This post originally appeared on August 8, 2020 in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.
Every week in this space I highlight the restaurant closures that feel nationally relevant to me. There are usually a handful of big ones every week. A slow trickle of misery, confirmation of our fears. The last two weeks (here and below) have felt more like a flood. Or to swap metaphors, a bloodbath.
Every independent restaurant closure, known or not, is a tragedy for the workers and owners and community members who loved it. But it seems like a growing list of name-brand places — Trois Mec, Broken Spanish, Augustine, Le Sia — and old-timers — 40 year-old dives and bakeries and gay bars and diners — threw in the towel alongside struggling newcomers in July.
Maybe it’s Paycheck Protection Program loans running out as business owners await a “second draw,” or maybe it’s expiring eviction protections. Maybe it’s the harbinger of winter without safe indoor dining and the prolonged spike in cases, or a recognition that the vaccine, even if it comes early next year, won’t be a silver bullet (especially if people don’t take it). In New York specifically, data suggest one third of independent businesses have permanently closed.
This week on our podcast, we invited editors to eulogize some especially iconic restaurants: K-Paul’s, a longtime destination for Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun cuisine in New Orleans; La Caridad, one of New York’s last Cuban-Chinese restaurants; and Dong Il Jang, a standard-bearer for the Korean community in LA. We’ll highlight a new obit every week for the foreseeable future.
On a more positive note, I also feature openings in this space, and I am encouraged to see people opening, pivoting, and rearranging dreams in this time. If there is still someone selling ornate and precious toasts in Portland and couples in SF signing leases mid-pandemic, there may be hope for us yet! Or at least we can tell ourselves that.
— Closures: Baco Mercat, Broken Spanish, Bazaar and Somni, and Dong Il Jang in LA; Caridad 78, Porsena, Fat Radish, Oda House, and the Awkward Scone in New York; Serpentine and Baker Street Bistro in SF; Dive Bar & Lounge in Austin; and Jidori in London.
— The owners of SF’s State Bird Provisions will no longer pursue a vegetarian restaurant and are pushing back the opening of their upcoming Anchovy Bar.
— In the world of delivery, DoorDash is offering hazard pay (but it’s only 78 cents per day). It’s also launched online convenience stores. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos got the all-clear from the U.K. antitrust authority to invest in that region’s delivery behemoth Deliveroo. And Vegas introduced commission caps.
— While to-go cocktails feel ever out of reach to the good people of Oregon, Michigan lawmakers finally changed some Prohibition-era laws to make them legal there. And so my Detroit-based colleague Brenna has a great ditty about what it takes to create and execute excellent delivery drinks. Meanwhile, in New York, savvy entrepreneurs have found a solid booze business in Prospect Park, while the government cracks down on legal operations.
— Openings: Marlena, a restaurant from a couple with fine dining backgrounds, in SF; IndoMex, a brunch pop-up, in Oakland; Robert Et Fils, a French fine dining destination, and Testaccio, a Roman restaurant focused on street food, in Chicago; Ichijiku, a sushi spot from seasoned sushi chefs and the owners of Ma’am Sir, and Market Tavern, a British pub, in LA; and Kimura Toast Bar, a tribute to a Japanese kissaten, in Portland.
— Things are (kind of, relatively speaking) starting to look up in New York’s Chinatown.
— Employees of D.C. hit restaurant Rose’s Luxury are calling out management for failing to address past incidents of harassment and cultural insensitivity. And popular Brooklyn pizzeria Archie’s closed after employees accused the manager of sexual misconduct.
— A number of high-profile restaurateurs in New York committed to eliminating the tipped minimum wage in their operations in exchange for payroll tax relief and an ability to add a “safe opening” surcharge to checks.
— TIL there’s an intense rivalry between lovers of Nigerian and Ghanian joloff rice.
— Last but not least, our Hulu show has an air date (November 11) and a narrator (Maya Rudolph)!
- If no one else has convinced you yet, maybe Matty Yglesias can: Bars and restaurants need a bailout. [Vox.com]
- The age of the auteur chef is over. [NYT]
- The players inside the NBA bubble are drinking really, really well. [ESPN]
- Indie food media newsletters are still going strong (and some are even making money). [Taste]
- 100 New Yorkers on the new rules of outdoor drinking. [New York]