Restaurants seem to come and go at a dizzying pace—so rapidly that we are seldom surprised when one shuts its doors. However, there are well-known eateries that have become part of the landscape over years or even decades, and we’re often shocked to see them go. Here are some of the most notable restaurant closings of 2014:
WD-50, New York City: Chef Wylie Dufresne was one of the most visible American proponents of molecular gastronomy, the movement started by Ferran Adria. From its opening in 2003, WD-50 was experimental, controversial and successful, earning Michelin stars and James Beard awards. In June, Dufresne announced that the restaurant’s Lower East Side location would be demolished to make way for new construction, and WD-50 closed in November; he has vowed to reopen in another space.
Red Medicine, Los Angeles: Outsiders may think of Red Medicine as the place that ejected LA Times restaurant critic Irene Virbila from the premises. L.A. foodies are more likely to remember Chef Jordan Kahn’s dramatic fusion of Nordic and Vietnamese cuisines. The restaurant shuttered after only four years on October 31, due to what Kahn described as “new building ownership and the accompanying overhead cost increases.”
L2O, Chicago: L2O was founded by Chef Laurent Gras in 2008, and had earned three Michelin stars by 2010—a rise that was both astonishing and meteoric. The fall was nearly as rapid. Gras left to pursue other ventures, the restaurant was sold to the Lettuce Entertain You group, and closed at the end of the year for “financial” reasons; a more accessible (i.e., cheaper) concept, Intro, will replace it.
Fleur de Lys, San Francisco: For several generations of visitors to the city by the Bay, Fleur de Lys epitomized dining in the grand style. Founded in 1970, the restaurant was enhanced in 1986 by the arrival of Executive Chef Hubert Keller. Keller called it quits on June 28, announcing that “we have decided that it’s time to turn a page in our lives.” He still operates restaurants in Las Vegas.
Etoile, Napa Valley: Opened in 1977 as The Restaurant at Domaine Chandon, Etoile played a large role in establishing Napa as a fine dining destination. It held a Michelin star from 2006-2012, but was shuttered on December 31 by what Chef Perry Hoffman describes as “lease problems.” The space will become part of the Domaine Chandon tasting room, and Hoffman will no doubt continue on the path of an illustrious career.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014; for more information, go to amazon.com