04 January 2019

Durgin-Park is closing

I suppose everyone has certain restaurants or certain restaurant meals that are forever embedded in their memory.  I'll never forget the Marine Room near San Diego, with its plate glass windows facing west over the Pacific, only a stone's throw from the high-tide mark (I believe it was later heavily damaged by an intense storm).  For decades I have skipped my free breakfast in hotels in order to visit the Outdoorsman Cafe in Walker Minnesota, to have their hash browns and egg breakfast.  And the "earlybird" cheap lobster dinners at the West Street Cafe near Acadia National Park were unforgettable (the restaurant now apparently having gone upscale and moved downtown to the tourist area).

But my earliest restaurant memories go back just over 50 years to the spring of 1968 when I had the opportunity to have dinner at Durgin-Park.  IIRC, we took the MTA to Haymarket, then walked past open market stalls selling fish and flowers, then up some stairs to a noisy room where we were seated at a long table next to people we didn't know and served superb food that even a college student could afford.

I was disappointed to hear that Durgin-Park expects to close its doors next week:
Durgin-Park, a Faneuil Hall staple since 1827, will be closing on January 12. Employees of the historic restaurant were notified about the decision to close Wednesday.  Durgin-Park is one of the oldest restaurants in the country. It gained a reputation for its good-hearted waitresses being nearly as “fresh” as its fish... Parent company Ark Restaurants based out of New York says it’s the nature of the business – and that the restaurant just isn’t making money like it used to.
And it seems kind of sleazy for the parent company to give longstanding employees only 10 days notice of closure.

Readers, feel free to leave suggestions on your memorable restaurants/meals in the comments section.


  1. Just a few days ago JJ's Market, an independent coffee shop and store in the midtown area of Nashville, Tennessee, closed its doors for the last time. The owner had a lease through 2022 but is being forced out by rising property values. JJ's was an unusual place that served coffees named after Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and James Brown, and was an alternative to the major chain coffee shops just a couple of blocks away.
    It was popular up until its closing and attracted a diverse group, from business people in suits to students from the nearby Vanderbilt University.
    JJ's didn't just sell coffee, either: it was a place to get European chocolates, craft beers, and locally made ceramic mugs imprinted with the owner's motto: "Integrity, ingenuity, inspiration." There was also a stage in the back that was once used for poetry readings.
    It's sad to think that we don't just lose these places, but the people that are part of them.

  2. "the restaurant just isn’t making money like it used to." Not losing money, just not a high enough return on investment. Screw the customers, screw the help, profits before people, as the country goes to hell in a handbasket. Grrrr!!

  3. The Kahiki in Columbus Ohio was a magical place for a kid in the 80s. You could go there on a cold February day and be transported to Polynesian tropics. The windows were fish tanks or tropical bird habitats, complete with rainstorms on the "windows". They served meatballs you warm over mini volcanoes and drinks in tiki cups spilling fog from dry ice, it was unlike any restaurant I've ever been to. Columbus lost part of its magic when the Kahiki closed.

  4. I was disappointed at Durgin-Park because the waitress wasn't rude. My two most memorable meals were also in Boston - Pigalle, now closed, because Julia Child walked in (the chef came out and whipped up something for her that wasn't on the menu) and the No Name restaurant where I got the worst food poisoning of my life - the doctor diagnosed it as a mild version of cholera - I had the spins for three days as my lower intestine shed its lining (note to self, don't get real cholera).

  5. So very many restaurant memories. I recall my first real experience with French cooking, at a small bistro in north Edmonton, Alberta, back in the late 1970s (I no longer remember the name of the place, but that's irrelevant: it closed decades ago). The first times I ate at Taillevent and L'Ardoise in Paris likewise stand out. Lotus, Susur Lee's first Toronto restaurant, was a wonder his subsequent efforts have never exceeded in my opinion. Just this morning my wife and I were remembering, fondly, a mid-town Toronto restaurant of the mid-80s called Oliver's, owned by Peter Oliver before he joined up with Michael Bonacini to found the Oliver-Bonacini chain that still features prominently in Toronto's restaurant business.

  6. My wife still remembers the day she sat next to Arthur Fiedler, then-conductor of the Boston Pops, at Durgin Park.

  7. I still remember a long ago meal at a small home-based restaurant near the deserted village of Slievemore on Achill Island in Ireland. Memorable for a number of reasons:
    - I'd mistakenly brought a Nikon lens for my Canon camera, and thus missed one of the best shots I've not taken, of a sheep with magenta sprayed markings against the ruins, with the sweeping vista of hills, valley, and shore behind it
    - I'd turned my ankle early on the hike, and was happy to get to anywhere I could get off my feet for a bit
    - The owner and staff were about my age; I was the only customer, and we had a fine visit
    - I ordered lamb, an unusual choice for me, as I didn't usually eat baby animals (a personal quirk)
    - The food was completely fresh, local, and very well prepared
    - As I bit into my first piece of tender and delicious meat, i looked out the window and met the gaze of a small lamb frolicking outside on the meadow

    30+ years later I still don't usually eat baby animals, but I remember that meal fondly, and remember also my bit of guilt.

  8. For landmark memorable restaurants, I have to nominate The Original Pantry in downtown LA. The restaurant opened its doors in 1924 and hasn't closed since. As in 24/7 never turned out the lights, locked the front door, and not had a customer inside. The current owner doesn't even know where the key is.. The food hasn't changed in the last 40 years I've been going there, about once a year. www.pantrycafe.com

  9. i ate one time at durgin park. i don't recall the meal itself, but i do recall the delicious indian pudding.


  10. It was a special place! Great food, good sass! Wonderful Indiana corn pudding and the most amazing prime ribs.

  11. Several years ago another favorite closed: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/31/AR2005123101143.html


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