Longtime Houston residents are well aware of how much Montrose has changed over the past two or three decades. However, it’s surprising to see how much it has changed just in the past five years.
Former Houston Press restaurant critic Katharine Shilcutt wrote an article about the “restaurant gentrification” of Montrose in August 2011. It was a retrospective that looked all the way back to 1997. Obviously, many restaurants have come and gone since then, but when Houston Press staffer Abrahán Garza happened to come across the article again, it was a little shocking to realize how many have closed in only five years. Some were practically institutions. Others were just blips on the radar.
Anyone who believes the restaurant business isn’t fraught with peril might change his mind after seeing the churn of comings and goings. For the restaurant owners who have survived all of this: Pat yourselves on the back today. You deserve it.
September 2011: Greatfull Taco, 2411 South Shepherd. It didn’t even last a year before selling out to Torchy’s, but it will be forever memorable for sending one of the weirdest press releases ever to the Houston Press. (The owner's referring to himself as a "soldier of fortune and mercenary" was one of the least-weird statements.) They just don’t write ’em like they used to. Talented chef Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio ended up at underrated restaurant Hawthorne, which had a similarly short life span. To the best of our knowledge, he hasn’t helmed a restaurant kitchen since, which is a pity.
November 2011: Café Moustache, 507 Westheimer. This restaurant space has been nothing but trouble ever since restaurateur Manfred Jachmich closed SoVino in 2010. (See also: Roots Bistro and Radical Eats.) He reopened it as Café Moustache, which proved a great disappointment for diners and restaurant critics alike, so it was no surprise when it shuttered.
December 2011: Fabio’s Italian Bar & Grill, 212 Westheimer. Owner Fabio Milano closed his restaurant to focus on his fresh pasta business at 2129 West Alabama. (By the way, if you’ve never stopped by to purchase some fresh ravioli or the tiramisu, remedy that oversight right away.) The former space is now home to Njoy Thai Restaurant.
December 2011: Ruggles Grill, 903 Westheimer. In one of the most controversial restaurant closings ever, Ruggles Grill shuttered amid scandal as employees clamored for chef-owner Bruce Molzan to pay back wages and tips that he owed them. Molzan admitted he needed to “catch up” on $14,000 or $15,000 but the situation had been “blown out of proportion.” It’s unknown whether the back wages were ever paid, but what’s for sure is the building was demolished in October 2012. Supposedly, a second concept by the owners of Triniti was going to be built there, but that never happened. All that’s there now is a vacant lot.
March 2012: Kraftsmen Café, 4100 Montrose. Chef Scott Tycer’s Montrose cafe closed, but really only to get a new life in the former Textile spot adjacent to the big Kraftsmen Baking facility in The Heights. The next place to take over the spot, Eatsie Boys, didn’t stay long, but that was for a pretty good reason. (See below.)
September 2012: Concepción, 819 West Alabama. This restaurant originally opened as Oceans in 2010, then rebranded in 2012. Chef Jonathan Jones, fresh off his critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful stint at Xuco Xicana (later Cook & Collins and now Stoked Tacos & Tequila), got to work on expanding the seafood-driven menu in April 2012. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived relationship. Only five months later, Jones was out and Concepción was closed. As far as we know, the space was never a restaurant again, but Jones eventually landed on his feet at El Big Bad, where he’s been for the past two years. Some of his “greatest hits” from his Xuco Xicana and Concepción years, like the pumpkin seed hummus and excellent ceviche, made it onto the menu there, too.
October 2012: Ziggy’s Healthy Grill, 302 Fairview. This one is nothing to be blue over. It was only a temporary closing so it could be rebranded to Gratifi, which we just featured earlier this week as having one of Houston’s most dog-friendly restaurant patios.
April 2013: Bocados, 1312 West Alabama. The popular brunch and steak night spot closed and the owners went on to open Red Ox (a restaurant that we don’t hear much about). Louisiana-based The Brick & Spoon took over the space, but, as discussed later on, didn’t find good fortune there.
May 2013: Café Adobe, 2111 Westheimer. The beloved spot for margaritas and Tex-Mex shuttered after 32 years of business following the death of owner Scott Cragin. CEO Bob Borochoff decided to focus on two remaining locations, in Sugar Land and at the Marq-E Center.
June 2013: Roots Bistro, 507 Westheimer. Remember what we said about 507 Westheimer and that it’s not been good for any restaurateur since 2010? Even well-regarded chef German Mosquera’s well-executed, vegetarian-friendly menu couldn’t overcome the bad voodoo. He and the owners parted ways before the end, and chef Chandler Rothbard (now at Animal Farm) stepped in. One thing that certainly didn’t help the restaurant’s reputation was an ill-conceived marquee slogan that compared beer to domestic violence. After that, the feeling among some diners was, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”
Distasteful sign outside Houston restaurant. Roots Bistro— Scott Wilson (@swilson191) April 13, 2013
507 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77006
June 2013: Feast, 219 Westheimer. Many Houstonians loved the British nose-to-tail establishment that took up residence in the house where chef Georges Guy’s Chez Georges used to be — but not enough to keep it open long-term. After a bittersweet final feast and a veritable "garage sale" of dishes, decor and supplies the following day, two of the principals moved. However, chef Richard Knight stayed in Houston, where he now oversees Hunky Dory in The Heights. Maybe it's not Feast, but we love it just the same.
January 2014: Mo Mong (later Dua), 1201 Westheimer. Rebranding to Dua didn’t save this Montrose staple, tucked away in the corner of the strip center anchored by El Real Tex-Mex that now houses Mala Sichuan. The gay-friendly establishment was known for its guest DJs, bellinis, cosmopolitans and acceptable if not mind-blowing pan-Asian fare.