By Chris Treadway
Friday, August 17th, 2012 at 8:40 pm in El Cerrito.
A week ago we shared a 1980s photo of the northeast corner of El Cerrito Plaza on the West County Times Facebook page that included a partial view of Kirby’s Restaurant and Kirby’s El Cerrito Station cocktail lounge.
There were dozen comments on the picture, mostly from people who remembered Kirby’s, so we thought we’d offer a closer look at the place that was once a mainstay of the original Plaza shopping center.
Kirby’s wasn’t an original tenant of the Plaza, which opened in 1958, but it became part of the center around 1961. The restaurant had an adjoining cocktail lounge that became known as Kirby’s El Cerrito Station after the El Cerrito Plaza BART station opened in 1973.
That gave the Plaza two cocktail lounges: Kirby’s El Cerrito Station on the north side and the Mel-O-Dee Lounge (which is still in operation) on the south side, an indication that many customers of that era were interested in more than shopping.
Judging from the ads, Kirby’s at the Plaza — which was opened by the same people behind Kirby’s Elegant Farmer and Kirby’s Merritt Bakery Restaurant and Bakery in Oakland — was originally intended to be a more upscale dining alternative.
But in its later years it was better known as a favorite hangout of senior citizens, who could get their coffee refilled endlessly while socializing.
In the late 1980s, the cocktail lounge was replaced by a Chevy’s Restaurant and in the early 1990s Kirby’s closed and a Chuck E. Cheese took over the space.
Here are some views of Kirby’s from the West County files and some memorabilia, courtesy of www.kookykitsch.com.