‘It won’t be the same’: Mad Mex patrons react to news of Oakland location closure

For three decades, it was a literal cornerstone in South Oakland: the Mad Mex in Oakland, at the corner of Atwood and Bates Streets, opened its doors in 1983, the first location of the franchise and first establishment for the Big Burrito Restaurant Group.

From birthday celebrations and half-priced burritos to some of the happiest hours in Oakland, 30 years of margaritas and memories surround the Mexican restaurant for University of Pittsburgh students and visitors alike.

But this week marked the end of an era. The restaurant announced on Facebook that its final “last call” had taken place, shutting its doors for good, citing ongoing staffing and operational challenges.

“Oh my god. Me and my roommates were so upset,” said Alice Kosterin, who lives in Oakland. “We had big plans to go there on Thursday night because it’s such a Thursday night activity to go get Margs.”

“I’m just very surprised because I thought they had figured out their staffing issues,” said Celeste Lintz, a Pitt student.

The permanent closure comes just a few months after a temporary one that Big Burrito executives attributed to continued challenges in a post-pandemic service industry, initially planning to shut down for a few months last winter, but it stayed dark until this past fall.

“We were so happy that it opened back up again, and we were all excited to go back,” Kosterin said.

Channel 11 spoke with Big Burrito executives, who said this was an extremely difficult decision. They said they’ve dealt with staffing shortages at all of their restaurants, including Alta Via and other Mad Mex locations, and have offered positions elsewhere to all Oakland employees, something they’re hoping will be best in the long run.

Big Burrito hopes its patrons visit other Mad Mex locations. The closest one is in Shadyside.