Back to the restaurants we lost in 2021


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Eastern Standard announced its final closure in February 2021. Photo courtesy of Eastern Standard

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There’s no other way to put it: Boston’s restaurant scene saw some truly heartbreaking losses in 2021, as the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to force restaurants out. close their doors for good.

Nationally renowned restaurants have closed alongside long-standing watering holes, and some neighborhoods, like Harvard Square, have continued to see rapid closings shaping their culinary landscape. Turnover was also frequent – as soon as some restaurants announced the end of their run, other concepts revealed that they would take over the newly vacant space.

As 2021 draws to a close, we take a look at some of the closures that have stood out over the past 12 months – although every restaurant closure has had an impact on the local industry. Want to share your thoughts on the 2021 closures that hit you the hardest? Fill out our survey at the end of the story, or send an email to [email protected].

The loss of Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and The Hawthorne shocked everyone – even AOC.

Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff
New York-based restaurant group Blue Ribbon will occupy the former Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar and The Hawthorne spaces in the coming months.

One of the biggest closing announcements of 2021 was from Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar and The Hawthorne, a trio that served as mainstays of the Kenmore Square dining scene. They have also been a launching pad for talented chefs and bartenders who have opened their own projects in the city. In February, it was revealed that the liquor licenses for Island Creek Oyster Bar and Eastern Standard would be transferred to real estate group UrbanMeritage, which owns the retail properties below the Commonwealth Hotel.

The closing struck a chord with regulars and fans of Eastern Standard, many of whom – including U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – shared their memories of the institution.

” No ! Please don’t be – Eastern Standard was such an amazing place and held so many wonderful memories, ”she wrote in a Message on Twitter.

In May, UrbanMeritage announced that the New York-based Blue Ribbon Restaurant Group would take over Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar and The Hawthorne with three new concepts. Its first restaurant will be a neighborhood sushi bar.

Harvard Square has continued to see a wave of change.

Although Harvard Square has welcomed an influx of newcomers this year – Bar Enza, Las Palmas and Menya Jiro, to name a few – it has also seen a series of closures, one that followed the loss in 2020. de Pansnip, Legal Sea Foods, Cafe Pomplona and Suite. One of its most important closures? Frontier cafe.

Damaged by a two-alarm fire in 2019, Border Cafe had temporarily closed its doors with a promise to reopen. That promise never materialized, and in February Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, confirmed its permanent closure.

“They’ve shut down permanently,” Jillson told “They’ve been closed for a while [due to] the pandemic and, before that, the fire. [The pandemic] was just the last nail in the coffin.

Tex-Mex restaurant was a lot to a lot of people: a reliable choice for a first date, a family tradition, an after-work place for margaritas with friends. Local restaurateurs also had souvenirs from the Border Cafe. Bessie King, director of Villa Mexico Cafe, shared her connection to the institution with The Boston Globe.

“My post-college boyfriend lived nearby, we * always * went, even though my mom owned a real Mexican food restaurant,” King wrote. “He loved jerk chicken, I (secretly) loved guac and hot fries. We had Valentine’s Day there, the post-Thanksgiving margins, the pre-ruptures. It was everyone’s living room.

Benedetto, an Italian restaurant at the Charles Hotel, announced its closure in April, a surprise even to the owners.

“We are writing with unexpected news,” co-owners Mike Pagliarini and Pam Ralston shared in an Instagram post. “Benedetto was informed late last week by the Charles Hotel Ownership Group that our lease was terminated. Benedetto will not reopen.

Enza Bar, an Italian restaurant by chef Mark Ladner, took over the space in October.

Spicies, the 22-year-old Thai restaurant, closed in summer; Boston Ramen Co. will take its place. And after keeping students caffeinated for over 10 years, Harvard Square Starbucks suddenly closed in November. The space will be replaced by The Harvard Shop in 2022.

We said goodbye to the restaurants in the area.

Barry chin
Stoner’s Delight at The Gallows restaurant, which has closed.

While the Eastern Standard served as a special occasion restaurant for many, the frequent losses of neighborhood staples were felt elsewhere.

Mexican restaurant Jose’s opened in Cambridge in the mid-1980s, serving a heartwarming range of burritos, enchiladas and tamales to its steadfast community. In August, its owner decided to sell the building and owner Carlos Mendez was outbid by a developer.

“It’s an institution, but we have to move on,” Mendez told a few weeks before closing his restaurant.

Over the summer, The Gallows revealed it was closing, ending an 11-year run serving South Enders comforts like a Scottish Egg and ultra-decadent Stoner’s Delight.

“Thank you all for supporting the entire team over the past 11 years,” owner Rebecca Roth Gullo wrote on Facebook. “The Gallows will always be my first baby + I will always be grateful. May his memory be a blessing.

Other pockets of the city have lost fried chicken mainstays and pizza slices this year, like Italian Express Pizzeria in East Boston, BISq and Highland Fried in Cambridge’s Inman Square, and Haymarket Pizza have all closed. Bars and pubs where friends would gather for after-work drinks or to play on weekends have also closed. After a year of reopening, Irish pubs The Asgard and The Kinsale announced in October that they were in fact permanently closed. As does the local brewery chain BeerWorks.

“Sad to say, but we’ve brewed and served our last few beers,” read a statement on the company’s website. “We decided to wrap it up because of the pandemic and all that.”

Some restaurants and bars have given us a warning so we can sneak in once more: Australian pie shop KO Catering & Pies has announced its closure for an entire year, while Mr. Dooley’s Olde Irish Village Pub from Cohasset announced a month before his St. Patrick’s Day. Closing day as the public holiday would be its last day. On December 3, East Cambridge’s beloved Loyal Nine announced its closure on December 18.

“While the past 18 months have had their challenges, reflecting on our time in East Cambridge comes with sincere joy as we appreciate all that has been given to us,” the restaurant said in an Instagram post.

As restaurants closed, some were quickly transformed into new concepts.

Call it the restaurant industry’s circle of life: As soon as we said goodbye to some of our favorite places, new ones appeared.

Chef Jason Bond closed Bondir, his cozy Cambridge restaurant, over the summer, making way for Lukas Dow and Kim Vo of Judy’s Bay. The couple launched Judy’s Bay as a take-out-only concept before offering dinner in early December, serving New England seafood with a Japanese and East Asian twist.

On Beacon Hill, the Red Hat, a century-old bar that opened in 1907, closed in June. The outcry was tempered after industry veterans Keith Gleason and Jake Nicholson announced they would reopen the pub – albeit with a new name, Teddy’s, and an updated look. The bar should open this winter.

Abby Lane, Jason Santos’ Theater District hot spot, temporarily closed in 2020; the restaurant was originally planning to return in fall 2021. This is not the case. Instead, Santos replaced it with Nash Bar & Stage, a Nashville-themed restaurant, bar, and concert venue that will host its grand opening in January, albeit with private events and a New Years party. be organized this month.

And in a flip we didn’t see coming, Tiffani Faison closed his popular Southeast Asian restaurant Tiger Mama in October, with plans to open a new concept there next year. Faison hasn’t released many details on the upcoming Fenway project, but after a year of brutal shutdowns, it’s a breath of new life we ​​can’t wait to see.

Which restaurant closings in 2021 affected you the most?

Joshua B. Speller