In 2021, David Chang decided to move his hugely popular Momofuku Ssäm Bar to the Seaport, a neighborhood in transition — one associated with tourists, finance, and the absence of Fulton Fish Market following its 180-year tenure. Two years later, the restaurant has announced on Instagram that it is closing at the end of the month. The last day of service is September 30.
“We will always be grateful for the teams past and present who made Ssäm Bar such a special restaurant over the past 17 years,” reads the Instagram announcement, citing its roots in the creation of the global brand, Momofuku. “It is hard to overstate the impact Ssäm Bar had on Momofuku and beyond.” Eater has contacted Momofuku for more information on the closure.
Ssäm Bar relocated to the Seaport after 15 years in the East Village. The restaurant’s lease was expiring; instead of renewing it, the team moved the restaurant into a space that was home to another Momofuku restaurant, Bar Wayō, which opened at the Seaport in 2019. The move was announced early in the pandemic in tandem with the closing of the Korean Italian restaurant Nishi, open since 2016.
When Ssäm Bar opened in April 2021, the new location felt like “a monogrammed polo shirt of its formerly raffish self,” Eater critic Ryan Sutton wrote of the move. While the menu and space saw many iterations over the years, in the most recent one, “the group has managed to keep its creative culinary soul intact, slinging gelatinous raw crab platters, Korean-Lebanese wrap sandwiches, and buttery imitation crab rolls in places where one might otherwise expect a $70 strip steak.”
Momofuku Ssäm Bar opened in 2006 in the East Village at 207 Second Avenue, near East 13th Street, two years after the debut of the scrappy Momofuku Noodle Bar, a restaurant that was huge in shaping how New Yorkers dined. This, too, became a quintessential restaurant, despite its ever-changing menu that helped drive New Yorkers’ quest for new menu items from old favorite restaurants.
Two years after it opened, the New York Times called Ssäm Bar “the cornerstone of the Chang legend,” wrote then-critic Frank Bruni. “It justly enshrined Mr. Chang as a chef who went further than any of his peers in wedding serious, sometimes challenging food and an ultra-casual, spontaneous dining ethos in tune with unbound times.”
The move to the Seaport tracked with an infusion of money into the Momofuku brand in 2016, marking a shift from opening in a residential neighborhood to billion-dollar developments like Columbus Circle, Hudson Yards, and the Seaport’s Pier 17.
After the restaurant closes, Momofuku will be down to three restaurants in New York City: Noodle Bar, Ko, and the fast-casual, made-for-the-mall Bāng Bar, which opened in Time Warner Center in 2018. There’s also a Momofuku in Las Vegas and Majordomo in Los Angeles.