Welcome to Year in Eater 2021, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers. For 2021’s final week, Eater NY will be posting questions daily about New York City’s restaurant scene in the past year, with answers from those who know it best: Eater editors and friends of Eater. Now: Now: What was 2021’s saddest restaurant closure?
Tae Yoon, NYC editor, Thrillist: Jing Fong in Chinatown. I’m super happy that their new Centre Street location recently opened, but the Elizabeth Street spot felt epic in so many ways because it was all about those escalators and massive dining room.
Rachel Sugar, staff writer, Grub Street: Technically, Sacred Chow closed in the fall of 2020 — I’d known that — but I only really felt it when I started going out again in 2021. Where was it? Oh, right. That place was incredible. They did this exquisite nama gori tofu I haven’t found anywhere else. I had their pea mint soup once and still think about it all the time. The menu was not especially cohesive, and you had to get past the picture of the meditating cow on the window — I’d initially found this off-putting — but once you did, the food was consistently exceptional (often weird, never futsy), and the ambiance was cozy, and the eavesdropping was top-notch.
Mahira Rivers, food journalist: My first job in New York was at an office close to Lahore Deli in SoHo and I was always struck by the fact that this tiny shop catering mostly to South Asian cabbies could exist smack in the middle of SoHo. That surprise and delight is gone now. It’s probably a CVS now. Or a ghost kitchen.
Kayla Stewart, food journalist: Too many to name.
Deanna Ting, senior writer, Resy: I was sad to see Racines close, but I can’t wait to see what opens up next in the same space. The closure of Jeepney and Hunky Dory were also tough; I really loved what Nicole Ponseca did at Jeepney and what Claire Sprouse did at Hunky Dory. Both of them built restaurants that served as true community anchors, and I’ll miss having them here in New York.
John deBary, drinks expert, co-founder of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation: Hunky Dory, no question.
Patty Diez, project manager, Eater: The loss of Flora Bar was a real punch in the gut. So special and so of its place; it always felt like an occasion, even at lunch time. How can I not be sad about the loss of a pastry menu by Natasha Pickowicz!
Talia Baiocchi, editor-in-chef, Punch: I can’t quite make out what closed in 2020 and in 2021 (which says a lot about the last two years), but I have to mention some of the great neighborhood cocktail bars that closed this year and end of last, like Donna, Diamond Reef, Hunky Dory. All three made some of the best drinks in the city, but they were also neighborhood bars that sought to do more than make a great drink. The real loss lies in the empty spaces they leave in their communities.
Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.