Reef Shutters

Bryan Caswell suddenly shutters his Midtown seafood restaurant

Bryan Caswell suddenly shutters his Midtown seafood restaurant

Bryan Caswell Reef restaurant
Bryan Caswell has closed Reef. Photo by Pop Studios PR

One of Houston’s most acclaimed restaurants has served its last crispy skin snapper. Chef Bryan Caswell has closed his Midtown seafood restaurant Reef.

The restaurant released the following statement confirming the closure:

After a recent cardiac event that necessitated a hospital stay, combined with other economic factors, chef Bryan Caswell has made the decision to close Reef & 3rd Bar.

The remainder of nonperishable goods will be donated. All employees have been paid through last Monday, 11/18, and any additional hours will be paid accordingly. Charles Clark of Clark-Cooper Concepts has graciously offered to provide opportunities for all staff, as well as accommodate all holiday reservations/private functions at his multiple concepts. Caswell extends his immense gratitude to Houston for the unforgettable memories and support over the year

Originally opened in 2007, Reef’s innovative menu featured seafood sourced exclusively from the Gulf of Mexico and preparations inspired by Houston’s immigrant communities. Combined with a low markup wine list overseen by Caswell’s business partner Bill Floyd, the restaurant drew crowds and critical acclaim. Caswell earned a Food & Wine Best New Chef Award in 2009 and James Beard Award Best Chef: Southwest finalist nominations in 2010 and 2011.   

Caswell’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in 2017. Reef suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Harvey and closed for almost two years. During that time, the chef closed Little Bigs, his Montrose burger restaurant and ended his partnership with Floyd.

Earlier this year, Caswell and his wife Jennifer began divorce proceedings. In October, he closed El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, citing a lack of business.

When Caswell reopened Reef in June, things got off to a promising start. The chef introduced a number of new dishes that earned raves, but it never drew the crowds necessary to sustain itself. 

Fundamentally, the restaurant belongs to a different era when independently owned, chef-driven concepts would seat 200 or more diners. Now, the city’s most culinarily ambitious restaurants (Riel, Nancy’s Hustle, Nobie’s, etc) typically accommodate fewer than 100 diners at a time.

Caswell declined CultureMap’s request to comment on his future plans. Hopefully, he makes a comeback in a smaller, more economically viable situation. Houston’s a better dining city when Caswell is cooking for it.