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Breaking News: El Real Closes

The bright lights are fading away.
The bright lights are fading away. Photo by El Real

El Real, Chef Bryan Caswell's Tex-Mex restaurant, has closed indefinitely according to a press release. It opened in 2011 as a partnership with restaurateur Bill Floyd and food writer Robb Walsh. Walsh was the lead food critic at the Houston Press from 2000 to 2010. There is a lawsuit pending against Caswell, with Floyd claiming he is owed $200,000 as reported by Eater Houston.

Floyd is not the only person claiming Caswell owes him money. Today, Miya Shay from ABC13 was on hand as former employees protested in front of El Real and later, Caswell's other restaurant, REEF. The employees claim that they are owed back wages and have had their paychecks bounce, according to abc13.com.

Caswell is currently going through a divorce from his wife Jennifer Caswell, who had become a familiar face in his restaurant businesses. After Hurricane Harvey flooded his signature restaurant REEF, in 2017, he used his charity, the Southern Salt Foundation, to aid victims of the devastating storm. However, it took nearly two years for REEF to reopen. In that time, Caswell split ways with Floyd.

He also departed Oxbow 7, the restaurant he and his wife opened at Le Meridien hotel after only four months and closed his burger joint, Little Bigs in September 2018.  The home he shared with his wife and their blended family was struck by lightning in July 2018. To say the past couple of years have been full of disasters for the acclaimed chef would be an understatement.

For now, all his professional efforts are focused on REEF and 3rd Bar. His personal focus is on his family. Caswell said in the press release, "El Real has been a rewarding endeavor, but I have decided the best recourse is to focus on REEF, my family and my health... I am grateful for those who have been loyal from beginning to end. This is simply the right thing to do at this time."
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.