In July when president Dwight Colton of the The Fish Market restaurants announced the shutdown of the last two in the Bay Area, he vowed to “preserve the memory of our founders – and the memories created by millions of guests over the years – by closing in a fashion that upholds the restaurant’s original integrity and vision.”
So the news was revealed more than two months early, giving customers plenty of time to head to the Palo Alto and San Mateo locations to enjoy their favorite dishes and say goodbye to employees, some of whom have been on the job for many years.
Now, the restaurants are heading into their final weeks and, as promised, Colton and company have added menu specials and printed commemorative menus for guests to take home.
With redevelopment on the horizon for both sites, the circa 1976 Palo Alto restaurant — the first in the group — will shut its doors after service on Sept. 13, and the San Mateo one, which opened in 1982, will close a week later, Sept. 20.
The souvenir menus feature nostalgic artwork and type fonts from the late 1970s to highlight today’s dishes. Among them are a few specials: Clam Chowder is priced at $4.70 a cup to honor the chain’s 47 years in the Bay Area. Bowls are $7.60 to commemorate the opening of that first restaurant in Palo Alto. Also, Duckett’s Bucket, the Crab Cakes and a Half-Dozen Oysters are all listed as $19.76 each.
The shutdown also affects the company’s fishery operations based in South San Francisco. Between the Farallon Fishery and the two restaurants, 150 employees will lose their jobs.
At one point, the California-based chain had as many as nine restaurants. According to the website, the company’s founders launched the Fish Market in 1976, transforming a former pancake house on El Camino Real in Palo Alto into a seafood restaurant, market and oyster bar. That was followed in 1979 by the Santa Clara location, also on El Camino; that restaurant closed in 2022.
The San Mateo location opened in 1982 and for years also featured an upscale restaurant-within-a-restaurant called Top of the Market. The San Jose restaurant opened on Blossom Hill Road 15 years after that, in 1997, and closed in 2020 during the pandemic, with the lease expiring and no full reopening in sight.
Two Southern California Fish Market restaurants — in Del Mar and San Diego — will remain open and continue serving seafood classics as well as contemporary dishes.
“We want to thank our loyal Northern California guests for their support over the years,” Colton wrote in July. “Most of all, we’d like to thank our team members, past and present. They are the true heart of our restaurants and we owe our accomplishments over the last 47 years to them.”
Details: 3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, and 1855 S. Norfolk St., San Mateo; www.thefishmarket.com
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