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Long run ends for Bistro 1888

South Boston News
Downtown at The Bistro / July 22, 2021

A South Boston institution — Bistro 1888, an award-winning restaurant that introduced downtown diners to American nouveau cuisine — has permanently closed its doors after nearly two decades in operation.

Barbara Cage and Bistro chef Margaret Moorefield announced the end of Bistro 1888 on social media, with Cage writing, “It has been a delight to be a part of downtown South Boston for the past 18 years.

“We have loved the experience, our customers and being a part of so many wonderful memories. We will miss our customers of course, being a part of downtown, making memories from wedding proposals to 100 year birthday celebrations to our regulars, our fun bar crowd and to anything associated with the Prizery and downtown events,” Cage wrote.

“I will miss the satisfaction of seeing everything come together. Bistro had a-lot-of-moving-parts. There were a lot of stations to manage. And like an orchestra, each part had to be in tune and of perfect timing,” Chef Margaret stated in a message.

Cage and Moorefield, both county natives, opened the Bistro in 2003 and the Main Street establishment won renown among foodies from the beginning. Bistro 1888 earned a Three Diamond rating from American Automobile Association (AAA) just four months after opening its doors. Bistro 1888 was later featured in Southern Living magazine, won the 2005 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and was voted best Virginia Restaurant in Virginia by Virginia Main Street Diners in 2010.

Like most restaurants, Bistro’s operations were curtailed last year by pandemic restrictions, although the restaurant shifted to takeout sales of premium foods used to prepare many of its distinctive recipes.

“It is very sad for Downtown South Boston,” said South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab of the Bistro’s closing. He added, “It was one of the best places to dine in Virginia. They served the best quail and softshell crab anywhere.

“I will personally miss dining at Bistro 1888,” said Raab.

Cage and Moorefield expressed the hope that an up-and-coming chef might take over the Bistro and turn it into a unique establishment of their own. Cage pointed to recent changes in Downtown South Boston that led them to believe that the time was right for them to pull back from the restaurant business and look to others to take over.

“It is a perfect time for us and a perfect time for an aspiring restaurateur — with the post-Covid enthusiasm to dine out, Factory Street Brewing Company just across the street, the Prizery reopening, VIR revving up, hotels filling up and great local and out-of-town guests,” said Cage.

“We are receiving a lot of inquiries, and waiting for the best fit for us and downtown South Boston. Our immediate future will be focusing on family and health. After that, we have some great opportunities that we are considering,” Cage and Moorefield wrote.

As to her favorite memories at Bistro 1888, Cage said, “That’s hard because there were so many.”

Among the candidates: the first-ever Prizery Summer Theatre season, with the influx of young actors who became among the restaurant’s favorite patrons; the Halloween for the Arts event held at the Bob Cage sculpture farm and downtown; Southern Living’s coverage of the restaurant; a congratulatory letter from Virginia Senator Mark Warner to recognize Chef Margaret being named among the top 1% of chefs in America; and the time a deer walked into the back door of the restaurant.

Also, “our A-team of servers and cooks,” wrote Cage, and how “it all started with a great relationship with Dr. and Mrs. Lucien Roberts in 2002,” owners of the downtown building where the Bistro operated.

Chef Margaret added that she especially enjoyed watching her niece and nephew grow up as they celebrated special occasions with family.

In response to the closing announcement on Facebook, Bistro 1888 fans near and far expressed their sadness and support of the business owners.

“The most beautiful culinary experiences I have ever known,” said longtime customer Gaye Currier, formerly of Roxboro, N.C. “Our birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, and life’s milestones were always held at The Bistro. We knew there was never disappointment but a grand time to be had by all. Their Opus room was a favorite. Our mother’s 85th birthday party and other events involving family were held in this room. Even as life’s journey moved us from the area, we would always return to The Bistro 1888 when we were in Roxboro.”

Kelly Epperly Clark, a 13-year member of The Bistro wait staff, chimed in via text message, “I enjoyed the work and the customers, but my favorite memories were the after hours, when the staff would just hang at the bar and tell stories and laugh for hours. The best nights were the nights Margaret would go to the kitchen, late night, and just make us a feast, and Barb would lay it all out on the bar, buffet style.”

Another long-time employee, Stacy Wilson, called her time at The Bistro “the best job for thirteen years. Barb and Margaret are great people to work for. They served great food and [created] many memories for the guest and staff.

“I will miss the great customers. It is so sad they are closing,” Wilson said.

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