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The iconic Crook's Corner, a Chapel Hill food mainstay, is closing after four decades

The iconic Crook's Corner, a Chapel Hill food mainstay, is closing after four decades

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CHAPEL HILL — Crook's Corner, a cornerstone in Southern food and an early spark in the creation of the Triangle's modern dining scene, has closed.

The icon of seasonal, Southern dishes, torch-bearer of shrimp and grits and Chapel Hill mainstay announced the closing Wednesday in an email.

"With an incredibly heavy heart I must share the news that we are closing," the restaurant wrote in an email. "The position we find ourselves in, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis is no longer tenable."

Crook's began as a Franklin Street fish market in the 1940s. But in 1982, chef Bill Neal and Gene Hamer opened a small restaurant that would alter the world's understanding of Southern food.

Cooking dishes tied to the seasons and treating regional vegetables like treasures, Crook's elevated the reputation of Southern food.

Following Neal's death in 1991, chef Bill Smith took over the kitchen and led the restaurant for nearly 30 years until his retirement in 2019. Hamer sold the restaurant to a group that included former Crook's beverage director Shannon Healy and Gary Crunkleton.

"(Crook's) holds the memories of thousands of your celebrations and pivotal career moments for too many of us to count," Crook's said in the email. "On behalf of generations of Crook's Corner staff, we thank you for your many years of support."

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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