As we move from summer into fall, it seems that the worst of the wave of COVID-related restaurant closures is behind us. While more places will surely struggle because of staffing troubles, case surges, and economic hardship, the absolute mess that was 2020 will not (I hope) be repeated. For me, that means it’s an appropriate time to look back at some of my favorite restaurants that closed over the past 18 months.
Income Tax was one of my all-time favorite Chicago restaurants. From their hyper-modern opening menu to their later days with a more French comfort-food bent, everything that came out of that kitchen was awesome. More importantly, as so many new places claim to be “neighborhood restaurants with a fine dining feel,” Income Tax actually was, welcoming Edgewater residents with a great atmosphere and one of the best, affordable wine lists in Chicago. Plus, they made my favorite chicken dish ever.
Maude’s Liquor Bar
I’ll be honest — while I’ve enjoyed many meals at Hogsalt Restaurants, none of them ever became true favorites except Maude’s. Something about the dark, candle-lit interior, silvered mirrors, and perfectly cooked French bistro food hit every button for me, from the salads to the pristine seafood. I can’t count the number of times I made myself feel better after a bad day with their dry-aged ribeye, and I’ll miss their tiny bar, which was ideal for a quick after-work drink.
I’ve written so many stories about Farmhouse in River North over the years, I can’t quite believe it’s gone. From the rooftop garden to its own brand of cider, Farmhouse was one of the few restaurants that treated local eating like more than a flashy trend, while also managing to keep prices reasonable and food approachable. The cheese curds were like an old friend, and the beer list never failed to impress. Luckily, the restaurant’s other outlets, in Evanston and Lake View, remain open, but they aren’t quite the same.
This one hurts. When Bar Biscay opened, it served the sort of food that made me feel like I was back in Spain, and I sung its praises pretty much continually. Mfk, from the same team, was always an intimate favorite, but Bar Biscay was their attempt to take that simple, ingredient-focused vision to another level. And it worked — the place was packed — but that sort of food just doesn’t lend itself to takeout. It managed to soldier on through the beginning of lockdown, transforming into a sort of gourmet grocery market, but it just couldn’t make it to the end.
Passerotto is the only restaurant on this list that I only went to once — but that one visit made such an impression that I had hoped to be dining there for years to come. Jennifer Kim’s vision of a modern Korean-inspired eatery turned out perfect dish after perfect dish, and somehow managed to make food that was both super comforting and super interesting.
This has barely scratched the surface — other painful losses for me included Fountainhead, Café Cancale, Bad Hunter, Blackbird, and many others. It’s just another reason to treasure every great meal, and, if you have a favorite spot, go there now, rather than waiting for a special occasion.