Text by Noamme Elisha. Photos by Alli Berry.
Earlier this week, the iconic Earwax Cafe announced that after twenty-one successful years, it would be closing on Monday, February 28, 2011. The vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurant in Wicker Park has long been a favorite of the locals, and particularly within the artist community.
“We have to go to Earwax, one last time!” said SAIC student Mimi Wilson. “I think I’m going to order everything!” Many of the restaurant’s clientele decided that they, like Wilson, needed to pay a visit one last time.
On Thursday afternoon, the waiting list to be seated was over a page long and the queue of people was so crammed that there was hardly space to move in the little hallway that connects the door to the main room. One woman rushed past the mass of people and up to one of the bus boys and gave him a warm hug, “I’ll miss you here!” No one was surprised by the crowds, which have been amassing ever since it was announced that the restaurant would no longer be open. Everyone wanted a last taste of Earwax.
It’s obvious that Earwax is more than just a restaurant for a lot of people. From its delicious menu and the large selection of organic and exotic teas, to the warmly lit wall art and the colorful bathroom scribbles, everything about this place resonates community and culture.
The regulars are upset at its closure, and rightly so. With only a couple of days left until Earwax shuts down, no one could explain specifically why. “Financial reasons, tax reasons” said one of the staff members in a hurry, while trying to control the mass of people waiting to get inside. “We’re really not allowed to talk about it, cause if we do…” he trailed off, and shrugged. “It’s a pity.”
It is a pity, but it doesn’t seem like anyone can do anything about it at this point. Some people suggested having the community try and restore it with donations, or finding some way to buy it out, but it doesn’t seem like any official steps have been taken in order to do this.
I urge you to find time this weekend to try and get a last breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Earwax before it shuts its doors on Monday. It’s an undeniable loss for Chicago, and I hope that somehow it will be able to reopen in the future, and welcome us back with the warm smells of hot tomato soup and tasty vegan burgers.
Earwax Cafe is located at 1561 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, just down the street from the Flat Iron Arts Building