RIP: 20 Chicago Bars and Restaurants That Closed in 2015
In a dining scene as active as Chicago’s, the constant flurry of openings and the buzz surrounding major restaurants can obscure the other side of the industry: for every opening, there’s a closing. It’s the circle of life, Simba. These are the 20 most memorable goodbyes we had to say in 2015.
Blokes & Birds
Ah, Wrigleyville. If there’s one neighborhood where you’re likely to see a grown man lick bourbon off a hardwood floor, this is it. Yet, for more than four years, Blokes & Birds was an inviting spot for those who wanted to escape the occasional madness that the neighborhood stirred up, all while offering some solid ears. At least the super-fun Lowcountry has since moved into the space.
When Ozzie Guillen was still the manager of the White Sox, he also appeared all over town in Brazzaz ads. Quite frankly, the pairing was a match made in heaven. Who better to promote a restaurant that serves endless portions of grilled meats than a man who can jam 37 obscenities into a single sentence? The contemporaneousness of excess was a wonder to behold.
For more than six years, chef Sean Sanders served up locally sourced dishes at this praise-baiting farm-to-table restaurant. In fact, some food was so local that it was grown in the rooftop garden. That’s basically closer than the nearest Starbucks! Fortunately, fans can still occasionally drop by for Trout Kitchen pop-up dinners.
Regarded by many as the finest pan-pizza joint in Chicagoland, Burt’s Place was so popular (and unabashedly understaffed) that its reservation “system” basically boiled down to a tedious game of phone tag. Unfortunately, head honcho Burt Katz suffered some health problems and called it quits on the famous spot, which had appeared on No Reservations. Reportedly, Burt’s health has since improved, and we wish him the best of luck in his retirement. Long live the Chicago king of pizza!
Clarke’s Diner wasn’t just another greasy spoon. It was also a bustling late-night hangout where a LGBT crowd came to refuel after a night of partying. Oftentimes, it was loud, hectic, and a hot mess. Things were seen here that could not be unseen. That’s why it was great.
Just kidding! It was a close call, though. In November, Danny’s manager revealed that the landlord was kicking them out. Almost immediately, cool kids and longtime patrons flocked back to the bar, ensuring that lines snaked down the block for most of the month. Apparently, it was enough to change the landlord’s mind. Either that or it was a brilliant publicity stunt all along. We’re just glad Sheer Magic lives on.
Sure, it’s pretty much the definition of a tourist trap, offering rude service and tiny ice cream sundaes in a kitschy space. Yet, for many kids in Chicagoland, a visit was right up there with scoring a sweet Pogs slammer or a Jordan #45 jersey. Also, David Schwimmer once worked here. The owners are planning on reopening in the future, but a condo tower is going up in its original space.
Every time an old-school dive bar shutters, an angel drinks Kessler whiskey until it cries in public and then wakes up at the 95th Red Line station.
For years, Francesca’s Forno held down a coveted space with arguably the best views of “The Crotch” intersection at Damen and Milwaukee. One Off Hospitality (Big Star, Violet Hour, Dove’s Luncheonette) is planning a new concept for next year, and we’re betting it’s going to be a trendy, bohemian take on a communist-era soup kitchen from East Berlin. Or something.
Frank Meats Patty
It seemed that even North Korea was panicking about the closing of Hot Doug’s, and the lines in its final days snaked all the way to Franklin Park (almost). Yet the buzz didn’t quite rub off on Frank Meats Patty, which opened in the Hot Doug’s space and prepared similar fare. Luckily, fans can still drop by Fatso’s Last Stand to get their fix.
Goose Island Wrigleyville
A Chicago classic, Goose Island Wrigleyville stood out among a sea of sports bars for 17 years. Its closing was originally announced in 2014, but a new lease was penned and the brewpub remained open for another year. Expect new condos and storefronts to take its place.
Japonais by Morimoto
Near North Side
Japonais was a huge, sexy restaurant where it was not uncommon to find a Ferrari parked out front during peak dinner times. We’re pretty sure that the valets even piggy-backed patrons to the restaurant before parking said Ferraris. When it was announced that Iron Chef Morimoto would be taking over the kitchen, the city’s foodies collectively freaked out. Unfortunately, all the Instagram likes in Chicago couldn’t keep Japonais open.
Honestly, we’ve never been here. But we want to be best friends with the former staff, who announced Kokopelli’s closing by leaving an automated voicemail message stating, “... we don't know how to pay our bills or take care of our customers so we suck ass and had to close down.” Let’s hang, first round is on us!
Mirabell served up tasty sausages and frosty German beers for nearly 40 years in the Irving Park neighborhood, and who doesn’t like sausage and beer? Because this is Chicago and we’re pretty sure you’re not allowed to live here if you don’t.
Nightwood didn’t just make amazing food and impress patrons with its head-turning décor for six years. It helped Pilsen get tagged as a trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood -- for better or for worse. The gorgeous eatery will be missed by locals, as well as those who were introduced to Pilsen because of it.
Closing up shop on December 31st, The Portage stayed open for 5.5 years in the Portage Park neighborhood and was one of the first spots in the new wave of businesses that has helped transform the neighborhood. We’ll miss enjoying elevated comfort food under a patio heat lamp on a warm fall evening there.
Before the Belmont and Clark intersection transformed into a prime location for condo development, it was an area where all sorts of “interesting” characters hung out, smoking heaters and comparing nose rings in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot (affectionately referred to as Punkin’ Donuts). We’ll miss the hardest-rocking Dunkin' in town, and make sure to visit The Alley when it moves to Avondale.
Perhaps no recent news has signified the changing of Wicker Park like the closing of Rodan, which shuttered in September after 12 years in the neighborhood. Offering reasonable drink specials, sleek décor, solid pan-Asian bar food, and non-mainstream music, Rodan was a neighborhood stalwart that somehow had managed to stay cool all these years. Oh well, even the Mona Lisa is falling apart.
Roxie’s by the Slice
One time we stopped into Roxie’s by the Slice later in the night, and the staff was rapping along to hardcore rap while serving up shots and slingin’ slices. Roxie’s had good vibes for miles, but at least Small Cheval has taken over the space, giving us some respite from the lines at Au Cheval.
Apparently obtaining a Michelin star two years in a row still doesn’t guarantee that a restaurant will stay open, which makes as much sense to us as dressing a dolphin in a tuxedo.
Not only did Tippling Hall offer a great brunch, but its adventurous drink menu offered kegged cocktails, interesting boilermakers, and one of the stiffest drinks in town. We can always get behind that.
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