"I was walking down the street tonight and saw your cafe. It was already closed. I stopped dead. I couldn't believe it. Your cafe looked just like the place I'd spent many a night while I was a law student at the U [of Minnesota] in the late 90s in Minneapolis. I started jumping up and down and telling my husband about the hours I'd spent listening to music, smoking ( indoors! ), and drinking red wine at a place that felt like a lush architectural ruin. Then I went to your website when I got home only to find out it was the SAME Loring! That is so amazing. Some of the best memories of my young adult life were there. I'll be by for a drink soon."

-Sarah O., Oakland. CA


The Loring Cafe has closed.

Dear Oakland,

Loring Cafe has tried hard to win the hearts, minds, and tummies of Oakland. However, with full but heavy hearts Abby and I must drop the curtain on this exciting adventure.

We arrived in California 4 1⁄2 years ago, got married in San Francisco City Hall, and settled into West Oakland. Like so many others drawn to California, excitement in our eyes and the sparkle of new beginnings in our hearts. Dreams of bringing westward a little of the culture of our proud restaurant origins was what we had in mind, and to try our hands here where generations of my family once lived and made a mark.

McLean family ties to San Francisco and Oakland go back at least to the Barbary Coast era—if not exactly that neighborhood and colorful vocation—at least close by. Robert Armistead McLean, MD was California’s first ‘master surgeon’ practicing on Nob Hill in the mid 19th century and for 18 years the dean of the UCSF Medical School, 1881-1899. My father and his father before him were born and raised in Berkeley and SF, and my brother too lived in Berkeley for a few years more recently. As a boy I visited the bay area, coming from Alaska, my birthplace and Minnesota, my adoptive home, and was initiated to the California counter-culture by the “radical” places and faces I saw as a young boy during the summers of love in the 60’s. An impression that’s never faded for me.

But the ethos developed through my 40 years of celebrating and working in the arts, exploring the intersection of theater, design, architecture, hand-made spaces, home-style cooking, and home-spun hospitality has not found a large enough audience in Oakland to support the dream of this westward restaurant adventure. What started here on Grand & Broadway as supercharged excitement of a small troupe of artist builders to open an owner-managed bistro styled cafe featuring a relaxed ‘sense of occasion’, wholesome and unpretentiously good food, an atmosphere built of quality workmanship that does not follow the herd, attentive and sincere service, and live entertainment in support of local and itinerant musicians, all at a price that the local community and even those that work for the Loring Cafe itself could afford on a semi-regular basis, unfortunately has not taken root here.

Please accept our thanks for considering the Loring Cafe for membership in your community, especially to those who gave the Loring the support of regular business and heartfelt encouragements.

Best wishes to all and please visit the Loring Pasta Bar, Varsity Theater, and soon to open CAFE INK in Minneapolis if a journey to the Midwest presents itself. We will be at your service.

Abby & Jason McLean