Saddest shutters of 2023
Houston's saddest restaurant closures of 2023: Farewell to pho, Tex-Mex, BBQ, and more faves
In a year defined by restaurant openings that saw Houstonians lining up for Trill Burgers, splurging on caviar at Little’s Oyster Bar, and devouring curry lamb shanks at Jūn, it’s easy to forget about those that shuttered.
To wrap up our look back at the year in dining, let’s revisit the places that said farewell. From short-term breweries to a 50-year-old barbecue staple, they all had their fans.
Acme Oyster House
Opened in the historic Tower Theater space on Westheimer, the New Orleans-based seafood restaurant opened to considerable fanfare in 2021, but it couldn’t sustain that initial momentum. In a farewell post on social media, the restaurant’s owners cited a number of challenges, including supply chain shortages and staffing issues.
Black Page Brewing and CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen
Both of these craft breweries closed after less than a year in business. Black Page seemed to have a lot going for it, including a prime location near White Oak Music Hall and the expertise of brewer Henryk Orlik. Similarly, CounterCommon featured the talents of a former Saint Arnold brewer and a food menu overseen by veteran Houston restaurateur Minh Nguyen.
The innovative Mexican American restaurant quietly closed at the end of 2022, depriving fans of a chance to say farewell. Commercial real estate broker Morgan Hansen quickly claimed the prime location on 11th Street for Best Regards, a stylish cocktail lounge with an expansive patio. A couple of months ago, former Chivos chef Thomas Bille reopened Belly of the Beast, his eclectic, Mexican-inspired restaurant, in a Spring shopping center.
The family-owned Chinese restaurant closed in September after three years in business. Thankfully, its signature dumplings are still available at farmers markets and other events.
In a year of transition for Underbelly Hospitality, the company said farewell to its intimate, bar-forward downtown restaurant. While the restaurant had its fans — the mushroom Swiss burger was a winner — its small footprint made it financially difficult to operate. Chef Tim Reading has a found a new home at Leo’s, an upscale restaurant that will open next year in River Oaks.
Hubcap Grill 19th Street
Ricky Craig’s restaurant spent more than a decade serving creative burgers and twice-fried french fries to Heights-area diners, but a residential real estate development forced its closure. Thankfully, Hubcap’s locations in Kemah, Pearland, and Galveston remain open, with a new outpost slated to open next year in Santa Fe.
Indianola and Miss Carousel
Agricole Hospitality shuttered the two concepts — a Gulf Coast-inspired restaurant and a lively cocktail bar — at the end of July. In a bid to replace them with establishments that might appeal more to the neighborhood, the hospitality group recently opened Lightnin’s Good Times, a bar with live music, and HiWay Cantina, a Tex-Mex restaurant.
Kata Robata owner Yun Cheng shuttered the Midtown restaurant in April just shy of its eighth anniversary. In its place, the company opened Southern-inspired seafood restaurant Josephine’s, one of this year’s most acclaimed new arrivals. At the time, Cheng said he and co-owner Sammy Saket would find a new location for Izakaya, but no details have been released about those plans.
Kim Son Stafford
Known for its lively dim sum service, the restaurant had been open since 1999. The restaurant cited a proposed rent increase as the reason for the closure. Some of its most popular dishes are available at Kim Son’s location on Bellaire Boulevard.
Louie’s Italian American
Siblings Angelo and Lucianna Emiliani opened the Italian restaurant after closing their buzzy bistro Cafe Louie. Unfortunately, it closed in April after less than six months in business. Pastry chef Lucianna hosts weekly pop ups at Eden Plant Co, while her brother is quietly working on opening a pizzeria.
Atlas Restaurant Group, the Baltimore-based hospitality firm behind Marmo and Loch Bar, closed this Mediterranean-inspired seafood restaurant in April. The space will reopen as upscale Japanese restaurant Azumi in the spring.
Pho Binh Trailer and Pho Binh by Night
Both locations of the pioneering soup restaurant closed earlier this year. A 40-year staple in south Houston, the trailer closed after being damaged by fire. By Night had been a popular late night hang out for member of the service industry. Various other locations owned by different family members remain open.
Of all the restaurants to open at the Post Market food hall, none brought as lofty a reputation as this Brooklyn-based pizzeria. It served an abbreviated version of the original location’s menu, including several signature pies, but never built a sufficient following to remain viable. Despite the closure, the food hall’s other restaurants, including ChòpnBlọk, Golfstrommen, and Soy Pinoy, have made the Post a must-visit destination for restaurants enthusiasts.
1751 Sea & Bar
This year may have been a good one for new seafood restaurants, but that wasn’t enough to preserve this Heights-area restaurant that closed in March. Owner Michael Sambrooks opted not to renew the space’s lease in order to concentrate on opening his luxury steakhouse Andiron and a second location of barbecue restaurant The Pit Room.
After five years of serving Texas-influenced Japanese food, chef Naoki Yoshida closed his doors. At the time, Yoshida planned to concentrate on events such as the Tokyo X festival and traveling to develop ideas for his next restaurant.
The Third Ward staple closed in March to make way for a new development on the property. Known for its retro dining room that’s adorned with Christmas lights as well as classic Tex-Mex fare such as cheese enchiladas the signature fried chicken, it been a go-to restaurant since 1953.
The Swinging Door
A Fort Bend County favorite for more than 50 years, the iconic barbecue joint closed in May. Long before the modern barbecue boom, Houstonians made their way down FM 359 for its signature pecan smoked meats, excellent sides, and blackberry cobbler. A post-closure auction allowed fans to acquire a memento from the restaurant.