> Location: Denver
Billing itself as “Denver’s favorite breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner & late night place since 1983,” Racine’s didn’t exactly close as a result of the pandemic, but the pandemic hurried things along. The owners had already made a deal to sell their building and the land it stood on to a developer before the advent of COVID-19. When the restaurant closed in March in response to the crisis, the original plan was to reopen as soon as possible, even if it was only for a few months before the sale. Circumstances caused the owners to change their minds, however, and in mid-July they reported on Facebook that they had “decided not to reopen Racines,” adding “there is just too much working against us.”
> Location: Chicago
Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “one of Chicago’s greatest restaurants,” this popular West Loop establishment was opened 22 years ago by Paul Kahan, who went on to become one of the city’s best-known chef-restaurateurs. (His other places include Avec, Publican, and Big Star). Blackbird’s intimate size and layout made social distancing impossible when COVID-19 strictures were put into place, and the restaurant announced on its website, “we have made the very difficult decision to close our doors.”
Illinois: Fat Rice
> Location: Chicago
With a James Beard Best Chef Award for chef-proprietor Abe Conlon and a Bib Gourmand rating in the Guide Michelin (signifying “good quality, good value cooking”), this popular restaurant, featuring the Portuguese-Chinese fusion cooking of Macau, was a star of the Chicago restaurant scene. Facing COVID-19, however, it phased out restaurant service in April, converting itself to the Super Fat Rice Mart, which sold specialty groceries and meal kits. In June, that operation shut down indefinitely — not due to COVID-19 but following accusations by former employees of abusive behavior and racist remarks on Conlon’s part.
Indiana: John’s Famous Stew
> Location: Indianapolis
The menu at this Indianapolis standby, opened in 1911 by two immigrant brothers from Macedonia, included burgers, steaks, sandwiches, chili, cabbage rolls, and much more, but stew was obviously the specialty. Based on an old family recipe, this concoction of beef, potatoes, and carrot, particularly popular in the cold Indianapolis winters, was served mild, medium, and very spicy. In July, unfortunately, owner Mary Caito decided that the financial challenges were too great and posted this on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart I share we will not be reopening.” She holds out hope that the place will find a buyer and be able to reopen with the original recipe intact.
Louisiana: K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
> Location: New Orleans
The legendary K-Paul’s was opened in 1979 by chef Paul Prudhomme and his wife, Kay, and quickly grew into a Crescent City bucket-list destination, with lines forming outside nightly. With such vividly flavored dishes as the iconic blackened redfish, K-Paul’s ignited a nationwide craze for Cajun cooking whose aftermath informs menus to this day. Kay died of cancer in 1993 and Prudhomme passed away in 2015, but the place stayed open under the ownership of Paul’s niece, Brenda Prudhomme, and her chef husband, Paul Miller. In mid-July, however, after enduring several coronavirus-mandated closings and reopenings, the couple issued a statement “regretfully announcing permanent closure of K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen.” Miller explained to NOLA.com that “The business has been bleeding through this, and you can only bleed so much before you have to stop it.”