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Photograph: Doug Fogelson

One Off Hospitality permanently closes Blackbird and Café Cancale

A Michelin-starred great and a new-ish French bistro won't reopen in Chicago.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

While restaurants throughout the city start welcoming back guests for socially distanced dining, there are others that will never reopen their doors. Today, One Off Hospitality Group announced a pair of permanent closures in Michelin-starred Blackbird in the West Loop as well as French-inspired bistro Café Cancale in Wicker Park.

Partners Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia told the Chicago Tribune that the decision to shutter 22-year-old Blackbird wasn't easy, but that operating a cozy restaurant at just 25 percent capacity wasn't a feasible business model moving forward. Blackbird opened back in 1997 as a pioneer of the West Loop neighborhood, long before it was the flashy dining destination it is today. In addition to holding a Michelin star for eight years, it has also hosted some of Chicago's best chefs, including Elske's David Posey, Pretty Cool Ice Cream's Dana Cree, Gaijin's Paul Virant and, most recently, Ryan Pfeiffer.

"While our hearts are broken to see Blackbird's journey come to an end, we are humbled to have contributed in a small way to Chicago’s incredible restaurant community for over two decades, serving as a place of warmth and hospitality while all along the way, building lifelong friendships with our team, guests and partners," reads a note from the hospitality group's partners on Blackbird's website.

One-year-old Café Cancale boasts a similar note on its website, recounting the Wicker Park restaurant's inspiration, a trip that Kahan took to Cancale, France, for his 50th birthday. In its previous life, the corner space hosted Publican Anker, Francesca's Forno and Soul Kitchen.

"While the decision to close is a difficult one, the realities that restaurants across the country face are truly sobering. It is with this in mind, that we say goodbye to Café Cancale and focus our attention to steering our collective of restaurants through to the other side of this storm," the letter on the website reads.

One Off Hospitality's presence will live on in both neighborhoods. Avec, The Publican and Publican Quality Meats are still operating in the West Loop, while Big Star, Dove's Luncheonette and the Violet Hour remain open in Wicker Park. These closures join a running list of notable Chicago restaurants that won't reopen due to COVID-19, giving Chicagoans a taste of the incredibly uncertain landscape that local businesses face as they grapple with reopening.

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