It’s no news to anyone that restaurants had a few very tough years following the appearance of COVID. Thousands and thousands of eating places closed between 2020 and 2022, most of them permanently. We lost fast food places, mom-and-pop bistros, glitzy celebrity magnet joints, and just about every other kind of establishment. Among the casualties were icons, some of them generations old, like the Pacific Dining Car in Los Angeles, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans, the “21” Club and Felidia in New York City, Spiaggia in Chicago, Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, and Mamma ‘Zu in Richmond. (These were the saddest restaurant closings of 2022.)
Things are definitely looking up for the food service industry, however. According to data from Mastercard, restaurant sales nationwide were up 7.8% year-over-year for November and December of 2023. By comparison, retail sales were only up 3.1% in the same period.
Unfortunately, notable restaurants still close for various reasons. Some of those that managed to reopen after pandemic-era hiatuses never quite found their footing again and closed again for good — suffering, it might be said, from a kind of culinary long COVID. In addition, such issues as rent increases or lost leases, rising food and labor costs, staff shortages, restaurateur illness or death (or retirement), and simply changes in the tastes of the dining public have all contributed. (Speaking of changing tastes, here are the top 10 food and drink trends of 2023.)
To make a list of 40 of the saddest (for various reasons) restaurant closings in 2023, 24/7 Tempo surveyed numerous websites covering restaurant news, as well as conventional news sources, for 22 major cities. The restaurants on our list range from a vintage drugstore lunch counter and a popular coffee shop serving casual breakfast and lunch to establishments run by famous chefs like David Chang, Charlie Palmer, and Hugh Acheson.
This list is hardly comprehensive. If we were to call out every unfortunate restaurant closing of the past year, unfortunately, the roster would likely run into the hundreds.
Scroll down to read about the saddest restaurant closings of 2023.
Atlanta, GA: King + Duke
After a decade of serving multicultural-American fare here, Atlanta restaurant star Ford Fry closed King + Duke in June. The lease was up, and Fry decided not to renew. He still has plenty to keep him busy, however, with almost 20 restaurants in Georgia, Nashville, Houston, and Charlotte.
Atlanta, GA: Chick-fil-A
However you might feel about Chick-fil-A, the No. 1 fast-food chicken chain in America (it was once corporately vocal in its opposition to same-sex marriage), the shutting down of its original location is worth noting. Company founder S. Truett Cathy opened his first-ever unit in what was to become the food court at the Greenbriar Mall. It closed abruptly in May, with no reason given. However, the mall has seen a downturn in business in the past few years (its only major anchor tenant, Macy’s, decamped in 2021).
Atlanta, GA: Empire State South
There were rumors in fall of 2022 that noted Georgia-based chef-restaurateur Hugh Acheson planned to close this Atlanta tribute to Southern cooking, but it lasted until February of 2023. Then he pulled the plug, citing “Covid tumult, no Restaurant Revitalization funding, inflation, blah blah blah.”
Austin, TX: Metcalf BBQ (3 locations)
The Graceland location of this acclaimed barbecue mini-chain closed in February, due to the effects on business of a major ongoing construction project in the area. A day earlier, locations inside two bars, Stagger Lee and Mean Eyed Cat, shut down for unspecified reasons. The restaurants were extensions of Austin’s historic Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, but were forced by the McCormick & Company, which markets Stubbs Bar-B-Que sauce, to change their name.
Austin, TX: Nau’s Enfield Drug
Nau’s opened in 1951 as a full-scale pharmacy, with a lunch counter that became famous for its burgers and shakes. The popular soda fountain-plus actually closed due to labor shortages during the pandemic, but the drugstore kept going and West Austinites hoped the counter would be revived. Those hopes were dashed in March when Nau’s closed completely and everything inside was liquidated.
Boston, MA: El Oriental de Cuba
After almost 30 years, this Jamaica Plain Cuban place closed in September. When proprietor Nobel Garcia died in 2021, his two daughters took it over, but both had other jobs and found it too difficult to maintain.
Chicago, IL: Owen & Engine
This popular gastropub, noted for its Slagel Farm burger with caramelized onions on a house-made potato roll, survived a COVID shutdown and owner Bo Fowler’s thankfully non-fatal heart attack, reopening in early 2022. However, last July Fowler made the decision to close the restaurant after 14 years, for personal reasons.
Dallas, TX: Cry Wolf
The Dallas Morning News called Cry Wolf a “rebellious restaurant” that “was fancy and lowbrow all at the same time.” Owner-chef Ross Demers told various publications, though, that he was never really happy with the place, and through much of 2023, it closed and reopened several times, with no advance notice (customers who had reservations often showed up to find it dark). In October, Demers announced that it was done for good, telling D Magazine that he was taking time off to relax and find a path forward.
Dallas, TX: Homewood
Known for its casual ambiance and its ingredient-focused seasonal American menu, this four-year-old restaurant turned out the lights in February. “We unfortunately weren’t doing nearly enough revenue to stay open,” co-owner Michael Barnett told the Dallas Morning news.
Detroit, MI: PizzaPlex
This Southwest Detroit favorite, known for its Neapolitan-style pies, its commitment to sustainable sourcing, and its community engagement, served its last pizza in February. “[W]e all tried our best,” read a Facebook post from the owners, but “have made the tough but necessary decision to close PizzaPlex after this month is over.”
Denver, CO: Piccolo
After serving an unusual combination of Italian and Mexican food for half a century, this family-owned classic closed on April 30. A statement on the restaurant website said “It is with heavy hearts we have made the impossibly difficult decision to let Piccolo go.” Marty Canino, a son of Piccolo founder Clyde Canino Sr., told Westword that “It was just time after COVID. Things have changed so much with mom-and-pops….”
Englewood (Denver), CO: El Tepehuan Mexican Restaurant
December 31 marked the end of a 45-year run for this well-lovedDenver area Mexican restaurant — known to regulars as El Tep — famous for its green chile plate, among other dishes. According to a notice to “Loyal Customers,” longtime proprietor Graciela Corral “would now like to spend more time with her family, travel, and enjoy retirement.” The notice left open the possibility that the business, under new ownership, might reopen in another location.
Houston, TX: Shun
Naoki Yoshida’s always-busy River Oaks Japanese establishment, which introduced Houston to contemporary Japanese food that went far beyond sushi, closed in June. Yoshida and his wife aren’t done with the restaurant business, though, and plan to open an omakase place sometime this year.
Las Vegas, NV: Old Homestead Steakhouse
Known as one of the best steakhouses in a city that’s full of steakhouses, this Caesars Palace offshoot of the 1868-vintage Manhattan original (considered the oldest continuously operating steakhouse in the country) went out of business in May. Neither the restaurant nor Caesars gave a reason for the closure, but it was announced that the space would be taken over by a French restaurant run by Bobby Flay.
Las Vegas, NV: Aureole
Celebrity chef Charlie Palmer opened this offshoot of the Manhattan original (which closed in 2020 after 32 years) at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in 1999. It became instantly famous for its four-story glass Wine Tower, up which acrobatically trained “wine angels” ascended on wires to pluck pricey bottles for diners. They made their last flights in February. Palmer told Wine Spectator that a change of ownership at the resort and the opening of a convention center “really changed the DNA of the hotel,” and he felt it no longer made sense for him to continue with the restaurant.
Los Angeles, CA: Angler
After gaining plaudits (and a Michelin star) for their Angler in San Francisco, the Saison Hospitality group opened this branch of the upscale seafood resaurant in L.A. — just before the arrival of COVID. It struggled along, closing briefly in late 2022 before reopening with a new menu, but only lasted until last July. According to a statement on the restaurant website, “[W]e have made the difficult decision to close Angler LA and focus on our efforts and concepts in the Bay Area at this time.”
Los Angeles, CA: Animal
L.A. restaurant whiz kids Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo made a splash when they opened this modest-looking but ambitious and (as Eater put it) “massively influential” restaurant, specializing in offal and other gutsy ingredients, in 2008. Animal closed in the face of the pandemic in 2020, reopening two years later — but shut down for good last August. “We are in a different place now, and we’d both decided to be there for our kids while they are at an age where they still think we are cool,” Shook told Eater.
Los Angeles, CA: Angry Egret Dinette
Chef Wes Avila’s vivid Mexican restaurant in Chinatown, famous for its fish tacos, among other fare, said goodbye at brunch time on New Year’s Eve. With his lease ending, Avila shared “the bittersweet news” on Instagram that he was calling it quits. “With new projects on the horizon,” he added, “I am filled with enthusiasm for what lies ahead.”
Los Angeles, CA: Cafe Tropical
For almost 50 years, this Cuban restaurant served the Silver Lake community, but its last day of existence was December 1. While the place suffered during the pandemic like so many other establishments, the immediate cause of its demise seems to have been a family feud between Navarro and his mother, who sold him the place. There were disputes over the terms of the sale and she filed a lawsuit against him. He was also hit with a lawsuit over back rent, and keeping the place going was no longer tenable.
Miami, FL: All Day
This bright and airy coffee shop (with breakfast and lunch sandwiches offered) gained many fans when it opened in 2016. It went on hiatus during the pandemic, but reopened in early 2022. It never quite got back up to speed, though, and a statement on the shop’s Instagram page read in part “We gave it our hardest for the past 7.5 years…Now it’s time to close this chapter. Last day of service is Sunday November 12. ”
Nashville, TN: Josephine
The last day of service for this well-known Southern-inflected American restaurant in the 12 South neighborhood — overseen by chef Andrew Little, considered one of Nashville’s culinary stars — was Dec. 23. While no reason for the closing was specified, a post in November on the restaurant Instagram account read “After 10 great years, We are sad to announce that we will be closing our doors permanently when our lease ends next month.”
New Orleans, LA: Lengua Madre
The end of 2023 marked the end of this innovative tasting-menu Mexican restaurant run by chef Ana Castro and chef-restaurateur Michael Stoltzfus. The place was doing well, but both principals wanted to move on — Castro to open a more casual seafood-based restaurant called Acamaya, Stoltzfus to develop a new concept in the Lengua Madre space and rework the menu at his other place, Coquette.
New Orleans, LA: Le Chat Noir
This young but promising seafood restaurant, opened in 2021, surprised the dining community by abruptly locking its doors, without warning, in early August. Speaking to NOLA.com, co-owner James Reuter blamed rising food and staffing costs and a summertime slowdown in business.
New York, NY: ZZ’s Clam Bar
This tiny (200-square-foot, 12-seat), notoriously pricey seafood destination from the red-hot Major Food Group shuttered in December. No reason was given for the decision to close it, but it was immediately repurposed into a private dining space for the group’s flagship Carbone, which is almost next door.
New York, NY: Momofuku Ssäm Bar
After it opened in the East Village in 2006, Ssäm Bar made David Chang’s reputation and inspired a generation’s worth of young chefs to open similar casual, personal, innovative restaurants with few frills but serious focus on the food. When his lease was up in 2021, Chang made the decision to move the operation to South Street Seaport. “I can’t speak to the business factors behind the decision,” wrote restaurant critic Ryan Sutton in his LO Times newsletter, “but culturally and culinarily, the new space never regained the cutting-edge relevance or raffish magic of the old digs.” It wasn’t a surprise to many, then, when Chang closed the place in September.
New York, NY: Bâtard
Restaurateur Drew Nieporent opened Montrachet, his first-ever effort, in this hallowed space in Tribeca in 1985. In 2008, he converted it to Corton, and then, in 2014, keeping with the theme of Burgundian names, reinvented it as Bâtard. After two temporary closures during the pandemic, Nieporent announced in May of last year that he was giving up the space and the restaurant would close. No reason was given.
New York, NY: (The Mercer) Kitchen
Prolific Alsatian-born chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who oversees almost 50 restaurants in various corners of the country and across the world, opened this restaurant in the then-hip Mercer Hotel in SoHo in 1998. He decamped as of Dec. 18, citing a change of hotel ownership as the motivating factor. A different restaurant will move into the space.
Philadelphia, PA: Relish
Last January saw the end of this always bustling Northwest Philly jazz club and Southern-themed restaurant, overseen by brothers Robert and Benjamin Bynum. While they say there was no specific reason for their decision to call it quits, Robert did tell the Billy Penn at WHYY newsletter that “We’re both getting older…[and] [g]oing through the pandemic, we realized something about our quality of life — or lack of quality of life.”
Philadelphia, PA: Abe Fisher
Celebrated Philadelphia restaurateurs Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook made the decision to close Abe Fisher — which the Philadelphia Inquirer described as “a full-service bar-restaurant serving schmaltzed-up cuisine inspired by the Jewish diaspora” — as of last July 1. They also closed their counter-service Merkaz. The team plans to focus its attentions on its other establishments in the city and in Brooklyn, including Zahav, Laser Wolf, and Federal Donuts.
Phoenix, AZ: Tomaso’s on Camelback
After serving upscale Italian fare to Phoenix and vicinity for 46 years, the Maggiore family, which operates four other restaurants in the area, made the decision to close in May. No reason was given, but Joey Maggiore, son of Tomaso Maggiore, the late founder of the place, plans to open a new restaurant nearby this year.
Portland, ME: Cabana
Open only since 2022 but already a local favorite, this Old Port Latin-American restaurant and bar served its last Mojitos and Cubano sliders on Dec. 31. A message on the establishment’s Instagram page said “The reason behind our closure is due to unforeseen family health issues. As you all know family will always comes first and be our priority.”
Portland, OR: Castagna
This lauded restaurant, known for its contemporary-style tasting menus, opened in 1999. It not only won critical acclaim, but also enriched the local restaurant scene by serving as a proving ground for a number of chefs who went on to gain fame on their own — among them Vince Nguyen (Berlu Bakery) and and Matthew Lightner (who earned two Michelin stars at Atera in New York City before returning to Oregon to open Okta in the Willamette Valley). The restaurant closed in March of 2020 as COVID swept the country and has been shuttered ever since — but it wasn’t until last May that owner Monique Siu announced that it was permanently gone.
St. Paul, MN: Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant
June 17 was the last night of service for this 22-year-old Little Africa standard. The restaurant didn’t respond to requests for further information from local media, but posted on its Facebook page “We thank our customers for the past 22 years” and “Thank you very much to all who commented and felt sad because we close Fasika.”
San Francisco, CA: Park Tavern
One of the city’s stalwarts, known for its lively dining room and excellent American cooking, Park Tavern may or may not be gone for good. It was served with an eviction notice in November, and several news sources reported that it was sitting empty or had been “restored to the landlord.” The issue was back rent owed by the restaurant, which had closed during the pandemic and been extensively remodeled before reopening earlier last year. Owner Anna Weinberg has said that she was working with the landlord to resolve the issues, but as of mid-January, a voicemail message from the restaurant says only “We look forward to welcoming you back soon.”
San Francisco, CA: Rue Lepic
This intimate 46-year-old French restaurant on Nob Hill, serving classics like escargots and duck à l’orange, closed in late October, with the property sold to new owners. Its proximity to several upscale hotels made it a favorite of visiting celebrities, and Rue Lepic counted Robin Williams, Melanie Griffith, Yoko Ono, and Michael Keaton among its customers. No public statement was issued regarding the reasons for its demise.
San Francisco, CA: North Beach Restaurant
This 50-year-old traditional Italian-American place was a North Beach institution, but as of the end of December closed its doors. “Tourism has gone down tremendously. The convention business has gone down, and that was before the pandemic,” owner Leo Petroni, son of one of the restaurant’s founders, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So there was a combination of things, and then you get hit with COVID. And that’s really tough.”
Seattle, WA: JuneBaby
Edouardo Jordan became one of the city’s most famous chefs after his Southern-themed JuneBaby, which opened in 2017, was named Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation (Jordan was the first Black chef to win that honor) and scored a three-star review from the New York Times. In 2021, however, the Seattle Times revealed a host of sexual misconduct charges against him (which he denied). His entire staff walked out as a result, and the restaurant remained closed for nine months, reopening in 2022. In announcing that the place would close definitively on Dec. 31, Jordan mentioned increased food and labor costs, and told Eater he was suffering from the chef’s version of writer’s block.
Seattle, WA: Marmite
One of the most famous chefs in the Pacific Northwest, Bruce Naftaly — whose Le Gourmand, which opened in 1985 (and closed in 2012), was one of the city’s best and most influential eating places — shut down his Chophouse Row French restaurant on July 31. In announcing the decision to end its run, he posted a message on the Marmite website saying that he was retiring from running restaurants, though would still be teaching cooking classes and doing private events — and that his friend Cuong Nguyen would be opening a Vietnamese restaurant called Xom on the site.
Seattle, WA: Marjorie
Opened in Belltown in 2003 and transplanted to Capitol Hill seven years later, Marjorie was known for its eclectic menu (jalapeño hush puppies, Jamaican jerked tofu, chicken tikka masala, and assorted tacos were among the offerings) and for owner Donna Moodie’s warm personality and intense community involvement. Moodie did not reveal her reasons for closing the place last March, but said on the Marjorie website “Stay tuned for updates on what Donna’s cooking up next!”
Washington D.C. (Falls Church, VA): Four Sisters
After 30 years of serving the D.C. area some of its best Vietnamese food, and making it through the pandemic years intact, Four Sisters closed in May. According to the Washington Post, the two sisters who have run the place since 2014, Lieu Lai-Williams and Le Lai, “were at the end of their lease and facing a rent increase [and] were dealing with labor shortages and inflationary pressures.” Lieu also just wanted to spend more time with her two children. Two more casual offshoots, Four Sisters Grill in Clarendon and 4 Sisters Asian Snack Bar in Ashburn, remain open.