South Carolina: Jestine’s Kitchen
> Location: Charleston
A major tourist draw for 24 years, Jestine’s was named for Jestine Matthews, the African American housekeeper and cook employed by the white family that founded the place (Matthews died in 1997 at the age of 112). It was recently criticized as “the last Charleston restaurant to openly capitalize on the narrative of black servitude,” in the words of The Post and Courier. After reopening on May 20, the restaurant announced in mid-June that it would cease operations for good due to “the quick onset of the scary pandemic.”
South Dakota: RED Steakhouse
> Location: Vermillion
Opened 10 years ago, RED aimed to provide what owners Jerad and Peggy Higman called, “an upscale experience with small town warmth.” One of the best-known restaurants in this college town in southeastern South Dakota, near the Nebraska border, closed, supposedly temporarily in March, but on Sept. 4, the Higmans announced, “with much regret” that it wouldn’t reopen.
> Location: Various
This iconic 73-year-old Texas cafeteria chain, with some 60 locations currently open across the Lone Star State, announced on Sept. 8 that it was liquidating its assets. Generations of Texans have flocked to Luby’s for its chicken-fried steak and other comfort food (it was a particular family favorite for Sunday lunch). The chain responded to the emerging pandemic in March by temporarily closing restaurants and furloughing more than half its corporate employees. In June, Luby’s revealed that it was putting its restaurants up for sale, at least partially, due to the effects of COVID-19. The decision to shut the operation down was made to “maximize value for our stockholders, while also preserving the flexibility to pursue a sale of the company should a compelling offer that delivers superior value be made,” Luby’s CEO and president Christopher J. Pappas said in a statement. The company also owns the nationwide Fuddruckers burger chain, which is also being liquidated.
Texas: Cafe Texan
> Location: Huntsville
This iconic 83-year-old establishment north of Houston, said to have been the oldest café in Texas still in its original location, is gone for good. Owner John Strickland told The Huntsville Item that he had remained closed for months out of concern for the health of his customers, many of whom were seniors, and his staff. However, he said, “I had not intended to close it permanently.” When he realized that that would be necessary, he sold the building, which will apparently be turned into a museum.
Washington, D.C.: America Eats Tavern by José Andrés
> Location: Washington D.C.
Peripatetic chef-restaurateur and humanitarian José Andrés opened the original America Eats in 2011 as a pop-up on the site of his Café Atlántico to coincide with an American food exhibition called “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” at the National Archives. It moved from there to the suburb of Tysons Corner, Virginia, and then, two years ago, to Georgetown. In late June, a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page announced that “we will not be reopening in our current home, we look forward to revisiting this concept in the future.”