It’s the end of an era in Pacific Grove: Tillie Gort’s Cafe has closed. A favorite spot for vegetarians, Tillie Gort’s opened in 1969.
The restaurant shared news of the closure via Facebook on July 1: “It has been 49 years of good food, love, friends and a lot of history. We just want to say THANK YOU to all the people that made TILLIE GORTS a great place for almost five decades. Thank you to all the loyal customers, employees, former employees and bystanders. You will always have a special place in our hearts.”
The Pacific Grove cafe was known for its vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free selections and signature Brazilian twist. Weekly readers consistently voted Tillie Gort’s “Best Vegetarian” in the annual Best of Monterey County poll. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the menu made it easy for vegetarians to find meatless meals, especially welcome in the days before vegetables became the hip focus for chefs. The menu was also multicultural, spanning sandwiches, pastas, Mediterranean, and Mexican selections in an early reflection of the ever-diversifying definition of California cuisine.
Tillie Gort’s was founded by Gill Tortolani, an epicurean entrepreneur who also established the Monterey Peninsula’s first health food store, The Grannery, and the Ecology First Foundation focused on recycling. The restaurant embraced counterculture with a focus on community and cuisine, welcoming “the young, the wise, people of the business world, followers of the spirit, family folk and loners, grandmothers, musicians, carpenters, students & teachers, working folk, those just passing through, and the perennial ‘regulars.’”
Ranieri Guimaraes purchased the business and building in 2001. He brought a Brazilian flair to the menu, with açai bowls a popular addition to the menu. Last year, Guimaraes put the restaurant and neighboring property for sale, noting he was ready to retire and spend time with family in South America.