As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2017 by surveying local food writers (including our own staff and contributors) on various restaurant-related topics, and we’re publishing their responses in these final days of the year. Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section below.
Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for other stories in this series.
Today’s first question: What was the saddest closure of 2017? (See the 2016 responses here.)
MC Slim JB, restaurant critic for The Improper Bostonian:
“I’m always crushed to see great old dive bars close (and I mean real dives, not just former Old Man Bars like The Model that are popular with young hipsters.) Two that tragically went by the boards this year were the Drinking Fountain in JP and Old Sully’s in Charlestown.
I tell my younger friends: Spend some time bending an elbow at Whitey’s or Paddy’s Lunch or El Mondonguito while you still can. They’re not making them like that anymore. On the food front, I’ll miss the historically-germinal East Coast Grill the most, but at least it had a scintillating comeback this year under its new owners, the Highland Kitchen team, who just reinvented the space as Highland Fried, which I expect will have similar virtues. If you’re missing East Coast Grill’s wood-grilled seafood, I urge you to visit the Red Dory in Tiverton, Rhode Island, a fantastic waterfront spot whose chef/owner Steve Johnson is an ECG alum.”
Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston's Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, restaurant critic for Dig Boston, and more:
“The Phillip's Old Colony House/Freeport Tavern complex in Dorchester. This was an institution of sorts, with the Phillip's side hosting countless events over the years for locals and the Freeport side being a totally unpretentious bar where you could hang with old-timers and not have to yell over each other since it was so quiet. Phillip’s is very hard to replace since those types of spots seem to be disappearing more and more each year, but you still have the Mount Vernon in Somerville and a few others if you're looking for an old-school restaurant that can also accommodate birthday parties, showers, and the like.”
Jenna Pelletier, food editor of Boston Magazine:
“I've been a longtime fan of T.W. Food, so it was sad to see chef Tim Wiechmann's reconcepted Self-Portrait close.”
Jacqueline Cain, associate food editor of Boston Magazine:
“More for bowling reasons than restaurant reasons, Lanes & Games! No other Boston-area bowling alley satisfies my craving for old-school Lebowski vibes.”
Scott Kearnan, editor of Zagat Boston and food editor of the Boston Herald:
“I was super bummed by the closing of Sunset Grill & Tap in Allston. As a BC student, it was one of my first go-to grub-and-booze joints — oh, those Buffalo chicken skewers! — and its famously massive beer list was an early introduction to the concept that, yes, there were much better brews in the world than the piss-water undergrads used for playing pong. Of course, Boston's craft beer scene has grown by leaps and bounds since Sunset dawned; you can still find one of the best lists in the city at Deep Ellum, just down the street. But there was something very comfortable and comforting about Sunset, part of the pretense-free old guard of Boston neighborhood bars, and I'll miss it.
(Shout-out as well to the late Karoun in Newton, an awesome Armenian food and belly dancing spot that closed in May after 40 years. It was one of those old-school, family-run operations you really find yourself appreciating even more nowadays. Insert: fist-shake at cloud.)”
Dan Whalen, blogger at The Food in my Beard and author of upcoming cookbook Tots!:
“Tavern Road was almost a weekly stop for us, and I was really sad to see it go. We visit Tenzin [Conechok Samdo] over at Cafe ArtScience, but it will take a while to find another place to really feel so welcome and at home as we were when having late-night snacks at the bar at TR.”
Dana Hatic, associate editor of Eater Boston:
“For me, it was several, including places that have been around for more than a decade, like The Fireplace, Khao Sarn, and Blue Ginger. It was also hard to see The Blue Room and Belly go so soon after reopening from the fire.”
Terrence B. Doyle, reporter for Eater Boston:
“Gotta be Sunset for me. I hadn't been in years — like, since just after college, so almost a decade — but the amount of nachos and beer I consumed there in my early 20s makes Sunset a staple of my wasted youth. I'll miss it in the same way we miss a friend we haven't talked to in ages, but who we still love immensely.”
Alex Wilking, contributor to Eater Boston:
“The upcoming departure of Fairsted Kitchen stings pretty bad. I’m quite excited (and curious) about the rebrand and eventual restaurant opening in the same space though!”
Rachel Leah Blumenthal, editor of Eater Boston:
“East Coast Grill’s closure has hit me the hardest this year, although in a way I had already said goodbye to it a couple times, when the ownership first changed a few years back and again when it closed for the first time. I was so excited for its rebirth under the Highland Kitchen ownership, since that’s one of my other favorite spots, and I was happy with it in this new form, but I understand their desire to rebrand to Highland Fried. And to be honest, Highland Fried retains enough of the old East Coast Grill vibe that I don’t have to be too sad that it’s technically gone.
Other big losses this year were Tavern Road, Journeyman, Blue Ginger, The Blue Room, and Belly Wine Bar, especially after the latter two went through so much to come back from a fire.”