Icarus, the first restaurant to serve fine New England cuisine in this city’s South End, knows “when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em,” and will close its doors forever on July 1.
Like the mythological figure it was named after, Icarus took flight in 1978. Its young chef, Chris Douglass, was hailed as a pioneer for offering diners upscale New England cuisine in a neighborhood that was un-gentrified to say the least.
“Back then, people were less sophisticated about food; it was fine restaurants who introduced them to new tastes and ingredients,” said Douglass, who bought Icarus in 1999, and whose cooking has enjoyed four-star status and national acclaim for its early commitment to local sourcing and overall sustainability.
Today the Icarus neighborhood is home to a kaleidoscope of restaurants. The intense competition and the economy’s recent pinch to dining dollars, were challenges Douglass could not control. Instead, this beloved chef turns to a new neighborhood and a new dining direction for his next act.
Ever the pioneer for finding and feeding the residents of “under-served” neighborhoods, Douglass opened two casual, moderately-priced restaurants in (un-gentrified) Dorchester, MA. Ashmont Grill has been a runaway hit since it opened in 2006, and the Italian concept Tavolo followed in 2008. Both restaurants are located five miles away from the South End. The food is still sustainable and Zagat-worthy, and the sense of discovery and freshness in Dorchester reminds Douglass of his start.
“Eating out now is more about the basics,” said Douglass. “Sure, diners will always want good food, but with the proliferation of food magazines and TV shows, people no longer look to chefs to teach them about it. They just want a place to hang out.”
How to say goodbye to such an icon as ICARUS ? With a fork. For the month of June, ICARUS will present a prix fixe menu of signature dishes from the past 31 years for $31. An assortment of events and commemorations – like a kitchen alum night and a jazz night -- will be held over the next few weeks.