Closing Time: The Restaurants We Loved and Lost in 2015

We miss you, SCRATChbread!
We miss you, SCRATCHbread!

There are a number of factors that compel the steadfast Brooklynite to plunk down inconceivable sums on pint-sized apartments—and for us, it’s always been our unparalleled access to unique, independently-run restaurants. But crushing rent hikes, unworkable regulations and an easily distracted audience (the number of permits issued to new eateries rose by 26 percent in 2014) has proved an ever-ringing death knell to businesses not owned by hospitality groups and corporations, from Smith Street pioneers to craft beer stores and boutique bakeries alike.

And so, we bid a very fond farewell to the restaurants we’ve loved and lost this last year, in the hopes we’ll eventually meet again in a better place—like maybe Charleston. Or Dallas. Or Minneapolis. Or Baltimore. Or Boston. Or Portland. Or Miami. Or Philly. Wait, what was this piece an “in memoriam” for again?

Do or Dine: We’re sure Justin Warner—with his Food Network connections, rising star profile, and stellar debut book—will land on his feet. But that doesn’t make the surprise, September dissolution of Do or Dine in Bed Stuy (for reasons about which Warner has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped, save for the pithy Facebook missive “Dreams > $. That’s the long story short,”) sting any less. Dreams > Foie Gras Donuts, Justin. Dreams > Foie Gras Donuts.

SCRATCHBread: Walking through Bed-Stuy nowadays feels like visiting a crime scene—especially the varicolored tiger-striped storefront where SCRATCHBread once stood. Chef-owner Matthew Tilden made no secret of his ongoing financial struggles, and in October, finally threw in the towel and set off on a back-to-the-land road trip across the US, holing up in the Smoky Mountains and cooking out of fire pits. Take us with you, Matthew—we’re not long for this borough when making its best bagels and lox, best loaded grits and best gluten-free brownie (not to mention its only chai-and-chili sticky bun), isn’t enough to stay afloat.

Brucie: Just announced last week, Zahra Tangorra is closing her rustic Italian Court Street darling—beloved for its takeout pans of lasagna and themed Kim and Kanye dinners—on February 15th. In an open letter to “New York” on Brucie’s website, Tangorra writes “It has been my greatest honor to be in this relationship with you these past 5 1/2 years. I felt privileged to have lasted in a love affair with such a fickle and fiery partner, knowing that the tenure of our union was in fact a testament to my character as well. But… I need to move on and find my peace, my real purpose, my grown up identity.” Unfortunately, the reason for the shutter is a lot less poetic, namely, the economic impossibility of running a small restaurant, when Rag & Bone is currently shelling out $190 per square foot at a storefront nearby.

Whiskey Soda Lounge: Currently under build-out as Carla Hall’s upcoming hot chicken spot, the bar food-focused addition to Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok dynasty in the Columbia Waterfront District closed last July. In addition to never really catching on as a concept, the need for a place to hold people waiting for a table precipitously diminished, once the original Pok Pok Ny (infamous for its long lines) started taking reservations.

The Grocery: No matter that it helped pave the way for Brooklyn’s own farm-to-table movement (and ensuing restaurant boom), this 15-year-old Smith Street stalwart ended dinner service last July. The only silver lining is that husband-and-wife team Sharon Pachter and Charles Kiely have retained their space for private parties, special supper series on the weekend, and hopefully, a few other events TBD.

606 R&D: Blame last winter’s polar vortex on the demise of 606 R&D. Instead of fingering rent hikes, owners Ilene Rosen and Sara Dima bemoaned constant, crappy weather instead, with January revenue amounting to just over half of what they brought in during June. For three frigid months, potential customers stayed in and ordered Seamless, while the restaurant barely pulled in $500 a night: “Our habits are a statistic,” Dima told Grub Street. “Me struggling to keep my business open, and you sitting on your couch.”

Pacifico’s Fine Foods: We’re no longer overtly sad about this lame reconceptualization (another Italian bistro in Crown Heights? really?) as Shanna Pacifico eventually ended up on top. The chef quickly joined forces with longtime Brooklyn boosters, Josh Cohen and Blair Papagni, who’ve allowed her to go full bore with her Brazilian-tinged cooking at Greenpoint’s Cozinha Latina.

Lomzynianka: Despite a catchall “closed to renovate” claim, this charmingly churlish pierogi purveyor has been dark for months, with calls routed to a non-working number. Is it the end of Polish Greenpoint as we know it?

Char No. 4: This (seemingly popular) smoked meat and bourbon bar joined the Smith Street exodus in July. Owner Sean Josephs was pretty diplomatic (read: non-specific) about it in his open letter: “We have had an amazing seven years in business…made so many great friends and (had) a lot of fun and we aim to finish out the coming days in the same fashion.” But no more evidence is really needed as to why small businesses can’t survive on Smith Street.

Bierkraft: Call it one of Brooklyn’s greatest unsolved mysteries—after purportedly closing for renovations last summer, it quickly became apparent that the 13-year-old Park Slope beer haven was very much dunzo, once it auctioned off all of its equipment, and sent its staff a three-line email with the inexplicable subject line “You Are Free.”

Nine Chains: Nine Chains, we hardly knew ye. We may have proclaimed this Farm on Adderley offshoot as the best new bakery in Brooklyn, but that didn’t convince patrons to shell out for high quality breads and pastries (that were tentatively priced as such).

Taco Santo: Call it the curse of 669 Union Street. Palo Santo’s Jacques Gautier took the pint-sized space off the hands of the floundering barbecue eatery, Fort Reno, but he couldn’t make it work either; he sold it to a new owner, and flipped his last tortilla on September 27th.

Siggy’s: While always one of borough’s toniest neighborhoods, commercial rents in Brooklyn Heights have officially eclipsed Manhattan’s—a no-go when you’ve based your livelihood on the sale of clover sprout salads and veggie burgers, without the benefit of a liquor license. So pour out a wheatgrass shot for the 10-year-old, crunchy-granola café, which officially closed shop last February.

The Elm: In Brooklyn, at least, it seems a hotel-anchored restaurant can’t quite survive on cash-flashing tourists alone. Despite a flush of opening press, exclaiming over prickly Paul Liebrandt’s unlikely outer-borough foray, locals seemed less than enthused by fairy-sized torchon of foie gras and jelly, and a tweezered assortment of “Kiev style” chicken for two.



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