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The Saddest Restaurant Closures of 2016 Include Spoke Wine Bar, Johnny D’s, and Rubin’s Delicatessen

Local food writers mourn the dearly departed

| Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

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As is Eater tradition, we close out the year by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we publish their responses throughout the final week of the year. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section below.

Today’s next question: What was the saddest closure of 2016?

MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:

“The food was nothing special, but I was truly saddened by the closing of Johnny D’s, an intimate venue for many memorable shows over the years — my standouts include The English Beat and multiple Sleepy LaBeef gigs. Among proper restaurants, I will most long for the quirkily-inventive, frequently mind-blowing, umami-overloaded Italianate cuisine of mercurial chef Tim Maslow at Ribelle. Glad he’s still around, cooking at Tiger Mama, but I kinda wish he’d never gone uptown after his reinvention of Strip-T’s.”

Marc Hurwitz of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk:

Johnny D's in Somerville was a real heartbreaker for me and so many others, but L'Impasto in Cambridge hurt as well — I'll really miss their old-world bread and their pasta dishes.”

Jenny Johnson, co-host of Dining Playbook on NESN:

“Boston Kosher classic deli for 90 years, Rubin's Deli — the easiest flashback to my childhood. Corned beef sandwich with half sour pickles and chopped liver on both sides of the marble rye and a side of kasha and varnishkes.”

Jacqueline Cain, associate food editor at Boston magazine:

Spoke is a tragic loss, especially considering that it’s in Davis Square. That neighborhood needs more independent, quirky spots. I’m very disappointed in how the Pink Samurai story ended. I also miss Ames Street Deli’s open-faced poutine sandwich and the cocktail matrix.”

Alex Wilking, food and drink contributor for Boston magazine:

“It hasn’t quite closed at the time I’m writing this, but I’m heartbroken to see Spoke Wine Bar shutter. It will be sorely missed.”

Rachel Cossar, food blogger and host of the new video series Curate the Plate:

West Bridge — yes, it was technically 2015, and yes, I'm still hurting.”

Korsha Wilson, creator of A Hungry Society and food writer for various publications, including Eater Boston:

“When I heard Spoke was closing at the end of the year, it made me really sad. That place was a gem; great food, wine, and hospitality. I’m sure chef daSilva and the staff will do awesome things in the city.”

Emily Phares, writer and illustrator for various publications and websites, including Eater Boston:

“I'd probably go with Spoke. It's amazing what they created in that tiny kitchen. I was also sad to learn River Gods closed; I walked past it one day, and there were bar stools and other things just sitting on the street.”

Dana Hatic, Eater Boston associate editor:

Spoke Wine Bar closing down and owner Felicia Foster's announcement that she's been dealing with some serious health issues. The Davis Square neighborhood, and much of Boston, will miss Spoke. Also, the closure of Rubin's Delicatessen in Brookline devastated regulars who've been frequenting the place for decades.”

Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor:

“One of the most unpleasant parts of this job is covering restaurant closures. Even if it’s a place I actively disliked, there’s never joy in knowing that jobs have been lost and someone’s business has shuttered. But every year, there are a few closures that really hit me in the gut when I learn about them, and this year was no different.

As nearly everyone else in this survey mentioned, Spoke Wine Bar was one of them. Fortunately, the farewell announcement was made several months before the actual closure, so I’m happy that I was able to find time for one last meal there in its final days. Spoke was an absolute gem, and Davis Square will be worse off without it.

When East Coast Grill’s closure was announced in January, I was devastated. (Happily, I had eaten there a few days before, so at least I got a goodbye meal, although I didn’t know it at the time.) And then, miracle of miracles, news came out three months later that it would reopen under the same ownership as Highland Kitchen (a favorite spot of mine), so this story had a happy ending. The opening is imminent, and I can’t wait.

Playska’s closure only six months after opening was surprising and sad, but I’m glad to see Tim and Bronwyn Wiechmann’s older restaurants, T.W. Food and Bronwyn, continue to thrive. (As Tim told me after Playska’s closure, he and Bronwyn realized that they’re “not really lunch people” — they’re “nighttime restaurateurs.”)

I don’t want to rehash the meteoric rise and bizarre final weeks of Ribelle, but based on our contributor Emily Phares’ conversation with owner Tim Maslow a couple months after the closure, it sounds like it was for the best in a lot of ways, although it’s a shame for the restaurant scene to lose a place that takes the kind of risks Ribelle did. I haven’t had a chance to return to Tiffani Faison’s Tiger Mama since Maslow started working there post-Ribelle, but it seems like a fantastic fit.

And one other sad closure from 2016 was Lineage, a Brookline staple that had been open for a decade. The team allowed me to come in for the last service to document the night, and while I had only had the chance to dine there a couple times during its long run, it was clear to me, lurking around on that final night, how much the restaurant meant to so many people.”


2263 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140


243 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139 Visit Website


242 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446 617 232 0065

East Coast Grill

1271 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139 617-714-4662 Visit Website

West Bridge

1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139 Visit Website

Johnny D's Uptown Restaurant & Music Club

17 Holland St, Somerville, MA 02144 (617) 776-2004 Visit Website

Pink Samurai

658 Centre St., Boston, MA

Spoke Wine Bar

89 Holland Street, , MA 02144 (617) 718-9463 Visit Website

Ames St. Deli

73 Ames St, Cambridge, MA (617) 374-0701


1665 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 617.232.2322 Visit Website

Rubin's Kosher Delicatessen

500 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA 02446 617 731 8787 Visit Website
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