After five years as a popular Rochester downtown spot, it’s the end of the road for Porch Fried Chicken and its downstairs counterpart, Boxcar Hippie.
Chef Justin Schoville and Lindsay Zubay announced on social media Saturday that they will close the doors of their eateries in the historic railroad depot building at 20 Fourth St. SE — permanently — Sept. 19.
“This is a very hard decision for us because we love this restaurant, the historic space, our loyal guests, and especially the wonderful team of people who made this place what it is,” they wrote. “To all of you who breathed life into this space, we cannot thank you enough. You put everything you had into trying to make people happier than when they arrived, and for that we are grateful.”
As to why they are shutting down, the reasons are the well-known challenges of 2021 — COVID-19 and staffing shortages
“With the ever changing effects of COVID, we’ve had to change and re-change our day to day operations and it has drastically affected our business structure,” they wrote. “In order to operate to our highest potential, and provide the absolute best service possible, we need to have enough staff on at all times. We do not have enough to properly run service. We want our guests to have the best dining experience each time, and we cannot do that at this time.”
They originally opened under the name of The Porch in 2016, which was soon followed by the launch of the Cellar in the small basement area. The Cellar served cocktails and small plates.
A vegetarian spinoff of the Hot Chip gourmet burger bar later took over the Cellar space.
The Hot Chip Vegan Burger Bar quickly grew in popularity, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It made sense to merge the vegan burger concept with the original Hot Chip at 1190 16th St SW.
In 2020, Schoville and Zubay rebranded The Porch as Porch Fried Chicken to make it more accessible with more of a focus on its signature fried chicken, and more sandwiches with a counter-service format.
That left the basement open. Combining the colors of the 1970s and '80s, with the style of Atari and the vibe of Cheech & Chong, they created Hippie Boxcar in January to pair with the burrito menu.
While they are pull the plug on the Porch/Boxcar Hippie project, Schoville and Zubay will still be cooking for Rochester at Hot Chip, as well as Mr. Pizza North at 4040 28th St NW.