Sad Mex: Why A Popular Oakland Eatery Just Shut Down After 30 Years
The Mad Mex on Atwood Street had to shut down due to ongoing staffing issues.
After three decades in Oakland, Mad Mex said “adios” to the neighborhood.
The “funky fresh Cal-Mex” spot at 370 Atwood St. — big Burrito Restaurant Group’s first eatery — closed its doors for good on Jan. 31.
Bill Fuller, president of big Burrito, cited ongoing staffing shortages for the shutdown.
The leased location, which is roughly 1,000 square feet, took a hiatus last spring so employees could be sent to other company sites that were also struggling due to labor issues. It reopened in October 2022, but couldn’t operate seven days a week because there weren’t enough people to cover shifts, even when managers were brought in from elsewhere to help in the kitchen.
“We’re sad,” Full explains. “People have said to me ‘You’re surrounded by 50,000 college students and you couldn’t staff a tiny restaurant?’ A tiny restaurant like that doesn’t work if you’re not open all the days and nights you’re supposed to be. If you have a staff of six or seven people and someone calls off, you can’t run the restaurant. Why continue to bang our heads here?”
Since Tuesday’s closing, Mad Mex devotees have been leaving flowers, cards and candles outside of the restaurant. Denita Breneman, an original server at the Oakland location who is now a Mad Mex regional manager, snapped a photo of the makeshift shrine.
Big Burrito was founded in 1993 by Tom Baron and Juno Yoon, two friends from New York City who initially launched Wheel Deliver, a former third-party delivery service in Oakland. The Oakland eatery arrived soon after, and Fuller joined the team in 1995.
The company now boasts 10 Mad Mex locations, including ones in Erie and Willow Grove, Pa., along with Kaya, Casbah, Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, Soba, Umi Japanese Restaurant, Alta Via Pizzeria and Alta Via Ristorante, which will open a second location in Downtown’s Market Square this year.
“We’re expanding our capacity all over the place,” Fuller says. “Just not at this place.”