Museum Park Cafe, which opened last fall on the ground floor of Parc Binz mixed-use development, will close Saturday, April 11 following dinner service. Christopher Balat, proprietor of Balcor Commercial and Balcor Hospitality, released a statement last evening announcing the closure and new tenant. In its place, casual dining spot Barnaby's. "We are very excited about the opportunity to bring Barnaby's to the Museum District. We have always felt that Barnaby's would be the perfect fit for this neighborhood," says Balat in the statement.
The restaurant ambitiously attempted to replicate New York's famed Union Square Cafe from successful restaurateur Danny Meyers. Bringing James Beard nominated Justin Basye aboard to serve as executive chef alongside Chris Leung (Cloud 10 Creamery), pastry chef and Balcor director of culinary development, Museum Park Cafe showed much promise. However, Basye's departure three months in, raised concerns as to whether or not the restaurant could stay afloat despite the addition of former Oxheart sous chef Jason White. Perhaps Basye's absence left diners less motivated to visit the aspiring restaurant, leading to the restaurant's untimely demise.
When asked about the closure yesterday evening, Leung shared the concept wasn't viable for the neighborhood. Noting Museum Park Cafe's well-executed chef-driven menu, the chef conceded that Barnaby's would likely be a better fit. He's probably right to some extent.
While Museum Park Cafe was nearly empty during early dinner service last evening, Dak & Bop, the Korean fried chicken spot next door (who is neither associated or owned by Balcor) was filled to capacity with a growing line of people waiting outside to be seated. Further in the neighborhood, Tex-Mex Spanish Village and Caribbean haunt Reggae Hut were doing brisk business as well. Adding a casual dining restaurant like Barnaby's would bring in crowds that Museum Park Cafe couldn't in recent months, but the move is ultimately leaving a void for more fine dining options in the neighborhood.
Luckily, Davis St. at Hermann Park, Chris Williams' reimagined upscale Southern Lucille's and neighboring soon-to-open MF Sushi from Chris and Alex Kinjo provide hope that more than casual dining is possible in the Museum District. Maybe another ambitious concept will give it a go soon.