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Which Seattle Restaurant Closures Hit the Hardest in 2020?

This year was a devastating one for the local dining scene, as the pandemic forced many restaurants — including longtime favorites — to shutter for good

A plate of gigli with artichoke, asparagus, preserved lemon, and white wine at Il Corvo
Il Corvo was one of the best pasta destinations in Seattle.
Il Corvo/Instagram

Eater usually ends December by surveying local food writers on various restaurant-related topics that sum up the previous 12 months. But 2020 wasn’t like any other year. Since the pandemic caused so much upheaval in the dining scene, it seemed appropriate to include health care professionals and a science writer on the panel this time around to get their perspectives on COVID-19 impacts.

Previous entries include the standout takeout meals of 2020 and adjustments that may have staying power. Here, the various experts weigh in on this question: Which restaurant closings hit the hardest for you this year?

The closing of Il Corvo was gut-wrenching. That this little place with such a singular focus could stand amongst the giants of Seattle food was inspiring and will be missed immensely. But in a year of loss, there were so many losses that cumulated and felt even bigger when taken together. Steelhead Diner, El Diablo Coffee, Tilth, Boat Street Kitchen, Serious Biscuit, Juicebox, Jules Maes Saloon … I could go on and on with others. All of those places left such an indelible memory on me and history with each that losing them as part of the greater Seattle collective will reverberate and hurt. They each hurt in their own way, but there will be a moment when I think about the wings at Jules Maes or Steelhead’s crab cakes, for example, and I just won’t get them back. — Frank Guanco, food and wine writer, Seattle Refined

Dahlia Lounge was the first back in mid-March, and while it’s listed as temporary, it still hurts. My dad lived with a terrible motor neuron disease that made dining out challenging. Dahlia was where he’d dine on the rare occasions we’d eat together outside his home. The servers were so professional, and so thoughtfully kind, and when I think of the dramatic industry job loss this year, that team still stands out. More generally, I miss the experience of counter seating at my favorite bars and at places like Geraldine’s Counter and Super Six [edit note: both are still open for takeout and limited outdoor dining] — the casual conversations with customers, and sporadic chats with the crew as they hustle (shoutout to Seattle’s best server, Dawnelle DeMarco, benched by the pandemic). Jill Lightner, food writer and editor

Really prominent or seminal spots like Tilth and Il Corvo hurt, but I keep thinking about Vanishing Seattle’s post about Jalisco Mexican Restaurant in South Park. I’ve never been there; I’m not entirely sure I knew it existed. The Instagram post shares some memories from a reader who recalls how the owners watched him grow from a baby to a kid coming in with his siblings or grandma, to someone ordering his 21st birthday beer. I read that and just started crying. The Jaliscos of the world give our life texture and connection — and those are the things we lose when a restaurant closes. — Allecia Vermillion, editor-in-chief, Seattle Met

Boat Street Kitchen was probably the closing that hit me hardest, emotionally. It was one of the first Seattle restaurants I loved. We will miss Pintxo, even though we didn’t eat downtown often. Arriba Cantina was near us, and although we didn’t eat there much, we will miss it and hope something replaces that space. Zane + Wylie’s had the best burger I’ve ever had, I think, so I will miss that infrequent splurge. Steelhead Diner was a great place to take out-of-town guests, so it’s sad it’s closed. And although we make our coffee drinks at home, usually, the closing of Cafe Racer was a blow — they were such a part of the community. And finally, I will miss Specialty’s wheat germ chocolate chip cookies — they were so amazing warmed up, and I could tell myself they were healthy! I’m also sad for all the places that closed that we hadn’t had time to try yet. — Ellen Kuwana, freelance science writer and editor, founder of WeGotThisSeattle, an initiative that feeds frontline workers by partnering with local restaurants

Canon (although we are hoping they re-open in 2021). — Andrew Wright MD, general surgeon