Over the previous 12 months, Chicago saw shutters that ran the gamut. Gone are the Michelin ranked (L2O), the fast casual (Edzo's Lincoln Park), the extravagant and the glossy (Tavernita, Cicchetti). Venerable institutions (Hot Doug's) and one that —technically at least — never got an official opening at all (TMIP) also bit the dust.
As 2014 winds down, Chicago, it's time to take say your final goodbyes.
Without a doubt, the shutter that hit Chicagoans the hardest (and even those outside the area) was Hot Doug's. While there was no surprise when the already-long lines grew longer (and then even longer) once the shocking announcement was delivered on May 6, no one was quite prepared for the ridiculousness that was the restaurant's final weeks.
Lining up in the middle of the night became the norm, a bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" on one occasion, and barbecue was served up to those in line by Rub's BackCountry Smokehouse. There were even filmmakers on hand to immortalize it all. Owner Doug Sohn took it all in with a certain bemusement, never (publicly at least) giving in to the sentimentality that bubbled up from his adoring customers.
And then, at around 6:35 p.m. on Oct. 3...it was all over, as Sohn became the de facto last customer while participating in a bit of theater with longtime friend Paul Kelly (who had been immortalized with a sausage named after him). Kelly took Sohn's role behind the counter for the infamous final order. Frank Meats Patty has since opened in its place and neighbors are no doubt rejoicing that it's not (yet, at least) getting the same long lines that Doug's did. But many would agree that no one could ever truly take Sohn's place.
Reached via e-mail, Sohn shared how life's been since closing. He even misses the customers. Well, most of them:
I'm not going to lie to you: things are just fine. Not working is a whole lot better than working. The one thing I do miss is chit-chatting with the customers, especially the regulars (of which there were many). That was my favorite part of the job and the one area where I feel a true sense of loss. Since I've closed the restaurant, I've been catching up on some sleep, not quite yet responding to emails and traveling a bit. I suppose at some point I'll have to seriously start thinking about what to do next, but that time hasn't come quite yet. Plus, there's a whole lot of hockey to watch!
A couple of Michelin-ranked restaurants, Takashi and L2O, are closing at the end of this year, so there's still some time to get in to each. Takashi has extended its stay a bit, as they are open on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3. Lettuce Entertain You is spinning L2O off into Intro, which will rotate chefs and concepts, beginning with Top Chef Duels winner C.J. Jacobson in February. Another Michelin-starred restaurant, Senza, announced it will be closing, but won't officially do so until Jan. 17. Storefront Company, a recipient of a Michelin Bib Gourmand, held its last dinner NYE 2013 as a pop up with chef Dirk Flanigan. They were due to return after a break in January, but decided to close instead.
Dale Levitski's departure from Frog ‘n Snail in October 2013 saw the Lakeview restaurant hang on for a couple more months before calling it quits (the relocated Ceres' Table opened in its place in May).
Executive chef Mike Sheerin, along with Sarah Jordan and Phil Rubino (as co-sous chefs), received accolade after accolade for their work at Cicchetti, but owner Dan Rosenthal stated that profitability played a big part in its closing. A few weeks before it closed both Sheerin and Jordan had left, with Rubino hanging on to the end.
Fast casual and neighborhood haunts took a big hit this year. Among them, Edzo's Lincoln Park location which didn't meet the traffic that their Evanston original does. However, Edzo's opened inside Wrigleyville bar Deuce's, so they still have a Chicago presence.
Popular Wicker Park bars Moonshine and SmallBar Division ended long runs in November, with both closures signaling a broader change in bar hopping within Chicago down on West Division Street.
And then there are those places that barely had time to make an impression at all. Mature comparatively, Enoch Simpsons's Endgrain, at less than 18 months old, closed its doors with hopes of reconcepting back in November.
Featuring monthly-changing international menus and a global sports theme that never quite caught on, Grand Tour opened in February, lost its opening chef Roger Herring in August, and closed in November.
Taking over the Tank Sushi space, Laughing Bird's Filipino-American cuisine, headed up by Chrissy Camba, shuttered less than six months in and while it was still on the Eater Chicago heatmap. A "generous offer" on the space led the owner to bail on Camba's (who is now working toward making Maddy's Dumpling House a brick-and-mortar reality) concept. Miku Sushi Lounge looks to open up sometime in 2015 in its place.
And, in one of the biggest flame-outs of recent memory, TMIP, Brandon Baltzley's literal farm-to-table restaurant in Michigan City, Ind. was shut down by the local government before it ever officially opened due to code violations and permit issues. Baltzley's notorious ways on social media led to a few roller coaster days of accusations and promises to regroup before capitulation set in. Baltzley had vowed to leave the Chicago area should TMIP not succeed and he managed to make good on that promise. In more positive news, Newburyport, Mass's Ceia Kitchen + Bar took him on as executive chef in September and he appears to be flourishing there.