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Exterior shot of a casual corner restaurant with brick walls, large windows decorated with flower boxes, and mint green signage with bright red and yellow lettering
El Oriental de Cuba’s closure hit hard this year.
El Oriental de Cuba

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Boston’s Saddest Restaurant Closures of 2023

El Oriental de Cuba in Jamaica Plain, Sligo in Somerville, Ashmont Grill in Dorchester, and more

Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

To wrap up the year, Eater Boston polled both local journalists and readers of this site to get their thoughts on the past year in dining: the good, the bad, and the most exciting things to come in 2024. The results have been collected in the following series of posts. (Check out the full archive here.)

Below, we ask: What was the saddest restaurant closure of 2023?

It’s gotta be El Oriental de Cuba. El Oriental was a neighborhood staple in Jamaica Plain (where I’ve lived for a while), especially beloved for a classic Cubano sandwich. It’s a pretty large location and I hope something worthy fills it… On that subject, Canary Square shuttered late last year, but JP still feels its loss immensely.

I also miss Littleburg so much, I crave their vegan food like none other. I’m bummed Artifact Cider had to close its taprooms in Central Square and Western Mass. It’s also sad to lose a dive like Sligo Pub.

— Jacqueline Cain, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

I was devastated to see Sligo fold. My husband went to college near Davis Square in Somerville so Sligo and its nearby bars and diners had seen us achieving milestones of our lives, as we went from broke college kids to putting down our roots in Somerville’s Spring Hill area, which is just a short walk away. It had seen the ups and downs, St. Paddy’s Day shenanigans, many Porchfests and Honk fests, but also low-key nights where we caught up with old pals with a pint in our hands. This was the place we forged new friendships, spilled our hearts and minds with bartenders, and reconnected with old friends. We’ll miss you, Sligo.

— Valerie Li Stack, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

This one hits close to home! I’m so bummed that Venice Pizza in Dorchester closed. It shut its doors in the summer because of some construction and then decided not to reopen after hovering in limbo for a while. It’s right down the street from me, and I’d drop in for an Italian sub for lunch at least once a week, and get a bacon and sausage pizza for dinner often. I’m hoping someone else fills the space soon.

— Nathan Tavares, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

El Oriental de Cuba in JP. I loved it forever and was always glad to sit down for a Cubano or some ropa vieja with rice and beans. It was the perfect gathering place, no matter who you were with. And the owners were so generous to the local community. A longtime standby and a real loss.

— Devra First, restaurant critic for the Boston Globe

Pappa Razzi in Concord. As a teenager growing up in Acton, we used to go there to pretend we were fancy, even though it was pretty casual and reasonably priced. Conveniently and chaotically located between the prison and the hospital, too.

— Matt Shearer, reporter for WBZ NewsRadio

I was absolutely devastated when the Ashmont Grill in Dorchester closed, as the place was outstanding in all possible ways, including food, drink, service, and atmosphere. It was seriously one of the greatest neighborhood spots I’ve ever known and I’ll miss everything about it, including their wonderful back patio. But in a “hold my beer” moment, Dok Bua in Brookline had to go and do the same, which means I’ll never be able to get their pad thai with crispy chicken again or their deliciously refreshing basil drink.

— Marc Hurwitz, founder of Boston’s Hidden Restaurants and Boston Restaurant Talk, food/travel writer for NBC Boston/NECN

The closing of El Oriental de Cuba in Jamaica Plain was a big loss. Not only was it a beloved neighborhood meeting ground for cafecito and light-hearted chisme, but it’s disheartening to see a Latinx-owned business close when Hispanic representation is already limited in the Boston restaurant scene.

— Celina Colby, freelance writer and Eater Boston contributor

Tanám was the first big closure that I covered in 2023. The way that owner Ellie Tiglao distilled concrete takeaways that she hoped lived on after the worker-owned restaurant shut down — including encouraging diners to start conversations with staff to foster respect between both parties, and to really consider the direct line between where diners spend their money and what kinds of restaurants proliferate around Boston — really stuck with me throughout the year.

— Erika Adams, Eater Boston editor

Tanám’s closure early in the year hit me particularly hard; the team was doing something really unique and important, rooted in Filipino cuisine (unfortunately a rarity in Greater Boston!) and exploring other avenues of storytelling through food. I’m also sad about Tasting Counter’s closure, although it sounds like the team has plans for something new, so fingers crossed we see a Tasting Counter 2.0 in the not-too-distant future.

— Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Boston Magazine food editor

Reader responses

Over 80 people took part in Eater Boston’s dining survey this year (thank you, all!). Below, find the top ten reader responses for the restaurant closings that hit hardest this year.

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