To All the Restaurants We've Loved and Lost

We're eulogizing the restaurants — big and small, famous and unassuming — that closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Empty dining room at Gotham Bar & Grill
Photo: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

In March, it was estimated that 75% of independent restaurants would permanently close by the end of the year. Walking through our neighborhoods, passing boarded-up windows of the haunts we too long took for granted, we can already feel the transformation.

Many restaurants that closed during the first COVID-19 shutdowns simply kept their lights off, and then one day, a few weeks or months later, they'd have "for rent" signs on their doors. Other closures attracted more fanfare, like when high-profile restaurants like Uncle Boons and Blackbird shut their doors. If they couldn't make it through this, we asked, who can?

Absent increased government support and worker protections, the closures will continue — through this year and beyond, in the magnitude of thousands. Here, we're eulogizing the restaurants — both big and small, both famous and unassuming — that we lost this year and will never, ever forget. This list will be updated in the coming months as more restaurants close for good.

Aureole (New York, NY)

"Everyone looked beautiful at Aureole. In one of the first reviews I ever wrote — way back when Charlie Palmer's debut restaurant was still tucked into an Upper East Side townhouse and bungee-borne "wine angels" had just begun to flit up and down the sides of the multi-story bottle towers of the Las Vegas outpost — I noted in the very first breath that the whole place was suffused with a warm light that somehow made everything and everyone feel slightly cinematic. It was an occasion, eating there, even if it was just a leisurely Wednesday lunch, and though the restaurant later found new digs at a glammed-out Times Square address, it never lost its sense of existing somehow just outside the dimmed-down world on the other side of the door." — Kat Kinsman, Senior Editor

Bar Sardine (New York, NY)

"On one of the most crowded corners of the West Village, Bar Sardine's compact and coveted seats were worth the occasional wait for the snappy cocktail list, and most of all for the Fedora burger. Smoked cheddar, crispy pickles, shoestring fries and barbecue mayo made a juicy mess to be savored down to the last bite. The perfect moment of quiet enjoyment amid a raucous scene will be sorely missed." — Megan Soll, Associate Ecommerce Editor

Blackbird (Chicago, IL)

"Paul Kahan's pioneering minimalist jewelbox felt like a love letter from the future when it materialized, almost magically, on a much quieter West Randolph Street, back in the late 1990s. Even as the city's restaurant scene exploded, this ahead-of-the-curve gem stayed relevant, winning a Michelin star each year since 2011." — David Landsel, Senior Editor

Blue Smoke / Jazz Standard (New York, NY)

"It's hard now to imagine a New York City without a signature barbecue joint in every other neighborhood, but until the early 2000s, the pig pickings were slim. Yes, there was Virgil's cranking out massive, crowd-pleasing plates in Times Square and Tennessee Mountain in SoHo, but they weren't cooking exclusively over wood — a dealbreaker for many barbecue purists. Queens residents had the benefit of hairdresser-turned-pitmaster Robert Pearson's obsessive craft (he eventually set up shop in Manhattan for a little while) but for a long time, he was the only game in town. In March 2002, after a couple of years of intensive research and endless negotiations with the city (the ventilation was a nightmare), restaurateurs Danny Meyer and Mark Maynard-Parisi opened Blue Smoke with opening pitmaster Kenny Callaghan and established a music club, Jazz Standard, downstairs. Not only did they showcase a variety of traditionally-smoked, highly regional barbecue styles–later that year, Blue Smoke established the first annual Block Party, bringing pitmasters from around the country to cook their specialties and allow New Yorkers to experience some of these things — like Ed Mitchell's legendary whole hog — for the first time. It was a glorious place for a first date, big group hang, special occasion (I threw my husband's 40th birthday party there), or some serious bourbon-nerding at the bar, and the excitement starting the moment you opened the door — a waft of smoke, a trill of music, the promise of a full stomach and a happy soul. The Battery Park location remains open for takeout and delivery — and it's great and I'm glad to have it—but nothing lights me up quite like the original." — Kat Kinsman, Senior Editor

Broken Spanish (Los Angeles, CA)

"For me, no trip to LA was complete without swinging by Broken Spanish, chef Ray Garcia's modern Mexican restaurant, no matter how many dinner reservations I had booked for the night. It was always my one of my favorite place for a solo meal, ideally composed of a glass of wine and at least one tostada. I can't quite put my finger on what made Broken Spanish so special — maybe it was the energy of the room, or the fact that the food was always a million times better than it needed to be — but there is now a giant void in my heart (and my stomach) where it used to be." — Khushbu Shah, Restaurant Editor

Cantab Lounge (Cambridge, MA)

Let me be honest: I didn't love college, even though I thought I would — it was stressful, competitive, and just not nearly as cathartic as I expected it to be. The Cantab Lounge, which used to be located a mere six minutes from my tiny apartment in Cambridge's Central Square, was everything I hoped college would be. There were shitty well drinks, and there was shitty live music (think: Queen covers and a whole lot of Dropkick Murphys), and yet, every time I went, I was so grateful to be there with friends who made me feel more at home than I'd ever felt in my entire life. To Hannah, Chelsea, Lydia, Chaya, and everyone else who has ever reminded me to drink water in between shots — we'll probably never find another spot like this. Next stop? Tasty Burger." — Oset Babur, Associate Restaurant Editor

Dmitri's (Philadelphia, PA)

"Growing up in Philadelphia and then a nearby suburb, I always lobbied to eat here for special occasions: Dmitri's. The fancy-but-relaxed Greek restaurant opened its first location in the '90s and has been a favorite among locals for decades, quietly serving some of the best Mediterranean-inflected menus in town. On July 14, in an Instagram post, the restaurant announced it would be closing its last remaining location for good. 'Covid changed everything and the towel had to be thrown in,' it read. 'We love all of you, miss you, and hope you stay well.' My last meal there, I was catching up with a childhood friend. We ordered the charred octopus, of course, an impractical amount of mezze, and a reasonably priced bottle of white. There's nothing quite like it." — Maria Yagoda, Restaurant Editor,

Bar Fedora (New York, NY)

"Bar Fedora was the West Village opening that I didn't know I needed. A year after my divorce, when everything felt miserable and weary, Gabe Stulman gave me a place where I could forget myself: a dark room for contemplating dark thoughts at the end of a long bar. Brian Bartels, that bartending hero from the upper Midwest, mollified me with sensational rye-based cocktails and gradually over the next few months I felt myself lifted up again to embrace life and love. Oh, and the steak tartare with trout roe may have helped as well. That hallowed bar is now gone, and with it a little part of me." — John Winterman, Owner, Francie

Gotham Bar & Grill (New York, NY)

"I moved to New York after grad school in 1996 and it took me a while to get my bearings. Unless you swoop in with a lucrative job lined up and / or a trust fund, this can take a goodly long time, and for me it was several years. Thank goodness for NYC Restaurant Week — now ubiquitous and then somewhat of a novelty — which allowed a change-scrimping 20-something like me to indulge in a multi-course meal at a schmancy restaurant for just under $20, before tip. It was to me, still a minor fortune, but nonetheless I splurged, donned my polyester interview suit, and met a friend midday at the legendary Gotham Bar & Grill, hoping the staff wouldn't make me for the riff-raff I am. For the first time in my life, I caught a taste of what it might be like to be a grown-up lady who takes time to lunch, rather than shoving leftover Kraft dinner or cup noodles into her face while hunched over her desk, and what's more — every host, server, runner, and busser in that room treated me like I belonged there. I think of my New York City dining life as divided into eras before and after that lunch, and now that I know a longtime Gotham staffer is moving heaven and earth to buy the now-shuttered restaurant and bring it back to life, I am desperately hoping for a third act. It would suit this city so well." — Kat Kinsman, Senior Editor

Recipe: Gotham Bar & Grill's Farfalle with Prosciutto, Peas, and Tomatoes

Here's Looking at You (Los Angeles, LA)

"I'd never eaten so many butts in one night. Smoked turkey butts, you sicko! We were at Here's Looking at You in LA's Koreatown, and I didn't know it then, but it was to be my first and only visit. The turkey butts were tender little grenades of joy. The spicy frog legs were perfect, and I would've been happy eating them all night and nothing else. My buddy knew the owner, Lien, and she was so warm and generous; it was like she and the staff were determined to make the meal one of those best-of-all-time dinners you never forget. Well, clearly she succeeded because here I am gushing about it over a year later. Each cocktail begged you to try and guess all of its herbs and aromatics and pass it around the table saying, "This one is so good! Hatchi matchi!" Do you remember sharing drinks with friends at a restaurant? This is all so dreary. I don't even live in LA and I'll truly miss this surprising, innovative, and all around flawless restaurant." — Ryan Grim, Executive Digital Editor

Il Corvo (Seattle, WA)

"Pasta wizard Mike Easton brought a precise, artisan's approach to each plate at his Pioneer Square lunch holy grail. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the closure was the reminder that it had only been nine years, because it felt like so much longer. The untimely death of his wife, Victoria, a wonderful presence in the snug dining room until only recently, followed an end to the walk-up lunch trade, and put a stop to the music back in May. What an incredible loss." — David Landsel, Senior Editor

Jimmy's Diner (New York, NY)

"I've lived in and around North Brooklyn since I first moved to the city in 2012, and good diners are somewhat hard to come by, what with absurd rent prices and the abundance of chef-centered concepts. Jimmy's Diner, the best diner I've been blessed enough to always live within walking distance of, sat directly next door to one such cheffy concept (Lilia). Yet Jimmy's really offered the best of both worlds with their untraditional take on the traditional diner, serving Southern-inflected diner classics with kooky Brooklyn touches, and, of course, bottomless coffee. Great bottomless coffee. In my early years in New York, after long nights of bar-and-shot specials, I'd go to Jimmy's in the morning (is noon the morning?) to meet up with friends, hydrate, laugh, and stuff my face with skillet apple waffles or beef empanadas with eggs, beans, and grits." — Maria Yagoda, Restaurant Editor,

K-Paul's Louisiana Bistro (New Orleans)

"Back in the 1970s, celebrity chefs weren't really a thing, not just yet, but New Orleans already had the extremely Cajun Paul Prudhomme, out there doing the most to ignite interest in local cooking and culture. It worked — when he finally opened his own place back in 1979, there were lines out the door from the start; the French Quarter institution went on preaching the gospel of blackening all things Louisiana until the very end." — David Landsel, contributor

Read more: Historic New Orleans Restaurant K-Paul's Closes After 41 Years in French Quarter

Lalo (Philadelphia)

"I'm not really sure how to describe how big a loss this is for Philadelphia. Though Lalo opened its brick-and-mortar location at the Bourse in 2018, but the lunch cart from which it incarnated has been beloved in Philly for decades. The small restaurant served spectacular Filipino food, all inspired by family recipes. I will never, ever stop dreaming about their laing — a dish of spicy greens braised in coconut milk that is typically made with pork, but that Lalo did vegan. 'Our culture is hospitality,' co-owner Neal Santos told Food & Wine earlier this year. 'We're inviting people to the table, familiarizing them with our culture and our history, and putting our Filipino-American spin on it.' On July 1, the restaurant announced on Instagram that it would be closing permanently due to Covid-19. 'This chapter may have concluded, but our story is far from over,' read the post, which promised that 'a new environment will come and we'll shift and adapt as we always do!' Thank god." — Maria Yagoda, restaurant editor

Read more: The Best Filipino Food in Philadelphia Was 35 Years in the Making

Maison Premiere (New York City)

"Maison Premiere was not only the first place I actually ate an oyster ⁠— and loved it ⁠— but also hands-down home to the best oyster happy hour in the city. I am going to miss meeting friends over the occasional 3 p.m. oyster hour; sitting down at the bar and ordering 'one of each' of just about 40 oysters, paired with an always delicious absinth cocktail." — Elsa Saatela, digital operations editor

Uncle Boons (New York City)

"There are two things that were always guaranteed about dinner at Uncle Boon's. One, that you would have to wait at least 2 to 3 hours to for a table, and two, that the wait was always worth it because chefs Ann Redding and Matt Danzer were consistently cooking some of the best Thai food in the city. The food at Uncle Boon's is the kind of food that you feel the need to return to over and over again. There is not a month that goes by where I don't have an intense craving for a bowl of their comforting khao soi with perfectly springy egg noodles, a deeply refreshing beer slushy, a plate of their [craveable] crab fried rice, and a bowl of green curry snails I didn't know was missing from my life. The cozy Nolita restaurant was so beloved and busy since the day it opened seven years ago that I took for granted that it would always be a fixture of a the New York landscape. That it was a place I would always be able to complain about the wait for a table. Now, I would happily wait several hours to get one last bowl of khao soi." — Khushbu Shah, restaurant editor

Recipe: Uncle Boons Thai Roast Chicken

Vickie's Cafe (Las Vegas)

"It used to be Tiffany's Diner at White Cross Drugs before it was sold to one of the waitresses, Vickie Kelesis, who turned it into Vickie's Cafe at the upgraded White Cross Market. The 24/7 restaurant still served the solid, generous breakfast, lunch, and dinner standards for which it had long been loved by locals. The trout and three eggs were a steal at $11.95. All caught up now? Good, because we have to talk about That Painting (as it's fondly dubbed). No one knows. No one. Some speculate it's Clint Eastwood as The Outlaw Josey Wales, others John Travola in some indeterminate role. Why he was hanging out in the corner of a Bob-Ross-gone-awry forest scene is anyone's guess, but one thing is for sure: If the canvas were to suddenly disappear, patrons would be up in arms. No kidding — it was taken down temporarily during filming of a reality show and regulars pitched a fit, both in person and on the painting's Facebook fan page (yup). Kelesis doesn't recall who painted it originally, but so long as bemused patrons kept streaming in to snap selfies with That Painting, the mysterious stranger would lurk above the corner booth, both unnerving and somehow reassuring — which seems oddly right for Vegas. Here's hoping it'll find another home soon." — Kat Kinsman, executive features editor

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles