Lowlife, the six-month-old Lower East Side small plates restaurant where diners could get a $12 bowl of deconstructed borscht, closed for good on Friday, a principal confirms to Eater. Alex Leonard, former chef de cuisine of Blanca, opened Lowlife in November 2015 along with owner Hugh Crickmore (late of Mas Farmhouse and the Andrew Tarlow empire), telling Eater at the time that the New American restaurant would be "aggressively seasonal" and "aggressively local."
The restaurant's sudden closure came as a surprise to staff, but the source (who requested anonymity due to ongoing legal matters) says its investors — who had little previous hospitality experience — might have been rattled by unexpected costs, as well as the slow process of turning a profit with 60 seats in an out-of-the-way downtown location. "The New York Times review probably hurt us a little bit," added the source. In his one-star writeup, Times critic Pete Wells praised Leonard's food but wrote, "When I remember how much money I’ve spent there and how bizarrely pretentious the service can be, not just for the Lower East Side but for any neighborhood, I want to shake them by the shoulders until they come to their senses."
That's in line with the mixed reviews Lowlife received across the board — the general opinion, including that of Eater critic Ryan Sutton, settled on a consensus of excellent food, an affected atmosphere, and outrageous prices. (The irony of the restaurant's name, which Leonard and Crickmore told Eater was a reference to Luc Sante's anti-gentrification cri de coeur Low Life, was not lost on many people — including Ruth Reichl.)
Lowlife's OpenTable listing shows no availability. The restaurant's phone number and website are still active, but probably not for long.