Restaurant News

Openings & Closings: Cova Is Over, but Dunkin Donuts Has Just Begun

In the grand tradition of giving both good and bad news, the bad comes first this week.

Both locations of Cova Hand-Selected Wines closed after service this past Sunday. In an interesting side note, it was The Tasting Room's Jonathan Horowitz who was first with the news, pointing out the closure on Twitter. The competing wine bar's brand manager later Tweeted: "I'm hoping we can help some staff land on their feet."

While there was no answer when we called either of Cova's locations (one phone line went straight to a fax machine), e-mails from a source state that the wine bar had been in financial trouble for some time after the departure of its previous owner, wine guru Monsterville Horton IV.

There was a time six years ago when the original Cova on Washington Avenue was doing so well, its investors couldn't open a second location fast enough. Construction in Rice Village near the second location on Kirby seriously cut into Cova's finances in 2009, and it doesn't seem as if the locations ever fully recovered.

After Horton left, at least two more showrunners were brought in to try and save Cova. The most recent, New York-based Eoghan Dillman, was set to purchase the entire outfit -- according to a source -- but walked away after conducting some forensic accounting. Dillman confirmed via e-mail that he had dissolved his partnership with Cova's owners.

In other bad news, Randy Rucker's planned Museum District restaurant -- conāt -- has been shelved for now. Rucker wrote on his blog: "It's unfortunate that restaurant conat will not be opening as planned, however, restaurant conat is not dead."

Rucker also told the Houston Chronicle's Alison Cook that although he and his investor would be going their separate ways, he hopes to "continue to bring great things to this city." Unfortunately, this marks the third in a series of deflated projects in the past year for the talented if testy chef, including the incarnation of conāt Rucker had initially envisioned as a companion restaurant to the now-closed Bootsie's in Tomball.

There's some good news to come out of the Museum District this week, though, and that's the information from Eater Houston that Lucille's will be opening soon. Chef Chris Williams told Eater editor Amber Ambrose that the Southern spot will feature "comfort food with some European and Asian influences" and should be open on June 1 if all goes well.

Dunkin' Donuts is set to open a slew of new restaurants in Houston, too. A little more than a dozen, in fact. The Massachusetts-based donut stores are trying to give hometown favorite Shipley a run for their money, with 16 stores planned for the next six years.

Despite persistent rumors, one of those Dunkin' Donuts stores is definitely not going in at the newly vacated corner of Dunlavy and Westheimer, says Swamplot, so knock it off already. The 16 new stores would be in addition to the half-dozen locations scattered throughout the city, but some Houston residents don't want any more Dunkin' Donuts than we already have.

Stated food truck Eatsie Boys earlier this week on Twitter: "Stay out of Houston, Dunkin Donuts. @ShipleyDo_Nuts for life."

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Katharine Shilcutt