As is Eater’s annual tradition, we’re closing out 2020 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. (Keep an eye on the Year in Eater archive page for subsequent posts in this series.)
Of course, the survey questions look a little different this year, but we wanted to continue the tradition as a way to highlight some of the restaurants that have been there for us during this extraordinarily difficult year as we look ahead to better times in 2021.
Readers, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts by joining our Facebook group.
Up next: What were 2020’s saddest restaurant closures?
“This is a December 2020 snapshot, as I fear we still face countless closings of places I love, but I’ll note a few that hit really close to home. China King, the Shandong-style Chinatown spot from the beloved Doris Huang and her family, had always done the best traditional three-course Peking duck dinner in the city. After I reviewed it for the Boston Phoenix in 2012, I did a deeper dive on it for the Taste Trekkers podcast. It didn’t hurt that I considered that Peking duck dinner (with house-made noodles for the second course) one of the great dining bargains in Boston. I dearly hope Doris can make an eventual comeback in another location.
The other is the Hotel Commonwealth trio of Eastern Standard Kitchen, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and the Hawthorne (one of my very favorite bars), which while not a certainty last I checked, all look like they’ve been undone by an unyielding landlord. I’ve given tons of grateful business to those three standouts over the years, and I’d be inconsolable at their loss. I feel lucky I got to do a big birthday dinner at ESK early in the year. That place is so damned versatile, does so many things right for such a broad range of audiences, that its closing would leave a giant void in our dining scene.
I’ll also miss the Automatic (a great little bar with an old-timey neighborhood feel despite being only a few years old), Stoddard’s (a terrific beer bar in DTX with great cocktails and atmosphere), Café Polonia (a rare Boston outpost of Central European fare, doing modest, fine Polish cuisine in Andrew Square), and Taranta (one of the few places I loved in the North End, serving innovative Italian with occasional Peruvian touches for decades.) RIP, all.”
“Under the circumstances, every single one of 2020’s restaurant closures has been a real blow. I think many people feel especially heartbroken about the restaurants that make up the fabric of their own neighborhood, so Bella Luna & the Milky Way and the Frogmore were extra somber for me.”
“Got an hour? Seriously, all of them are sad beyond belief, but the one that probably hit me hardest was Bella Luna/Milky Way in JP. Great people, excellent food, a terrific drink list, a patio that was perfect for a warm summer night, and biggest of all, a place that catered to those in the world of music, dance, and art. This closure absolutely crushed me.”
Joel Ang, staff writer for The Infatuation:
“Eastern Standard is a particularly difficult one to process, but Deep Ellum, the Automatic, and Bukowski’s in Inman Square were all personal favorites as well.”
Joel encourages readers to consider donating to Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center.
“Unfortunately, there are too many closures this year to count. It feels like forever ago that Top of the Hub announced they were closing, this week China King announced they would only be serving until NYE and throughout the pandemic we saw Bar Boulud, Kamakura, and Gaslight close.”
J.Q. encourages readers to consider donating to Project Restore Us.
“The Automatic. It was the sort of place where you could unwind with a cheap beer and a shot or a well-made cocktail. That combination doesn’t sound revolutionary, but is getting harder and harder to find.”
“Deep Ellum. The announcement of Deep Ellum’s closure was posted in late May. It was one of the first public closures of a prominent Boston restaurant and foreshadowed some of the unfortunate decisions that would come ahead for many establishments.”
Samer encourages readers to consider donating to MassUndocuFund.
“I’m really going to miss slurping the big bowls of ramen that Moe Kuroki served at Oisa Ramen Slurp & Go downtown.”
Nathan encourages readers to consider donating to Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid of Greater Boston and your local community fridges.
“I felt a bit uneasy including this question in this year’s survey; I think it’s safe to say that everyone is devastated by the sheer number of closures this year, and every closure is sad. But I wanted to provide a little bit of space for us to mourn some of the spots that meant something special to each of us on a personal level — no slight intended on all the other closures of the year.
I was particularly bummed to see the ambitious Kamakura close this year; I think it was bringing something new to the table in terms of Boston’s high-end Japanese dining scene, and I look forward to seeing what chef and owner Youji Iwakura does next.
This happened pre-pandemic, but I was also disappointed that Tim Maslow’s creative South End spot Whaling in Oklahoma closed. (And for the record, while some people think the name was silly, I loved the absurdity of it.) But now he has a weekly delivery service for prepared foods, pantry items, seafood, and more, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
And as a Somerville resident, I really felt the loss of music venues like Bull McCabe’s and Once this year, and like every local music fan, I fear that these closures (and a few others that have already been reported this year) are only the tip of the iceberg for performing arts venue closures, many of which can’t pivot to alternate streams of revenue like food delivery.”