Gabriela’s Restaurant and Tequila Bar, a neighborhood spot that serves home-style Mexican food on Columbus Avenue between 93rd and 94th Streets, is closing after 15 years, according to a sign posted outside. The restaurant is expected to close on September 23 or 30, according to co-owner Nat Milner.
Nat and Elizabeth Milner are locals, and they previously owned Elizabeth Neighborhood’s Table next door to Gabriela’s. That spot closed in 2017 and has been replaced by Amsterdam Burger Bar.
In an email, Nat Milner explained the difficulties the restaurant has faced.
“After 15 years in this location and 25 years in the neighborhood, we simply could not adjust to the changing market forces. Minimum wage to $15 in 3 short years presented a huge challenge, which we have overcome through hard felt payroll cuts.
However, additionally, that increased wage has now made everything in the neighborhood more expensive. Our local neighbors, the folks we rely on in the 10 blocks around our location, simply have less at the end of the month to go out to eat. Sales are down, food costs are up, and wages are double. We have too much overhead to survive the upcoming long slow winter. We are trying to close with integrity before the end of the month.
Personally we are looking to develop smaller counter service models that require less labor to run like our Taqueria at 44th and 8th. We are in the development of a midtown Vegan concept due to open this winter. We hope to someday return to the Upper West Side in a smaller fashion after the bottom of this cycle has endured and we can see a brighter outlook. We greatly appreciate everyone’s love and support. It has kept us going for the past few years. We are heartbroken to let this go.
Sadly these are the times we are in. Please invite readers to swing by and say goodbye!”
In an interview a few years ago, Nat said that Gabriela’s was actually his uncle’s idea. And it initially had two locations — the one on 93rd and another on 74th.
Gabriela’s was actually formed by my uncle originally back in the early 90s. Gabriela worked in my uncle’s house as a nanny and housekeeper. Gabriela would have cooked dinner for my uncle’s kids, my cousins. The food was amazing. “Gabriela, what kind of food is this?” She’s like, “I don’t know what this is. It’s just stuff I cook at home. This is what I make every day.” He said, “We have to open up a restaurant and do this.”
Thanks to Harry, G. and Gary for tips and photos.