Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, we look back at the 10 most popular restaurant and bar stories of 2020. Articles about prominent closures always hold a list of couple of spots on these annual lists, but they've never before dominated the way they do this year. Consider it just one of the many signs of the unprecedented challenges restaurants faced due to the coronavirus pandemic. On a more promising note, Houstonians demonstrated their interest in supporting restaurants by dining in — both as soon as they were legally allowed to do so and on patios even in the height of summer. We also wanted to enjoy the simple pleasure of a Harry Potter-themed bar.
1. Master list of Houston restaurants reopening for dine-in service beginning May 1. When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that restaurants could reopen for dine-in service after six weeks of being limited to only operating for to-go, hundreds of Houston restaurants took the plunge. Diners encountered a very different experience than before the pandemic with hand sanitizer, mask requirements, and other precautions in place. Throughout the rest of the year, more restaurants would reopen and some bars have converted into restaurants in order to operate under the new guidelines.
2. Houston's famous Starbucks at 'the end of the universe' flames out. Lewis Black made the intersection of West Gray and Shepherd Dr. famous when he ranted about finding the "end of the universe" at the corner where a Starbucks sat across the street from another Starbucks. While the location at the southeast corner has closed, the larger location on the northeast corner, complete with a drive-thru, remains open to fulfill those frappuccino cravings.
3. Magical new Harry Potter-themed bar transports Houstonians to Diagon Alley. Frankly, it's a bit of a mystery why this article proved so popular. Perhaps readers wanted an escape and a Harry Potter-themed bar seemed like the perfect refuge. Perhaps people really like the idea of drinking a butterbeer. Either way, the Instagram-friendly attraction proved irresistible.
4. Shocking shutters due to COVID-19 rock prominent Houston restaurants. This article in May offered an early taste of all the closures that would result from the coronavirus pandemic. The three restaurants listed — Poitín, a restaurant that had a spot on Texas Monthly's 2019 list of the state's best new restaurants, venerable pizzeria Barry's Pizza, and the Uptown Park location of The Tasting Room — operated for years before declining revenues brought about their ends.
5. Where to eat in Houston right now: 11 best patios for socially distanced dining. Experts agree that dining outdoors is safer than dining indoors. With that in mind, we shared some of our favorite patio spots, including La Lucha, Candente, and Backstreet Cafe. Hopefully, the city will have a mild winter that will allow Houstonians to continue utilizing these spaces.
6. Beloved Texas cafeteria chain announces plan for imminent closure. After years of declining revenues and a diminished stock price, Luby's board of directors announced that it had approved a plan of "liquidation and dissolution" that will the company sell of its assets to generate between $92 and $123 million for its stockholders. While approximately 80 locations of Luby's and Fuddruckers remain open, it is unclear how much longer the company will continue to operate them. Those seeking a LuAnn platter should indulge that craving sooner than later.
7. 2 longtime Houston bars have served their final rounds. Out of all of this year's closures, the loss of Galleria-area honky tonk Wild West and Heights-area dive bar Alice's Tall Texas sting the most. Whether it was two-stepping the night away at Wild West or enjoying a giant, frosty goblet of Shiner Bock at Alice's, both establishments served as the venue for any number of gatherings and good times.
8. Houston restaurants respond to coronavirus with dozens of dining deals and discounts. In the brief moment after people began to acknowledge that restaurants needed to take extra steps to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and before the temporary suspension of on-premisis dining, Houston restaurants tried to lure diners with a number of discounts. With capacity restrictions still in place and restaurants struggling to survive, don't expect to see too many of these offers return in the immediate future.
9. Prominent Houston restaurant group shutters 5 locations. Not even the might Pappas Restaurants could withstand the challenges of the pandemic. Although it remains one of the city's most successful hospitality companies, Pappas opted to close Yia Yia Mary's Mediterranean Kitchen, it's one-off Greek concept, as well as four seafood restaurants, including the well-regarded Little Pappas Seafood House. A week later, the company announced it had also closed the Dot Coffee Shop at I-10 East and Federal Rd.
10. Here are the latest Houston restaurants to close due to the pandemic. The summer proved to be a difficult time for Houston restaurants. In July, we said farewell to five more establishments: Acadian Bakers, Blackbird Izakaya, Broken Barrel, Helen in the Heights, and Night Heron. Thankfully, three of the spaces have already found life as new concepts, with Robot Noodle replacing Blackbird, 93 'Til replacing Night Heron, and Studewood Grill subbing in for Helen. Also, Blackbird chef Billy Kin recently opened Hidden Omakase, a new promising new sushi restaurant.