What the hell is in the air in Chicago with all of these veteran restaurants closing? This week alone three restaurants, Le Titi de Paris, Caffe de Luca and the Billy Goat Tavern announced they'd close. Now, one of Chicago's long-standing and favorite sushi spots, Sushi Wabi, will also shutter. Eventually.
Late Wednesday, 312 Dining Diva reported the West Loop Japanese spot would serve its last sashimi on April 21. However, Eater got in touch with owner Angela Lee who did confirm the restaurant would be closing, but the exact date is up in the air. Lee said Sushi Wabi had lost its lease, but could not confirm when the restaurant would shut its doors for good. "It was a very difficult decision to make for all involved," Lee said. "However, when we actually close I can not officially say."
So after more than 13 years of serving top-quality sushi in a dark and intimate spot on Randolph, Wabi will close and vacate the space. What will move in is unknown at this point, but it wouldn't be surprising if another big-name chef or restaurateur took over the spot in the super-hot dining enclave.
As for closing, Lee, who owns Wabi with Susan Thompson (who no longer is a partner in Lee's Mexican restaurant De Cero up the street), said closing Wabi is "like a death in the family" and wants to give the restaurant the "respect it deserves by ending it with dignity."
Lee said the closing is definitely sad, but has brought the staff much closer. "This isn't just a restaurant, it's an end to a very close family," she said. "Our employees are our family and dear to our hearts, and Wabi is their home."
Lee and her husband, Chris Lee, also own Grange Hall Burger Bar next door and have been restaurant pioneers in the area. Chances of them just going away quietly are slim. In fact, Lee added, "With every door that shuts a window opens." So it's pretty likely something new will soon bubble up.
· Last Call for the West Loop's Sushi Wabi [312DD]
UPDATE: Apparently every story has two sides because Eater got a call from Franco Gianni, who, along with his brother, Angelo, are Lee's and Thompson's other partners in Sushi Wabi. Gianni, who also owns Tank Sushi and is opening Wood, disputes the claim the restaurant lost its lease and confirmed that it is indeed closing this weekend. "The truth is we didn't lose the lease," Gianni said. "Angela decided to not renew the lease for her own selfish reasons. She doesn't want to sign the lease. The landlord didn't not want to renew the lease. We are definitely closing on April 21." Gianni explained that Lee and Thompson are the personal guarantees on the lease, but that he and Angelo tried to get the landlord to put the lease in the partners' names. "These quotes from her, that there's a death in the family? She's the one who killed it," Gianni said.
CORRECTION: Eater incorrectly wrote that Franco Gianni is a partner at Sushi Wabi; he is not. His brother, Angelo is, in fact, a partner with Angela Lee and Susan Thompson. We apologize for the error.