Before the pandemic, Kansas City restaurant closings rarely made the news or caused us to weep openly in public. Two years into a global pandemic, the loss of hundreds of restaurants that served as our second homes is leaving a void in our hearts and on the economic landscape of Kansas City.
Plaza III and Don Chilito’s closed after serving us for 50 years. Gojo Japanese Steak House ceased flipping us shrimp after 40 years. And Y.J.’s Snack Bar threw in the towel after 94 years of being the most popular hangout for artists and artist wannabes.
Thank you to former Y.J.s David Ford for providing so many colorful memories and great food at Y.J’s.
Restaurants are selling assets and shutting doors in record numbers in Kansas City.
We fear we’ll lose The Little Store in North Kansas City, too. A for-sale sign went up in January. Will someone step in to save the 84-year legacy of serving high schoolers and regular patrons another decade or more?
Since the pandemic began in 2020 more than 100 restaurants have closed for good as summarized in this video homage.
KC Loses 3 Restaurant Giants
The hospitality industry was hit hard by the loss of income, workers, and family-owned businesses. Then Kansas City mourned the loss of Gary Zancanelli Jr., owner of Leawood’s Red Door Woodfired Grill. Gary died on Jan. 9, 2022, at the age of 56.
Michael Donegan, the owner of Stroud’s restaurant, passed away in May 2021 at the age of 72.
Rob Magee, the owner and executive chef at Q39, died on Dec. 4, 2021, after battling colon cancer.
The loss of all three great restauranteurs further rubbed salt in the wounds of family, friends, and patrons of their restaurants and the KC hospitality industry as a whole.
Closings and Openings From January 2020 to December 2021:
With the count at 68 closings and 61 openings in one year, Kansas City restaurants are losing the battle against restaurant closures. However, hope is still alive for the entrepreneurs who serve as the heartbeat of KC. So while we pour one out for the bars and restaurants that have closed, we also gladly celebrate the new beginnings. Please let me know if I missed one of your favorites by commenting below.
|CLOSINGS||CLOSINGS II||OPENINGS||OPENINGS II|
|54th Street Grill & Bar (Grandview)||Ruby Jean’s Juicery||Bamboo Penny’s||Homegrown Kitchen|
|Avenues Bistro (Brookside)||Ruby Tuesday’s (NKC)||Black Pantry||King G & Deli|
|Beignet||Shio Ramen Shop||Blackhole Bakery||Lanna Thai|
|Black Dirt||Smokey’s||Blu Hwy||Ludo's|
|Black Seed||Smokin Joe Bar-B-Q||Blue Agave Tequila Mexican||Meddy's Mediterranean|
|Blue Koi||Sobahn||Buck Tui||Outlaw Cigar/Brewery|
|Blue Stem Kansas City||Songbird Café||Cliff’s Taphouse||Providence by Slice|
|Brady’s Public House||Stagecoach Tavern||Cookies & Creamery||Reroll Tavern|
|Brazilian Churrascaria Porto Do Sul||t.Loft||El Marvi Seafood and Grill||River Bluff Brewing|
|BRGR||Tapcade||Elevate Bar & Grill||Scratch Gourmet|
|C. Frogs BBQ Steak Whiskey||The Bite||Fountain City Winery||Tailleur|
|Californo’s||The Clubhouse Experience||Hawaiian Bros Island Grill||Taste Island Grill|
|Flying Saucer||The Corner Restaurant||HITIDES Coffee||Transit Coffee|
|Fred P. Otts||The Oliver||Hook and Reel||Westport Fish/Chips|
|Freshwater (Fine) Dining||The Rieger||KC Mac N’ Go||Wow Bao|
|Gaslight Grill||The Sundry||KC Thai||Italian Sausage Co.|
|Gojo Japenese Steakhouse||Urban Table||King G||Fat Shack|
|Gordon Biersch Brewery||Webster House||La Fuente Mexican Street Food||Enzo|
|Hogshead||Pho Kim KC||Meat Mitch Barbecue||Fountain Haus|
|Hopcat||Adelita's Mexican||Messenger Coffee (Plaza)||The Peacock|
|Houlihan’s (Fairway)||Brady's Public House||Ocean Prime Restaurant|
|Howard’s Grocery Café & Catering||Don Chillitos||Pantry Goods|
|Ignite Wood Fire Grill||Red Snapper||Poi-O Mexican BBQ|
|Kaldi’s Coffeehouse||Nighthawk||Providence Pizzeria|
|Karbon||Rise & Grind Bakery||River Bluff Brewing|
|KC Pinoy||Jow's Pizza by the Slice||Snooze an AM Eatery|
|Louie’s Wine Dive (Waldo)||Chai Shai||Strip’s Chicken|
|Lucky Brew Grille||Taco Naco|
|Myers Motel Bar||The Golden Scoop|
|Nara||The Stilwell (Lowes Hotel)|
|Nick and Jake’s (Plaza)||Third Street Social|
|Oh! Café||Tora Zushi (Strang Hall)|
|Ollie’s Local||West Bottoms Whiskey|
|Oregano & Thyme||Chartreuse Saloon|
|Our Daily Nada||Chewology|
|Papa Keno’s (Westport)||Dior|
|Plaza III Steakhouse||Fracies Soda/Cocktails|
|Rheinland Restaurant||Gael's Public House|
Winter 2021 KC Bar & Restaurant Update
Thus far this winter, we’ve said more hellos than goodbyes. While we tipped our hats to Rise & Grind, Joe’s Pizza by the Slice, and Chai Shai, we said hello to Italian Sausage Co., Fat Shack, Enzo, Fountain Haus, and The Peacock. What’s more, several KC area restaurants were able to expand including Smoke Brewing, Stockyard’s Brewing, Chicken N Pickle, Johnnie’s Jazz Bar & Grill, and Spokes Cafe & Cyclery. Perhaps this era of mass closings is coming to an end? I for one certainly hope so.
Fall 2021 KC Bar & Restaurant Update
So long to Don Chilito’s. We thank the restaurant and its staff for more than 50 years of service in Kansas City. We also said a temporary goodbye to Brookside’s Classic Cookie & Cafe; the restaurant will reopen under new management this winter.
Restaurant Woes of 2020
While restaurant closings in Kansas City were once rare, in a blink, that changed. Gatherings were shut down because of the coronavirus. We were sent home without supper. We didn’t know how good we had it, and now we’re crying in our milk over our favorite restaurants that have closed for good.
In shock, we opened and closed our refrigerator and pantry doors. Stared inside at the empty shelves wondering what to make and how to cook again.
We deserved the wake-up call. We forgot that food was essential, but restaurants were not.
No more walking into restaurants without reservations, without getting dressed up, without giving up our tables for hours at a time. We were ungrateful asses who saw the $900 billion restaurant industry as a right, not a privilege.
No more five-course, five-star meals out. No more asking for your check to be split six ways or discounted. No more tiramisu for you. You don’t deserve it. Nor did you deserve to dine in castles, train stations, museums, lofts, and restaurant-rich shopping districts like the Country Club Plaza and Power Light District that claims, “Any moment. Any mood. Any reason.”
Back in the day, each restaurant closing was followed by at least three restaurant openings. As the 32nd largest city in the United States, we didn’t deserve that many restaurants.
Our Fav KC Restaurants Close for Good
By the first quarter of 2020, Kansas City had 20 restaurants per capita (over 10,000 residents). The average metro restaurant per capita is 17. Phoenix, Tucson, and Memphis have about 14 restaurants per capita. Milwaukee comes in at 15 per capita.
And while it’s easy to blame 2020, problems persist in 2021 and showed predictive signs in 2019.
In 2019, restaurants were already thinning out. Fred P. Otts, Black Dirt, Westport’s Californos, Hogshead, Milano Italian Restaurant, The Oliver, Krokstrom, The Sundry, and Ruby Tuesday all closed.
The tears you may have shed over those closings are just a warm-up for the tears you’ll shed when the projected 75% of our taken-for-granted restaurants can’t or won’t continue to serve us delicious bites.
The Webster House, Plaza III, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, and Nick and Jake’s (downtown location) have already called it quits. Bravo and Brio are likely to close as well because of FoodFirst Global Restaurant Group’s bankruptcy filing.
Coffee Shops Are Closing Too aka Caffeine Withdrawal
Coffee shops are hurting, too. Our Daily Nada and Blip Coffee Roasters (recently made a come back) permanently closed in March. Kansas City, apparently, didn’t need a gourmet coffee shop on every block. Thankfully, we still have some of the best coffee shops a city could hope for.
Craft beer sales are also down 40% since Covid-19 started spreading. Fill up your growlers because brewery closings will be next.
Sure, we’ve tried to hang onto normalcy by ordering takeout and giving restaurants shout-outs on Instagram. Those were band-aids. The restaurant industry is hemorrhaging.
Pull out your cookbooks and pin your takeout menus by the phone charger. You’re going to be dialing more than chewing. And swallowing regrets of not tipping bigger, being kinder, and more supportive of the restaurants we had when we had ‘em? That’s coming too.
They say what goes down must come up. The only food staple that’s way up is yeast sales – up 601% compared to last year. People are kneading their own bread and binge baking even though we can’t live by bread alone.
We need to smell pizza coming out of Il Lazzarone’s wood-fired ovens; hear Michael Garrozzo’s husky voice advertising his iconic spidini on KCUR; see Chef Michael Smith sit down with patrons at Extra Virgin; feel the crystal champagne glasses at Bluestem, or taste a marbled Kansas City strip served at Stock Hill in the West Bottoms.
Too bad. Kansas City didn’t deserve all the grub and glory it offered, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Sources: Feast Magazine, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Business Journal, and Kansas City Magazine.