Photo by Stephanie Breijo
The smoked chicken wings with tequila honey, pickled Fresno chiles and pistachios was just one of many standout dishes at The Magpie's short-lived lunch service
[Update: If you'd like to help the owners of The Magpie, you can now purchase one of these shirts to commemorate the recently closed restaurant. Proceeds will aid Owen Lane and Tiffany Gellner Lane in recouping their losses and launching future endeavors.]
In a bit of startling and sad news, it appears that not one but two of Richmond's top restaurants are now closed. The Magpie — the creative, well-executed Carver gastropub — closed permanently after its Sunday brunch service on Aug. 30, and House of Sichuan — the West End Cantonese dim sum oasis formerly known as Queen's Dim Sum — has been closed since at least June, with no word on reopening.
The Magpie's chef, Owen Lane, served thoughtful, exciting dishes like pulled rabbit with ramp top panna cottta and Manchego churro, and the most delicate fried fish in bone marrow broth. The restaurant's five-year run garnered national, regional and local attention from outlets such as Tasting Table, Washingtonian and The Local Palate, and diversified the Richmond dining landscape with thrilling, challenging plates that could make even the most offal-wary diner sing beef heart's praises.
"After much hard work and consideration, all outlets pursued and explored, we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer keep our much loved restaurant open," Magpie co-owner Tiffany Gellner Lane wrote in a statement. "This may come as a shock to some of you and to tell you the truth it's still a little shocking to us as well. There are many factors that have led us to this decision and we feel it is the only way to move forward toward a brighter new chapter in our lives."
In the Olde Towne Shopping Center, House of Sichuan has been shuttered since the beginning of summer, if not earlier. The restaurant's phone is disconnected; its owners could not be reached for comment via telephone, email or social media. A representative of Richmond Commercial Real Estate, the company that manages the property, says the closure is temporary, though they could not speak to or speculate on the future of the restaurant.
I hope, at some point, House of Sichuan will reopen. I hope chef Owen Lane will return to the dining community soon, better than ever.
Though there are many, many variables that can contribute to a restaurant's demise, these closures should serve as a reminder that as guests and consumers, the best way to support your favorite local restaurant is to eat there. Dining establishments, like almost every other business, do not run on good will alone. Where you spend your money matters. I feel an incalculable amount of guilt for every time I'd bike past The Magpie on my ride home from the office, thinking about stopping in for a quick cocktail and a few small plates, but not acting on it. I regret having visited its stellar, short-lived lunch menu but once. Each week in Richmond, a handful of new restaurants open or announce plans to open; while this boom is an exciting one, it's important to remember that even the finest, most praised and award-showered independent restaurants still need our support.