Special Report

The 35 Most Popular Restaurants That Won’t Reopen After the Pandemic

Source: Courtesy of Mike C. via Yelp

New York: Momofuku Nishi
> Location: New York City

David Chang, the chef-restaurateur whose Momofuku empire has been a major influence on the American food scene. He opened this establishment in 2016 with an Italian-Korean theme, recasting it with a more purely Italian menu the following year. It never took off like some of his other places, and in mid-May, his company announced on its website that “returning to normal is not an option,” so the place won’t reopen. Chang also plans to move his popular Ssäm Bar from the East Village to South Street Seaport, where he has another restaurant location.

Source: Courtesy of Toro NYC via Yelp

New York: Toro
>Location: New York City

Noted Boston chef-restaurateurs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette have permanently closed the once-bustling Manhattan location of this tapas restaurant, opened in 2013. The original Boston restaurant and a location in Dubai remain in business. “Toro NYC has come to the end of our journey,” reads a statement on the restaurant’s Instagram page, “and the staff will not have a restaurant home to come back to when this pandemic ends.”

Source: Courtesy of Jim S. via Yelp

Oregon: Pok Pok restaurants
>Location: Portland

James Beard Award-winning chef-restaurateur Andy Ricker, whose Pok Pok restaurant group specializes in northern Thai and Vietnamese cooking, announced on Instagram in mid-June that he was closing four of his six Portland locations. It was originally reported that the shuttered restaurants would include Pok Pok NW, Whiskey Soda Lounge, and two outposts of Pok Pok Wing. The original Pok Pok would reopen, it was said, and a third Pok Pok Wing might also come back to life. Currently, however, the Pok Pok website states that “All Pok Pok restaurant locations are closed for on site service,” adding that meal kits and some prepared food is available for pickup at the company’s commissary kitchen.

Source: Courtesy of Ritz Barbecue via Facebook

Pennsylvania: Ritz Barbecue
>Location: Allentown

Described by the Morning Call as “An Allentown landmark restaurant where generations of families gathered for barbecue, banana splits, milkshakes and more,” the Ritz grew out of a fairgrounds stand established in 1927 and moved to its present site 10 years later. The current owners, Jeff and Grace Stinner, who took over in 1981, announced in mid-June that they would not reopen. Though the restaurant had been for sale since 2019, Grace stressed to the Morning Call that the pandemic is to blame for their recent decision. “We did want to stay open until someone else took over,” she said, “but that’s not feasible now.

Source: Courtesy of Jestine's Kitchen via Facebook

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.”