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Most Iconic Restaurant Closings

The most iconic restaurant and bar closings in Houston: Shuttered legends that will never be forgotten

The most iconic restaurant, bar closings in Houston: Shuttered legends

News_Felix_Mexican Restaurant_sign
Felix Mexican Restaurant. Courtesy of RoadsideArchitecture.com
Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grill June 2010
Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grill. Courtesy photo
Vargo's Houston restaurant closed
Vargo's. Pinterest.com
5 Blanco's Bar & Grill main restaurant area
Blanco's Bar & Grill. Google Maps
Places-Eat-Ruggles Grill-5115 Westheimer-exterior-1
The Ruggles Grill. Courtesy photo
Cafe Adobe Mexican cafe and restaurant Houston
The site of many happy hour shenanigans, Cafe Adobe gave way to developers in 2013.  Google Maps
News_Felix_Mexican Restaurant_sign
Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grill June 2010
Vargo's Houston restaurant closed
5 Blanco's Bar & Grill main restaurant area
Places-Eat-Ruggles Grill-5115 Westheimer-exterior-1
Cafe Adobe Mexican cafe and restaurant Houston

Anyone who criticized CultureMap's anniversary look at the Biggest Restaurant Closings in Houston for being too focused on disposable trendsters that only obnoxious foodies cared about knows there's another side to the city's restaurant world. One steeped in timeless classics.

With that in mind, here is a list of departed bars and restaurants that stood the test of time and served at least two generations of Houstonians. These are the fallen icons where Houstonians celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions.

While they may be gone, they are surely not forgotten.  

Scott Gertner's Skybar

As though the combination of talented musical acts and a lively scene wasn't enough to keep the crowds coming back for more, the former late-night locale, which opened in 1999 on the penthouse level of a 10-story building in Montrose (the space was home to Cody’s bar before that), also offered a picturesque view of the downtown skyline.

 These are the fallen icons where birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions were celebrated. 

When it was announced that the high-rise would be demolished and replaced by a 30-story residential tower, the club relocated to downtown's Houston Pavilions. Although its stint (2010-2013) at the entertainment, retail and business complex didn’t last long, we suspect there’s a lot more to come from owner and three-time Grammy nominee Scott Gertner. 

Vargo's
Pre-prom dinners, bridal showers and wedding receptions will never be the same without the lake-front, nine-acre property in Memorial. The sprawling venue, complete with a nuptial-ready white gazebo, tranquil gardens, azaleas, peacocks and swans, opened in 1965.

By the end, the food was mostly bad country club banquet fare, but the atmosphere made any occasion memorable. It was ordered to close in 2012 for nonpayment of rent and the address now belongs to luxury apartments, Vargos on the Lake.

Blanco's
The River Oaks country-western bar saw a steady flow of regular clientele from 1982 until 2013. The site of numerous Rodeo committee meetings, Blanco's served as both a low-key lunch spot and a blow-it-out honky tonk. The beloved neighborhood joint, which was a favorite of CultureMap columnist Marene Gustin, was shut down to make room for the St. John’s School's campus expansion.

 Blanco's served as both a low-key lunch spot and a blow-it-out honky tonk. 

While no place will ever recapture the original's vibe, Lizard's Pub has emerged as River Oaks' unofficial watering hole.

Cafe Adobe
The River Oaks area bastion of boozy good times closed in 2013 after a 32-year run to make way for, what else, another luxury apartment building. Always known more for margaritas than food, Cafe Adobe was the site of endless happy hour shenanigans and was a prime gathering spot for Monday gay nights. While the chain still maintains locations in Spring Branch, Clear Lake and Sugar Land, none of them capture quite the same vibe.

The company promised to find a new spot in the neighborhood, but so far those plans have yet to materialize. 

Ruggles Grill
The Montrose eatery served up colossal portions of Southwestern cuisine for 26 years until it shuttered its doors and was bulldozed in 2012. A series of poor business moves (from the alleged nonpayment of tip money leading to a staff walk-out to a lawsuit over an alleged trademark infringement regarding the restaurant's moniker) and the bad press that ensued seemingly played a key part in its final chapter.

Controversial chef/owner Bruce Molzan has since reinvented himself as a devotee of all things Paleo — first at Corner Table and now at newly opened Ruggles Black. Flour may be mostly banished from his menus, but the signature 20-plus item dessert tray lives on. 

Triniti chef/owner Ryan Hildebrand acquired the land for a casual restaurant and bakery called FM 903. However, despite Eater tagging 903 as one of this fall's most anticipated openings, no activity has occurred at the site for some time and it remains a vacant lot.

Honorable Mention: Felix Mexican Restaurant
Technically, the retro Tex-Mex joint in the heart of Montrose closed in 2008 after a 60 year run, more than a year before CultureMap launched in the fall of 2009. However, it doesn't feel like quite that long since we lost the famous source of queso and chili gravy, so it's included here.

Of course, it helps that the space itself still stands, even with Uchi's high-style, Japanese-inspired makeover.

Chairs and other artifacts from the interior found a home down the street at El Real Tex-Mex. The queso lives on, too, at El Patio on Westheimer, where it provides a nostalgic comfort to people who grew up eating it and baffles anyone who's trying it for the first time. Even the famous sign lives on at the one area restaurant that most closely follows Felix's throwback style: Larry's Original Mexican in Richmond. 

Eric Sandler contributed to this article. CultureMap is celebrating its fifth birthday with a big party on Oct. 10 from  7 to 10 p.m. at the new JW Marriott Houston Downtown, with a portion of proceeds going to Casa de Esperanza. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online.

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