Siblings Julie and Will Horowitz have decided to close their celebrated barbecue restaurant Ducks Eatery after close to a decade in the East Village. In an announcement on Instagram over the weekend, the duo announced that the restaurant’s last day of service is November 7. Neighborhood blog EV Grieve first reported news of the closure.
“We have made the very heavy decision to close our doors for good,” the Instagram post reads. “While this is not how we envisioned our time on 12th Street ending, we’re choosing to focus on all of the extraordinary experiences that have come out of being part of your community for nearly nine years.”
Will Horowitz attributed the closure to the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic in a phone call with Eater on Monday. Though the restaurant’s longtime landlords at 351 East 12th Street attempted to negotiate a rent agreement, keeping the business afloat on takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining sales would have been “impossible,” he says.
In part, Horowtiz says that’s because the restaurant was never able to benefit from the city’s outdoor dining program. When the city planned to shut down the L train for service last year, it constructed a bike lane in front of the restaurant, meaning the restaurant has not been able to participate in the city’s ongoing Open Streets program. Meanwhile, Horowitz says the restaurant’s indoor dining room could accommodate no more than 10 people at the state-mandated 25 percent capacity.
“It would have been a death wish going into winter,” he says
In its more than eight-year run, the popular East Village restaurant has been difficult to pin down. Though Eater has described Ducks Eatery as a “barbecue restaurant” in the past, Will Horowitz says the spot is more accurately a place of one-hit-wonders. “Of all the places in New York, we might have the most one-hit wonder dishes,” he says. “Every year, there was a new thing. That’s what we became known for.”
The restaurant’s soaring popularity started with its one-off meat dishes, he says — including its popular smoked pastrami, brisket, and goat neck — but over the years also included vegetarian versions of popular meats, like its carrot hot dogs and viral oven-baked watermelon hams. More than two years later, the restaurant still receives orders for the latter dish, Horowitz says.
A few years after opening Ducks Eatery, the duo followed up with Harry and Ida’s, a Jewish delicatessen that became synonymous with the city’s best cuts of pastrami. The pastrami sandwich there, along with sandwiches made with smoked eel, earned the restaurant a spot on a spot on the Eater 38, which it held until closing in November 2019.
Ducks Eatery was the pair’s last remaining restaurant in the city, and though there are no immediate plans for a New York City comeback, Will Horowitz says he has his eye on his hometown of North Fork, Long Island as the possible site of a pop-up.
“We have loved our time here and while it is devastating to watch what’s unfolding around us, let’s hope it leads to a more sound infrastructure for the next wave of small businesses,” Julie Horowitz tells Eater in an email. The restaurant will end its nearly decade-long run in the East Village with one final brisket night, scheduled for Friday, November 6 starting at 5 p.m.