nosh’s research suggests Little Shin Shin’s opening year was 1982, twice that many years ago. Little Shin Shin was at 4258 Piedmont Ave.
NYUM BAI Chef Nite Yun first launched Nyum Bai in 2015 as a Bay Area pop-up and then, in 2017, as a humble Cambodian street food kiosk in the Public Market Emeryville. By the following year, Yun’s savory cooking had shot her to national acclaim and a beautiful bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Fruitvale. Though her name and face were suddenly everywhere, and a table at her restaurant was the sought-after seat to get, she never seemed to lose her trademark cool and friendly spirit. Nyum Bai was at 3340 E. 12th St. And despite last month’s closure, Yun’s ongoing tribute to traditional Cambodian food and culture remains alive on social media.
(It’s also important to note that in 2020, Yun was accused of ignoring a sexual assault in her kitchen and then deleting Instagram comments calling her out regarding the incident. She eventually promised to make changes at the restaurant, but when contacted by Nosh this year for a story on how restaurants alter their culture in the wake of a controversy, Yun responded, “It’s been two years and I have moved on.” — Eve Batey)
BALTIC SPICE HOUSE There are rumors on social media over why Point Richmond’s Baltic Spice House, which opened last October, was forced to close abruptly, none of which were confirmed before press time. (Locals also tend to agree the high-turnover location is somehow “cursed.”) Nosh will simply say that the kindly new restaurant owner’s enthusiasm was infectious, and that we are sorry the concept didn’t work out. Baltic Spice House was at 135 Park Place in Richmond.
DYNASTY BISTRO Popular Chinese and Asian-fusion go-to Dynasty Bistro in Walnut Creek has closed after nearly four years, and was almost immediately reopened as the newest location for East Ocean Seafood dim sum (see yesterday’s East Bay openings). Dynasty Bistro was at 1841 Ygnacio Valley Rd. in Walnut Creek.
SWEET DREAMS ORINDA For 25 years, Sweet Dreams provided the children of Orinda with all the candy, treats and toys they could handle. The local minichain began as a small candy shop in Berkeley in 1971, and fans should note that its Elmwood neighborhood locations in Berkeley remain open. Beyond The Creek first broke the sad news of the Orinda location’s permanent closure. Sweet Dreams Orinda was at 2 Theatre Square in Orinda.
TOWN FARE The Oakland Museum of California’s on-site cafe is closed for a so-called “management transition.” The restaurant was helmed by Brown Sugar Kitchen’s Tanya Holland for its first seven months in business, then Hawaiian Tongan Chef Puaokalani Barquis took over in February but appears to have abruptly departed The museum will update on Instagram when the cafe reopens, and will provide light snacks at the gift shop for museum goers in the meantime. Town Fare is inside the Oakland Museum of California at 1000 Oak St. in Oakland.
Joanna Della Penna has lived in the Bay Area since 2001, and moved to the East Bay in 2009. She has written about area restaurants for 20 years, and should really exercise more.