Twenty twenty has been a year of reckoning in every industry and every life. An industry that relies on social contact, restaurants have been particularly hard-hit, furloughing or laying off workers as doors closed in March, some closing their doors completely. According to the National Restaurant Association, California had 76,201 licensed restaurants, employing 1,457,000 people or 11% of employment in the state, and generating an estimated $97 billion in sales.
This year, that changed. A lot. Yelp’s Coronavirus Impact Report states that almost 24,000 restaurants listed on their platform closed permanently in 2020, or roughly 1,200 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
According to Vanessa Sink of the National Restaurant Association, “3% of restaurants have closed permanently.” If there are 1,735 restaurants in Jared Huffman’s house district, which sweeps north from Marin along the coast to the Oregon border, that is 52 restaurants.
While we do not yet have a complete picture of the state of Marin’s restaurants during Covid times, we know that many favorite restaurants have closed.
But this particular space will honor the restaurants, bars and the people we lost this year, those which shared their unique spirit with us for a month or a generation. Some are permanently closed, shuttered in the face of a global virus and its economic reverberations. Others faced a personal tragedy or the end of a chapter, retiring from the business as rents remain too high to sustain mom and pop businesses. I hope you will take a moment to remember your favorite locale and what made it special for you.
Chefs We Lost
A participant in both the chef and the mountain biking communities, chef Shoberg found his footing in the “everything local” ethos of Marin and wine country, stamping his personal brand on restaurants from Piatti and Molina to Brewster’s Beer Garden. Chef was tragically killed in a driving accident in October.
Known as the Grand Doyenne of Chinese food in America, Ms. Chiang fled the Japanese in her native China during World War II and went on to found the Mandarin Restaurant in 1960’s San Francisco, introducing generations of Americans to what were then unfamiliar tastes of pot stickers, moo sho pork and sizzling rice soup. She died peacefully at 100 in October.
Restaurants We Lost
A family-run place known for its “take care of family” respect and its pizza.
Johnny Moseley and Karen Goldberg had just over a year since opening to develop a sports bar following, but its loss is deeply felt by sports fans and teens alike for its sport on every screen and hang out vibe.
The amazing back patio returns to action at Stillwater, but Tamal will be missed for the deep selection of mezcal and tequila and the handmade tortillas.
The pink exterior was well-known in town as were the large well drinks and tater tots, which attracted local pool sharks and fans of local color.
Three Twins Ice Cream
The world won’t be the same without their lemon cookie ice cream.
This may have been Marin’s one spot to eat off-cuts of meat, gussied up and delicious, pulled straight from the butcher’s block up front.
A relative newcomer at The Lumberyard, the acai bowls and adaptogen smoothies quickly developed a loyal following.
The great views over Coyote Creek were eclipsed only by the giant plates of pancakes.
The huge menu always had something for everyone, the bar was always packed and you could bring your dog to lounge on the terrace.
Checker’s NY Deli
Sandwiches piled to epic proportions and traditional sour dill pickles were hallmarks.
This was the place in Novato to take a date for a special night or just hang out at the round bar.
Known for the steak topped with blue cheese and crisp fries, Boca favorites live on at Boca Steak and Boca Pizzeria.
Le Col Rouge
A newcomer that never got its footing before Covid forced its closure.
The huge size of this place shrank to intimate proportions with one sip of the soul-warming soup.
A classic, old school deli where salads were weighed by the quarter pound and menu changes were frowned upon.
Tiburon locals will grieve this quick-service cafe that served up diverse hors d’oeuvres, entrees and casseroles, as well as beer and wine on tap.
Though the Tiburon location is no more, the mile-high tiramisu and touch of southern Italy in the pastas and pizzas can still be found at their Larkspur location.
The Michelin Guide gave a nod to this cozy spot years ago for its laser focus on locally-sourced produce and meats and the exacting execution of dishes by chef Christian Caiazzo.
An earlier version of this story and our print edition incorrectly included Station House Cafe in Point Reyes Station as permanently closed. The restaurant is open. The editors regret the error.
How to Help
For more ways to support local businesses, go here.
For more on Marin:
- The 2020 Holiday Guide to Local Gift Giving
- Living in a Watery Oasis: A Sausalito Home With Expansive Views of the Bay
- This Month in Marijuana: What We’re Eating, Smoking, Dropping and Drinking in November
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.