While toasts are usually reserved for happier events or for New Year's Eve, we thought it appropriate to toast the dearly departed restaurants which closed this past year, wishing those who had to close them future successes and the wind at their backs:
To all we love who are not here, to them we drink this Christmas cheer.
Without further ado or sappiness, here are the restaurants that were gone too soon, those that we'll miss the most in 2011 and beyond. Please leave your own remembrances in the comments section below if we missed any of your favorites.
Addisaba 7668 De Moss Drive
There are only a handful of Ethiopian restaurants in Houston, far fewer than, say, Dallas or D.C. And it's a damn shame, as it's one of the best cuisines on earth, even if it's criminally underappreciated. You heard me. When Addisaba closed, it was a blow to the small Ethiopian dining scene, but the silver lining is that another great place opened to fill the void: Sheba Cafe.
Bailey's American Grille 2320 NAZA Parkway, Seabrook
The spectacular implosion of Bailey's American Grille and the ensuing news coverage was probably the most salacious restaurant news story of the year. Owner Brad Bailey was accused by employees, customers and contractors of mishandling money and failing to meet financial obligations of just about nearly every kind. And during all of this brouhaha, Bailey had the chutzpah to announce plans for a brand new restaurant on the Kemah waterfront.
Brisa Cocina Mexicana 5161 San Felipe
The recipient of a spot on Robb Walsh's 100 best Houston dishes list for its majestic salchi-burger, Brisa sadly closed in July. Both the burger and the fabulous Sunday brunch will be mightily missed.
Cafe Rose 800 West Sam Houston Parkway
Although I was usually one of the only people inside the extraordinarily beautiful Cafe Rose, enjoying a cappuccino and a baked good of some variety (and, yes, this should have been a sign), I adored the cozy cafe that was a little sister to Bistro Alex upstairs. Even coffee king David Buehrer approved of the place and its lattes. It closed last month to make way for Bistro Bar, a cocktail companion to the upstairs restaurant, which is a shame. West Houston -- and City Centre -- has plenty of bars, but hardly any elegant nooks to enjoy a well-crafted cup of coffee.
Dessert Shoppe 512 West 19th Street
This lovely little bakery in the Heights was the product of two sisters -- Sara and RaeMarie Villar -- who were fourth-generation Heights residents that had always hoped to open a neighborhood sweet shop. Sara, a pastry chef who graduated from Houston's Culinary Institute LeNotre, had previously worked at Rao's, and her desserts were a hit in the Heights. Sadly, it closed after being open less than a year.
Fins Seafood, Sushi & Grill 2810 Westheimer
We loved Fins Seafood, Sushi & Grill. We loved its convenient location along the River Oaks-y portion of Westheimer, which had formerly been Rickshaw Far East Bistro (which we really didn't love all that much). We loved its salt and pepper shrimp. We loved its happy hour. We loved it so much, we gave it a Best of Houston award for Best Shrimp Dish. All that love didn't keep the place from shutting its doors -- like Dessert Shoppe -- less than a year after opening. I hate it when Don Henley is right about stuff.
Josephine's / La Trattoria 1209 Caroline / 6504 Westheimer
These two very old-school Italian restaurants might not have impressed critics or food snobs, but they were stalwarts on the Houston dining scene: restaurants that had hosted innumerable celebratory dinners, baby showers, family gatherings and date nights, for better or worse. La Trattoria announced its closure this week after 28 years in business, while the old Josephine's spot will soon become the new location for Dirt Bar, which is being forced to move by the looming specter of the Walmart that's planned for Yale.
Miguelito's 5506 Richmond
For many Houstonian's, Miguelito's was their first taste of Venezuelan food. Those who crave the stuff will have to get their arepas and pabellón criollo elsewhere now, but not all is lost: An equally delicious -- if not Venezuelan -- restaurant has opened in its place, the couscous-heavy Casablanca.
The Rockwood Room 5709 Woodway
Love it or hate it, the food and the crew at The Rockwood Room always provoked strong responses from people. Brash young chefs Michael Dei Maggi and Greg Lowry -- both of whom were featured in our Chef Tats feature -- have landed on their feet elsewhere after the Rat Pack-y place closed almost without notice in June: Dei Maggi is at Mo's, A Place for Steaks, after a stint at Tony Vallone's Ciao Bello and Caffe Bello, while Lowry is manning the kitchen quite successfully at Voice.
Sabetta/Cafe Zol 2411 South Shepherd
This poor, snakebit location has seen too many good restaurants come and go recently. Is there an Indian burial ground underneath the pavement along this shady stretch of Shepherd? While the Scandinavian-style tapas at Cafe Zol were interesting, Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio's wonderful Sabetta was truly the gem we'll miss the most.
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Textile 611 West 22nd Street
There really was nothing else like Textile in Houston. Perhaps that's why it didn't last. The height of Scott Tycer's frenzied yet triumphant arc through Houston's dining scene introduced truly high-end, high-concept dining with its five- and seven-course chef's menus as well as pastry wunderkind Plinio Sandalio. Sandalio is now lost to Austin, chef de cuisine Ryan Hildebrand is hard at work on his new restaurant -- Triniti -- and Tycer seems to have reached a mellow happy medium: He's still running Kraftsmen Bakery, responsible for supplying many of Houston's best restaurants, and has opened a second location of the cozy Kraftsmen Cafe in Textile's old building.
Two Rows 2400 University Boulevard
After 14 years keeping the Rice Village in beer and pub grub, Houston's only brewpub closed in October to great lamenting from the beer community. Even if you didn't like the beer or the food, it was argued, you had to hate that Houston no longer had even one single brewpub to call its own. Thanks for nothing, as usual, TABC.