Special Report

Most Popular Restaurants That Won't Reopen After the Pandemic

Source: Courtesy of OTTO Enoteca e Pizzeria (New York) via Facebook

New York: Otto
> Location: New York City

In 2003, at the height of his pre-scandal fame as a celebrity chef-restaurateur, Mario Batali opened this Greenwich Village pizzeria-cum-wine bar in partnership with his associate Joe Bastianich. Business reportedly declined, here as at other Batali-Bastianich enterprises, after Batali was accused of sexual harassment and other offenses in 2017. When the pandemic hit earlier this year, Otto closed temporarily, then reopened with a limited takeout menu. While Bastianich has issued no official statement on the closure, a representative of the building’s owners told Grub Street in early November that the space was available to rent.

New York: Baohaus
> Location: New York City

This modest Taiwanese restaurant, known for its fried chicken and pork buns, launched the career of chef Eddie Huang — who went on to write a best-selling memoir, “Fresh Off the Boat,” which in turn became an ABC-TV sitcom running for six seasons. That didn’t ultimately help the restaurant. Posting on Instagram in early October, Huang said, “We held out as long as we could, but have decided to close.” While Huang didn’t specifically mention COVID-19, the owner of a neighboring convenience store painted a dark picture of the local business climate to Spectrum News NY1. “There is no future,” he said. Speaking of potential customers, he added, “I don’t think they are going to come back until January, maybe.” Huang is now directing a movie, “Boogie,” about a Chinese-American basketball player in New York City.

Source: Courtesy of Mission Manhattan via Yelp

New York: Mission Chinese
> Location: New York City

When San Francisco’s Mission Chinese expanded to Manhattan in 2012, according to Eater critic Robert Sietsema, it hit the city “like a ton of bricks, generating long lines eager for salt cod fried rice, chicken hearts in Sichuan chile oil, and Mongolian long beans.” The challenges posed by the pandemic, however, were its undoing. A message from Bowlien on the restaurant’s Instagram page in mid-September said that he was closing the restaurant, with plans “to create a business model that forges a new path for survival on our terms.” That’s probably just as well because a story on Grub Street in late October detailed “nightmare” working conditions in the restaurant’s kitchen, including racist insults and physical abuse. (A second location, in Brooklyn, remains open.)

Source: Courtesy of Augustine NYC via Facebook

New York: Augustine
> Location: New York City

Blaming the inflexibility of his landlord, celebrated restaurateur Keith McNally announced on Instagram in late July that his French brasserie in downtown Manhattan’s Beekman Hotel, opened in 2016, is now out of business. McNally, who himself was hospitalized for COVID-19 last April but is now fully recovered, had earlier closed his 31-year-old SoHo bistro Lucky Strike due to the pandemic. On Instagram, McNally wrote that he looked forward to seeing his customers at one of his other New York City establishments — which include Balthazar, Pastis, and Minetta Tavern — “Or Debtor’s Prison – whichever comes first.

Source: Courtesy of Rick D. via Yelp

North Carolina: Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe
> Location: Chapel Hill

Opened in 1972, this unpretentious diner has served breakfast and lunch — waffles, of course, as well as pancakes, omelettes, burgers, sandwiches, and the like — to generations of University of North Carolina students and staff as well as the Chapel Hill community at large. A message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Dec. 1 read in part, “After much consideration, we have decided to close Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe,” adding that “from a public health perspective and due to the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, it is the right choice for us.”