As East Villagers mourn the loss of Great Jones Cafe, a hidden gem that opened around the same time has quietly closed in Chelsea.
Francisco’s Centro Vasco opened in 1979 and has since been run by three generations of family, according to its website. Yesterday, a sign on the door announced that it had “closed permanently” and thanked customers for “over 35 years” of patronage.
The closure follows the loss of La Nacional, which closed for a reboot last year and has yet to reopen.
The specialty at Francisco’s was lobster, as you could tell from the neon crustacean outside and the giant lobster claws dangling above the bar. Like El Quijote, a block away, the place was a throwback to a time when nattily dressed waiters scraped breadcrumbs off of white tablecloths. There was even a velvet rope separating the front bar area from the back dining room.
Eater, which put Francisco’s on its list of 10 Classic Spanish Restaurants to Try Before You Die, visited in 2009 and described the restaurant as “inscrutable and incongruous,” with its roving guitar player and a decor of fake brick, fake stucco, fake timber, and fake marble. I went there a couple of times recently, during the Tribeca Film Festival; the place was mostly empty, and I made it a point to visit more often. It was the kind of garlic-laced Spanish restaurant that existed before the time of boutique gazpacho and bespoke gin and tonics.
The cause of the closure is uncertain. A call to the restaurant went unanswered.