“After 25 amazing years, Eldorado Grill will be closing at the end of August,” Caitlin Suemnicht, the group’s CEO, said in a news release.
“There were several factors that led to this decision, all revolving around the COVID pandemic. We were closed for almost a year due to COVID capacity restrictions, and carryout business never took off for us leading up to that closure,” she said.
Suemnicht said when the Southwestern-themed restaurant reopened last summer, it faced staffing challenges, and “customer counts didn’t bounce back like we had hoped they would.”
Eldorado, 744 Williamson St., didn’t get Restaurant Revitalization Funds, she said. “Had we received that funding, I believe things would look a lot different for us now.”
When Eldorado opened in 1998, it was the fourth restaurant in the Food Fight group. It became known for its extensive tequila list; margaritas; smoked chicken enchiladas; chicken-fried chicken with buttermilk gravy; and Texas torpedoes, a take on jalapeño poppers that are stuffed with shrimp, melted jack cheese and wrapped in bacon.
“Despite the emotions that come with closing a cornerstone restaurant, there is a lot to celebrate and countless people to thank,” Jordan Bright, a Food Fight managing partner, said in the release.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished at Eldorado Grill over the last 25 years,” Bright said. “It’s rare for a restaurant to make it that long and the truth is that it only happens if you have a team of incredible people. We’ve had fantastic teams at Eldorado Grill since the beginning and I can’t thank them enough for their passion and dedication over the decades.”
He said the restaurant’s current staff deserves a special thank you for its hard work reopening during a pandemic.
After Eldorado’s closure early in the pandemic, it reopened in June 2021 with a pared-down menu focused on barbecue, and some new décor.
“The changed market conditions combined with high costs for wages and foods, ultimately led to the decision to permanently close the business,” the release said.
Kevin “Tex” Tubb helped found the restaurant, while architect Ed Linville designed the room with a whimsical Western theme. It could be hard to get a table for Sunday brunch.
In the coming weeks the company will work with Eldorado employees to find them jobs at other Food Fight restaurants, Bright said.
“We’re grateful to the entire Madison area and community for making us a part of your lives,” he said. “We’ll miss opening our doors and the tables full of laughs over margaritas, but we’ve been honored to serve you.”
In July, the group closed Market Street Diner in Sun Prairie. The Avenue Club, a one-time Madison institution when it was known as the Avenue Bar, closed last summer to make way for a $25 million, 40,000-square-foot music center for Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras.
Fresco, on the top floor of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, ended its run in October after 15 years.
In May, Food Fight opened Manny’s Parkside in Manitowish Waters in northern Wisconsin, 230 miles from Madison. It’s the group’s first restaurant outside of the Madison area.
This project is unique for Food Fight because the group runs it, but has no ownership in the restaurant, Bright said in a press release. Restaurant owner David Simon asked Food Fight to manage the menu, staff, day-to-day operations, and administrative services like accounting, payroll, human resources, marketing and art direction.
Food Fight was founded in 1994 by Monty Schiro of Monty’s Blue Plate Diner and local real estate investor Peder Moren.
Company officials didn’t give details on two more restaurant projects, set to open next year.
39 Madison-area restaurant, bar and coffee shop openings in 2021, including more on the way
Wisconsin State Journal feature writer Samara Kalk Derby writes about the arts and brings you the latest news on the Madison area's eclectic restaurant scene. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-252-6439.
It joins Abacá in San Francisco; Anajak Thai in Los Angeles; Bacanora in Phoenix; Bonnie’s in New York City; Brennan’s in New Orleans; Canje in Austin, Texas; Daru in Washington, D.C.; and Dear Margaret in Chicago.
"We've had some visitors from other markets that have come to dine, which has been lovely," said Shaina Robbins Papach, who opened the restaurant last summer on West Washington Avenue, with her husband, chef Joe Papach.