Barbecue joint Rack & Soul, located at 109th Street and Broadway, closed for good this past weekend. It’s not yet clear why—the restaurant received positive press in the past and was beloved by local residents. Owner Michael Eberstadt could not be reached for comment, but he did leave a note on the front door:
“Rack and Soul is now closed. I want to thank all of our loyal customers from the past 6 years. All the best. Michael Eberstadt.”
The closing came as a surprise to locals. Morningside Heights resident Davy Dragland, who lives just down the street from Rack & Soul, missed one of its offerings in particular.
“They had beef ribs, so we’re kind of sad that they’re gone. There’s not so many places like Blue Smoke in the city that have beef ribs,” he said.
Rack & Soul received generally positive reviews from customers and press and the first-place spot in a citywide blind tasting by Serious Eats in 2011. It handily beat another local spot—Dinosaur Bar-B-Que—with its superior baby back ribs. Though not as popular as Dinosaur, it had a local following.
Local resident Trevor Reid siad, “It was at the barbecue festival, and it was always pretty good. I sort of enjoyed going, and it was a fun place to hang out, had a fun vibe, and I’m bummed they closed.”
A suspect public health record might have hurt the business. Rack & Soul maintained an A, but its reputation isn’t as spotless as its grades would suggest.
“[It] had sort of a C rating going on for a long time, so I stopped eating there about a year ago,” Reid said. Though it never received a C, Reid’s suspicion isn’t unfounded—Rack & Soul had what the Department of Health terms “critical” violations, including living roaches and filth flies, in ungraded inspections as recently as 2010. Reid believes that these bad inspections contributed to the restaurant’s closing.
“I don’t think they ever recovered from it, because ... I want to say they failed food inspection and then shut down for a week, and then it was never as busy as it was. That was probably ... a year and a half ago,” Reid said.
Christopher Gonzalez, who has lived near the restaurant for 15 years, said he thinks the closing might just be a matter of location.
“A lot of my friends, we consider this whole corner cursed. Most stores that open up here tend to close within five or six months. They don’t really make a lot of business. I don’t really know why—maybe because it’s a dead corner. But no one really does business here,” Gonzalez said.
Like the others, he missed it. “Rack & Soul was a good place. It was family-oriented. A lot of people liked it,” Gonzalez said.
He also said he expressed empathy for the former employees in light of the current job climate. “I just hope the people who work there get a chance to find better jobs,” he said.