> Location: Chicago
This well-loved West Loop restaurant — hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “one of Chicago’s greatest restaurants” — was opened 22 years ago by Paul Kahan, who has since become one of the city’s best-known chef-restaurateurs. (His other places include Avec, Publican, and Big Star). Blackbird’s intimate size and layout made social distancing impossible, and the restaurant announced on its website that “we have made the very difficult decision to close our doors.”
Louisiana: K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
> Location: New Orleans
The demise of the legendary K-Paul’s in mid-July is one of the most significant of all COVID-related restaurant closures. This highly influential Cajun establishment was opened in 1979 by chef Paul Prudhomme and his wife, Kay, and it soon became a Crescent City bucket-list destination, with lines forming nightly outside. With such vividly flavored dishes as the iconic blackened redfish, K-Paul’s ignited a nationwide craze for Cajun cooking. Kay died of cancer in 1993 and Prudhomme passed away in 2015, but the place stayed open under the chef’s niece, Brenda Prudhomme, and her chef husband, Paul Miller.
After several coronavirus-mandated closings and reopenings earlier this year, though, they issued a statement on July 13″regretfully announcing permanent closure of K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.” Miller explained to NOLA.com that “The business has been bleeding through this, and you can only bleed so much before you have to stop it.”
> Location: Portland
Famous for its rigorously local New England-based menu (such staples as olive oil and black pepper were banned from the kitchen on the grounds they’re not produced in the Northeast), Vinland served its final meal on Aug. 21. Chef-owner David Levi posted a message on Facebook reading in part, “Vinland could not withstand the long quarantine required for the Covid-19 pandemic, the disproportionate impact on the fine dining sector of the food industry, and the overall downturn in the economy, the last of which may reverberate for years.” He added, “I’d hoped for a reopening even as I failed to see the viable path. The path, for us, didn’t exist. ”
Maryland: Sunset Restaurant Lounge
> Location: Glen Burnie
From its origins as a nightclub, complete with slot machines, in 1960, this establishment in a Baltimore suburb evolved into a popular full-service restaurant, known for its crab soup and other local specialties. In late August, the owners announced on their Facebook page that they would close permanently on Sept. 30. “We anticipated celebrating our 60th anniversary this year but instead we were met with unprecedented hardship due to the COVID Pandemic,” they wrote. “Like many other family owned businesses, restrictions and the regulations imposed by the restaurant industry have driven us to make this decision.”
Massachusetts: Legal Test Kitchen
> Location: Boston
A branch of the famed Massachusetts fish and shellfish chain Legal Seafoods, this once-bustling 15-year-old establishment in Boston’s Seaport district is now out of business, according to information reported on Aug. 27. “Due to the lack of area business and travel … “the company felt it didn’t make sense to reopen the location,” Legal explained to Boston.com. There is one other Test Kitchen location at the city’s Logan Airport (the idea was that the Test Kitchens would experiment on dishes not found on the chain’s usual menus). It is currently closed but will reopen in early fall. Meanwhile, 11 other Legal Seafood locations around the state remain open.
Massachusetts: Caffe Bella
> Location: Randolph
After almost three decades of serving Italian fare in this community south of Boston, Caffe Bella closed down in March like other area restaurants for what owner Patrick Barnes Jr. hoped would be a temporary hiatus. Unlike other local establishments, though, it didn’t reopen when restrictions were eased. It never will. In late July, Barnes posted a statement on Facebook saying that “[U]nfortunately the pandemic has caused the Caffe to call it a day!”
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