A tough year for veteran Houston chefs got a little worse on Monday. Chef John Sheely announced that Mockingbird Bistro, his French-inspired River Oaks-area neighborhood restaurant, will close at the end of December after 15 years in business. Sheely tells CultureMap that he had tried to extend his lease on the space but was unable to come to terms with the landlord.
"We’re going to continue to be open every night," Sheely says. "Put some old favorites on the menu like short ribs and sea bass and things people like to eat. Just have some fun and reach out to people that haven’t been here in awhile."
The chef tells the Chronicle that his staff has agreed to stay on until restaurant closes, and he'll be assisting them finding positions at all the restaurants expected to open between now and Super Bowl LI.
Even more than its food, Sheely credits the front of house staff's welcoming attitude and hospitable service for the restaurant's success. "You feel like you’re coming home when you walk into Mockingbird. Really was just a neighborhood place. Everyone felt at home," he says.
This year has been a tough one for long-running Houston restaurants. Mark's American Cuisine closed after 20 years in business, and Sparrow, chef Monica Pope's successor to the legendary t'afia, also shuttered. Osteria Mazzantini, Sheely's Galleria-area Italian restaurant, closed in 2015 after just over a year in business. Just as the Mark's and Sparrow spaces have found new operators, perhaps someone else will snap up Mockingbird, too.
Sheely says he isn't quite sure what's next for him. After taking some time off, the chef plans to assess the market.
"We shall see," he says. "I’m going to stay in Houston. Lots of work out there. Lots of opportunities."