As Boston’s No Name Restaurant Closes, Why Some Entrepreneurs Are Enjoying Success

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Boston real estate is booming, but old restaurant names are closing. Photographer: Adam … [+] Glamzman/Bloomberg

© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP

For more than a century, Bostonians and visitors have made their way to Fish Pier to dine on seafood at the No Name Restaurant.

It wasn’t fancy, but you figured it always would be there, even as the Boston restaurant scene got more crowded and more sophisticated, and its real estate market boomed.

So, the announcement that No Name is closing came as a shock to a city that has seen other heralded names recently disappear.

The move came after No Name filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on Monday, meaning that it will liquidate.

“To our many loyal customers, employees and our longtime community,” the restaurant wrote on Facebook, “After over 100 years, we had to make the difficult decision to close the No Name Restaurant.”

It went on, “We want to thank our generations of customers for all the years of loyal patronage, and for helping make the No Name a landmark location.

To our employees, many of whom have been with us for decades, we cannot thank you enough — we thank you for your tireless dedication and hard working service.

It has been an honor to be part of your celebrations and your everyday lives for so many years.

We will miss you all, The No Name Family.”

No Name is the third heritage restaurant to close in Boston in 2019. Doyle’s, a pub in Jamaica Plain that served generations of customers, shut in October after more than 100 years in business.

Durgin Park, which fed tourists and locals alike in its location in the Fanueil Hall marketplace, closed at the beginning of the year.

No Name was called that because its owner never gave it a name when it opened in 1917. The restaurant sported a blue and white sign topped with a fish, and a menu that featured classics like clam chowder, fried clams and broiled scallops.

Many people went for its desserts, which included a variety of pies as well as Grape-Nuts pudding and Jimmy Roll, so called because its ice cream was covered in the sprinkles known as jimmies.

No Name hadn’t flourished for a while, however, and now Boston no longer has the three seafood restaurants that dominated that cuisine throughout the 20th century — No Name, Jimmy’s Harborside and Anthony’s Pier 4 (a branch of Anthony’s survives in suburban Swampscott).

It would seem to be a tough time for famous restaurant and food industry names, some driven out by high rents and staggering debt, others because they are family businesses and younger generations no longer want to keep the places open.

Four out of five restaurants shut within 10 years of opening, and three out of five don’t survive for five years.

But, in recent weeks, I’ve been heartened to see a couple of smaller places mark double-digit anniversaries.

Smoque BBQ in Chicago recently celebrated its 13th anniversary, while Nick’s Original House of Pancakes in Ann Arbor, Mich., marked its 10th anniversary on Dec. 22.

“I can’t express the gratitude we feel to everyone who has let us be a part of their lives,” Smoque co-founder Barry Sorkin wrote on Facebook.

“Whether we’ve catered your wedding, been part of your regular dinner rotation, or just served you a plate of barbecue for lunch one day when you were passing through, your support means the world to us.

We look forward to many more years of serving you the best barbecue we can make.”

Earlier this fall, Nick’s underwent its first major renovation since its opening. It’s the former location of a Big Boy restaurant about a mile from Michigan Stadium.

Both restaurants share what seems to be a key ingredient in the face of other restaurant failures.

They are known for big helpings of good quality food, and both were success stories almost from the moment they opened.

It helped that Nick’s owner, Nick Panos, is a member of one of Ann Arbor’s best-known restaurant families, so he had a built-in customer base waiting to try his food.

Too, Ann Arbor lacked a wide variety of breakfast choices and there is a constantly flow of visitors. Nick’s has also become a favorite with University of Michigan athletes, easily identifiable among the families who dine there.

But Smoque started from scratch, serving Texas style barbecue in a city that wasn’t accustomed to a low and slow approach.

However, its founding coincided with the emergence of restaurant blogs. And, only a few months after it opened, producers from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives asked if they could film a segment there, which helped me discover it.

The disappearance of recognizable names can be a sad thing for the restaurant business.

In the past 18 months, New York has lost City Bakery, which drew crowds for its hot chocolate, and Glaser’s Bake Shop, the home of the black and white cookie.

Dean & Deluca, once an arbiter of high-priced New York gourmet shopping, now lists only its two Honolulu locations on its website.

However, entrepreneurs like Panos and Sorkin have company. In Toronto, a Tibetan restaurant called Momo Hut & Gardens just celebrated its first anniversary.

Its owner, Tashi Nangsetsang, offers a menu featuring innovative dumplings, called momos, and other Tibetan dishes that are becoming more familiar as Toronto diners try out different styles of cuisine.

So, farewell to Boston’s N0 Name, and hello to some of the people who are trying their luck at restaurants. Perhaps this will be their century.