Madison Park Conservatory has been, for the past three years, one of those restaurants that even though you know it's a dining destination, you always just assumed that it would stick around on reputation alone. That's why it was a bit of a shocker when Cormac Mahoney, one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs of 2012 ("I want to put out food that has the effect of the meal in Like Water for Chocolate," he told the mag), announced the closure of MPC via newsletter on Friday evening.
"Restaurants are a crazy thing," he wrote, "and many stars have to align to create a successful and enduring place." Being a cul-de-sac restaurant situated at the end of a residential neighborhood was, evidently, a tough sell.
A brief conversation this afternoon with Mahoney, who was, for obvious reasons, a little dazed, revealed that the thing that's eating at him most, and the thing he'll cherish the most about MPC, is the same answer: his staff.
"That's the one thing that's been awesome about MPC. We have a tight crew. I'm worried about what's next for them."
"Our staff is super tight. They all roll together. We've been really blessed with the people who've worked here (among them, Westward chef Zoi Antonitsas). The people we've had have all been really close. So, that's pretty much the best thing."
The impact MPC had on its neighborhood is reflected in its regulars; the ones who were lucky enough to be able to walk from their homes and the ones who were happy to make the drive down Madison, regardless of how far.
"It's a business," Mahoney reminds me. "We have a lot of great regulars, but at the end of the day it's about numbers."
And if his answer to the question "What's next?" is any indication, he needs some more time to figure things out (or maybe he just needs a break from the question). Right now, it's an emphatic "Nothing."
MPC's last meal will be served Saturday, February 15, the day after Valentine's Day. So heartbreaking for many.