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Goodbye to Al Geranium's
The abrupt shuttering of Al Geranium's Garden Bistro in mid-October came as a surprise to customers, employees and even the landlord. The property manager for R. M. Crowe, Maria Flores, tersely confirms that the closing was premature in terms of the lease contract, and adds, "The doors of Al Geranium's will not be reopened."

First-time restaurateur Linda Robinson's brave attempt to recreate a Mediterranean dining experience received a lot of press attention, a chorus of oohs and aahs over the decor (which ran the gamut from Greek temples to grapevines) and more mixed reviews of the food and service.

Part of the problem may have been chef shuffling: Robinson opened in March with Culinary Institute of America grad Scott Miller at the helm. He bowed out in just under six months to Bonner Cameron; then Steve Floyd signed on as co-chef. Cameron and Floyd are friends and fellow alumni of the Art Institute of Houston's Culinary School.

"We were doing an amazing business," says Floyd. "We were packed at lunch, nights were picking up and weekends always seemed busy. I guess the investors just didn't work out."

Cameron hopes to find a new home at the Lexington Grille (2005 Lexington, 524-9877); Floyd recently made a job-hunting jaunt to New York City.

Despite their sudden transfer to the ranks of the unemployed, both Floyd and Cameron speak highly of Robinson. "She handled the closing with grace and dignity, making sure all the employees were paid," says Floyd. "I was proud to work for her."

Grocery Store Wars
When is a grocery store not a grocery store? How about when it morphs into a restaurant?

The Houston Business Journal reported recently that the H.E.B. Pantry store soon to open at FM 529 and Barker-Cypress will offer a drive-thru window serving fried and rotisserie-roasted chicken. It's a first for area supermarkets. Take that, Colonel Sanders!

Local chain Cafe Japon has opened sushi bars in two Rice Epicurean stores, 3745 Westheimer at Weslayan and 12516 Memorial at Gessner. Not an entirely new concept: Fiesta tried it first at its Main/Old Spanish Trail location. Before it was closed, that original sushi bar offered an uncomfortable view of the live tilapia innocently blowing bubbles in the nearby seafood department tanks.

-- Margaret L. Briggs

 
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