Berkeley residents mourn loss of city’s only Indonesian restaurant

Sam Albillo/Staff

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More than a decade after opening, Jayakarta — the only Indonesian restaurant in Berkeley — closed due to financial constraints on Saturday, leaving many community members upset about the city’s lack of Indonesian cuisine.

The restaurant, located on University Avenue, had a well-known spice level ranking system, with one being the mildest and five being the spiciest. According to campus alumnus Zuhayeer Musa, Jayakarta was also special because it provided its customers with a halal option, which he said is hard to find in Berkeley.

“When I found out it was closing, it really tore me apart because that was such a staple for us in Berkeley,” Musa said in a Twitter message. “Jayakarta’s always been there as a hometown classic, so it’ll definitely be different knowing it isn’t an option anymore.”

Andrea Juwono, a spokesperson for the campus Berkeley Indonesian Student Association, or BISA, said her community was also impacted by the closure and frequented the space in its final days.

According to Juwono, the restaurant comforted its customers with authentic Indonesian meals. She added that it also enabled Indonesian community members to show their friends what they grew up eating, which is “rarely recreated in America.”

Diego Aguilar-Canabal, a Berkeley resident, said in an email that the restaurant was packed with people on its last day, leaving him unable to get a table.

“I was heartbroken to hear of Jayakarta closing, and it was bittersweet that I couldn’t get one final meal there since they were way too busy on their last weekend,” Aguilar-Canabal said in the email. “Jayakarta was one of the first places I ate (at) when I first moved to Berkeley in 2014.”

Now, the best way to get authentic Indonesian food in Berkeley is to befriend an Indonesian student, Juwono said. She added that authentic Indonesian food can also be found at BISA’s fundraisers and at Nusantara, the organization’s annual cultural showcase in April.

Jayakarta is one of the many local businesses in the Berkeley area to shut down in recent months because of high rent. Many people, including Aguilar-Canabal, have expressed concerns about the increasing rent prices driving out local businesses and affecting Berkeley’s cultural atmosphere.

“I’m hopeful that Jayakarta can make it back one day or maybe open up in a cheaper area,” Musa said in a Twitter message. “Until then, I’m really going to miss them.”

Katherine Finman is the lead Student Government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.