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Cafe Fanny closing tomorrow 3/9

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  1. Wow - seems sudden, with very little notice to staff. It's a shame.

    1. they blazed a new trail, and now we have more options.
      the same is true of Acme Bakery as well.

      9 Replies
      1. re: escargot3

        Except that Acme's lines are as long as ever because none of the competitors are as good.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Yes, Robert, I should have said "The same might be true of Acme".
          Since I've changed my diet and eat mostly whole wheat and other grains, I don't frequent Acme very often.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              What ingredients are in the Edible Schoolyard loaf?

              1. re: sydthekyd

                100 percent stone-milled organic whole-wheat flour, rye pumpernickel flour, honey, salt. Natural leavening.

              2. re: escargot3

                what Acme calls ' NY rye ' is made from whole grain flours -- check the ingredient list if you run across it.

                1. re: moto

                  The primary ingredient in Acme's NY rye is unbleached wheat flour. The whole-wheat, pumpernickel, dark rye, and spelt levain are 100% whole-grain.

              3. re: Robert Lauriston

                Agree with Robert here. I often go out of my way to get stuff from Acme at the source.

                Cafe Fanny is closing? That's sad, although I rarely got anything there but coffee...to go with whatever I bought next door. It has always seemed bustling.

            2. Is the server in the pic Olivia?

              2 Replies
              1. re: sydthekyd

                That's Kara, the long-time, now former manager. She left a few years ago.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I remember when she first got there. She was in her late 20s and already had the gray hair.

              2. Three reactions.

                1) Every time I went (and that was many times) I had the same thought: if they re-vamped the ordering/taking $$/serving set-up, which seemed designed to be as slow as possible, they could make so much more $$

                2) How to duplicate their cafe au lait and some of their best pastries, now that we can't get them there? (thank God I have the millet muffin recipe! but why is/was their cafe au lait so much better than anyone else's?)

                3) I'm sad

                2 Replies
                1. re: sundeck sue

                  I would stop there on all my trips to Berkeley, but you are absolutely correct about the inefficient ordering system.

                  1. re: sundeck sue

                    I don't think there was anything that was really all that unique about the coffee or the equipment. It was Mr. Espresso (not sure which variety) roasted in Oakland (you can see the building from BART) and a Faema E91 Ambassador 3-group machine with two steam wands. The espresso was fine, but probably not anything better or worse than what you could find elsewhere in Berkeley. What they did have was someone just sitting over the steam wand with a stainless pitcher of milk for what seemed like an eternity. They just kept on frothing it up until it was super heavy with the foam and hardly had any largish bubbles. The "head" from that cafe au lait could stay there for 30 minutes. I remember getting refills with drip coffee, and the foam was still there after the second refill.

                  2. Their granola is the only granola I'll eat- any word on whether production will continue?

                    Or do I need to stockpile it?

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Pius Avocado III

                      That's a good question! I hope it continues.
                      Another one you might enjoy is from Rustic Bakery (not sure of all the outlets, but some grocers do have it). http://www.rusticbakery.com/store/cer...

                        1. re: Pius Avocado III

                          Cafe Fanny is continuing as a granola brand. They're continuing to make it where they always made it, at 1619 Fifth St.


                        2. Hope Kermit Lynch'll take it over and open a Provençal bistro there.

                          17 Replies
                          1. re: arktos

                            "As for the tiny San Pablo Avenue space, the ownership team says they will 'explore new possibilities' there." I think it's too small for a full kitchen.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              My wish may come true:

                              "Kermit Lynch, the wine merchant who owns the building at the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and Cedar, along with Steve Sullivan, the owner of Acme Bread Company, which has a retail outlet in the complex, and she are determined to create another vibrant restaurant. It’s not going to be Café Fanny, but it is going to be something wonderful.”


                              1. re: arktos

                                ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod! LOVE that idea! sorry to see Fanny go, but Kermit Lynch and Acme opening up any kind of eatery/winery is a very assuaging thought.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                "too small" is correct. Fanny was supplied by a commissary kitchen/granola bakery on 5th Street.

                                The espresso at Fanny was Mr. Espresso, and the baristas were carefully trained thus the great quality and consistent results.

                                Kermit and Steve should open up a stand up wine bar called Communion. Nothing more than olives and salumi on the menu. That and the obvious wine and bread. The problem with this idea of course is that there is no seating.

                                Ceased to be a happy place is code for contentious behavior in the divorce, or no cash, or both.

                                1. re: keg

                                  Do you know what milk they used? Their café au lait was the best.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Friday the milk was Clover Organic whole milk. Supplies got low and they sent someone out to replenish.

                                  2. re: keg

                                    I think a ratatouille joint would be a good idea. Just that and rouille and croutes. Are you listening, Kermit?

                                      1. re: lmnopm

                                        Oh no - I was hoping no one would say that!

                                        1. re: lmnopm

                                          Picante is owned by Alice's sister, no? Unless it has become an unhappy place, I doubt it.

                                          p.s. I have never eaten at Cafe Fanny, breakfast and coffee not being my thing. But having walked by it a million times I wondered how it could stay in business.

                                          1. re: ML8000

                                            Yes, her sister Laura and (ex?-) brother-in-law Jim. Why did you wonder how
                                            Fanny stayed in business?

                                            1. re: ML8000

                                              Yes, her sister is the Laura Maser mentioned who co-owns Picante with Jim Maser. If the divorce made Cafe Fanny an unhappy place, it may do the same for Picante.

                                              1. re: drewskiSF

                                                One of the people in line with me had a Cafe Fanny e-card and was concerned she wouldn't be able to use the full value. I pointed her to Jim Maser and suggested that she ask him if it could be used at Picante. He told her that it could not, as it was non-transferable and Picante was a separate partnership.

                                                Cafe Fanny
                                                1603 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

                                                1. re: drewskiSF

                                                  Picante was and is making money. I heard that the profits from Picante might have been a reason why the Masers kept Cafe Fanny going so long.

                                                  From what I could tell, it was a combination of being in the red coupled with the divorce that made it "an uphappy place".

                                                  As for Picante, I think they have stable management.

                                                2. re: ML8000

                                                  Yes, many, many times while standing in line at Acme I kinda thought I ought to try Cafe Fanny, but never got around to it.

                                                3. re: lmnopm

                                                  How busy is Picante? I haven't gone there in years. If it's profitable, I'd think worst case they'd sell it.

                                                  I buy bread at Acme all the time and it seemed to me that in the past few years the lines at Fanny were much shorter than they used to be.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Busier than ever. You should check it out - they are always making changes, improvements and ugrading.

                                          2. Thoughtful of them to give their employees one day notice that they would lose their jobs.

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: rworange

                                              And no severance. At least that's what one of the folks behind the counter said today, when I was there.

                                              1. re: sundeck sue

                                                It just makes me like Alice Waters more and more.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  I overheard owner Jim Maser say that he would not have personal access to the premise after Friday (closing day). There would seem to be more behind the sudden closure than has been reported so far.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    From the Berkeleyside link above.
                                                    "with the divorce of the other co-owners, Jim and Laura Maser, Café Fanny had ceased to be a happy place, which is a critical ingredient in the success of any restaurant endeavor."

                                                    1. re: wolfe

                                                      Yes, I read that while I was waiting in line and shared the piece with my comrades on the pavement. But that alone does not speak to the immediacy of the lock-out.

                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                    Jim Maser may not have known any sooner himself that he was going to have to close the place, maybe a loan fell through or he got the 2011 tax returns and realized he couldn't pay them or something.

                                                    I believe Alice Waters was a minority partner and was not very involved in operating the business.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      While he himself is locked out, I heard him say that access could be arranged via Taylor, the manager.

                                                      The Cafe Fanny regulars I've talked to have been most surprised that it didn't hold out until after Oyster Bliss.

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Anyone know if Oyster Bliss is still on? I could have sworn that Kermit Lynch had something on it before, but I was thinking it might have been axed.

                                                        I haven't been there in years, but I was thinking of doing it this year before I heard the news.

                                                        Of course I could probably just go to Tokyo Fish or Monterey Fish Market and shuck 'em myself, but I sort of enjoyed the atmosphere.

                                                        1. re: y_p_w

                                                          I wouldn't expect Kermit to cancel any events because Cafe Fanny is closed. They didn't make the food anyway.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Understood. However, I thought that the setup was a joint project of all the businesses at the location. I suppose Kermit Lynch could easily soldier on by themselves as they do for other events.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              I believe there is something in the law about importers and selling by the drink. I think that Cafe Fanny took that function. Not sure, just something I heard about another case.

                                                              1. re: wally

                                                                As to wine tastings or selling by the glass, it's all here:


                                                                I don't quite understand it. I've been to some charity wine tastings where all the proceeds go to charity, but the winemaker/wine grower provides the wine for free. They can also sell it if they're in state. However, there are so many different rules that come together that I have a hard time figuring out which ones apply to what business.

                                                                I for one can't quite figure out how Kermit Lynch can have a retail business and import wine. The rules seem to say that a holder of an importation license can't even indirectly have a retail wine license. It may be some sort of interesting thing with the law that I haven't quite figured out yet.

                                                                "23375.6. No beer and wine importer's general license shall be
                                                                issued to any person who holds an interest, directly or indirectly,
                                                                in any retail license. No retail license shall be issued to any beer
                                                                and wine importer's general licensee."

                                                                Found it. Apparently it's OK as long as they don't sell beer or liquor.

                                                                "23378.2. Notwithstanding any other provision of this division, a
                                                                licensed wholesaler or importer may be issued and may hold retail
                                                                package off-sale beer and wine licenses if the wholesaler or importer
                                                                sells wine and no other alcoholic beverages at or from the retail

                                                                And this is their license:


                                                                1. re: y_p_w

                                                                  I think the parking lot events must have temporary licenses. I don't think Cafe Fanny had anything to do with them.

                                                                  I've heard that it's not possible to be triply licensed as an importer, distributor, and off-sale retailer today but that Kermit Lynch is grandfathered in.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    I'm not sure who sets up the licenses for the parking lot events. I would have thought it would have been both Kermit Lynch and Cafe Fanny. They would have to have either a temporary license to serve alcohol or use Cafe Fanny's beer and win license.

                                                                    I don't think Kermit Lynch is grandfathered in. The license file shows that they obtained their first license in 1983, and the only dates I see that are grandfathered in are 1968 and 1981. 1968 applies to someone with a wine blender's license owning a retail operation. 1981 applies to transfers of a winegrower's license.

                                                                    I think the Business and Professions Code 23378.2 is what allows them to do it. It seems to say that "package off-sale" beer and wine licenses can be held by importers as long as wines are the only alcoholic beverages sold. The definition of "package off-sale" is this:

                                                                    "23393. A retail package off-sale beer and wine license authorizes
                                                                    the sale, to consumers only and not for resale, of beer in
                                                                    containers, and wine in packages and in quantities of 52 gallons or
                                                                    less per sale, for consumption off the premises where sold."

                                                                    So basically you're right that an importer can't sell wine by the glass or conduct tastings. Kermit Lynch is a bit unique. I don't know of any other importer with a retail shop, but there's a loophole that allows it as long as there's no beer or liquor sold. I know there are a lot of wine bars in the area, but it sounds like the licensing allows for it as long as it's not an importer.

                                                                    So pretty much Kermit Lynch won't be able to open a wine bar or tasting room, or even be a partner. I think they could encourage someone else to do it.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      The events were covered under Cafe Fanny's license. The corkage charges for wine brought from home were paid to Cafe Fanny.

                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong


                                                                        "OYSTER BLISS IS CANCELLED

                                                                        Yes, sorry to have to announce that Oyster Bliss will have to wait ’til next year.
                                                                        Café Fanny is closed for now while Alice and Kermit consider how to upgrade the concept. Fanny’s partnership is necessary for our parking lot events, so,
                                                                        no Oyster Bliss this year."

                                                      2. Last day at Café Fanny in Berkeley

                                                        I had a chance to say goodbye to the little café on Friday. Despite my best efforts to get there early, I arrived in the parking lot at exactly noon. There were about 40 people ahead of me.

                                                        One gentleman told me that he eats lunch there weekly and wondered why the line was so long today. I had to break the news to him . . . and he went into shock. It was more than an hour’s wait in line before I advanced far enough to place my order. Long enough to make friends with the people waiting alongside me, including Weezie, quoted in this piece on ABC.

                                                        Co-owner Jim Maser was in the parking lot saying a last farewell to many old customers who had stopped by but were daunted by the line. Many were tearful and visibly upset by news of the closure.

                                                        Acme staff brought over slices of buttered, warm levain toast to take the edge off while we waited our turn. Thank you, Steve! We were also treated to live music. And this adorable little boy in a red beret.

                                                        The shelves of baked goods were replenished from the commissary during our wait. This gave me and my comrades in line the heart to stay put. Here’s the last ever batch of beignets coming through the door.

                                                        Things were selling out before my eyes. When I finally made it inside, I was relieved that my favorite item, the egg salad sandwich, was still available on the board.

                                                        On the counter, in front of the register, a stack of the announcement letters. We dubbed this Café Fanny’s “obituary”.

                                                        Alice Waters had been by earlier in the day for her last tour of Café Fanny. She provided these culinary nosegays for the bar.

                                                        With my lunch order in, I joined one person at the stand-up bar with a beignet and bowl of café au lait. The beignet was better than I remembered, more tender and not tough like the previous one.

                                                        I’d celebrated too soon, as no more egg salad was to be had. I settled for this croque monsieur, plus a side of split pea soup with ham. To-go, a pork loin sandwich for dinner. I bought one of the Café Fanny bowls as a remembrance, also granola and pastries to go. The chocolate pavé and chocolate chip-lavender cookie were savored tonight. I look forward to the linzer torte for tomorrow.

                                                        This funeral wreath commemorated Café Fanny’s last day. Farewell and thank you for 28 years.

                                                        12 Replies
                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                          Thank you for the lovely report, Melanie.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            Thanks for the additional info. Lovely farewell. Even though I was never much of a Cafe Fanny fan, my heart kind of skipped a beat to see the menu board one last time. You always make me understand and even appreciate places I really don't warm up to ... like Tadich.

                                                            This is almost like a double farewell for me.

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              Thank you for this, Melanie. I used to go to Cafe Fanny all the time back in my Berkeley school days. I too loved the egg salad. I'm sad they've closed their doors.

                                                              1. re: Leely2

                                                                I'd not had the egg salad for a few years. Mostly because Willow Wood in Graton makes an open face sandwich that they readily admit is a knock-off of Cafe Fanny's. A bit different in the toppings (no anchovy) but equally good when you have the craving next.

                                                                I had a lot of time in line to think about what I'd want to order when it was my turn. I longed for the old standbys and did not waver from them for this last taste and reminiscence.

                                                                Willow Wood Market Cafe
                                                                9020 Graton Rd, Graton, CA 95444

                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                  May we have that egg salad recipe, please?

                                                                  1. re: sydthekyd

                                                                    Sorry, can't help you there. Part of the magic is that the egg salad is warm-ish.

                                                                    I will mention that the pork loin sandwich was not up to par. The thinly shaved meat was dried out. The copycat version that Willow Wood does of the original version with thicker slices of pork, arugula and aioli is better.

                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                      I haven't had the Cafe Fanny egg salad for a while (I went earlier on Friday, had my egg soft-boiled). But I wonder if the egg salad @ Bakesale Betty's--larger chunks of egg and creamier/gloppier consistency and no sundried tomato/anchovy, notwithstanding--is a descendant. The founder of Betty's got her Berkeley start at Chez Panisse Cafe, and I believe her fried chicken recipe comes from there. She may well have had the Fanny recipe as a template for her egg salad.

                                                                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                    I arrived as Melanie was leaving, and I ate the very last beignet. I wonder what time they actually closed their doors. I left around 2:30, and if they closed at 3:00, the people at the end of the line when I left would not have been served.

                                                                    1. re: Martin Strell

                                                                      That's a good story for the grandkids (yet unborn). Glad you could be part of the last day too.

                                                                      Some of the employees were talking about what they should do when 3pm rolled around. Just walk out the door or . . . ? Wonder what they decided.

                                                                      1. re: Martin Strell

                                                                        I was actually **ahem** pimping their beignets in the comments section of some web article about beignets a couple of days before the closure. Freaky.

                                                                    2. The Blue Bottle truck will be in the Kermit / Acme parking lot until 3pm today. That would be a pretty logical tenant for the old Fanny space.

                                                                      1. Looping back to anguished query from Pius Avocado III from a day ago, mid-way through this thread:

                                                                        Any rumors re whether granola production will continue/cease?

                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                        1. re: sundeck sue

                                                                          i asked the young woman who served me on the last day, and she did not know herself.

                                                                          1. re: Martin Strell

                                                                            Has anyone tried placing a granola order via the website store?

                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                              i wrote a note on the website form, asking about buying a cafe au lait bowl.

                                                                              Got a pretty prompt email back, saying that the bowls, t-shirts, water bottles, etc. are sold out.

                                                                              But they have some granola.

                                                                              I emailed back to ask if they planned to keep making and selling the granola. No reply, at least yet.

                                                                          2. re: sundeck sue

                                                                            That's a good question. While I never when to cafe, I did buy the granola in boxed form and it is very good. Perhaps places that carry it like Monterey Market will know.

                                                                            1. re: ML8000

                                                                              I've been wondering about this as well. Seems like it would be nuts not to continue offering a product that has such a strong following. I'm reminded of Vicolo Pizza, which continues to be available in shell form and full pizzas at supermarkets despite the fact that the restaurant has been gone for years. (I assume Patricia Unterman has kept it going, as she owned the restaurant.)

                                                                              Does anyone know of a granola that is a good substitute for Cafe Fanny? Every time I've tried something different I've found it disappointing.

                                                                                1. re: TopoTail

                                                                                  No need for a substitute, as I noted above that part of the business is continuing. They had lots of Cafe Fanny granola at Berkeley Bowl West yesterday.

                                                                                    1. re: lmnopm

                                                                                      That can't be right, it's $5.80 from cafefanny.com.

                                                                                      1. re: lmnopm

                                                                                        Wow, it was $9.29 a box at the Bowl today. Weird.