Quite a few Boston-area restaurants opened in summer 2021, but sadly some other restaurants bid diners farewell over the course of the season (as well as bars, breweries, and performance spaces). Some cited the pandemic in general (and, more specifically, problems such as staffing) as the reason; some lost their leases to development; others plan to move on to new spaces or new projects. Here’s the rundown on the venues we lost in summer 2021, and, where applicable, how to find the closed businesses’ sibling spots or new ventures (pop-ups, catering, etc.) that are still operating.
After over a century in business, local bar and restaurant the Red Hat (9 Bowdoin St., Boston) closed in late June. It’s not necessarily the end, though: Local industry vet Jake Nicholson, who was most recently co-manager of Finn McCool’s (which closed at the end of 2020), purchased the space, intending to reopen it in early fall 2021. He’s doing some renovations and may change the menu; whether or not he keeps the name is yet to be determined. Nicholson’s Finn McCool’s co-manager Keith Gleason was also originally part of the Red Hat 2.0 team but is no longer involved.
After about two years in business, Uphams Corner restaurant Family Affair (554 Columbia Rd., Boston) — known for its vast rotating selection of chicken and waffles — closed in July, although it is continuing to pop up for some events and catering while figuring out next steps. The team “decided not to renew [its] lease at this location,” per a Facebook post. Owner Jermaine Tulloch, who grew up in Dorchester, started the company with a focus on catering in Warwick, Rhode Island, before opening the Uphams Corner storefront. Earlier, Tulloch worked as a music teacher and a special education teacher in Boston’s public school system.
At Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Anthem Kitchen & Bar (101 S. Market St., Boston) announced its permanent closure in late June after a decade in business; it had temporarily closed at the start of the pandemic but never reopened. Anthem served casual American fare, such as burgers and chowder. It was part of the Briar Group, which operates a number of other venues in Boston, including Gather in the Seaport District, Hurricane’s at the Garden in the West End, two locations of MJ O’Connor’s (Seaport and Back Bay), and more.
Also downtown, one half of the Financial District duo of Italian restaurants named Casa Razdora closed at the end of July: The location at 176 Federal St. is no more, while the one at 115 Water St. remains in operation.
And at Boston Public Market, Finesse Pastries (100 Hanover St., Boston) closed on September 1, along with its Somerville location (594 Somerville Ave., Somerville). Chelsey Erickson’s French-inspired pastry shops served macarons and lots more. It’s not the end for Finesse, though, just a change: “Over the past year and a half, Covid has forced everyone to re-evaluate and put things into perspective,” Erickson wrote on Instagram. “It has been no different for us here at Finesse Pastries. Through this reflection, we’ve made the difficult decision to close both of our retail locations on September 1st and will no longer be accepting any future pastry orders. We will of course honor any outstanding orders for future events. We plan to continue to express our love of baking in a different way, focusing on teaching and content creation. This is not the end of Finesse Pastries, but the beginning of a new chapter. We can’t express enough how much we appreciate the support over the years and hope to stay in touch with all of you moving forward.” Information on virtual and on-demand baking classes is available on the Finesse website.
Italian Express Pizzeria (336 Sumner St., Boston) closed in August, citing “issues due to the pandemic” in a Facebook post announcing the closure. The Italian restaurant — which served pizza, pasta, seafood, and more, featuring “family recipes that have been passed down for generations” — appeared on several episodes of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, with Fieri highlighting the frutti di mare and haddock margarita. (You can find the restaurant’s recipe for the haddock here.) The restaurant had been open at this location for about a dozen years and elsewhere in East Boston before.
In the shipyard, Australian meat pie shop KO Pies (256 Marginal St., East Boston) closed after one last service on August 28. It was a sad day for the shop’s many, many fans, but owner Sam Jackson initially announced his plans to sell the business and leave Boston way back in 2018, so everyone thankfully got a few extra years to enjoy KO. (And the pies are actually sticking around — the team behind now-closed Somerville cafe the Biscuit opened Seabiscuit in the KO space and kept the pies and more on the menu.)
Boston University students and others around Kenmore will have to find a new spot for burgers: Fast-casual burger-and-shake joint UBurger (636 Beacon St., Boston) has closed its original location after 15 years, citing “a challenging last few years.” The only other location currently operating is in Andover Center (89 Main St., Andover), although UBurger has had several other outposts over the years, including another one near Boston University that closed in 2018. UBurger also had locations at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, on Northeastern University’s campus, and on Tremont Street in Boston, by the Common.
In other Fenway (and beyond) news, all Beerworks locations, including the original Fenway spot (61 Brookline Ave., Boston), which opened in 1992, have permanently closed. The brewpub also had locations in Boston’s North Station, Salem, Hingham, Lowell, and Framingham; all closed at the start of the pandemic, but there was initially hope that a few would reopen.
“Sad to say but we’ve brewed and served our last beers,” president Joe Slesar and the Beerworks team posted on the company’s website and across social media. “We’ve decided to pack it in due to the pandemic and all that. We will miss you and the many years of fun we had bringing you fresh local beer and food.”
Space-themed diner Little Dipper (669 Centre St., Boston), which opened in 2018 as a revamp of Centre Street Cafe, announced that it would cease its weekend brunch service in July “due to staffing and other challenges.” (Throughout 2021, the restaurant has been serving brunch on weekends while providing space to various pop-ups at other hours.) “While we plot a new course, our focus is on supporting the two amazing pop-up teams currently operating out of Little Dipper — Comfort Kitchen and Be Okay Bagels,” the restaurant announced on Facebook in a message attributed to co-owner David Doyle. “We urge you to support them, and wish them great success. Again, thank you for supporting Little Dipper JP on its brief yet fantastic voyage through JP airspace.” Although the diner has closed, Little Dipper’s rocketry club — yes, it has a rocketry club — will expand its Boston-area activities to help kids learn about science, according to the announcement.
Also in Jamaica Plain, the temporarily closed location of Exodus Bagels (3346 Washington St., Boston) is now officially closed permanently — although Exodus’s Roslindale kitchen and storefront will continue to operate and expand. The bagel shop cites “a couple factors ... out of our control” in its decision to close the JP location, mostly related to the condition of the building, which needs quite a bit of repair. But JP bagel fans can hold onto a bit of hope: “We will always have sights on our JP neighborhood for a return if the right circumstances become available.”
Domenic’s (54 Salem St.), the two-year-old sibling to Carmelina’s, has closed. Chef Damien DiPaola opened it in the former Vito’s Tavern space (which he was also behind) in July 2019, featuring a mix of Calabrian and Italian-American cuisine. “With the pandemic, I started smelling the roses, the coffee, looking at the sky,” DiPaola said in a video announcement of the closure on Instagram. “So I’m just going to concentrate and focus on enjoying life, maybe doing some consulting. But I’m burnt out. The restaurants burn you out.” Carmelina’s, though, will remain in operation.
Jamaica Plain-based Turtle Swamp Brewing (3377 Washington St., Boston) is closing its Roslindale beer garden at the Substation (4228 Washington St., Boston) in September, operating on Fridays and Saturdays for the remainder of August and Saturdays in September, ending on September 25. The brewery cites “the impacts of COVID” in a Facebook post. Turtle Swamp popped up in the Roslindale Substation in late 2018, later making it more of a permanent expansion. The original Jamaica Plain location, which opened in 2017, remains in operation, brewing up a core lineup of New England IPAs, porters, and more, as well as seasonal specials such as “FINE. A Sour Beer.”
Decade-old Coolidge Corner hibachi restaurant Osaka Japanese Sushi and Steak House (14 Green St., Brookline) is now closed, but its Northampton sibling remains in operation.
Jose’s Mexican Restaurant (131 Sherman St., Cambridge) closed at the end of August after over 20 years under the current ownership — but the team is reportedly looking for another location, and sibling spot Jose’s Torta Mexicana, located in Arlington, remains in operation. The Sherman Street location was a brightly painted converted house, with an eye-catching purple and orange exterior. It was located in a mostly residential part of town, Neighborhood Nine — not quite Porter Square, not quite Alewife. (Gran Gusto, an excellent Italian restaurant, is down the street, and the spectacular La Saison Bakery is on the other side of Danehy Park, but there’s not much else in the way of restaurants in the immediate area.) The landlord reportedly decided to sell the building, and restaurant owner Carlos Mendez was outbid by a developer, but Mendez is hanging on to the liquor license and hoping to reopen elsewhere, with Cambridge and Boston at the top of his list.
“It is the end of an era,” the Jose’s team posted on social media, assuring diners that a “new chapter” is in the works — and that existing catering bookings would be handled by Jose’s Torta Mexicana.
Meanwhile in Porter Square, Bourbon Coffee (1815 Massachusetts Ave.) closed in early summer after a decade in business. Located in the Lesley University building that houses the Porter Exchange food court, the cafe was part of a small chain with roots in Rwanda. One other Massachusetts location remains open in Boston’s West End (103 Canal St.) — it opened in early 2019 — and there are several locations in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.
Also in Cambridge, the original location of Bondir (279 Broadway, Cambridge) — an intimate little spot in Area Four with upscale farm-to-table fare — closed in July after a decade in business, with the intention of moving to a larger space. “We’ve been really fortunate to have had this cozy boîte for the last 10 years,” chef and owner Jason Bond announced on the restaurant’s website. “And now it’s time to grow out of it. We decided to take a long summer break and look for a larger space, especially a larger kitchen, to be able to offer you more of what we do. More versions of our commitment to the best produce and products that we can find or make. We’ll share more details of our summertime chrysalis as they crystallize.” New England izakaya Judy’s Bay will take over the space soon.
And a few more Cambridge closures: the MIT location of local burrito chain Anna’s Taqueria (84 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge), which temporarily closed at the start of the pandemic, is now permanently closed, with the school reportedly planning to turn the space into a student lounge. A statement from owner Betsy Kamio reads, in part:
“As a locally-owned business, it stings to have to close our doors, especially on a college campus where we’ve felt so much support and been a part of the community for so long. We’re incredibly grateful for the support of the MIT students and faculty that built a welcoming community around us. It was the students that brought us there in 2005, and it has been our greatest pleasure to serve them for more than 16 years. With the rise of food delivery services, we feel confident that our nearby Anna’s locations will continue to allow for easy access to Anna’s favorites throughout the city.”
Three of the vendors in MIT’s Lobdell Food Court will also not be reopening in the fall, as their leases expired during the pandemic — Cafe Spice, Shawarma Shack, and Shinkansen Bullet Train. In their place, Bibim Box (Korean food), Las Palmas (Caribbean-American food), and Carolicious (Venezuelan food) will open.
Not a summer closing, but coming up: In Harvard Square, legendary performance venue Oberon (2 Arrow St., Cambridge) — which has functioned as the American Repertory Theater’s second stage for over a decade — will not renew its lease at its Harvard-owned building at the end of the year (and hasn’t been running shows during the pandemic, but several performances — with various COVID-related restrictions in place — are being set up for its final months.). The space has been a theater for nearly two decades, but it was rebranded to Oberon in 2009, and it played host to regular performances of the popular Donkey Show, a raucous, disco-themed take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, until that show ended in 2019. Over the years, Oberon has also been a home for many other performances, from burlesque and circus acts to music of all genres. With plenty of standing room, a full bar, and an impressively unique roster of performances, the space is an important piece of the local nightlife scene. The mission of Oberon, though, will reportedly continue on elsewhere, including at the American Repertory Theater’s planned new space on Harvard’s Allston campus.
Besito (199 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill) closed its location at the Shops at Chestnut Hill in early summer; it was the remaining Massachusetts outpost of the small chain of Mexican restaurants. (A Burlington location closed a few years back.) When the Chestnut Hill location opened in 2014, the company had also been eyeing potential expansion to Lynnfield and Boston proper, which never came to pass. A few locations continue to operate in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania, with one hospitality group running the New York locations and another group running the others.
“During these trying times it is with a heavy heart that we are sharing the unfortunate end to our time in our beloved Besito Chestnut Hill location,” the team posted on the restaurant’s website. “We are deeply saddened by this turn of events and will miss all of our amazing guests in Chestnut Hill. We cannot thank everyone enough for their loyalty and endless support.”
Also in Chestnut Hill, Chef Ronsky’s (3 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill), located at the Street Chestnut Hill, has reportedly closed in recent weeks. The tiny Italian restaurant, which began as a breakfast and lunch pop-up, reinvented itself several times since its 2016 debut, adding wine and dinner service along the way and ultimately turning to takeout family meal packages — served in colorful Dutch ovens customers would return a few days later — during the pandemic.
Waterfront seafood spot Captain Carlo’s (27 Harbor Loop, Gloucester) closed in September after over 30 years in business. “From the early days as a fish market, to picnic tables and fried clams, years of crazy late nights and live music to the pandemic it’s been a wild ride!” the restaurant posted on Facebook. Owner Rosemarie Cranston reportedly plans to spend more time with her grandchildren.
The Hingham location of White’s Bakery (98 Derby St., Hingham) closed in August; the website for the small local chain states that it was “an incredibly hard decision to make, but it was the right one for us. It was not made lightly or due to the pandemic, but because it is the best course of action for our family at this time.” The bakery had been open at the Derby Street Shops development for over 20 years. White’s Brockton and Mansfield locations remain in operation.
After over 40 years, Spadafora Slush and Ice Cream Shoppe (136 Highland Ave., Malden) closed at the end of August. “Spadafora Slush and Ice Cream started as a small convenience store on upper Highland Ave, before becoming a full service ice cream shop at our current location, bringing smiles to our customers, near and far,” the shop posted on Facebook. “We will always be thankful for our customers but also to our loyal employees. Without either, we wouldn’t have been a successful business in the Malden community. We thank you and we’ll miss seeing you at the window.”
The Newton location of Cook (825 Washington St., Newton) is now closed. Fans of the restaurant’s miso glazed salmon, steak frites, shrimp tacos, and meatball pizza can visit the Needham location of Cook, which remains in operation. Da LaPosta Pizzeria — which was originally supposed to open in Boston’s Fort Point — will take over the Washington Street space in Newtonville in fall 2021.
Fiore’s Market (172 Revere St., Revere) is closed on August 28; the grocery store and meat market had been around for over four decades. “It has been our privilege to serve the city of Revere and watch generations of families grow up in this community,” the market’s team posted on Facebook. “Thank you to all of our customers for your support and patronage throughout the years.”
Finesse Pastries (594 Somerville Ave., Somerville) has closed its Somerville storefront as well as its Boston one; see full details in the downtown Boston section above. In summary: The storefronts are closed, but Finesse will still exist in other ways, such as baking classes. Watch social media for updates.
Also in Somerville, La Cucina (400 Asembly Row, Somerville) closed in late summer, citing “unforeseen circumstances” on its Instagram account, which notes that the closure is permanent. When the Italian restaurant opened in early 2019 at Assembly Row, Jeff Malloy was at the helm — Malloy had previously been behind the popular North End restaurant Carmen, which closed in 2016, so La Cucina got some early buzz as sort of a rebirth of Carmen. (In fact, Malloy at first intended for his Assembly Row restaurant to be more of a direct sequel to Carmen but ended up going in a different direction.) Malloy quietly left La Cucina in summer 2019 and ended up opening Pazzo Pizzo Co. in Andover, which remains in operation.
Russo’s (560 Pleasant St., Watertown), the beloved grocery store that had been open for over a century, closed on September 18 as owner Tony Russo is retiring after working for the family business for an astounding 70+ years.