Maba Shutters

The curse wins: Critic-loved Midtown restaurant suddenly shutters

The curse wins: Critic-loved Midtown restaurant suddenly shutters

Maba Pan-Asian diner exterior
Maba Pan-Asian Diner has closed.  Photo by Eric Sandler

Midtown's turbulent restaurant scene has lost another restaurant. Maba Pan-Asian Diner shuttered after service on September 16, chef-owner Wayne Nguyen announced on Facebook

"Maba was created to provide high-quality Asian cuisine at an affordable price. Although we had a tremendous increase in support since our grand opening in December 2016, it saddens us to say that it was not enough to keep our doors open," Nguyen writes. "We want to extend our deepest gratitude to our patrons and to all those who have supported Maba Pan-Asian Diner. It was a huge privilege to have served you."

Maba's lighter, fresher take on Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine earned widespread praise from local food writers. Dishes like a pork belly taco wrapped in a scallion pancake seemed to be the sort of cuisine that Houstonians would embrace. It proved to be such a hit with food writers that Alison Cook, the Houston Chronicle's venerable food critic, rated Maba as the city's 11th best in her 2017 ranking of Houston's top 100 restaurants

Unfortunately, a problematic space — diners have to compete for limited parking spaces with the patrons of the neighboring Buffalo Wild Wings, among other hassles — led Maba to suffer the same fate as predecessors like The Good Life, West Gray Public House, and Anju.

Calling a restaurant space "cursed" is kind of silly; obviously, each business fails or succeeds on its own merits. But when a concept as innovative and affordable as Maba can't find an audience, the building is probably cursed. 

CultureMap has contacted Nguyen to inquire about the specific reason for the decision to close and what his future plans are; we will update this article if he responds. Hopefully, Maba rises again in a better spot; it would be a shame if Houstonians have eaten their last osso bucco Sichuan salad.