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Inquirer readers remember the Philly-area restaurants the pandemic has shuttered

Readers wrote in with their restaurant memories past, from first dates and pizza nights to surprise parties and rehearsal dinners.

A closed sign is posted on a door at the Midtown III Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge in Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, April 30, 2020.
A closed sign is posted on a door at the Midtown III Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge in Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, April 30, 2020.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

We lose restaurants every year. It’s a tough industry, one that fells businesses big and small, long-lived and fledgling, fancy and casual.

But 2020 has been something else. Even as some have thrown in the towel altogether, scores more restaurants have announced temporary closures — literally going dark for the pandemic winter. One hopes they can muster the resources to return again.

With each restaurant’s departure, a hole is left in the fabric of its neighborhood, in the hearts of customers who cherished it, and in the lives of workers who relied on it. We asked Inquirer readers to share their memories of the restaurants that have temporarily shuttered and those that are gone for good.

» READ MORE: Here are some of the Philly-area restaurants that have closed in 2020

Temporary closures

Moshulu. “There were two [memories]. I just took my wife there for her birthday in early November. We were joined by her two daughters, and I had another couple who made a surprise appearance. But more notable was a visit during the summer. It was our first trip to a restaurant since COVID shut everything down. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and we ate, drank, and for a couple hours remembered how much we loved our city’s restaurant scene.” — David Krakow, Fishtown

Nomad Roman: My family lives in a different state and always loved to go there for pizza. It was some of the best pizza my dad said he has ever had.” (Note: Nomad at 7th and Kater Streets and in Princeton remain open.) Moriarty’s: “My boyfriend and I would go there a lot when we first started dating. We liked the happy hour and the selection of beers. It’s where my taste for different beers expanded and he introduced me to different kinds. We have a lot of good memories from there from our early dating days.” — Anne Baker, Washington Square West

“I am optimistic that Fergie’s Pub will reopen in the spring. Still I was crushed when I learned my favorite bar of the last 26 years — essentially all of my so-called adult life — was in financial straits and soon going into hibernation to ride out the winter. I’ve loved this place since the day it opened and have had some of the best times of my life there, including my wedding rehearsal dinner. For the last six or seven years, I have religiously attended John Train’s ongoing Friday night residencies. My fondest memory though will always be sneaking a smooch with my now wife in that old phone booth on the second floor on one of our first dates there to see our friends Nancy Falkow (RIP) and Mike Slo-Mo Brenner perform.” — Collin Keefe, South Philly

“I was extremely lucky to get a reservation the day before Valentine’s Day at Laurel. I kept telling my server how I had been hoping Nicholas Elmi would win Top Chef on his season, and I was so excited to be eating his wonderful food now. My dessert was served, and I didn’t even realize someone was standing next to my table. When I looked up from eating, Nicholas Elmi himself was right next to me! I was absolutely starstruck! I’ll carry this memory with me forever!” — Mary Powell, Holland

“This has been our go-to for years for anniversaries, birthdays, and other special meals. When my son was born, it also became my safe haven when I got a rare evening to myself. Its casual elegance was perfect — it felt fancy, but I also didn’t feel pressured to be too dressed up.

“I’d go once a month or so to sit at the bar, have a glass of wine, and read, and then enjoy a nice dinner. Being able to have a great meal, uninterrupted, was such a reprieve in the days when I had to constantly tend to a young child. It was my chance to breathe and refresh mentally.

“I’m looking forward to celebrating the passing of the COVID crisis when the Bistrot reopens with a plate of their oeuf d’pecheurs — a simple, exquisite dish of eggs and mussels. — Carol Katarsky, Center City

“I LOVE that place. It was the closest thing to France that you can get here in Philly. The atmosphere just CANNOT BE BEAT!!! And the food... my God, I hope their closing isn’t permanent!!! — Sarah Tupchong, Center City

Permanently closed

Le Bus Bakery and Grocery. Both places filled in my menus and rounded out grocery shopping and cut back on preparing everything from scratch; huge losses ... both offered excellent food at reasonable prices. — L.J.B., Rittenhouse area

“I was very saddened when V Street on 19th Street closed. The great vegan menu and friendly, informal neighborhood atmosphere is really missed. Overall, in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, even for restaurants that haven’t closed, I really miss the happy-hour scene. ... Although the bar scene will hopefully eventually return, the social void thus far has really altered the vitality of my neighborhood.” — Jim Palmer, Rittenhouse Square

“Sorry to see Christopher’s in Malvern permanently closed. (Note: Christopher’s in Wayne remains open.) Always good, creative dining at very reasonable prices. Memories of graduation dinners and family get-togethers when visiting. Was also important to building the budding restaurant destination in town.” — Guy Kramer, Malvern

Poi Dog was the best food in the Rittenhouse/Center City area. Probably spent over $1,000 on just the mochi nori fried chicken platter over the last few years. I still think about it every day. — Thomas, Fairmount

Edgewood Cafe in Havertown. My husband and I frequented it often. The food was consistently phenomenal. From always running into old friends, old neighbors, even new friends we have met there along the way, one person aside from the food kept us going back: Kelly (manager, hostess waitress, you name it). Kelly has an amazing personality, tough-as-nails, no B.S. attitude, and the friendliest persona. We always loved joking and laughing with her and talking about our dogs! Edgewood handled everything correctly when they reopened earlier in the year. Unfortunately a small BYOB can only survive so long in the ongoing, ever-changing guidelines that were implemented. But they hung in there for a long while, so THANK YOU! We miss you, Kelly, and hope you are doing well and finding the silver lining in all of this.” — Jeanie, Drexel Hill

”Over 25 years ago, I was living and working in Baltimore and had attended a fund-raising conference in Seattle. A Philly colleague gave me the name of two neighborhood restaurants that he loved. One was Victor’s, a wonderful classic. The other restaurant was Dmitri’s at Third and Catherine Streets. (Note: This location of Dimitri’s closed in 2019; its second location closed permanently this year.) Though we lived over 100 miles away, it became the neighborhood restaurant of our hearts. My husband and I would drive two hours in hot summer and cold winter weather in anticipation of a magical experience. We’d wait outside for 40 minutes so we could be first in line to get our favorite table where I could watch the kitchen staff prepare the freshest fish I ever tasted. Watching the chefs prepare tender grilled octopus, flavorful soft shell crabs, and seafood-packed cioppino was like watching a ballet.

“No matter how stressed our lives were, we would bring our own wine, be warmly greeted by our regular waitress, and our lives would be transformed by the soft lighting and more wine. We would talk about travel and dream of living in Philly and being able to visit Dimitri’s anytime we wanted. After becoming very relaxed and a bit tipsy, we’d walk around the block to clear our heads. Then start the two-hour drive back to Baltimore. We finally moved to Philly in 2015 and got to go to Dimitri’s frequently.” — Ronnie Green, Glen Mills

Cheu Noodle Bar in Washington Square West

“I am such a lover of ramen, and their funky take on the dish hooked me quick. Plus their hip, cozy atmosphere. I was so upset when I heard they were closing this location. I’ve celebrated numerous birthdays, anniversaries, and even a promotion there! Always was my go-to. Grateful they still have a location in Fishtown, along with Nunu and Bing Bing. Thinking of all the other one-and-only restaurants that have been forced to close during this time.” — Lauren Hertzler, Point Breeze

“When I first decided to move back to Philly after a decade in D.C., my husband and I spent a lot of time meeting with people and interviewing here. After our first long day of interviews, we met at Cheu Noodle Bar in Wash West for dinner. We sat at the counter and had the best ramen of my life (brisket and matzo ball!). Our server was so nice and we chatted about how we were planning to move to Philly. Once we found jobs, we ended up moving right into that neighborhood! Cheu was a staple for us and we already miss it.” — Sarah Maiellano, Philadelphia

“All the silly fun — Friday the Firkinteenth, Groundhog Day, Let’s Make a Deal, Lodgedales, Lucky Thirteen Homebrew Club. And all the wonderful friends we made along the way.” — Joan Countryman

“From Scoats, to Ryan, Patty, Steve, and Bill; Oz and the kitchen staff; these people were/are like family. As soon as I walked in and sat, they were on point with menu and beer selections. My children, who are now of drinking age, grew up coming with us to the Lodge. They always wanted to legally buy a beer at the bar. A dream unfulfilled...” — Jose G., Wissinoming

“No single memory, we were blessed to have made many good friends there over the past years.” — Jim Countryman, Palmyra, N.J.

“I’ll miss Farmicia restaurant in Old City. I worked there for over five years, made some of the best friends that I’ll ever have in my lifetime, and learned many important life lessons along the way. There was an authentic sense of camaraderie between staff and it was evident that owner Kevin Klause and GM Tim Marren really cared about the people that worked in that restaurant. Many employees stayed at Farmicia for long periods of time. It was a family, people looked out for one another, and that taught me a lot about the importance of community.” — Lee Nentwig, Bella Vista

“I spent so many long brunches and special dinners at Farmicia. It was especially memorable around the holiday season because it was always so well decorated and felt like you were in a winter wonderland. I will miss the staff’s smiling faces, the seasonal drinks, and the fresh, always perfectly prepared food. Farmicia was always a solid choice and it is a loss for the city.” — Melissa, Philadelphia

“Thankfully Bibou has not closed but has transitioned to a retail space where, among other things, hard-to-find French comestibles can be found. I’m quite certain that Charlotte and Pierre [Calmels] will open a new restaurant in the future as Pierre, easily the finest chef in Philadelphia (and I say this with full recognition of the profound talent to be found elsewhere in our remarkable food city), has cooking in his DNA. But I want to harken back to Dec. 17, 2011, when I plotted a surprise 50th birthday party for my wife. That Charlotte would block a Saturday evening in December was the first surprise. I then sat with Pierre to design the menu. I was disappointed when Pierre indicated he could not offer classic chocolate souffles for dessert due to lack of oven space. For my wife, if it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t dessert! But after a phone call, Pierre returned triumphantly with the news that he had found a loaner oven with which he could turn out 34 souffles at one time. Amazing! To suggest the rest of the meal was sublime doesn’t even begin to do justice. And despite there being eight children in attendance, the progression from Champagne to white Burgundy to pinot noir to Bordeaux to Sauterne emptied all but two of the 36 bottles on hand. I’ve had the good fortune to dine in some of the great restaurants of the world. But nothing surpasses the perfection of the evening that Charlotte and Pierre created for my wife and our guests. They are wonderful people, they have a wonderful family, and we are lucky to have them with us in Philadelphia. I look forward with significant interest to what they will create for us in the future.” — John W. Jones, Solebury Township

“We’ll miss taking many friends to Res Ipsa. But the biggest loss was Bibou — where we celebrated many special occasions over the years. Everyone there was always made to feel like part of the family — from Jeffrey at the front to the warm wait staff and table visit from Pierre. We never walked away disappointed. Probably the sharpest pain since when Django closed!” — Micah Buchdahl, Moorestown N.J.

“As a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania in the summer of 1979, I was hired for my first waitressing job at the City Tavern. The Tavern was just reopening after a hiatus, and the newly hired staff received two weeks of training on Revolutionary life in Philadelphia. We were expected to share historic tidbits with our tourist clientele as we served them. I learned then that Dock Street was actually where sewage flowed towards the river, and that I could tell a true Revolutionary-era building by its alternating pattern of rectangular and square placement of bricks. While I really disliked the long, baggy dress and puffy bonnet uniforms (hard to navigate stairs in when carrying large trays of food, and very unflattering), I loved when the staff meals featured leftover chicken in cider, one of my favorite dishes at the Tavern, or English trifle. It was a wonderful introduction to my new city and one I’ll always remember.” — Dorel Shanon, West Mount Airy

“I will miss City Tavern. I have eaten there many times, but one night we went in the front door and there was Chef Staib sitting in the hallway. I greeted him since I knew who he was. He was so gracious! He visited our table, answered many questions, and treated us each to a glass of Madeira after our wonderful dinner! I will never forget that night. I have been watching his TV show for years. The closing of this restaurant is a serious loss to our city.” — Frances LaRosa, South Philadelphia

“My wife and I met at a wedding in Kansas, and on her first visit to Philadelphia in 1975 (technically our second date), I took her to the City Tavern for lunch. It was — as it continued to be over the years — a “classy” place, and it acquainted her to Philadelphia with its history and the ambiance of a special dining experience. It must have worked, as we recently celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. On Dec. 22, 2016, we hosted a dinner at City Tavern for 45 out-of-town guests who had come to Philadelphia for our son’s wedding the next day. The banquet room was candlelit and tastefully decorated for Christmas. To say it was magical is an understatement. The food, the atmosphere, and service were all exemplary. Our friends and family from as far away as Kansas, Colorado, and Arizona were overwhelmingly impressed. We, our son, and daughter-in-law still reminisce about the fried oysters. The experience made my wife and me especially proud of Philadelphia and all that it has to offer. In addition, we were able to relax and enjoy the party as we knew we were in such good hands at that special time for our family. We share the sadness of all our neighbors at the closing of this and the many other fine restaurants in our city, and we wish all of the owners, servers, and bartenders well in their future endeavors.” — Randal J. McDowell, Jenkintown

“We held our rehearsal dinner there before our wedding in 1998. We had the entire first floor on a Friday night starting with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for at least an hour. My favorite memory of that night is of my father and my father-in-law, both World War II veterans, sitting side-by-side in two high-backed Colonial style spindle chairs with arms, leaning toward each other, martinis in hand, talking about their time in the Marine Corps in the Pacific during the war.

“Stories were shared that night that I am sure my husband or I had never heard from them and never would. They are both gone now, along with my mother and mother-in-law, and yet, I remember the love, joy and laughter of that night along with the amazing food to celebrate our impending wedding.

“Almost 23 years later, I can see all of them sitting around tables — with the glow of the candles — talking, laughing, eating and drinking. I will miss that restaurant. We have eaten there since then, but I had hoped we would be able to return on the 25th anniversary of that night. It is not to be. But, we have amazing memories of tremendous food, family, and fun.” — Diana Moro, Philadelphia

“Always, we were loud.

“When we started our tradition, we were in our 50s. Now we’re well into out 60s. Our loudness has not been tempered by age or maturity.

“For 10 plus years, six to eight couples would take SEPTA into the city on New Year’s Eve for an afternoon walk around the Rittenhouse Square area, have a snack and experience Philadelphia in the holiday season. We would inevitably end up at the City Tavern to toast the New Year before we strolled across the street to see the 6 p.m. fireworks at Penn’s Landing. (Naturally, at our advancing age, we always saw the earlier fireworks to ensure, for heaven’s sake, that we would be home well before midnight!)

“Our loudness would become more pronounced as we strolled along. By the time we reached the City Tavern, usually around 5:15 or so, we were positively cringe-worthy loud and on a roll with our collective catch-up stories, family updates and health alerts (Who’s getting a new hip this year? What Medicare Plan B are you using?). Loud enough that within minutes of our arriving, the more genteel patrons would, after a few sideways glances in our direction, abruptly ask for their check to search for a more civilized setting.

“Keep in mind we, for the most part, we’re all stone-cold sober. There was one year, however, when one of our group, let’s call her “A,” felt compelled to stand on an 18th-century replica chair to pronounce to, all within shouting distance, how much fun she was having — but that was a memorable but isolated event.

“Alas, the City Tavern is no more. They were always very accommodating as a place to warm up, serving hot beverages and food, and providing an environment for many laughs as we welcomed in the New Year. (Note: The hot spiked apple cider was always a group favorite.) We will continue with our New Year’s Eve stroll, but with a tinge of regret we will not be able to make that toast at the Tavern. Perhaps we will make a quiet pass by the building in memory of those past year’s toasts.

“Then we’ll get loud again.” — Steve O. and Robin C., Delaware County

“I live a block and a half away from Boot & Saddle. It was a mainstay music venue during my college years and morphed into the closest, best bar around. Staff were always friendly and the bar food had an excellent blend of vegan and vegetarian options.

“I used to love grabbing a beer after a sweaty show in the backroom. And it got a lot sweatier one night when I saw Japandroids kick the fan off the ceiling while crowdsurfing. The welcoming hum of that beautiful neon sign will be sorely missed.” — Brian C., Passyunk Square

“My husband and I have seen many amazing musicians at this tiny little venue. From the Feelies to the Felice Brothers to Low Cut Connie (multiple times), we never saw a bad show despite the extremely close quarters and mediocre acoustics. About six or seven years ago, we brought a group of friends to see their first ever Low Cut Connie show and damn, every one in the place found religion that night. Yes, it was mostly due to the band, but the space, the crowd, the location, and the general vibe at Boot and Saddle made it one of the more memorable rock-and-roll memories of my life. Their closing is huge loss for Philly.” — Kate Darwin, Wyncote

“For years close friends lived nearby and this friendly and unpretentious city diner was a reliable favorite and one of the few places you could get grits, a bonus for this Southern transplant. But I will miss the bar the most. Many late nights we would stop at the Midtown for the best dirty martini in the city. Of all the wonderful bars and restaurants in Philly that provide a well-crafted cocktail, we especially loved Ms. Ellen’s ice-cold elixir and will miss it terribly.” — Natalie Kidd, Mount Airy

“Midtown III because it was the last all-night diner in Center City. Where are people going to go for that 3 a.m. snack and be able to see friends?” — Louisa, Center City