Rest(aurants) in Peace: Notable Closings of 2012

Categories: Restaurant News

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Photo by Troy Fields
No.
Get a Rope

Trying out a new Tex-Mex concept in Houston is always a risky venture, as so ably demonstrated by three restaurants that flamed out in spectacular fashion this past year. The first, Vida Sexy Tex-Mex, was roundly panned by critics (including the Houston Press) for its rather poorly executed "adults-only" policy, which left the place feeling like a swinger's club that served subpar Mexican food. It closed in November to make way for a second location of Liberty Kitchen. No word on whether or not Liberty Kitchen will keep the pole.

The second, Maggie Rita's, was equally derided upon opening for two chief reasons: (1) taking over several old Ninfa's locations in July and (2) being owned and operated in part by comedian Carlos Mencia, who is neither Texan nor Mexican. (What can I say? People are hardliners here.) Maggie Rita's served none of the old Ninfa's recipes, but served its own ham-fisted versions of Tex-Mex food that somehow cost even more than the already overpriced Ninfa's that came before. One of the "new" Maggie Rita's locations -- this one at Kirby and Richmond -- closed last month.

The third was critical darling Xuco Xicana, owned by Jon Deal and manned by chef Jonathan Jones, which was meant to bring old-school Houston institution El Patio into the 21st century. Xuco Xicana -- or El XX, as it quickly came to be called thanks to a confusing-to-spell-and-pronounce name -- moved into the El Patio location in Midtown in early 2011 and served Jones's take on classic Mexican dishes, including stunning Gulf Coast ceviches and fiery chicken wings. But the new concept never caught on and Jones was asked to leave a year later. He ended up at the equally ill-fated Concepcion, and El XX quietly closed this past summer.

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Photo by Troy Fields
Don't know what you've got till it's gone.
Downtown Demolition

Everyone knows that downtown is a tough market for on-street restaurants, with tunnel traffic sucking most people underground during the day (seriously, folks -- live a little and check out the sunlight once in a freaking while) and many office workers fleeing back to the suburbs at night. And no one knows that more than the slew of restaurants that closed this past year, including Korma Sutra and Bibas Brooklyn Express.

Normally, however, steakhouses do quite well downtown thanks to business lunches and dinners -- but not so for Samba Grille and the Strip House, both of which closed in back-to-back shockers in July. There were rumors that Samba Grille -- which was our 2011 Best of Houston® award-winner for Best Steakhouse -- would reopen in a new space, but that chatter has so far proven untrue.

The Strip House, meanwhile, suffered a rather ignominious death after being locked out by its landlord for non-payment of rent. A Pappas Steakhouse is slated to take its place. Also locked out downtown was Yao Restaurant & Bar, which was one of the original anchors in the still-underpopulated Houston Pavilions.

And just down the block from Korma Sutra, Ziggy's Healthy Grill closed in October after struggling with foot traffic for over a year. The original Ziggy's location in Montrose rebranded itself shortly afterwards as gratifi.

Another rebranding of sorts took place at perennial patio favorite Cabo's, where the Tex-Mex spot closed in May and was quickly taken over by Pepper Jack's (owned by the landlords of the spot, who -- I'm assuming -- thought that simply reopening another Tex-Mex spot in the space would be easy) Initial reports indicate that Pepper Jack's is rocky at best, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it on next year's closings list...


Location Info

Late Nite Pie

302 Tuam, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca

500 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Broken Spoke Cafe - CLOSED

1809 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Ocean's - CLOSED

819 W. Alabama, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Concepcion - CLOSED

819 W. Alabama St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Barbed Rose Steakhouse and Seafood Co. - CLOSED

113 E. Sealy St., Alvin, TX

Category: Restaurant

Coastal Crossing Grill - CLOSED

113 E. Sealy St., Alvin, TX

Category: Restaurant

Stella Sola - CLOSED

1001 Studewood, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Cova Hand Selected Wines (Washington) - CLOSED

5555 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: General

Block 7 Wine Company - CLOSED

720 Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: General

Cova Hand Selected Wines (Kirby) - CLOSED

5600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX

Category: General

Pesce - CLOSED

3029 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Vida Sexy Tex-Mex - CLOSED

4224 San Felipe St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Maggie Rita's Modern Mex - CLOSED

1400 Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Maggie Rita's Modern Mex - CLOSED

3601 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Xuco Xicana

2416 Brazos St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Korma Sutra - CLOSED

706 Main, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Bibas Brooklyn Express - CLOSED

233 Main St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Samba Grille - CLOSED

530 Texas Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Strip House - CLOSED

1200 McKinney St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Ziggy's Bar and Grill - CLOSED

702 Main St., Houston, TX

Category: Music

Cabo, The Original Mix-Mex Grill - CLOSED

419 Travis St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Pass

807 Taft St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Gravitas - CLOSED

807 Taft, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Kraftsmen Bakery

611 W 22nd St., Houston, TX

Category: General

Ruggles - CLOSED

903 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Dharma Cafe - CLOSED

1718 Houston Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Dragon Bowl Asian Bistro - CLOSED

1221 W. 11th St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Nabi - CLOSED

1517 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Zimm's Little Deck - CLOSED

601 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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28 comments
Smedley
Smedley

I know, Late Nite wasn't all that fantastic of a pizza place, but I do miss table top Ms. Pacman and I really did like me some Stanky Whore.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Meh, still worried about Chinese Cafe on Bellaire closing.. That would be tragic, I so love stir fried snow pea leaves, and double spicy chicken...

Lorraine
Lorraine

Didn't Molina's finally close?

Texano78704
Texano78704

Thousands of Houstonians eat in downtown tunnel restaurants every day and all they get is a passing gibe?

Vonnie Maddox
Vonnie Maddox

I miss Steak N' Ale too Sharon. But I think for me it would be Bennigan's. Though I think both of them closed before 2012. lol

Sharon Mixon Lawlis Jackson
Sharon Mixon Lawlis Jackson

I don't have time to read the article right now but I miss Steak "N Ale. It was good food, nice atmosphere and could easily go there to celebrate a birthday or have an intimate meal with someone. I miss that place!

Na Li
Na Li

been gone a while but Green Planet Vegaterian - and I'm not vegaterian but it was my favorite place to eat.

cathiwalsh
cathiwalsh

the closing of t'afia, to be reborn as Sparrow ... 

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

I don't think arson counts as bad luck. :)

kevbevking
kevbevking

@Lorraine Planning to close maybe....but aside from the one that closed on Buffalo Speedway and the other on Hwy 6, none have closed that I know of. You don't hear much about them anymore really.

sphilpot50
sphilpot50

No. Molina's has three locations. Westheimer Rd., Washington Ave, and Bellaire Blvd.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Jimi Austin La Strada closed 3 years ago and has closed as its subsequent incarnations twice more.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@Texano78704 The tunnels are so full of mediocre chains and depressing florescent lighting that it's tough for me to be charmed by them. I didn't like the tunnels when I worked downtown the first time around in the late '90s and I still don't like them today. I'd rather be out in the fresh air during my lunch hour, no matter how hot it gets in Houston. Just a personal preference!  :)

Texano78704
Texano78704

@kshilcutt Even a five minute trek above ground will get you sweaty six months out of the year (or wet if it is raining). It also means you get to pay $15 (or more) for a lunch that might only cost $8 or $10 in the tunnel. I'm happy to eat at mediocre Beck's Prime or Treebeards, as sunlight and fresh air are way overrated. ;)

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