This year was a tough one for local businesses, especially restaurants. About 100,000 restaurants nationwide, nearly one in six, closed long-term or permanently as a result of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Trying to keep a restaurant open this year wasn’t easy. Neither was trying to open one.
Here are 10 of the biggest openings and saddest closings of this year.
🍽 Bao’s Castle brought warm fluffy bao buns to SoDo paired with different specialty beers every week.
☕️️ If you haven’t been to Bynx, the new coffee shop/record store/bookstore in Thornton Park, run, don’t walk to check out its one-of-a-kind books and records. And get the hot cocoa!
🔥 Chicken Fire is opening a brick-and-mortar SO soon and when it does, it’ll be one of the hottest (literally) openings of 2020.
😋 Mason Jar Provisions brought made-from-scratch Southern cuisine to Thornton Park. On the menu: Chow chow, cobbler, hot chicken, and pulled pork.
🍦 Matcha House Tea & Creamery is the Mills 50 new spot for hot drinks, cold drinks, soft serve, and sundaes.
🌴 Neon Beach, the new Miami Beach-vibe restaurant concept from Tin and Taco owner Rob Bair, opened this fall in downtown Orlando. From the Florida Man sandwich to the Happy Camper bowl to the frozen boozy Dole Whip, you’ll feel like you’ve reached peak vacation status.
🍸 Inside a 19th century historical building Downtown, The Robinson Coffee Room is serving up coffee, cocktails, and design goals.
🍩 The Salty Donut is opening its first location here today (!!) in Audubon Park. Orlandoans have been teeming with anticipation since the popular South Florida doughnut chain announced it was coming to town.
🍷 Sixty Vines made us feel like we’re in wine country right here in Orlando with its open kitchen, charcuterie bar, and greenhouse patio.
🍴 The long-awaited Winter Park Biscuit Co. is serving up its famous vegan fried chicken sammie along with a delicious-sounding kale salad, Impossible burger, and a strip box from its new location in East End Market.
☕️️ Belicoso Cigars & Cafe ended operations at Mills 50, saying “We still pray for a chance to restructure or return to build the business we established with so much potential and positive reception earlier this year.” Good news: You can still snag Smoke and Donuts at A La Cart!
🍔 Known for its burgers and late night eats, Big Time Street Food Co. closed saying “We first want to thank the neighborhood of Thornton Park and everyone who has come through and snagged some of our late night eats.” Mason Jar Provisions, who you read about 👆 up there, opened in its place.
🍣 After a decade, Ceviche closed its doors saying “Sadly, the impact of COVID-19 has forced us to make a difficult decision.” We still dream of its sangria.
🍚 Since 1996, Chan’s Chinese Cuisine has been a fixture along East Colonial Drive. The owners said they sold the property to an investor and they look forward to “having a new chapter of life and more time with our families.”
🍽 The “pandemic has made it impossible for us to sustain operations,” said Elize Restaurant, a well-reviewed offshoot of a restaurant with the same name in The Netherlands.
🥗 After showcasing progressive American cuisine for 15 years, Luma on Park bid farewell to Winter Park. Luckily, we still have Prato. (And Luke’s too!)
🍺 Market on Magnolia closed after 12 years, with a statement from the business reading, “It’s with heavy hearts, and years of memories, that we have made the decision to close Market on Magnolia.” But catch Pete Downing (MoM owner) at Gatlin Food Hall coming soon!
🍟 The Winter Park location of Marlow’s Tavern closed its doors, while the restaurant’s other locations remain open, Tasty Chomps reported.
🍹 Offering a taste of Hawaii in Orlando, Roy’s Restaurant closed after more than a decade. It “elevated Restaurant Row to a dining destination for locals as well as for tourists and conventioneers,” Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide reported.
On the horizon for next year
Here are a few restaurants on our radar for 2021:
🍦 Native Orlandoan Emily Duke wants to open a vegan ice cream truck, and she’s hoping her hometown city will help make it happen.
😋 Black Rooster Taqueria is opening a second location in Curry Ford West this spring.
🌮 F&D Cantina is opening a Mexican restaurant in the former Jax/City Fish location early next year in Thornton Park, Bungalower reports.
🍺 Gatlin Hall Brewing/food hall plans for a spring opening in Edgewood.
🌮 Hunger Street Tacos is opening a new location in Winter Garden inside the beloved Plant Street Market in the spring.
🥂 The Monroe, the fourth concept from local famous restaurateurs Jason and Sue Chin, is coming to Downtown Orlando in 2021 as “a diverse social gathering place with a main dining room, bar, lounge/study, semi-private dining area, expansive front porch and backyard patio.” And some very cool artwork.
🍣 Get ready for Soseki, a modern omakase experience from classically trained chef Mike Collantes (of Taglish) in Winter Park. It’s expected to open in early 2021.