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In Memoriam: To All the Restaurants We’ve Lost

March 9, 2021 – One year into the pandemic, we’d like to take a look back and remember all the restaurants we’ve lost over the past 12 months. 

Roughly one in five restaurants nationwide have closed permanently due to Covid-19, according to the National Restaurant Association. They represent the livelihoods and dreams of millions of hospitality professionals.  

Hospitality has been one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy, with many eateries pivoting to takeout, outdoor dining and even during their dining rooms into grocery stores in order to stay afloat.

Now with vaccines becoming available, coronavirus cases dropping and a new $28.6 Billion restaurant relief package about to emerge from Congress there is more reason for optimism that the worst is behind us, so let’s take a moment to remember 26 places in the Monterey Bay area that didn’t make it through, with an extra reminder that restaurants still need our support. 

99 Bottles – Santa Cruz  This popular downtown beer bar and restaurant at 110 Walnut St. closed in the early days of the pandemic, but new owners Dave and Terri Terwilleger have promised to reopen it later this year as Twig’s Tap Room.

Paradise Beach Grill – Capitola Closed in May when owners said the pandemic had accelerated their retirement plans, but then sold to Chuck Maier of The Crow’s Nest and reopened for outdoor dining and takeout last fall.

Holly’s Lighthouse Café – Pacific Grove  This breakfast-and-lunch spot was a family favorite, but in June, owner Amy Hanmer—daughter of the eatery’s namesake, the late Holly Summers—made the difficult decision to close after 15 years in business, citing the insurmountable challenges coronavirus posed to running the restaurant the way her regulars loved.

The Poet & The Patriot – Santa Cruz After 38 years in business, Santa Cruz’ original Irish pub announced in July it would not reopen. “It was not an easy decision, but unfortunately it’s another tragedy of Covid 19,” read a post on the pub’s social media. 

Buttercup Cakes – Santa Cruz The charming bakery and tea shop on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz closed in July. “Due to COVID-19’s effects on our wedding season and the continuing high cost of doing business downtown, we are scaling back…” the owners posted on social media, promising to operate their custom cake business.

Steinbeck House – Salinas  Since 1974, the home where John Steinbeck was born and spent his early childhood has been a dining destination for tourists and locals alike in Salinas. But the pandemic found the nonprofit, volunteer-run Valley Guild struggling to cover costs and now the house remains closed indefinitely.

Alberto’s Ristorante – Pacific Grove  After 20 years in business, we said “arrivederci” to Alberto Bonatelli’s eponymous Italian restaurant tucked away in PG’s Forest Hill neighborhood. After a brief remodel, Mai Thai Cuisine opened here last fall, adding to the global flavors of Forest Hill dining.

Crema – Pacific Grove  The closure of PG’s popular brunch spot stunned locals last September. Rising costs, reduced capacity and the prospect of serving diners outdoors in wet winter weather drove the difficult decision to shutter. Thankfully, owner Tamie Aceves has since resurrected many Crema favorites at The Grill at Point Pinos.

Cream and Crumbles – Pacific Grove  Cream and Crumbles opened inside Pacific Grove’s historic White Hart Mansion in 2019 as a passion project for childhood nostalgia by way of soft-serve ice cream. But stay-at-home orders meant stay at your home, not theirs, seeing the shop shutter last June.

États-Unis French American Bistro – Carmel  Soerke Peters quietly bid adieu to his French bistro in downtown Carmel in the early days of the pandemic. But business is booming at Peters’ Pacific Grove project, Mezzaluna. And États-Unis didn’t stay vacant long, with Toro bringing sushi and sake to the space in September.

Zeph’s One Stop – Salinas  After 20 years, Zeph’s One Stop put a cork in it last September. The wine bar and shop was a popular pick among locals for its boutique selections and live entertainment.

Bull and Bear Whiskey Bar and Taphouse – Monterey  Bars are social spaces that find patrons gleefully gathered in cramped quarters. Naturally, they took a heavy hit from state regulations seeking to stem coronavirus cases. While restrictions eventually loosened, it was last call for Monterey’s Bull and Bear in August.

Aabha Indian Grill – Monterey  In 2018, popular Indian restaurant Aabha spun off a second outlet in downtown Monterey, but the space quietly closed last summer. The original location in the Barnyard still has plenty of the craveable curries on the menu, while Aabha’s former Alvarado outpost will soon house KUMA, a new spot showcasing sushi.

Cafe Lumiere – Monterey  Monterey’s Cafe Lumiere—and neighboring Osio Theater—weren’t technically felled by the coronavirus pandemic, but continued challenges with the landlord. Whatever the cause of the cafe’s closure, locals mourned the loss of a hub for community, culture, cuisine and (most importantly) coffee.

Rosie McCann’s – Santa Cruz  “Thank you to the Santa Cruz community for 23 years. Slán a Fhágáil. 100,000 goodbyes,” the popular watering hole and restaurant posted to its social media in November. 

il Grillo – Carmel  Carmel is famous for its cozy, romantic dining rooms. Social distancing mandates and the county’s extended pause on indoor dining forced il Grillo to temporarily close last spring. As the pandemic dragged on further, temporary turned permanent in November. But don’t fret—the Bartolinis’ original outpost, la Balena, remains open for business.

Epsilon – Monterey  After nearly 30 years in business in downtown Monterey, Epsilon shuttered in September. But this isn’t your typical Greek tragedy. A revival is afoot with owner Christos Hix successfully raising funds via GoFundMe to reopen—perhaps as soon as next week? Opa!

The Happy Anchor Food Truck – Monterey  This Monterey food truck had just gotten rolling with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches last February, but facing the departure of chef Brett Lakey and costly truck maintenance for environmental compliance, owner Stefanie Ashby decided it was time to let the bright yellow truck sail off into the sunset just nine months later.

PALOOZA / Lallapalooza – Monterey  When Lallapalooza opened in 1997, it shook up downtown dining. The Ottone Restaurant Group dove into a refresh of the space, concept and name early last year, but that fresh start stalled due to restrictions on capacity and service. The restaurant remains closed indefinitely.

Oasis Distillery & Pizzeria – Santa Cruz Just five months after reopening for pizza, cocktails and beer, Oasis tap room on River St. closed again. Owner Alec Stefansky said COVID was to blame and he was concerned about the safety of customers and staff, and that outdoor dining space was too limited to operate successfully.  

Cult Taco – Monterey  Cultura’s fast casual spinoff brought tacos, tortas and more to downtown Monterey. But the downturn in business during the pandemic forced a temporary closure this winter that, come spring, turned permanent. Look for some of the most popular picks—including the Cult Verde vegan selections—on the menu at the Carmel flagship.

Sangria Wine and Tapas Bar – Carmel Valley Following repeated closures and reopenings, owners Robert and Colleen Mann decided to close their Spanish-inspired wine bar indefinitely.

Stone Creek Kitchen – Monterey The beloved kitchenware/deli/cooking class store on Canyon del Rey Blvd. closed in February. Owners Linda Hangar and Kristina Scrivani were able to stay open for most of the pandemic, but said their lease was up and it was time to move on.  

Mecca Delicatessen – Marina In December, it was auf wiedersehen for this little slice of Germany in Marina when the owners opted to retire. New owners Jim and Mystere Sapia reopened the shop a few weeks later as Grinderz Deli & Market, keeping some of Mecca’s beloved favorites on the menu.

Pour Taproom – Santa Cruz The innovative pour-it-yourself taproom on Pacific Ave. finally pulled the plug in February, with the owners writing on social media that after four years in business they were the victim of pandemic-related shutdowns.

Michi Restaurant – Marina Michi debuted in Salinas in 1984, then relocated to Marina in 2006. In February, owners Kyoji and Kiyoko Michioka announced their retirement with a note of thanks to their loyal patrons after nearly 40 years in business, “We are forever grateful for your support.”

T & A Cafe – Spreckels  Owners Don and Cheryl Ferch took an early retirement and shuttered their cafe at Tanimura & Antle last summer. Craving the cafe’s burgers and barbecue? The couple continues to operate Contemporary Catering for occasional popups and—when they’re allowed again—events.

Cooper’s Pub & Restaurant – Monterey  This Cannery Row pub was a popular watering hole for locals and tourists. The taps went dry last year, but the courtyard still did brisk business as overflow seating for Lalla Oceanside Grill across the street.

Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle – Monterey  Locals flocked to this waterfront diner’s bright yellow shack for its signature breakfast favorites. Tourists got in on the action too after a feature on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” But after 72 (!!!) years in business, the griddles have now gone cold—at least for now.

Fishwife Seafood Deli & Cafe – Seaside  This popular seafood spot sailed off into the sunset last year after 35 years in business. But a new catch of the day—Seaside Seafood & Market—landed here soon after.

Editor’s Note: We tried to make this tribute as accurate and complete as possible, if you would like to add your favorite place that is no longer in business, please email: info@ediblemontereybay.com

About the author

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Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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Raúl Nava (he/him/él) is a freelance writer covering dining and restaurants across the Central Coast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @offthemenu831.