CARBONDALE — Brazilian restaurant Sabor de Mel will shut its doors Sunday.
The eatery moved to its current location at 607 S. Illinois Ave., the former home of Café Mélange, in September 2016, from a smaller location across the street.
Owner Melba Gastal said the new space offered ample storage and a bigger kitchen, but was ultimately too large and costly for the restaurant’s modest customer base to support.
“Even though I knew it was going to be so big for me, we decided to come, just to try,” Gastal said. “And I told the owner, ‘OK, we’re gonna try for one year, and if it doesn’t work, we’re gonna close.’”
Gastal said she believes high taxes imposed by the city and the construction along South Illinois Avenue hurt business over the last year. She added that the street’s reconfigured curbs seem to deter customers.
“People are not very happy about that, because they cannot access the restaurant right away. They have go to a little bit farther to come inside. … This also hurts a little bit, I think,” Gastal said.
According to Gastal, Reema’s Indian Cuisine will be moving into the space. The owner of Reema’s did not return a phone call on Thursday.
“I’m happy for them. They have been here for more than 20 years, and I think they have a good customer (base) that usually goes there,” Gastal said.
Gastal, who previously worked as a researcher in animal reproduction at Southern Illinois University, said she plans to return to the field as a volunteer. Her husband, Eduardo Gastal, is a professor of animal science, food and nutrition at SIU.
But Gastal said she's happy with the food she served and that she’s open to the possibility of trying the restaurant again in a different location.
“I closed the business here at this location. I’m gonna go Brazil for a vacation, and when I get back I’m gonna see what I’m gonna do,” Gastal said.
Sabor de Mel is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Sunday.