With the news that popular pastry chef Plinio Sandalio plans to move to Austin to work with David Bull, it didn't come as a huge surprise when I found out via text message late last night that Textile had closed its doors.
What did come as a surprise was the email I received the next day from Mark Sullivan, Textile's publicist, which came right as I was picking up the phone to call and confirm the news. The email read, in part:
Scott Tycer's TEXTILE restaurant in the Heights has temporarily closed for the summer as Tycer and his team look for a more suitable location for the next incarnation of the widely acclaimed restaurant and foodie outpost.
Tycer has been looking to move the restaurant for some time because of the relative inaccessibility to his audience and is currently considering several possible locations that could house a hybrid concept of TEXTILE that would also incorporate a lower priced gastropub.
This isn't the first news we've heard of Tycer wanting to incorporate a gastropub into the restaurant. When that news first made the rounds, the question on everyone's lips was, "Where?" There certainly isn't enough room in the notoriously tiny dining room at Textile to accommodate anything else.
So, is it true? Is Textile really just taking a summer vacation to sort out its new digs? Scott Tycer cleared up any rumors or misconceptions about this hiatus. Textile is most definitely closed, but something new will rise from its ashes very soon.
"We were seeing a little bit of a downturn, and business was not as good as it could be. So my thought was that we need to get on with our ideas of moving," Tycer explained on the phone this afternoon.
It turns out that moving locations has long been a concern of Tycer's, as well as of his new chef and partner, Ryan Hildebrand.
"There have been other things that I've been thinking about, in terms of doing a multi-purpose concept with Textile, and I've been trying to think of ways to pull that off in that little nook in the Heights," Tycer said of the 32-person dining room that's located in one wing of the historic Oriental Textile Mill.
The gastropub concept that has been bandied around lately is much more than just a passing thought; it's something Tycer is deeply passionate about. In his estimation, a gastropub will capture two entirely different audiences: those looking for an upscale evening and those looking to enjoy high-caliber food in a far more casual setting. He's sure to point out that a "gastropub" to him doesn't mean a bar that serves food; it means an exceptional kitchen that also happens to have an exceptional wine, beer and spirits program as well.
"Our focus is to do something that captures more of a market than just people who want to come out and have a five- or seven-course tasting menu, for people that want something more traditional like an a la carte menu," he elaborated.
"We want to do our menus alongside a limited and reasonable a la carte menu, along with some small plates. And we want to offer a casual environment where you get the best of the culinary world alongside the best of the spirits, liquor, beer and wine worlds." The latter world would be, according to Tycer, very mixologist- and sommelier-driven, with an emphasis on plenty of local beers and spirits.
Tycer and his partners are currently looking at three different parts of town for the new restaurant: downtown, River Oaks and -- most surprisingly -- the Post Oak/Galleria area. Tycer lamented the lack of truly inventive restaurants in that area: "It's either Robert Del Grande and RDG + Bar Annie, or it's a bunch of chains," he sighed.
And the location will be crucial for determining what the "new" Textile will look like. That's right; they're keeping the name.
But in a twist, Tycer said they will likely name the gastropub portion of the restaurant something entirely different, but in keeping with the tactile feel of "Textile." It's part of his plan to completely separate the two areas while sharing a kitchen.
Along with a separate manager for the gastropub side of the house, Tycer would also prefer to physically separate the two areas to delineate between the Textile side -- which will continue to serve elaborate and fascinating multi-course meals -- and the far more casual gastropub side.
"With a gastropub attached to a nicer restaurant, you have a lot of energy and an unstructured side -- I want to be able to offer that," he explained. "The thing with a gastropub is that it's everything you want it to be -- food, liquor, beer, wine -- at a really high value level. It's everything to everybody."
Attracting two entirely different audiences to one restaurant can be tricky in a city like Houston, which isn't entirely acclimated to the concept of an upscale dining room with a more casual "grill" attached to it. Tycer is mindful of this, however: "I think you have to be very careful in how you design the space. In every action and at every point of service, [the different concepts have] to be differentiated in both rooms. Staff have to be dressed more casually in the gastropub than in the main dining room."
In the meantime, the space that houses Textile and the Heights bakery where he makes Kraftsmen bread -- an area of town that Tycer felt just wasn't capturing the traffic they needed -- will continue to exist, but only as a bakery. Tycer has no plans to move Kraftsmen at this time (although I'm hoping that he might be persuaded to turn the dining room into an additional storefront for the fantastic bakery).
As for Tycer and Hildebrand, they'll be working in the kitchen at Gravitas, doing a little remodeling of the space as well as the menu. "I liked the menu that Jason [Gould] had in place but there were a few things on there that were Australian, and I'm not Australian -- it felt a little disingenuous." The new menu will remain seasonal but will reflect more of Tycer's personal taste.
If all goes well, the new Textile will open in the fall, but that all depends on finding the perfect location and building out the new space. But that's not the part that Tycer is sweating right now; it's coming up with a new name for the gastropub.
"The hardest part of opening a restaurant is naming it," he laughs. "Gravitas was almost called 807 Taft, after all."