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Looking Back on the Saddest Restaurant Closures Across the Carolinas for 2020

Insiders name the biggest bummers of the year

Martha Lou’s
Mike Ledford
Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas, covering the food and restaurant scene across North and South Carolina.

In keeping with Eater tradition, our closeout of the year is a survey of friends, industry types, and bloggers. To kick it off in the Carolinas, Eater asked the group eight questions, ranging from the restaurants they frequented for takeout to the saddest surprises of the year. Responses are in no particular order, and readers are encouraged to leave answers in the comments.

Q. What was 2020’s saddest restaurant closure?

D.R.E. James, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering SC
Without a doubt, Martha Lou’s. Damn. That broke my heart.

Kenneth Andrews, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering SC
There are certainly a lot of options to choose from this year but the most devastating to me was also pretty recent. One of my routinely most stopped at spots in Charleston for years was Tapio. Obviously the bubble tea was top notch but the owners were all around great people who were able to find amazing people to come and work for them. When AJ started also cooking up food to go along with the drinks I became a bit addicted to the Taiwanese fried chicken. I have lots of great memories from there and I’ll miss it for sure.

Erin Perkins, editor Eater Carolinas
The McCrady’s empire falling hit me hard. When I moved to Charleston in 2005, I would save up my pennies to afford a glass a wine at the McCrady’s Wine Bar to feel fancy. That space eventually became Minero and then the McCrady’s tasting room. I went from sipping a glass of cabernet by myself in a quiet wine bar lounge to interviewing Sean Brock about his latest vision for multi-course dining in the same room. The closing felt like the end of a chapter in Charleston.

Mike Ledford, Eater Carolinas photographer
Martha Lou’s and Kickin’ Chicken King Street (mainly for sentimental reasons, the food was just above acceptable)

Matthew Lardie, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering NC
Bar Brunello, hands down. That place was a second home to me, and the owner, Esteban Brunello, became family.

KJ Kearney, Founder of Black Food Fridays
I’m sure a lot of people would say Martha Lou’s but she was 90 years old. She was tired, and she deserved her rest. I’m happy for her to leave the game the way she wanted. But personally, losing Cane Rhum Bar hurt me to my core. Paul (the owner) was such a generous soul and every time I visited, he taught me something new. Not to mention the rhum selection was crazy diverse PLUS knowing that I’ll never have another order of their STAMP N GO (salt cod fritter) brings tears to my eyes.

Hanna Raskin, Food writer and critic for the Post & Courier
Tapio, both because its closure was directly connected to the pandemic and because the closure represented a loss of diversity for downtown.

Eric Ginsburg, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering NC
I’m pretty bummed that Jack’s Diner (Mediterranean) and Smith Street Diner in Greensboro both closed this year. They’re both longstanding institutions that are sorely missed.

Barbara Skidmore, Eater Carolinas contributor, covering SC and Savannah
All of them.

Brooks Reitz, Restaurateur (Melfi’s, Little Jack’s Tavern, Leon’s Oyster Shop)
Martha Lou’s

Dave Schuttenberg, owner/chef at Kwei Fei and Micho
How could you ever choose one? 2020 has been a bloodbath for small restaurant owners. We all choose to be a part of this industry, and have a deep passion for it, To have it taken away at such an alarming rate, due mainly in part to a complete and utter failure of leadership in this country. Don’t get me started.

Scott Crawford, chef/owner of Crawford and Son
Blackbird in Chicago shocked me. I felt a connection with that restaurant. Paul Kahan is one of the chefs I most admire. He is a master at making restaurants, and Blackbird was one of my favorite meals. I found that restaurant so early in my career, and loved what it represented for this group that had grown so successfully. Blackbird was his flagship, and I’d enjoyed watching it over the years. Its’ closing represented something bigger than just one restaurant closing. It’s been a success for longer than most restaurants could ever hope to be.

Wyatt Dickson, pitmaster/owner of Picnic and Wyatt’s Whole Hog Barbecue
Every single one is sad.