September 17, 2009

Restaurant Obituaries

I just read that the illustrious Tavern on the Green restaurant in NYC filed for Chapter 11 protection. News like this always shocks me - you think places like this are going to be around forever, but I guess tastes change and trends emerge. This makes me sad.

Actually, any time a restaurant, boutique, or any local shop goes under it makes me sad. Sometimes you can tell the minute they hang their sign that they're not going to make it. There's just something 'off' about the place, and you can't put your finger on it.

But the others - the established restaurants and shops - it hurts a little, doesn't it? I am thinking about two of my favorite restaurants of all time that closed this year - Fusion Mediterranean Bistro in Fond du Lac (pictured at left) and Water City Grill in Oshkosh. Both served bistro fare far better than you'd expect in such small cities. Sure, they were on the pricey side (for our area, anyway) but you always knew you were going to have a wonderful time and have a terrific meal.

The first to go, Fusion, had managed to stay around in one form or another for 8 years. One of the neatest things about Fusion is that it was housed in the old downtown theatre lobby - local business owners bought it and really spiffed it up. They had their flush years and their lean years, but the food was wonderful (I was particularly fond of the Beef Tenderloin with Gorgonzola and Haystack Potatoes. It was sublime. Transencendent. All of those adjectives reserved for real food critics). The head chef, Mark, had his rent raised so high he was forced out. He now works for a country club, so it's not likely we'll be sampling his cuisine anytime soon.

A mere month later, Water City Grill closed. This was just as, or possibly more, heartbreaking than Fusion closing. I had been going to WCG for about 8 years, and we spent 3 wonderful New Year Eve dinners there (they put on quite a show - 10-course meals!). Their meatloaf was to die for - it was rolled and in the middle was a wonderful mixture of Gruyere and mushrooms. Heaven! The ambiance was perfect - a lot of wood and old brick (it was in the old Oddfellows Lodge). I tried bacon fudge there this past New Year's. Yes, you heard right.

So why is it that we feel like we've lost a friend when a favorite place closes? Is it the fear that we'll never find a replacement? Are we mourning the fact that we'll never make new memories at an old haunt? Did the shop have a specialty item that will be hard to find somewhere else? Probably all of these things. Perhaps it just feels like the end of an era, and a period in time that now has a beginning, middle and end.

This year, I'm sure almost all of us have lost a great little place we liked to call 'ours'. This economy hasn't been kind to restaurants. But here's hoping a new spot will open up that will pique our curiosity and will have the foresight to remain open for years to come.


  1. maybe it's the fact that it is an actual person or family losing their livelihood. Alot of people come in our cafe' and love, love, love it. But it's hard to pay the bills when folks who would rather spend their local money at Starbucks! And that's just the truth....Good topic-BUY LOCAL!!!

  2. Buy local is RIGHT! Nothing compares to the one-of-a-kind. I wish your cafe was in Fondy, Vickster!!