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D.C. Restaurant Experts Look Back on the Saddest Closings of 2023

These spots will be missed

Chinatown’s wine bar Flight closed after nearly 10 years. 

Following an Eater tradition, we asked a group of restaurant critics, journalists, bloggers, and industry pros to weigh in on the year in food. Their answers to an annual “Year in Eater” survey will be revealed in several posts this month. Next up, the dining experts reflect on the restaurants that closed in 2023 that they’ll miss the most.

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: For me, it was a three-way tie. I was sorry to see the innovative Blend 111 in Vienna, the long-running Estadio on 14th Street and chef Kevin Tien’s Moon Rabbit at the Wharf go dark, all for different reasons.

Ann Limpert, Washingtonian executive food editor and critic: Estadio’s closing broke my heart in two. I celebrated so much there, probably went there more than anywhere else for the decade I lived down the block, and had way too many slushito driven nights. I was also truly bummed to say goodbye to Four Sisters.

Pintxos from Estadio

Tim Carman, Washington Post reporter and columnist: This was a tough year. We lost a number of bars, restaurants and bakeries that had left their mark: The Gibson, Buttercream Bakeshop, Fancy Radish, Estadio, and Melange, just to name a handful. But the closures that hurt the most, for me at least, were Four Sisters in Merrifield and Great Wall Szechuan House on 14th Street NW. Both were groundbreaking in their own way, but both were owned and operated by families that understood hospitality deep in their bones. I made sure to make a trip to both places before they closed, to pay my respects for all they had done.

Jessica Sidman, Washingtonian food editor: I was sad to see Estadio go. It was such a consistently great restaurant and one of the best places to eat on 14th Street. That’s where I was first introduced to drinking from a porron, 13 years ago. I now have one at home, and let me tell you, it’s the ultimate party trick. I will pour one out (of my porron) for Estadio this year.

Missy Frederick, Eater cities director: I have a lot of fond memories from Archipelago (and D.C. isn’t exactly brimming with knockout tiki bars) so I was bummed to see them go. Four Sisters’ closure also felt like a blow, though the place had streamlined and changed a lot since the pandemic, so it felt like the writing was on the wall. I’m glad I got a final meal in at Estadio; I was bummed Crazy Aunt Helen’s closed before I got the chance to try it.

A peacock mural is the backdrop for a piano covered in flowers upstairs at Crazy Aunt Helen’s
The upstairs dining room at Crazy Aunt Helen’s.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Nycci Nellis, publisher: 1) Moon Rabbit: Looking forward to it coming back. 2) Buttercream Bakeshop: I will miss Tiffany MacIssac’s sweet and savory creations and I am excited to see what she does next. 3) Crazy Aunt Helen’s: It’s just a shame.

Amanda Gomez, DCist reporter: Amsterdam Falafel. Bar none. It cured many a hangover. I’ll miss getting a falafel sandwich, loading it with every spread and pickled vegetable offered at the counter, plus fries, after a night out on 18th Street NW. Perhaps a controversial take, but I never saw the appeal of a Jumbo slice when Amsterdam Falafel was right there. I only just started eating it sober when I realized the quality. Then it closed in April.

David Hagedorn, Arlington Magazine/Bethesda Magazine dining columnist: All are sad, but I’m particularly sorry to see Estadio, Flight Wine Bar, and Crazy Aunt Helen’s go.

Paola Velez, Author, owner of Smallorchids INC and co-founder of Bakers Against Racism: Buttercream Bakeshop was one of the closures that truly devastated me. Chef Tiffany is an amazing human and community organizer, who has the support of all the chefs in D.C. Tiffany, we cannot wait to see what you do next and we all are sending you love during this season.

Not sure if this is the place for this conversation, but I truly do hope that there can be more regulations and rent control for the restaurant industry in D.C and the DMV area. Our downtown area is fading away, and more and more mom and pop-run businesses will be facing closures if our local government does not step in and advocate for the people that make D.C vibrant and quirky. We need to act now before it’s too late, and all of our culinary talent leaves our wonderfully diverse and amazing city.

Rick Chessen, Rick Eats DC blogger: Little Vietnam. Such fresh and interesting food but so hard for the economics to work in that tiny space in Petworth. I hope they pop-up at a different location. I could really use a fried-egg salad fix.

Angie Duran, director of operations at Duo Group, VIN. VITALITÉ cofounder: Flight. I am really not over it. My heart sinks, and I well up in tears every time I think about them. Flight has been such an important force for wine in the city. I can’t think of a single place that will fill the void it is leaving.