Durham House Closes

Acclaimed restaurant closes after chef leaves; owner vows to return with new concept

Acclaimed restaurant closes after chef leaves; owner vows to return

Mike McElroy Durham House
The Durham House is closing Saturday as chef Mike McElroy departs. Courtesy photo

The loss of a second name chef in less than a year has forced The Durham House owner Raj Natarajan to close the restaurant near Washington Ave. The last day of operation is Saturday, June 25.

Chef Mike McElroy, who took over at the beginning of the year and quickly put his stamp on the restaurant, is moving to Spokane, Washington, to address a family medical emergency, Natarajan explained in an email. Before taking the job, McElroy was a popular local chef who previously helmed food truck The Rollin' Kitchen for Gr8 Plate Hospitality.

"Mike’s presence has come to define The Durham House, thus in the light of his departure, a decision has been made to cease public service effective Saturday, June 25, 2016.  Our most sincere thanks go out to the wider community that has supported us in this endeavor, and over the course of the next couple of months we will be working on a new concept which is slated to open in the Fall of 2016," Natarajan said.

Located in the former home of Woodrows Heights (previously Mardi Gras Grill and Floyd's Cajun Kitchen), the restaurant underwent a transformation from casual Cajun to more refined Southern under the direction of executive chef Don Schoenburg when it opened last October. Schoenburg, who was previously known for the Gastro Punk food truck, attracted strong initial buzz by replacing the restaurant's familiar po' boys and fried seafood with elevated dishes like stuffed rabbit loin and lamb tartar. He departed for personal reasons in early January, Natarajan said at the time.

The restaurant was among 16 Houston restaurants in the CultureMap Tastemakers Best New Restaurant online competition.

When McElroy took over, he specialized in elevated Creole fare like stewed rabbit, smoked NY strip, and octopus puttanesca. He also brought a deft touch to charcuterie, which made dishes like the housemade boudin and pork shank terrine particularly must order.