Word of Mouth

Soul Daddy, America's Next Great Restaurant winner, shutters final location

Even the blessing of Steve Ells, CEO of homegrown, fast-casual mega-chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, wasn't enough to make America's Next Great Restaurant into, well, America's next great restaurant: Soul Daddy, the healthy barbecue concept that nabbed the reality show's grand prize of three locations, shuttered its final spot in the Mall of America after closing the Los Angeles and New York addresses a couple of weeks back.

According to Eater, Soul Daddy issued a statement that said the restaurant was closing because it just wasn't performing as hoped. And that's unfortunate, since a team of fast-casual gurus -- Ells made his decision to invest in Soul Daddy with Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone and Lorena Garcia -- were theoretically at owner Jamawn Woods's disposal for figuring out how to keep the place open.

When we talked to Woods back when the show was on the air, he told us he'd secured another job... so maybe he's returning to that?

While this venture comes to a close, Ells is getting ready to open his own new chain, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, in Washington, DC. So maybe THAT'S America's next great restaurant.

Or maybe it'll be contestant Eric Powell's grilled cheese shop, which he tells us he'll start working on here in Denver once his contract with NBC allows him to.

America's Next Great Restaurant, by the way, won't have a next season.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk