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The Saddest Restaurant Closures of 2023

A David Chang restaurant, a hot dog institution, and a neighborhood place to get chilaquiles are among those we’ll miss

The dining room at Momofuku Ko with a big bar and moody lighting.
The dining room at Momofuku Ko.
Daniel Krieger/Eater

Welcome to Year in Eater 2023, Eater’s annual ritual of eulogizing the past 12 months through input from the city’s top food writers and New York figures. For 2023’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: What was 2023’s saddest restaurant closure?

Scott Lynch, contributor, Hell Gate and Brooklyn Magazine: It’s kind of a miracle, isn’t it, that the restaurant apocalypse we feared in the early pandemic didn’t happen? The place I’ve actively missed the most this year is Mel the Bakery, where I used to be able to grab loaves of Nora Allen’s seedy sourdough before heading home to Bushwick. Yes, she’s now baking up in Hudson, New York, but that’s not really handy to the J/M/Z.

Robert Sietsema, senior critic, Eater NY: In the last century, there were dozens of Cuban restaurants in the city; now that number has dwindled to only a few. Founded in 1976, Rincon Criollo in Corona was one of the best, decorated with vintage posters, playbills, and autographed photos of long-forgotten celebrities. The food, using great ingredients, was simple and delicious, and there was nothing better than a plate of moros y cristianos (black beans and white rice) with a heap of garlicky yuca on the side.

Rob Martinez, producer, Righteous Eats: The saddest restaurant closure in 2023, for me, is Newyorktitlan. I’ve eaten there more than any other place on earth. Julio’s chilaquiles and huevos benedictos were a constant in my life, but I was even a bigger fan of his off-menu experiments like fried chicken tacos and chilaquiles tortas that substituted a bolillo with a kaiser bun. He’s doing pop-ups in the neighborhood, and I hope he gets another chance to have a brick-and-mortar soon.

Amanda Kludt, publisher, Eater, Popsugar, Thrillist, and Punch: Frost was a real loss. I always enjoyed it as a counterpoint to Bamonte’s. Its closure is a good reminder to not take those kinds of old-school mom-and-pops for granted.

Charlotte Druckman, writer: I know it reopened at a new location across the street, but Papaya King not being where it belongs — where it always was throughout my childhood on the Upper East Side — got to me. I’m still not okay. You know what else I’m bummed about? So Do Fun closed, and ever so quietly. One day it was there, and then it wasn’t. I really liked that place and it was near home so I could order takeout from them too, which I very much appreciated.

Caroline Shin, contributor, Eater NY: This one hit home for me: the closing of New Flushing Bakery, which locals wouldn’t even call by name. It was the egg tart place on the corner. This place has been embedded into my childhood memories with its old-school Flushing look: the sliver of a counter with a narrow aisle where you just drool, looking at all the fresh pastries. Their egg tarts were perfect: charred on top, creamy in the middle, with a buttery crust. I heard the owners were retiring and nobody in the family wanted to take over. That place has been a landmark for anyone who grew up taking the 7 train right there.

Julian Mu,@mubereats: Kamboat Bakery, a Manhattan Chinatown institution with the best pineapple buns, you will be missed.

Stephanie Wu, editor-in-chief, Eater: I’ve only been to Momofuku Ko once, but the meal — a birthday celebration many many years ago — was incredibly memorable and delicious. When I heard the restaurant was closing, I rushed to get a taste of their famous cold fried chicken, served only in the front bar area, before the final days. It was so good, and I hope it appears on a different Momofuku group restaurant menu in the future.

Lanna Apisukh, photographer: I was bummed to see General Deb’s leave our Bushwick neighborhood several years back and it was even sadder to see those same owners close Faro earlier this year. I was looking forward to their seasonal fall menu; I’d always get the cabbage salad and the handmade pasta dishes.

Izzy Baskette, writer, Thrillist: It was sad to me that Bar Beau closed.

Britt Lam, social media manager, Infatuation: The HiHi Room on Smith Street — if anyone can replicate their Ants on a Log cocktail, please let me know. Also, Mel the Bakery didn’t close (they moved upstate), but I still count that as a pretty devastating loss for the city.