Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto

Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto was a restaurant located in Berkeley, California at 1919 4th Street. The restaurant was designated as a landmark in 2001 by the City of Berkeley. A plaque was formally installed at the entrance to the restaurant in 2004.

Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto
Spengers Fresh Fish Grotto 1.jpg
Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto, historic seafood restaurant.
Restaurant information
Established1890s (1890s)
Closed2018 (2018)
CountryUnited States
Coordinates37°52′5″N 122°17′59″W / 37.86806°N 122.29972°W / 37.86806; -122.29972Coordinates: 37°52′5″N 122°17′59″W / 37.86806°N 122.29972°W / 37.86806; -122.29972

Early yearsEdit

Johann Spenger emigrated to California from Bavaria and settled in West Berkeley in the 1860s. The original building housed Spenger's business and family residence.[1] Johann Spenger worked as a hook and line fisherman on Lake Merritt in the early days. The restaurant began as a clam stand in the 1890s.[2] The menu originally included clam chowder, baked beans, fish dinners and ten-cent beer.[1]

Sign in front of restaurant.


Johann Spenger's son Frank Spenger (d. 1970)[3] opened a full-service restaurant on the ground floor of the original building in the 1930s. Eventually, dining rooms and bars were added as part of the expansion process as popularity of the restaurant grew. Celebrities enjoyed dining at Spenger's along with local residents.[1] Frank Spenger was also a fisherman. Frank's son, Frank "Buddy" Spenger Jr. (1916–2003) was the family member who really made the restaurant famous. He managed the business from 1940 through 1999.[4] "By the 50s, Spenger's claimed to serve roughly 3,500 pounds of fish daily, more than any restaurant west of the Mississippi. For years it paid more in taxes to Berkeley than any other restaurant."[2] At the age of 83, Buddy Spenger sold the business to McCormick & Schmick's a seafood restaurant chain based in Portland, Oregon.[4]


After the restaurant was sold to McCormick & Schmick's, the facility was closed for a year as it underwent a $5 million renovation. Part of the renovation included replacing the original 1930s electrical system and retrofitting unreinforced brick walls with steel beams to comply with California's earthquake prevention standards. The kitchen received the greatest attention during this process, as it was gutted and expanded with all new appliances.[5]


The restaurant abruptly closed in October 2018, after 128 years of operations.[4][6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Swackhamer, Barry (February 6, 2012), Spenger's Fish Grotto c. 1890 - City of Berkeley Landmark - Designated in 2001, HMdb.org, retrieved 2013-08-27
  2. ^ a b Artz, Matthew (August 22, 2003), "Buddy Spenger Dies, Famed Restaurateur", The Berkeley Daily Planet, retrieved 2013-08-27
  3. ^ Saekel, Karola (August 20, 2003). "Frank Spenger Jr. -- of fish restaurant family". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Zavoral, Linda (2018-10-24). "After 128 years, Spenger's abruptly closes its doors in Berkeley". The Mercury News. Retrieved 2018-10-25.
  5. ^ Levi Holtz, Debra (December 2, 1999). "Spenger's To Reopen With New Look / $5 million renovation of Berkeley restaurant". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-08-27.
  6. ^ Moran, Ryan (2018-10-24). "Spenger's restaurant in Berkeley unexpectedly closes doors after 128 years of service". KTVU. Retrieved 2018-10-25.