saddest restaurant shutters of 2022
These 17 Houston restaurant closures marked the saddest shutters of 2022
By any measure, this year has been a fantastic time to be a diner in Houston. Dozens of new restaurants all made a splash.
Despite all the growth, we also bid farewell to several establishments that all made their mark on the dining scene. Each of the restaurants and bars listed below have fans who miss them. With the recognition that change is inevitable, let’s look back at some of the year’s most significant closures.
Kyle Pierson’s neighborhood bar and restaurant earned raves for its welcoming atmosphere, craft beer selection, and dishes like chicken fried steak and Vindaloo Frito Pie. Sadly, the social media acclaim didn’t generate sufficient sales. The Branch closed in August.
Drawing on their time working at restaurants in California like Tartine Bakery and Pizzeria Bianco, chefs and siblings Angelo and Louie Emiliani opened an all-day cafe in the East End. Louie’s pastries and breads quickly established themselves as some of Houston’s best, while Angelo’s bistro-style dinner menu earned praise for its pastas and well-executed, classic dishes like shrimp cocktail and roast chicken. Unfortunately, the restaurant couldn’t match its critical reception with sufficient revenues, so the chefs pivoted to an Italian American concept that opened this month.
Click Virtual Food Hall
Chef Gabriel Medina earned raves, and a 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Award, for this ghost kitchen concept that offered everything from Japanese comfort food to Burger Chan burgers. With his lease on the Click’s building expiring, Medina has decided to move on to other endeavors. Hopefully, his popular Filipino fare finds a new home in 2023.
Chef Lance Fegen has been a staple in Houston’s dining scene dating back to the ‘90s as the leader of restaurants such as Zula, Glass Wall, and BRC. Liberty Kitchen, the Southern-inspired restaurant he opened as part of the F.E.E.D. TX hospitality group grew to multiple locations, evolved its Heights location into Fegen’s, a restaurant devoted to classic American fare and Italian-American staples. While Fegen has exited the culinary scene (for now?), the building has new life as the second location of Midtown pizzeria The Gypsy Poet.
Underbelly Hospitality’s decision to move Georgia James from its original location on Westheimer to the Regent Square mixed-use developed has benefited the steakhouse in numerous ways, but it came at the cost of the company’s beer-obsessed comfort food restaurant. Whether sitting at the bar and enjoying a selection from the tap wall or spending an afternoon on the patio eating PB&J wings and a Cease and Desist Burger, Hay Merchant served its fans well.
James Coney Island
The Houston hot dog institution has gone through a number of changes over the past couple of years as it sells off older, underperforming locations. As part of that strategy, JCI bid farewell to its high profile locations on Shepherd Dr. and Westheimer Rd.
Thankfully, both of this year’s closures will yield new restaurant in 2023. Midtown French restaurant Artisans claimed Westheimer, and Bun B’s Trill Burgers will occupy Shepherd.
Nino’s, Vincent’s, and Grappino di Nino
In August, the Vincent Mandola family announced it had sold the two-and-a-half acre tract in Montrose to developers who plan to redevelop the property around six food and beverage concepts. Open since 1977, fans will remember Nino’s and Vincent’s for their Italian fare, comfortable settings, and refined service. A member of one of Houston's most prominent restaurant families, Vincent Mandola died in 2020 due to a heart attack.
Before Agricole Hospitality became a Heights dining staple with Coltivare, Eight Row Flint, and EZ’s Liquor Lounge, partners Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera opened Revival Market. Originally a combination coffee shop and grocery store, the concept evolved into a neighborhood cafe that served Southern-inspired fare at breakfast and lunch. Layne Cruz, the concept’s longtime general manager, opened Lagniappe Kitchen & Bar in the space.
Shoot the Moon
Speaking of Hay Merchant, co-founder Kevin Floyd launched this self-serve concept in Spring Branch as his follow up to his time at Underbelly Hospitality. An eclectic menu of pizzas, comfort food, and shareables paired with an extensive tap wall of wine, beer, cocktails, and spirits. While other self serve concepts have found an audience, a lack of foot traffic led to the business declaring bankruptcy in June.
Bobby Heugel’s Japanese-inspired cocktail bar opened downtown in 2017 and relocated to Montrose in 2020. Its thoughtful cocktails and refined service earned it Bar of the Year in the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, but Heugel opted to utilize the space for Refuge, an intimate bar inspired by some of his favorite drinking establishments from around the world. Whether TCS is gone for good is an open question, but it’s certainly hibernating.
Opened in April 2019, Verdine served creative vegan fare developed by founder Stephane Hoban. She accepted an offer to end the lease early and turn the space over to the owners of Sugar Land favorites Japaneiro's Sushi Bistro & Latin Grill and Guru Burgers & Crepes, who will open a new plant-based concept in the space.
Woodshed/Love Shack/Side Dough
When these three restaurants opened at Upper Kirby’s Levy Park in March 2020, they seemed poised to establish celebrity chef Tim Love as a presence on Houston’s dining scene. Sadly, the pandemic denied the establishments the opportunity to establish a following, and they closed in August. To date, Levy Park has not announced who will take over the spaces, but the prime location should attract serious culinary talent.