No More Second Chances for The Durham House – It's Closing
Happier days: The Durham House's initial leadership team at its optimistic beginning. From left to right: bar consultant Aaron Lara, restaurateur Raj Natarajan Jr. and opening chef Don Schoenburg.
Photo by Phaedra Cook
Sad news on Houston's dining front: The Durham House’s chef, Mike McElroy, has to move to Spokane, Washington, for personal reasons and proprietor Raj Natarajan Jr. has decided it's time to close up shop. The last day of service will be this Saturday, June 25.
McElroy was actually the second chef of The Durham House during its short lifespan. Original chef Don Schoenburg stepped down in January. Respected bartender Aaron Lara consulted on the initial cocktail menu and after he moved, James Caronna stepped in and did an outstanding job with the program.
The Durham House earned an excellent review from the Houston Chronicle’s restaurant critic, Alison Cook. One of our own reviewers, Nicholas L. Hall, was initially less enthusiastic after he perceived consistency and execution flaws that didn’t seem to justify the menu prices.
Mix master James Caronna with the Sansa Cocktail (l) and Vermouth Panache (r).
However, it was because of The Durham House’s overall positive aspects that Hall selected the restaurant as a top candidate for our first-time-ever “Second Chances” project. He revisited and re-evaluated the restaurant. This time, Hall decided The Durham House had “become the excellent restaurant we could previously see just under the surface.” It makes the closing even more tragic.
The Durham House rarely seemed busy, and the reasons are unclear. Was it the location? The price point? Did people give up on it too soon? Was it inconsistent?
It could be any of those things, but what is for certain is that the leadership staff and owner of The Durham House put everything they had into it.
Don’t count Natarajan out yet, though. He’s already planning a new concept that is slated to open this fall. It will certainly benefit from the lessons learned at The Durham House.
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