Dining trailblazers and old standbys like Da Silvano and Carnegie Deli announced they'd shutter, while a few, like experimental cocktail nook, Booker and Dax, promised to return in new locations. Below, Eater remembers some of the biggest restaurants to bid adieu in 2016.
The Four Seasons Restaurant
We’ve known since spring 2015 that it was curtains for the iconic Four Seasons Restaurant, after landlord Aby Rosen decided not to renew the lease for owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder. Still, its official closure in July 2016 marked the end of an era. Besides its historic space, the restaurant was the eatery of choice for the most powerful, rich, and famous people in New York City for eons. The list of notable diners and regulars — Martha Stewart, Warren Buffet, JFK, Nora Ephron — is long. When it first opened in 1959, Four Seasons was the most expensive restaurant ever to be built in the city, with Times critic, Craig Claiborne, writing, "Both in décor and in menu, it is spectacular, modern, and audacious. It is expensive and opulent, and it's perhaps the most exciting restaurant to open in New York within the last two decades." One of the most influential restaurants of the 20th century, the final moments of Four Seasons were just as opulent and star-studded as one might expect.
All this made it the most significant restaurant closing of the year, and big footprint for the group that will takeover the space. Rosen hired Major Food Group to open a new restaurant in the building — known for upscale theme restaurants that can be polarizing. The new team is calling their restaurant The Landmark, while von Bidder and Niccolini focus on reopening The Four Seasons in a less illustrious location.
Owner Silvano Marchetto opened the Greenwich Village Italian restaurant in 1975, serving Tuscan food when most New York Italian spots peddled red-sauce fare. Its most-remembered legacy will be the way Marchetto turned it into one of the most famous celebrity haunts of the last four decades, starting with artists, and then dealers, and then dealers’ wealthy clients. By the time it closed in December, Da Silvano racked up a guest list that included Rihanna, Madonna, Robert De Niro, Graydon Carter, Nora Ephron, and Harvey Weinstein.
Marchetto closed after more than 40 years because he simply couldn’t keep up with operating costs, like rising minimum wage and a $41,000 a month rent. With its closure, the city lost one of its iconic power restaurants. As Steve Cuozzo at the Post wrote, it lost one of its last restaurants that thrived on the owners’ larger-than-life personality. Beyond the celebrities and the food, Da Silvano was known for its scandals — from its epic feud with neighboring restaurant Bar Pitti to Marchetto’s sexual harassment lawsuits.
Back Forty West
Trailblazing greenmarket chef Peter Hoffman closed his casual restaurant at the corner of Prince and Crosby Street in Soho in July, marking the end of more than two decades in the space. Back Forty West had resided in the spot for four years, and before that, Hoffman ran Savoy in the location, one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in the city. Overall, Hoffman was in the space for 26 years.
For New Yorkers, the corner was a destination for the then-burgeoning local and seasonal food movement. It was also a place for cultural discussions about food on both a practical and philosophical level — something that turned the restaurant into one of the city’s biggest champions for conscientious sourcing.
Ultimately, Hoffman, who turned 60 in 2016, decided to close up shop because it was time to do something else. By next year, fast casual lunch chain Dig Inn will open in space. It’s a company that prides itself on sustainability, calling Hoffman an influence, but its cafeteria-style delivery means the space itself may never quite return to the charm and effervescence of Savoy or Back Forty West.
Booker and Dax
The experimental cocktail bar ended its five-year tenure in the back room of Momofuku Ssäm Bar this year after the David Chang empire decided to renovate the restaurant and use the Booker and Dax space for more seating. Owner Dave Arnold plans to find a standalone space to reopen the bar, but it’s not yet clear when that will happen. Arnold and his team obsessively pursued new ways to make drinks, using complex techniques and expensive equipment, and as Eater critic Ryan Sutton wrote in a goodbye, it meant Booker and Dax served some of the most unique drinks in the city. Despite all the research that goes into the drinks there, the bar also felt relaxed, comfortable, and accessible. All of that made it one of New York’s edgiest, most innovative cocktail houses.
The iconic, nearly 80-year-old Jewish delicatessen will close its flagship in Midtown at the end of the year, marking the loss of one of New York’s longest running delis. Over the years, it largely turned into a tourist trap serving overpriced, oversized pastrami sandwiches of debatable quality, but it remained one of the most recognized pastrami restaurants in the world. Even though the flagship is closing, the food (under the Carnegie Deli brand name) will still be sold at places like Madison Square Garden and hotels in Las Vegas and Bethlehem, PA.
It was also colored by scandals. It closed for a year due to an illegal gas hook-up, an incident that left the building’s other tenants without gas for months, too. Its employees sued it for unpaid wages, a lawsuit that was ultimately settled for $2.6 million. And owner Marian Harper Levine also went through a public and messy divorce with her husband, who cheated on her with a waitress and allegedly stole recipes for a rogue location of the deli in Thailand. Despite all this, the restaurant still attracted a legion of fans, including Woody Allen, who has a sandwich named after him at the deli. After news of its final days, people lined up to get their final experience in the old-school restaurant.
The post-Sex and the City era of clubstaurants thrived in part because of Spice Market, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Phil Suarez, and the Culinary Concept’s pan-Asian spot in the Meatpacking District. It closed after the landlord decided to end the lease of the 12-year-old restaurant. When it first opened, Spice Market was a destination for the food-minded despite its flashy, theme park vibes. (Eater NY editor Greg Morabito described the servers’ outfits as Fanta-sponsored slumber party chic.) It lost some of the food crowd over the years, but it remained one of the most well-known restaurants in Jean-Georges’ canon. Spice Market epitomized that era of dining as a night out, and it ultimately helped inform the many clubby dining experiences that followed it.
Spice Market still has other locations in Qatar and Mexico. It’s out of New York for now, but Jean-Georges has said that hopes to one day "recreate this dream restaurant in an exciting new location."
The Chinatown staple served hearty, inexpensive Cantonese fare for 80 years before closing in February. Its walls were famously plastered with tons and tons of dollar bills, and as one of the only restaurants in the neighborhood to stay open late, it ended up being the source of many fond memories for people in the neighborhood. The owners left after a rent hike, and news of the closure sent fans rushing to the restaurant for final meals. It had long lines for its final week in business. Within a month, new owners took over the space, renaming it Wing Kee but keeping the same menu and the same kitchen staff. Though it no longer has 69 Bayard’s iconic dollar bill decor, the new owners reportedly are encouraging patrons to restart the tradition.
Northern Spy Food Co.
Kale salads are now a standard item at trendy American (and sometimes non-American) restaurants across the city partly because of Northern Spy, a seasonal restaurant in the East Village from owners Chris Ronis and Christophe Hill. The team opened the restaurant in 2009 and closed it in February after sales waned for about a year. Its influence on the dining scene was real. Alumni of the kitchen went on to open hot spots like Dimes and Fancy Nancy, and though its kale salad spawned many copycats, Northern Spy always continued to serve one of the best versions of it.
Chef Danny Bowien’s wacky, shapeshifting Lower East Side restaurant never made waves the way his other New York restaurant Mission Chinese did. It never stayed in one place long enough to do so. After opening in 2013 as a Mexican restaurant, it transformed constantly — serving a hodgepodge of things like burgers, in-house tortillas, fried chicken, animal-style fries, pumpkin congee, dollar tacos, and more over the years. But Mission Cantina’s role as Bowien’s de facto test kitchen is what made it one of the city’s most interesting restaurants to watch. The experimentation sometimes meant duds, and other times, it meant stand-outs like a green chile cheeseburger or the Vietnamese breakfast. Food writer Francis Lam said after the news: "If you didn’t like Mission Cantina, you don’t love fun."
The Michelin-starred sushi restaurant closed in December after nearly a decade in the West Village. Chef Sotohiro Kosugi arrived in New York after making a name for himself in Atlanta. Here, he particularly known for his creative mastery of uni, an ingredient that’s now popular at sushi and non-sushi restaurants alike.
The Russian-themed Soho cocktail bar was the hottest spot in town in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and in June, owner James Huddleston shut its doors to rework the space. It helped kick off the cocktail craze, and it was also a prime example of restaurateur Keith McNally’s aesthetic. McNally eventually left the bar, but it continued to look and feel the way it did in its prime.
The Midtown restaurant earned a spot in the dining lexicon as a prime spot for a night of fine dining after Eamon Rockey and chef Bryce Shuman took it over nearly four years ago. The sophisticated restaurant earned three stars from the Times, which headlined its review "A Testament to Flavors Clear and Pure," and a Michelin star. Rockey and Shuman, both alum of Eleven Madison Park, did not say why it closed or what would happen next.
Chef Bill Telepan’s charming, farm-to-table Upper West Side restaurant closed this year after ten years in business. It was a culinary anchor in the neighborhood, and it earned a Michelin star for three years running before it shut its doors. But Telepan said that the restaurant had been operating at a loss, and it no longer made sense to keep it open. The chef, a champion of market-driven dining, now helms the kitchen at Oceana in Midtown.
Pork Slope and Thistle Hill Tavern Dale Talde, David Massoni, and John Bush ended service at two Park Slope restaurants in the fall. Pork Slope in particular always seemed to be packed, but the group decided sales were no longer making the cut. They instead are opening a huge restaurant near the Barclays Center and two hotel projects in Manhattan.
Colicchio & Sons Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio closed his eponymous Chelsea restaurant after trying to make restaurants work in the space for about a decade.
Sushi Zen A Midtown staple for more than 30 years, Sushi Zen was one of the first restaurants to introduce sushi to New Yorkers.
Stage Restaurant The 35-year-old classic greasy spoon in the East Village closed after a year of a conflict with the landlord and expenses to repair the space. It is now a location of Kati Roll.
Cafe Mingala The Upper East Side restaurant was the only place in the city dedicated to serving Burmese cuisine. It had been around for more than 20 years.
Montmarte Gabe Stulman’s French bistro shut its doors in the spring, the first time the prolific restaurateur had to close a business. It simply wasn’t making enough money, Stulman said.
All'onda The Greenwich Village Italian restaurants was one of the biggest hits of 2014 and debuted to great reviews. It tried its hand at becoming a wine bar but closed soon after.
A Voce Columbus Circle Once a destination for Italian fine dining, conflict between the owners and the landlord ultimately led the restaurant to file for bankruptcy.
Northeast Kingdom Bushwick’s reputation for being hip and trendy can partly be credited to Northeast Kingdom, which opened more than a decade ago with a farm-to-table ethos. Owners Paris Smeraldo and Meg Lipke decided to spend more time on their farm upstate.
Fritzl's Lunch Box The Bushwick critical darling was known for serving one of the city’s most unique burgers. Chef Dan Ross-Leutwyler was done running a restaurant and wanted to spend more time with his family.
Pakistan Tea House The affordable eating destination closed after the building’s violations meant it was unlikely to get gas again. But owners of the Baluchi’s chain bought the restaurant and plan to reopen it under a different name soon.
The Redhead The East Village comfort food restaurant and bar was a neighborhood favorite for nearly a decade.
Senor Frog's RIP to New York’s outpost of the famous spring break party chain. It may have been campy, but it won the heart of at least self-described fogies like Pete Wells.
The Cecil The Harlem Afro-Asian-American cuisine destination will no longer be open as a stand-alone restaurant. However, chef JJ Johnson will still be cooking, bringing some of his dishes to Minton’s nearby.
LES Pies and Thighs The original version of the Southern comfort food restaurant remains open in South Williamsburg, but the Canal Street outpost apparently never quite hit a similar stride.
Luksus Daniel Burns recently announced plans to close his Michelin-starred Greenpoint tasting counter at the end of the year to pursue new projects.
Brucie Irreverent Italian restaurant Brucie became a Cobble Hill favorite over its five years in business. Costs started to get too high, according to chef/owner Zahra Tangorra, and she was ready to move on.
Box Kite The tiny East Village coffee shop landed on many best-of lists for its coffee and tasting menus. A location still exists on the Upper West Side.
Chevalier The upscale French restaurant closed after just over a year in business.
Top photo by Daniel Krieger: The Four Seasons