If the restaurant was being forced closed by the city making dumb tax-related decisions and the public works department acting almost vindictively against a certain neighborhood, as was the case when JP’s closed, I’d be pissed. If it was a restaurant that was really trying to do well but failed because of the economy or because people did not appreciate it, I’d be unhappy. If it was a restaurant that served as the only anchor in a neighborhood at an uncertain tipping point, I’d be concerned. But none of those things are true.
This is the restaurant where a small handful of friendships formed or were helped along over recent years. It is where my (now former) significant other and I had our final serious conversation before ending it. It is where I’ve celebrated really important birthdays (not mine) hatched vital and earth shattering plans, where Julia and I frequented several Saturday lunches in a row one summer and fall, where by tradition I eat AFTER going to the State Fair instead of eating AT the State Fair, and where Amanda and I had our very first date.
This is where I had dinner with Amanda, “Lizzie” and “John” … Lizzie is my colleague, BFF, confidant, and often, muse. John is the felon/terrorist that I know best and love the most. And at that dinner, none of those things were true yet, though these issues would come up in later conversation at the same place. In fact, “Dinner at Azia” is an entire category of posts that I’ve written about life, friendship, and love and fear and stuff.
Ana, I’m sorry, but that seafood dish that they make for us even though it is not on the menu will be no more. Melanie, when you are back in town we’ll need to find a different place to consume vast quantities of that wine we tend to consume vast quantities of with the picture of the guy on the front wearing a hat. Ian, when they let you out of Prison, I was going to buy you dinner here, but I guess I won’t. Stephanie H, you’re next birthday, let me buy you a beer across the street at the Black Forest. Stephanie Z, thanks for suggesting that we eat there the other day. That may well turn out to be my last look at the place, and I wonder if you noticed that I was not all broken up about it.
This is the restaurant where we held the pre-party for the One Millionth Comment at Scienceblogs, and PZ ate the squid and Stephanie and Ben had some interesting drinks (who could forget these photographs?). In fact, this is also where the pre-Party for the Quiche Moraine Coming Out party was held. This is where Julia had her first sushi (but not her last) and her first raw oysters (probably her last!). This is where Julia and I used to call in before showing up… just in case. (“We are going to Azia. You must not go there. Repeat. We are going to Azia,” like she was calling in an airstrike.)
Why do I not care too much? Because the people and the memories matter more than the place, and as I said at the outset, the restaurant’s closing is not a tragedy. For one thing, Azia’s owner, Thom Pham, kindly opened another restaurant just a few blocks from my house that does not quite have the same atmosphere, but has items similar to the a la carte Thai-esque selections at Azia. And, more importantly, Thom is not closing Azia because it is failing. He’s closing it to open a different restaurant, a new experiment, and hopefully a new success, downtown.
When Azia opened, it was an important addition to the neighborhood, and served, along with it’s kitty-corner counterpart the Black Forest, as an anchor for Eat Street. But that anchoring was very successful and it is likely that this section of Eat Street will do well after Azia moves on. It will be helpful, of course, to see an appropriate successful restaurant move into that location. And, as an aside and without going into detail, I have a piece of advice: If you are a chef and you want to invest in your own restaurant, ALSO invest a little in real estate. Own the building you are in.