Home Biz 24-680 Openings & Closings Spenger’s Fish Grotto Closes Its Doors; Groans Are Heard In Berkeley

Spenger’s Fish Grotto Closes Its Doors; Groans Are Heard In Berkeley


Seafood lovers were left scrabbling at a locked front door at one of the East Bay’s most venerable institutions Wednesday, a misspelled note pasted to the glass attesting to permanent closure of Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto.

Spenger’s, located in the heart of Berkeley’s Fourth Street Shopping District and a go-to for seafood lovers since it opened in 1890, was a favorite haunt of first-daters, businessmen dining on their expense accounts, and locals alike who favored it for its nautical motif and deep commitment to seafood “from the Pacific Rim, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.”

Deals were made over lobster dinners in its darkened back rooms and everyone who was anyone in town – and maybe not anyone at all – hung out there at one time or another.

A recent ownership transfer and changes to the neighborhood apparently led to a breakdown in quality and food service, according to reviews recently posted to social media.

If true and as permanent as it sounds, the restaurant’s closure leaves a deep wound in the hearts of local seafood lovers.


  1. Used to go there a lot with the family back in the sixties adn seventies, some later when we were entertaining people over that way and needed some seafood. But the food and service were in decline. Still said to see them go.

  2. For years the food was poor and the place needed maintenance and cleaning. It lived much too long on life support from a name and no longer deserved fame.

  3. A family favorite in the 60/70’s. So many memories….the butcher paper table cloth, sour dough bread just slung directly on the table by the wait staff, yummy lobster thermador, and many shirley temple waiting for a table. But, my best memory was giggling wirh my father (rip) at the unusual last names called out when their table was ready. Sorry to head service and food declined in recent years.

  4. Went there many times during college years. I can still smell that french bread. Kept me alive for two semesters. I used to smuggle the bread out in my backpack.

  5. Wow. One of my favorite places since the 60s. Always a good time. I didn’t notice a decline in food or service with change of ownership, but I’m not a picky diner. You can take me anywhere…

  6. The last time we were there for a special occasion the wait was over an hour, the “fresh” seafood was frozen and we had to launch search parties to find our waiter. there are reasons why these older places go under.

  7. Whoops! Posted to some crime thread – my mistake.
    Loved the lobster adn fresh sourdough!! Good memories but well passed its prime.

  8. Last of the old timey east bay seafood restaurants and really, really special to our family back when but it had lost its allure for all the reasons people have mentioned here and a few more. Guess we’ll just hang onto our memories. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

  9. Beyond sad. Went there for years with seafood loving grandparents and parents. Someone mentioned ringing the bell and I remember asking to do that too. Didn’t they take the clapper thingee out after awhile?

  10. Went a few times but I’m afraid I missed its glory days. Lackluster at best. Sorry it closed as others seemed to like it.

  11. There hasn’t been this much reaction to a restaurant closing since the Great Moraga Jack In The Box closing of what – 2015? And isn’t that supposed to be an ice cream parlor? Read it on nextdoor back then and knew it had to be true (crickets).

      • Yep. Wine by the glass starts at $9 – $10. Nice to have a restaurant there, but it’s going to have to live up to the prices. Good attendance considering it hasn’t advertised yet and is working from about half its eventual menu. Mostly old farts like me who can afford a nice meal out. My entree was pretty good at $20. Wife’s seafood putanesca at $22 was also good but nothing to make me rush back. I will definitely give it another try when the staff has worked out the kinks. Maybe they will consider a “house wine” by then. Wine isn’t supposed to cost $9 a glass…

        • Nine bucks a glass. Pretty rich. I can get you a good bottle of merlot for about a buck less than that. Good luck to them.

          • Well, I would quote Miles from the movie Sideways, but that would be impolite. I can get a bottle of pretty good California Cabernet or Pinot, etc for $9 – $16, something that compares well to these “authentic” imports. Who doesn’t offer a $7 house wine at an Italian restaurant? It’s pasta for god’s sake. That doesn’t require an expensive bottle of wine, but I digress.

      • Yes, and I recommend it. Dined with a few couples. I also had the seafood putanesca, and don’t remember what others had. As far as the wine, $9-10 is reasonable. The going rate is $9-15 per glass of wine. One glass is priced at the wholesale price of one bottle. That’s where restaurants make their money. My husband and I don’t drink when we go out… LOL!

        • Sorry, you don’t drink wine when dining out. A “puttanesca”, a sauce “in the style of the prostitute”, is a bold sauce which marries well with a two-buck Chuck. I like bold flavors. It does not require a fine palette or a fine wine. Yes, I know restaurants pad their revenues with liquor sales, but a good restaurant does not deny you an inexpensive glass of wine if it cares at all, at all, about your dining experience. It wants you to return. And that warm feeling you get from a good glass of wine and caring staff seals the deal when the food is no better or worse than the restaurant across the square. Now, if you like the exclusivity of paying more for your meal, and your beverage, thinking it better, Bon Apetit!.

  12. I didn’t like Spenger’s because even in my college days everyone used to tell me”: Oh, you have to go there!”. No I didn’t as it turned out. It’s a variation of the Yogi Berra theory of people going to popular places. “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded…”

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