Crook's Corner, a staple of the Chapel Hill restaurant scene that served Southern cuisine since the early 1980s, announced its closure in a statement via Instagram on Wednesday.
“With an incredibly heavy heart I must share the news that we are closing,” the statement read. “The position we find ourselves in, exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis is no longer tenable.”
First run by Rachel Crook, the restaurant started as a fish market in the 1940s and assumed many identities over the years. From taxi stand to pool hall to bait-and-tackle shop, Crook's, like its menu, changed with the seasons.
Gene Hamer and Bill Neal opened the small restaurant now known as Crook's Corner in 1982. Between the food — including iconic dishes such as honeysuckle sorbet and shrimp and grits — and the history, it’s hard to tell which is richer.
“It's been a heartbreaking few days to hear from so many people, both that are here now, or have been here in the last 40 years,” owner Shannon Healy said. “The outpouring has been amazing.”
Crook's Corner was named a James Beard America's Classic Restaurant in 2011 for having timeless appeal and serving quality food that reflects the character of its community.
Rising UNC sophomore Waverly McIver said she will miss the French toast with bananas, her favorite choice for Sunday brunch.
For McIver, dining at Crook's was a tradition passed down through generations. Her parents went to Crook's when they were UNC students, she said, and they took her there before she moved in this year.
“I remember having jitters about the semester before our meal, but feeling so comforted by the food and memories they shared with me that were jogged while eating at Crook's,” she said.
The love for Crook's extends beyond the food — Healy said he will miss the regular customers and the relationships he has developed with them.
“We've known them for years, so we will miss them dearly,” he said. “Friendships grow from getting to meet these folks, and they're the reason that we've fought so hard to keep Crook's open.”
There are no plans of reopening as of now, Healy said.
McIver said she's sad about the loss of the restaurant but grateful for the time she spent there.
“Please step away from sustaining this special restaurant for so many years with peace knowing that you touched many generations of customers through good food and unmatched service,” she said.
When asked if he could say one thing to his customers, Healy said only this:
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.