A nearly 15-year ride that made chef Tanya Holland a soul food celebrity has come to an end, as Brown Sugar Kitchen announces it will not be reopening its doors after its holiday hiatus.
The Uptown Oakland restaurant scene took a huge punch to the stomach last week, when we learned last Friday that Luka’s Taproom would be closing permanently, with a final date of January 29. But that terrible news is now quickly followed with another gut punch. Berkeleyside reports on the sudden closure of another institution just two blocks on Broadway, as famed soul food chef Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen has permanently closed, and in this case, we will not even have an opportunity to pop in for a farewell meal.
No less than Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf chimed in on the loss of a Bay Area culinary treasure. “Oakland will truly miss every ingredient and morsel that came from Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen,” Schaaf told Nosh. “Tanya’s world-famous soul food brought so much joy to so many residents and visitors, it’s hard to imagine a world where Brown Sugar Kitchen isn’t on the menu.”
Brown Sugar Kitchen has had ridden several waves since its original West Oakland spot opened in 2008, and its notoriety went national when the spot won Michelin distinctions and chef Holland appeared on Top Chef. Hopes were high when she formed the Brown Sugar Hospitality Group in 2018, with expansions to the SF Ferry Building, and even the Oakland airport. The next year, the flagship Oakland location moved to a more prominent location on Broadway in Uptown — ceding the original spot to the now wildly popular Horn Barbecue. But a 2020 bankruptcy filing indicated the hospitality group was overleveraged, and now the flagship Brown Sugar Kitchen is the last of these locations to close.
“I do have a very benevolent investor who has made a generous effort to help me sustain my business, but we both came to the realization that it was throwing good money after bad,” Holland told Nosh. “I feel bad that people didn’t get to schedule their last meal at Brown Sugar Kitchen,” and added “I wanted to do one last farewell, but it’s just not possible.”
And so it appears that Brown Sugar Kitchen is now permanently finished as a concept, and truly will be no more. But Holland now sits on the board of trustees for the James Beard Foundation, has another cookbook California Soul coming out this year, and her new veggie-centric restaurant Town Fare opened this summer in the Oakland Museum of California. That is now her only Bay Area restaurant, as she regroups.
Image: Rachel M. via Yelp