In 2012, many notable eateries closed up shop. In some cases, we shed a tear as we watched them go. In others, well, our bets had been placed for quite a while. (Sustain Restaurant & Bar was just a few sad, happy hours away from my late-April wager.)
This past year, most losses were felt in the Design District/Midtown area. But, just as quickly as those joints were gone, new projects came along and took their place.
So, here is our list of the top five restaurants that bit the dust in 2012. These are the eateries that will be missed the most. As a bonus, we also included updates, like what's up ahead for the toques that once led the show.
6. Mai Tardi
In February, Mai Tardi closed its pizza oven and outdoor bar after a lease buyout from Dacra Group -- the real estate development group spearheaded by Craig Robins. Dacra was gearing up for significant construction work, as the nascent Design District continued on its significant growth. In response, Mai Tardi held a blow-out closing party and moved on. The eatery was owned by the Graspa Group, the same folks behind Salumeria 104, Tiramesu, Spris, Segafredo, Soyka, and Van Dyke Cafe.
This past July, The Dining Room shuttered its small, intimate eatery and headed over to Vesper Brasserie, where chef Horacio Rivadero opened a pop-up restaurant. Representatives claimed that the closing was only temporary -- just while they searched for a larger space. Yet the pop-up at the Vesper closed shortly thereafter, too. Then, Rivadero started popping up every Friday at The Well, with a concept named The Blacksmith. Last we heard, The Dining Room was still looking for a new home, and the project was still on hold for a couple of months.
4. Tudor House
Located at the Dream South Beach Hotel, Tudor House was home to Geoffrey Zakarian, Food Network's The Next Iron Chef Super Chefs winner and the restaurant's co-owner (along with Sant Chatwal). Executive chef Jamie DeRosa exited the eatery in July, and the restaurant closed officially in November. As for what's ahead? Zakarian told Short Order recently: "I am extremely proud of what the staff and I have accomplished at Tudor House with Sant Chatwal. Unfortunately, my contract with the hotel limited me from pursuing other opportunities in South Florida which I am excited to do." We are waiting, chef.
Sustain Restaurant & Bar garnered quite the following during its tenure in Midtown. Chef Alex Piñero got lots of love for his 50-mile salad, a medley of fresh produce sourced from farms within a 50-mile radius. Equally appreciated was the fried chicken and signature "wet" fries. But, despite the devoted following, the restaurant closed. So, in early May of this year, the eatery, which was dedicated to local ingredients and sustainable fare, served its last share of locavore eats. As for what's next, the group behind SushiSamba and Sugarcane opened a pop-up joint in the former space during Art Basel. Rumors are that an Italian eatery is in the works.
On some nights, Kris Wessel's quaint river-side eatery was helmed only by the Chopped champion/James Beard nominated chef, a few waiters, and one dishwasher. But, one month ago, the restaurant served its last plate of Wessel's famous shrimp. The chef said the closing was due to difficulties with the hotel which he rented from. (It changed hands during his lease.) All isn't loss, though. Florida Cookery, Wessel's South Beach eatery at the James Royal Palm Hotel, opened shortly after the closing. And, side note: a few Red Light favorites are on the menu there, too.
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In 2012, James Beard award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein's empire took quite the beating. She closed the critically acclaimed Sra. Martinez, parted ways with the Omphoy Ocean Resort in Palm Beach, and, after two short months, shuttered her casual café Crumb on Parchment at the Webster. But perhaps what hit locals the hardest was the closing of Design District's favorite señora. The eatery first opened in 2008 and garnered many accolades. It was loved dearly for its tapas, drinks, and fun ambiance. Indeed, it was a sad departure. However, since the closing, Amaris Jones and Amir Ben-Zion teamed up to open South Street, a neo-soul food eatery.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.