In partnership with the San Francisco Examiner
What started as a humble idea amongst a trio of friends (Kaz Kajimura, Yoshie Akiba, Hugh “Hiro” Hori) has become a true testament of the American dream. In 1972, they set out to create a culinary experience introducing fresh seasonal Japanese cuisine to the Berkeley community. The menu of Chef Hiro cemented the Japanese cuisine into the DNA of the business making the 27-seat restaurant a popular dining destination for East Bay residents.
In 1979, Yoshi’s moved to Oakland’s Claremont Avenue. This move provided a larger restaurant capacity and opened the opportunity to introduce live music to the business. The excitement of the restaurant’s new menu and the frequent performances of many contemporary jazz greats quickly earned Yoshi’s a reputation as one of the premier jazz clubs on the West Coast. The tight confines of the Claremont location created a vibrant environment and generated a buzz amongst dining guests and jazz aficionados alike.
It was apparent by 1997, that Yoshi’s was outgrowing it’s 130 seat space, which led to the businesses’ second and current Oakland home, in Jack London Square. The 310 seat club, 250 seat restaurant, and 60 seat bar & lounge made it possible to host larger name jazz acts while also continuing to celebrate the Japanese culture of the founders through both cuisine and décor. The new club gave rise to successful runs by many jazz greats including luminaries such as Chick Correa, Wynton Marsalis and Pharoah Sanders.
In 2007, Yoshi’s looked across the bridge to branch a second location on Fillmore St. in San Francisco. The welcoming city supported the numerous jazz and R&B acts but ultimately the business was sold in 2014 to place a more concentrated focus on tightening up the Oakland mothership.
In 2010, Hal Campos was brought on to direct restaurant and private event affairs and raised the bar with a new style of service. This eventually led to him becoming the GM, who with the assistance of veteran Artistic Director Michael Pritchard set a new standard for Oakland nightlife. In 2019 and after 10 years with Yoshi’s, Daniel Grujic took over as Artistic Director. As before, Yoshi’s continues to be a place for a wide array of world class artists to present their talents live for the Bay Area community.
Although the founders Yoshie and Kaz have stepped aside from the day-to-day bustle of operations, they are still very much the fabric in the soul of the business. Don’t be surprised to see Yoshie dancing enthusiastically at shows like Carlos Reyes or listening to one of Kaz’s colorful stories while taking in an outstanding Victor Wooten performance.
The talented Executive Chef Victor Reyes and Sushi Chef Lolo Gonzales now hold the reigns in the kitchen. The current menu boasts an array of delightful dishes and tantalizing sushi favorites.
This is truly a unique venue; there are shows every day of the week!
While being primarily known internationally as a jazz haven, the acts that are booked are quite diverse. In the roughly 500 shows presented each year, you will also see popular R&B, Soul, Comedy and Rock. Albeit the club still stays true to Jazz fans, the world around.
Latin Jazz titans such as Pete Escovedo and Arturo Sandoval are seemingly constant fixtures on the Yoshi’s stage, and longtime fans couldn’t be happier about it.
What is jazz if you can’t incorporate a bit of fusion?
Living legends like bassist extraordinaire Stanley Clarke often bring back the fondest of memories from long time guests. Clarke has made quite the career of wowing audiences and will continue to do so with his run of shows on May 27-29.
Smooth Jazz icons also frequently grace the stage, such as saxophone slingers, Michael Lington & Paul Taylor who are scheduled to perform on June 16.
New mavericks of jazz have also been well represented in the likes of acts like Chief Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott) who often reaches to local jazz favorite Elena Pinderhughes to join him for sessions that seemingly transport listeners to the colorful streets of New Orleans. The 5x GRAMMY©-nominated trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist takes stage on Jun 23-24.
The business is currently planning for the next 50 years, starting with a new sound system to be installed in mid-2022, as well as an array of fresh, creative acts that are constantly being introduced to the club’s calendar.
For calendar, tickets, or dinner reservations, please visit www.Yoshis.com.