Restaurant News

Openings & Closings: The Washington Restaurant Exodus Continues

This past Wednesday marked the third restaurant closing on Washington Avenue in a month. It started with Coppa Ristorante Italiano on October 4. Polovina followed on October 30 and on November 5, TQLA joined the list of the fallen.

A partner in TQLA, Scott Lindsey, told the Houston Chronicle that, "due to higher food costs and the decreased traffic flow on Washington we just couldn't continue to provide the quality of service and fresh quality product that our customers have come to expect from TQLA."

Polovina, at least, might reopen elsewhere. Owner Mohammed Al-Ahmed told Cleverley Stone on her show on CBS Radio 650 that he's hoping to reopen the Italian restaurant downtown. Eater Houston has a recap of that conversation.

With that being said, a downtown location is no guarantee of success. The Burger Guys, Goro & Gun and Georgia's Market were all located within the same few blocks downtown and all failed over this past year.

It's not the only new place Al-Ahmed is working on and the clues have been there for months now. Openings & Closings commenter "Bobbyfreshpants" mentioned Al-Ahmed's new venture, Beirut Fine Lebanese Cuisine, way back on June 20.

Eater Houston reported coming across a mention of "Beirut Fine" in Polovina's web page title on October 30. Al-Ahmed acknowledged the "typo" on Cleverley's show and confirmed that he and some business partners are working on the new place. It's is slated to be at 4105 Washington Ave., just a little farther down from defunct Polovina. It's an odd choice, considering that Al-Ahmed told Cleverly he closed Polovina because ""The Heights and Washington Avenue isn't what it used to be five years ago."

Midtown had a restaurant closing this week as well. Culturemap Houston reported that BlackFinn American Grille has shuttered. BlackFinn Ameripub locations in other cities, including Austin, remain open.

Jeff Lloyd, a regional partner at BlackFinn, responded to our inquiry about why the Houston location closed. He wrote:

"There were multiple factors leading to the closure of the Blackfinn American Grill in Midtown. We had a super run there and the Midtown community has been great to Blackfinn American Grille since we opened in 2011. We had a hard-working team and a core group of loyal followers, but the financial performance didn't warrant the restaurant to remain open."

In happier news, the swanky new Whole Foods opened on Post Oak yesterday. The state-of-the-art grocery store has a whole lot of features to interest shoppers and diners alike, including an in-house brewery, a bicycle with a keg cart that an employee will ride around the store and deliver beer to you while you're shopping, a juice bar, a souvlaki counter and a taco and sandwich place with computerized ordering. There's underground parking, a motorized shopping ramp that allows you to take your cart down to your car and a sensor-based system of lights that turn red or green, depending on whether a parking space is open or occupied.

As mentioned in last week's Openings & Closings, Eculent should be opening today in Kemah. The intriguing concept features a selection of tasting menus with enhancements meant to appeal to diners' senses of sight, sound and smell. Per their website, the dining experience includes "custom created scents, choreographed lighting, changing local artwork and a movie quality soundtrack."

Also opening today is The Chicken Ranch, the new fried chicken place in The Heights. The casual, come-as-you-are joint, complete with a big painting of late ABC Channel 13 reporter Marvin Zindler, begins regular service at 11 a.m. Besides fried chicken, The Chicken Ranch offers sides like creamed corn, greens and biscuits with honey butter. Eat there or take it to-go.

In Part 2 of our Chef Chat with Frédéric Perrier, the chef reveals that there's a second Hoggs N Chicks location on the horizon. Although he was unable to confirm the exact location during the interview, there's a very good chance it will be located close to his Italian restaurant, Coco Pazzo. Speaking of that, he's also converting half of Coco Pazzo into a 20-seat tasting menu restaurant called P.M.

Culturemap Houston had an update this week on Gino's East. The Chicago deep-dish pizza chain is expected to open its first location in The Woodlands by the end of the year, hopefully in time to feed masses of hungry holiday shoppers. The Willowbrook area will get its own Gino's East afterward.

While Willowbrook diners are waiting on Gino's, they can go check out the new LA Crawfish location at 249 and Gessner. It's not crawfish season yet, but there are several other Viet-Cajun dishes to choose from, such as phở, blue crabs, snow crab legs, and seasoned chicken wings in a variety of flavors, like 5 Spice Basil and Spicy Garlic.

What did we miss? As always, leave it in the comments section and we may include your mention in next week's post!

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Phaedra Cook
Contact: Phaedra Cook