Monday, June 18, 2012

Remembering the Hidden City Cafe (UPDATE 2)

Pixar has a history of including real locations in their films. From their home city of Emeryville in Cars to the nearby Fentons Creamery and Restaurant at the end of Up, they seem to enjoy including these Easter eggs in their work.

© Disney/Pixar
Another location highlighted in a Pixar film is the Hidden City Cafe, just a couple of blocks from Pixar's old studio location in Richmond, CA. The Hidden City Cafe had a cameo in Monsters, Inc., as seen in the image at left. And if you watch the teaser trailer for WALL•E, you'll hear Andrew Stanton explain how there was a meeting held at the cafe to come up with future film ideas as production of Toy Story was winding down.

Sadly, the Hidden City Cafe has closed down, and it looks like for good. I am in the San Francisco area this week with my wife celebrating our 25th anniversary. We drove to the cafe this morning for breakfast only to find it closed. The artwork that had been displayed on shelves along the walls was gone, the tables and chairs removed, and there were just some boxes and other miscellaneous items sitting inside. I had been fortunate enough to visit the cafe a couple of times, including sitting at the table supposedly where the meeting mentioned above had occurred! The food was always good and I enjoyed talking to the owner Shelly and the other servers like Kevin. Below are some photographs I had taken on those previous trips.

Some Up artwork, plus bottle of wine from Lasseter Family Winery

Street view from the cafe

Hidden City Cafe - you may be gone but not forgotten!

UPDATE (June 21, 2012): I went by the cafe today on my way to the Donut Savant and took the following pictures. As is apparent, Hidden City Cafe will NOT be coming back; the place is totally gutted and the owner is looking for a new renter. The door was open and workers were inside cleaning.

All the artwork has been removed

Ironically, it seems to have suffered the same fate as Gusteau’s in Ratatouille. Here is a picture of the health inspector notice, dated April 30, 2012:

Here is a close up of the main section:

From what I can make out, it says:
          Complaint Investigation - There are rats in the kitchen and sewage in crawl space
  • Numerous rat droppings in the kitchen and the cash register area
  • Approximately 6" standing water observed in the crawl space directly under kitchen. Leak determined from dishwasher sink
  • Facility hereby ordered to cease and desist operations until rodent/rat activity and plumbing issues repaired
Perhaps the story will continue following the plot of Ratatouille, and Shelly and team will find a new location for their cafe. Otherwise it seems this is the end of the story for the Hidden City Cafe.

UPDATE 2 (June 22, 2012): Peter Sciretta at /Film has done an extensive article on the cafe including a video of owner Shelly Bourgault announcing the cafe's closing. One note, I tried to go to her website ( and my browser blocked it as a known malware site. Hopefully she will be able to get that cleaned up soon; in the meantime I would not recommend visiting her site.


  1. oohhhh it's a pity... :(

    Anyway enjoy this week of celebration in San Francisco. Congratulations for your 25th anniversary!


  2. It's really sad... Not only for us, the fans, also for the workers and citizens of Oakland. It was REALLY a nice place to visit and the food was great!! My regards to Shelley, Kevin and the other workers and, of course, good luck in their respective new projects. I hope one day in the future to have the chance again to visit the Hidden City Cafe and share the experience with great friends!!

  3. Thanks Laura! We're having a great time! Yes, it is sad. Hopefully they will just gut the place and reopen it.

  4. Hi, I just had an idea. ...why doesn't someone start a petition to have Pixar buy the building for historical signifigance, and then reopen it and have the owner come back in there? or maybe and/also have Pixar put a Hidden City Restraunt in the Pixar building and Disney Land and make it look just like the original building, but with nicer landlords. lol! but seriously though.....

  5. That would be great if they could buy the building! Unfortunately, I believe there are other tenants in the building. But you never know, maybe Pixar will buy it some day, we can always hope!