The Biggest Disappointments of 2011

Categories: Leftovers

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The upside of Byrd's Market closing: Georgia's Farm to Market coming downtown.
I think that 2012 is shaping up to be Houston's year, after a long 2011 featuring false starts, delayed openings, unexpected closings and failures to launch.

That's not to say that 2011 didn't have its perks: Look for our list of the year's best new restaurant later this week. But it came with its share of disappointments, too.

Byrd's Market flies the coop: After what seemed like eons, Rusty Powers finally opened Byrd's Market, which many downtowners hoped would be the great grocery store they'd lacked for years. The location at Main and Prairie was perfect: right on the light rail line and close to the action, in a beautifully redone historic building with high ceilings and plenty of light. But the space was utilized poorly, with most of the footprint devoted to Powers's cafe instead of the tiny grocery and deli section. Less than a year after opening, the produce bins were devoid of fruits and veggies and the shelves carried only gourmet dried goods that could be procured anywhere else in town. The food in the cafe was never very good either, and Byrd's Market finally gave up the ghost in July. The silver lining to this cloud? The much more established Georgia's Farm to Market is moving in, and bringing real groceries with it.

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Whatever becomes of So Vino/Cafe Moustache, the popular wine bar will likely always remain in place.
Cafe Moustache takes us for a ride: When longtime Montrose restaurateur Manfred Jachmich closed So Vino in the summer of last year, there were hopes that whatever he opened next in the space would be better than the expensive yet downtrodden food he'd been serving at So Vino for the past few years. Instead, we got Cafe Moustache, which offered different food -- "French" instead of "Italian" -- yet it was still as downtrodden and expensive as ever. Not surprisingly, Cafe Moustache closed too. But that's where the good news ends: Jachmich reportedly intends to team up with Ruggles chef Bruce Molzan when Molzan opens his new pizza place in the old So Vino location next year. Whether that will actually happen or not is up for debate, however...

Restaurants take their staff for a ride: 2011 was the year the servers fought back against unscrupulous managers, most notably when Ruggles staff walked out on a busy Saturday night earlier this month after chef and owner Bruce Molzan had failed to pay them overtime and tips for months. Several employees filed a lawsuit against the restaurant, which joined lawsuits from servers across the city as Brasserie 19, Reef, Bombay Pizza and Blue Water Seafood were all hit with similar lawsuits of their own.

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Torchy's Tacos dull grey aesthetic doesn't do its former tenant justice.
Greatfull Taco dead heads: In a flame-out that resembled that classic Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, First Fig, owner Paul West's candle most definitely did not last the night. His restaurant, Greatfull Taco, was a deliberate homage to Torchy's Tacos, which would not franchise to West. His solution? Open a better version of it here in Houston, complete with the craziest press release I've ever personally received. The redesigned building at 2411 S. Shepherd was beautiful, and the food -- standard "gourmet taco" fare -- was far better than expected. But soon, Greatfull Taco lost its chef, and shortly after, its lease. In a final ironic twist, Torchy's Tacos moved into the very same space that once aspired to be bigger and better than Torchy's itself.

The Brownstone has foundation issues: For a very long time, The Brownstone was one of Houston's swankiest hidden gems. The upscale, out-of-the-way River Oaks restaurant on Virginia was filled with antiques -- and in later years, this description extended to the food and clientele as well. When it closed a few years ago, no one was terribly surprised. But when it reopened this year, there was great hope that The Brownstone would reclaim its former glory, with Tony's alum Chef Olivier Ciesielski creating a menu for the new joint and a cute cocktail program in place. Those hopes were short-lived, though, as The Brownstone never quite lived up to its promise and closed a few months later. Bruce Molzan -- whose name we're starting to associate with some pretty miserable locations -- said that he hoped to move into the location and start a new restaurant. But, as stated above, he's kind of busy right now...

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Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

Call it how you see it but one thing is very certain - any time El Real is mentioned it is going to get a lot of conversation. I have never really seen a place get so much love and hate in the same discussion. There seems to be no gray when discussing it. It's either downright disgust or complete shiny happy love. At least this time we didn't have to revisit the tired conspiracy theory of HP promoting the place only because of past relationships.

And for the record, I like the place.TA

ec
ec

I will have to say El Real was the biggest disappointment.  Salty food, stale/undercooked tortlila chips, flavorless salsa,  etc were pretty much the norm on my two trips.  I guess food critics love that they put Wolf Brand Chili on their enchiladas.  No thank you.

Sarah Rufca
Sarah Rufca

I love you because you include Edna St. Vincent Millay poetry in posts.

Wuwu
Wuwu

Worst meals we have had this year go to:

1. El Real, total joke, food awful.  Sorry but these guys just missed.  2.  Tan Tan, another joke, flavorless food and was really disspointed.3.  Greatful Taco, not because the food was not good but the owner a real douche.4.  Brassiere 19, sorry folks don't see what all the rave is about.5.  Coppa, ok the meatballs are tasty but the other things were very average.   

Some of the best meals so far:1.  Cafe TH, this place are real gem.  Minh the owner best restaurant guy in town, bar none!2.  TQLA, have had many a stellar offerings from chef Tommy.3.  Philippe, outstanding, really enjoyed every aspect.4.  Up, the smoked salmon major league appetizer for sure.5.  Raku, really like the food, interesting offering and nice setting.6.  Masaraff's, you pay for it but what Russel and his father are doing and attention to quailty excelletn.7. BRC, cobb salad a real treat, go just for this.8.  AKA, basil wings are best in town, just don't tell anyone.

Best drinks so far:1.  Anvil, a real special place.2.  Ava, downstairs bar cozzy place to have a glass of wine and apps.

Cheers, from the Wu! 

bill slick
bill slick

yeah, the drinks at Anvil better be special for $12 a pop

Wyatt
Wyatt

Are you crazy? Are you high? Or just an ordinary guy?

Jessica
Jessica

I am a 26 years old girl, down to earth and cute but still single ... I  wanna find my lover who  can give me a real love,so I joined in the seekcasual.COM,it's the best club for  man and woman finding their intimate encounters. Well, you do not have to be lonely , you  can meet the Mr. or Miss. Right there.

MadMac
MadMac

But soon, Paul West lost his mind, Greatfull Taco lost its chef, and shortly after, its lease.

See, fixed that right up for you. You're welcome. 

Huey
Huey

One of my most disappointing moments was sitting down at El Real Tex-Mex and trying their overpriced, overcooked food. Then watching HP give them Best of 2011 awards after slighting them in previous reviews.

Major disappointment.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

For all its flaws, which I didn't shy away from recounting in my review, I still love El Real. I love its cheese enchiladas, I love its salsas, I love its lardy refried beans, I love its towering Tex-Mex burger, I love its patio, I love its beautiful neon sign. It's not everybody's cup of tea, but you know what? That's okay, because taste is subjective.  :)

bill slick
bill slick

you love one of its owners: Rob Walsh

Jrflanne
Jrflanne

Some of the worst salsa I have ever had. Ever. El Real is overpriced and overhyped. I can find better TexMex just about anywhere in this cit. 

Bradg
Bradg

Their salsas are some of the best I've ever had.  I refuse most salsas/chips at almost all Tex-Mex restaurants because they take up stomach space for nothing other than greasy chips and subpar salsa.  El Real's chips are excellent...thin and crisp and salty and their hot salsa is divine!!  LOVE it!!!!

Kelli
Kelli

I love El Real.  LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Texmex01
Texmex01

I had dinner there two nights ago, went with the Cheese Enchiladas as usual, and as always, they were perfect!

Hbeard85
Hbeard85

Same thing with Dim Sum King. I ran out to try it after it got Best of 2011. Horrible experience, and when I looked back, it got a less than stellar review only a few weeks prior to being named. What gives?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I was the one who gave Dim Sum King the BOH award this year, and that's because I've always had great meals there. I believe it was Mai who visited DSK a few weeks before our BOH issue came out, and she had a "less than stellar" experience. That was a blog post, not a review. Come to think of it, I don't know if DSK has ever been reviewed...

Hbeard85
Hbeard85

I'm really glad you had a good experience there. I'm just not likely to frequent DSK again. I'd love it if a review was done of DSK. Actually, a Dim Sum Crawl Review would be awesome. Dooooo eeeeeet.

bill slick
bill slick

you're the only person in Houston that gave a rat's ass about Grateful Taco

Wyatt
Wyatt

You done a survey, or something? The failed Torchy's franchising was enough to pique people's interest, if I recall.

Kelli
Kelli

I actually did give a rat's ass about Greatfull Taco and was sorely disappointed to see the warm beautiful wood interior ripped out for the dreary dentist's chair gray that now resides at Torchy's.  Way to be a dick Slick.

elgallodemontrose
elgallodemontrose

Well, she and I make two then. I really liked the place but I totally got the "enjoy it because it won't be here long" vibe.

CMN
CMN

and me makes three.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

A pizza place right across from Dolce Vita? I definitely DON'T want what Bruce Molzan is smoking.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

Well hell, a late comment to say that the Ruggles Bistro signage is already up.  Who knows what he's doing.  Hope it's not pizza.  I took one for the team a while ago at Ruggles Green.  Terrible pizza.  Needs to stick to salads.

Clay
Clay

Unless it has SKEE BALL!!

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