Cuco's Mexican Restaurant on Madison's East Side is closing Saturday and its owners are moving it to a new location with a new name.
Mayra Zaragoza, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Oscar Zaragoza, said their landlord at 4426 E. Buckeye Road, is not renewing their lease after five years.
Kwik Trip owns the building and she said it's being torn down.
The Zaragozas found a new spot at 1824 S. Park St., that used to be a car dealership and is next to the St. Vincent de Paul Dig & Save Outlet.
Mayra Zaragoza owns the restaurant with her husband, Oscar Zaragoza.
Mayra said it will be about six months before they can renovate the space and open the new restaurant.
She said they're sad to be leaving the East Side. "We have a lot of customers that we became really good friends with. We are going to miss this place a lot."
The name Cuco's belongs to the people who opened the restaurant before they took it over, and Mayra said they plan to give the new restaurant a new name, but haven't settled on one yet.
Mayra said when they bought Cuco's in August 2016, they changed the menu and brought in a lot of new items, such as menudo, gorditas, tortas, pozole, pastor tacos and parrillada, a mix of grilled meat that has steak, chicken, chorizo and shrimp.
For their last day, Mayra said they're hosting a Halloween party with a costume contest, and holding a karaoke night.
Cuco's at 4426 E. Buckeye Road.
Mayra said she's grateful to her daughters, Jacqueline Zaragoza, who works as a server, and Guadalupe Zaragoza, who helps in the kitchen. A third daughter, Yusellin Zaragoza, used to manage the restaurant until she had a baby three months ago, and moved to Naperville, Illinois.
"They are a very important part of the restaurant," Mayra said. "It's very hard to find good workers in these times. My workers that I have right now, they are very awesome. I want to thank them for the good work that they have done for this place."
She said some of them will come to work at the new place.
A Cuco's in Waunakee is unrelated to the Madison restaurant.
19 Madison-area restaurants, bars, brew pubs and coffee shops that said goodbye in 2021
Estrellón, Chef Tory Miller's 7-year-old upscale Spanish-influenced restaurant on West Johnson Street, off State Street, closed for good after first offering takeout then going on hiatus during the pandemic. In announcing its closing, Miller said his focus now is on his other restaurants, Graze and L'Etoile, both at 1 S. Pinckney St., on Capitol Square. Miller owns the restaurants with his Deja Food Restaurant Group partner, Dianne Christensen. Deja Food also had Estrellón.
In a text message, his explanation of Estrellón's closure was: "Pandemic. Staffing. Mental and physical fatigue. No RRF (Restaurant Revitalization Fund). Protect L'Etoile. Keep my family and team safe and employed. All that."
Miller Family Meat & Three
Miller Family Meat & Three, a Southern comfort-food carryout restaurant, which operated for about four months on the bar side of Tory Miller's upscale, Spanish-influenced restaurant Estrellón, also closed. Its closure came at the same time as Estrellón's.
Fresco, the fine-dining Food Fight restaurant on the top floor of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, ended its run in October. Caitlin Suemnicht, Food Fight restaurant group's CEO, said Fresco's lease was ending and the company had several reasons not to renew it. "Fresco's a 15-year-old restaurant and we were starting to look like a 15-year-old restaurant," she said, adding that lease negotiations with the museum took longer than expected, and by the time the company was ready to start construction, the restaurant needed to reopen from its COVID-19 hiatus.
Benvenuto's North Side
Benvenuto's Italian Grill, which opened across from Warner Park in early 2003, closed in October. "The lease for that location is up," owner Brian Dominick said then. "All of the other locations are owned or are on long-term leases and will continue to be ready to serve our guests as we have for over 25 years." Dominick said the closing was not COVID-19-related, adding that some of Benvenuto's six other locations have "flourished" during the pandemic with carryout and delivery business. Dominick said the North Side restaurant needed remodeling, which didn't make sense to do in a building he doesn't own. Benvenuto's has two other Madison-area locations, in Middleton and Fitchburg.
Lorraine's Cafe on Monroe Street closed in July with no fanfare, not even so much as a heads up to Ken Kopp IV's loyal customers, some of whom had been eating there since Kopp ran New Orleans Take-Out in the same location until December 2019. Kopp owned Lorraine's with his wife, Sajia Kopp, and the couple moved to Taos, New Mexico, where Sajia's mother lives. The decision to close wasn't tied solely to the pandemic, but Kopp said early 2020 wasn't an ideal time to open a new restaurant. The pandemic "sure didn't help, but even without it, if everything was normal, we've talked about moving down there," he said. "It's definitely sad, but I was definitely ready for something different."
Barriques on Atwood
The Barriques coffee shop on Atwood Avenue closed in October after a six-year run. Matt Weygandt, who owned the shop and has six other area Barriques Coffee Roasters and Cafes with partner Finn Berge, said that location didn't bounce back from the pandemic "for whatever set of reasons."
He said he and Berge needed to sign a renewal on the lease, and "it’s a location that has nowhere near come back and recovered the way the rest of our places have," he said.
"We just didn’t feel comfortable signing up for a long-term obligation when we were uncertain how much of our pre-pandemic business we were going to be able to get back," Weygandt said then.
Around Thanksgiving, Ting Cai Zhou closed Mr. Seafood , formerly Pho King Good, at 600 Williamson St. in the Gateway Mall, and opened Delicacies of Asia, at 506 State St., where Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza used to be.
Cool Beans Coffee Cafe
The Cool Beans Coffee Cafe near East Towne Mall closed in September after 20 years and reopened in December as a café called Mercies Coffee. New owner Mallory Orr, who briefly worked at Cool Beans , said the name comes from a Bible verse. "It talks about God's mercy being new every morning," she said.
After 18 years, and ongoing health problems, the owners of People's Bakery at 2810 E. Washington Ave., closed the business in February. Nabil Elghadban and Mari Nikoyan said the bakery at was successful, particularly when they sold their Mediterranean specialties at summer festivals.
The Avenue Club
The Avenue Club and the Bubble Up Bar, 1128 E. Washington Ave., a one-time Madison institution, closed to make way for a $25 million, 40,000-square-foot music center for Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. Food Fight's CEO Caitlin Suemnicht said the company closed the restaurant in October 2020 after much deliberation because of COVID-19 restrictions. From April 2020 to August 2021, Food Fight worked with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Porchlight at three of its restaurants, including The Avenue, to provide meals for people staying in shelters.
Next Door Brewing
The former Next Door Brewing at 2439 Atwood Ave., closed in August after
eight years. New owners Thomas McVary, Peter Schroder, Tom Gosse and Michael Chronister, who had been regular Next Door customers, plan to reopen as Starkweather Brewing as soon as January.
Zoup !, a soup, salad and sandwich restaurant in Middleton, closed in February due to COVID-19, a spokesman for the company said. "Tried everything, tried everything: carryout, curbside, third-party delivery. There just were no customers," said Richard Zimmer, who works in franchising for the chain.
Pine Cone in DeForest
The Pine Cone in DeForest closed in September with owner John McKay creating controversy by leaving a note on the door blaming the state and federal government for its demise. "Due to the decisions of your state government (Evers) and your federal government (Biden), The Pine Cone has been forced to close its doors after 40 years. Thanks for all your support," the sign said. He later said the real reason he closed the truck stop restaurant at 6162 Highway 51, was because his lease was up. "That was just a little frustration. That was a bad decision," he said about hanging up the handwritten sign. A separately owned Pine Cone restaurant in Johnson Creek is still operating.
The closure of Star Bar , a cocktail and craft beer bar on East Washington Avenue near Livingston Street, wasn't the result of the pandemic, said its owner Hawk Sullivan. He said it was tough to make it in an event-based area, with The Sylvee music venue across the street. The bar would be busy for about 90 minutes before a show, and it was hard to have two bartenders come in just for a short time, he said. Star Bar was closed, like other bar-only businesses, for most of 2020. Sullivan said he opened in September 2020, with outdoor seating, for less than a month. Patrick DePula of Salvatore's Tomato Pies next door took over the space for Dark Horse Artbar, an art gallery, bar, and performance art and music venue.
Yushen Chen partnered with Kira Wang to open a
J-Petal franchise at 511 State St in the summer of 2020. Then, to save rent money during the pandemic, in March he moved the Japanese hand-held crêpe business in with Kung Fu Tea, another franchise he owns a half-block up. J-Petal crêpes stopped being offered in the tea shop about four months ago, an employee said.
Ground Zero Coffee
Ground Zero Coffee "is now in the past. It will never come back," said Lindsey Lee, who owned the shop at 744 Williamson St., for 22 years, and closed it in 2020, saying he'd reassess in early 2021 whether it would be reopening. Lee said his two Cargo Coffee locations, 1309 S. Park St., and 750 E. Washington Ave., were doing better than Ground Zero -- especially the Park Street one -- because they have drive-thrus. Lee said he made the final decision to close in March of 2021. "It was predicated on not being able to come to terms on a new lease and the need to focus on the other two shops." He said his old space is being remodeled for an office.
The Icon, 206 State St., ran from 2007 to 2020. It wasn't reported on the State Journal's 2020 list because it wasn't clear then it wouldn't reopen. On Nov. 8, Valbon Beqiri, the owner of two restaurants in Fort Atkinson, opened The Botanist Social in its place.
Cranberry Creek Cafe
operated at the corner of Bridge Road and Broadway until mid March 2020, when it had to shut down because of COVID-19. Jim Norton, who has owned Cranberry Creek for 17 years, said it has transitioned into a catering business and he uses its restaurant space as a banquet room for private parties. Norton said he doesn't plan to reopen as a restaurant. "Nobody really wants to work anymore," he said.
Union Corners Brewery
It's unclear exactly when Union Corners Brewery, 2438 Winnebago St., closed. A call and text message to the brewery's owner, Eric Peterson, to find out went unreturned in July. It opened in June 2019 with an ambitious food menu.