Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Venerable, but Disgraced Sloop Restaurant Acadia Officially Closes Its Doors at 1639 S. Wabash

Likely not the biggest surprise in the world, but it looks like the venerable - but recently disgraced - two Michelin-starred Acadia (1639 S. Wabash) has officially closed their doors (via Eater):

Acadia, the two Michelin-starred restaurant from Ryan McCaskey will not reopen, the chef and owner confirms to Eater Chicago. Earlier this month, “for lease” signs went up above the South Loop restaurant marking the official end of McCaskey’s time in Chicago. The restaurant actually closed in July 2020 shortly after a shockwave of allegations were levied against McCaskey by former employees. At the time, McCaskey said he planned to quickly reopen.

McCaskey has since moved to Maine, where he runs another restaurant, Acadia House Provisions. McCaskey says the ongoing pandemic changed his mind to reopen in Chicago. In a statement to Eater, he writes “we decided to close Acadia because of the mounting obstacles of owning a business, especially a restaurant business in Chicago.”

“Rising crime, burglary attempts, staffing shortages and declining revenue at our price point also forced us to shut the doors,” a portion of McCaskey’s statement reads.

While there may be some truth to McCaskey's statement, it was hard to see how this restaurant could reopen based on the explosive accusations about the toxicity and sexual harassment within this high-profile workplace.

The demise of Acadia is a sad tale for a restaurant that was consistently considered one of the best fine dinning spots in the city.  Furthermore, it was a rare restaurant in the Sloop and one that added a level of eating we simply didn't have before.

When Acadia opened in 2012, there was excitement and anticipation that usually isn't present for new restaurants in the neighborhood.  My wife and I saw the potential during our first visit just one week after it officially opened.

Eventually Acadia shifted to a tasting menu concept and took off.  First they earned one star from the famous Michelin guide in 2013.  Then in 2015 earned two stars from the guide - a distinction that put it in rarefied air with a handful of other top restaurants in Chicago.  It was on the dining map in Chicago and in the world.

During the fall of 2020 - in the midst of the pandemic - the Chicago Tribune published some explosive allegations about owner/chef Ryan McCaskey.  If you read the allegations it was pretty damning and pretty detailed.  At the time, McCaskey said these were untrue and vowed to fight them in court - which seems to be happening currently.

The fate of the restaurant was also in limbo.  It was closed "due to covid", but most felt that it couldn't continue to operate in the face of these allegations.  While there is likely more to this story, it seemed inevitable that they wouldn't be able to reopen.

While Acadia will undoubtedly be missed, fine dinning isn't completely gone in the neighborhood.  Moody Tongue (2515 S. Wabash) brewery surprisingly achieved a two star rating from Michelin last year and Apolonia (2201 S. Michigan) has also been praised and may earn some awards as well.  

That said - Acadia exploded onto the scene about a decade ago, but leaves unceremoniously and disgraced.  A sad story no doubt.

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