Our cover story is about the year’s Best New Restaurants. The topic reminds me that there are also those restaurants that are at the other side of the story, the ones that shut down over the last 12 months.
There are many reasons why businesses close, not all having to do with their quality. There are life issues – money, family, work fatigue, competition, too many parking ticket writers in the neighborhood. My purpose here isn’t to figure out why, but just to remember.
Much heralded when it opened in April 2014 was Milkfish, which specialized in Filipino cuisine. I remember its first night. We happened to be driving by, noticed the lights were on and decided to help a neighborhood restaurant get its start. It didn’t need us. The place was packed. I wondered how a restaurant only a few hours old could draw such a crowd. A staffer explained: The business had been operating as a pop-up in an Uptown bar. It had attracted many Facebook fans that apparently gave thumbs up to what they were served. On this night they were obviously well liked.
Offering a Filipino spin on fish and pork dishes with tangy sauce and finger-sized eggrolls Milkfish, which is the native name for an indigenous Pacific white fish, certainly had unique fare. Where else could you get spam fried rice and lechol kewal (deep fried pork belly)?
Chef and Owner Cristina Quakenbush has been quoted saying that the reason the restaurant closed was that old bugaboo: the rent was too high. Now Milkfish still exists, but instead is popping up at different locations including, on some weekends, at the new Broad Theater. (The Milkfish website gives other locations.)
One night I was at the theater, where I munched on a Filipino-style zesty rice dish during the movie. Right outside two people from Quakenbush’s family were selling crawfish from an ice chest – a mini pop-up I guess. They said the restaurant would open again, but until then they’ll keep on showing up around town.
Perhaps they’ll pop up as another Best New Restaurant.