However you feel about 2018, one thing’s for sure: it was a great year to dine in Houston. So many exciting new establishments opened up this year, and plenty more are on the way in 2019. As the year winds down, though, Eater editors took a look back at the restaurants that bowed out over the past year.
There’s so much to look forward to in 2019, but take a few moments to pour one out for these dearly-departed Houston favorites.
Until this year, no restaurant had drawn the attention of national critics and serious gourmands to Houston in the way that Underbelly had. The iconic Montrose restaurant put Chris Shepherd — and to some extent Houston — on the map. Underbelly bowed out in March 2018, but that didn’t stop Shepherd’s empire from continuing to grow.
Now, the space that was once a destination for Korean goat and dumplings is Georgia James, a swanky steakhouse named for Shepherd’s parents. Fortunately, Underbelly’s scrappy culinary ethos lives on at UB Preserv, where chefs Nick Wong and Eater Awards winner Victoria Dearmond are turning out some of the city’s best fare.
Kitchen 713’s abrupt shutter in November was truly devastating for fans of its famed fried chicken and globally-inspired Southern cuisine. Fortunately, diners haven’t seen the last of Kitchen 713 chef James Haywood — he’s set to host a series of brunch pop-ups at Candy Shack Daiquiris in the new year. Stay tuned for more details.
Restaurateur Tony Vallone closed two restaurants this year, Ciao Bello and Vallone’s, and the latter marked the end of an era for many who adored Vallone’s version of hospitality. The glitzy, beloved steakhouse known for cutting its own meats served its last diners in July, about six years after making its debut. No reason was cited for the closure, but it likely had something to do with Houston’s now intensely-competitive steakhouse scene.
Maba Pan-Asian Diner
Even though it was widely considered to be one of Houston’s best Asian eateries by diners and critics alike, the popular Midtown restaurant closed without explanation in 2018, not even two years after it opened its doors. When it shuttered, Maba’s owners said that business was never steady enough to sustain the restaurant.
Even though it technically closed its doors at the end of 2017 after a fire ripped through its Heights building, the departure of Southern Goods wasn’t permanent until July of this year. At that point, chef-owner Lyle Bento decided to cut his losses and take a job with Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality, a position he’s since moved on from.
Now, Houston dining power duo Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel have taken over the space, as Eater reported last month, though no details on Southern Goods’s successor have been announced just yet. With those two in charge, though, the future of this former Heights hotspot is looking pretty damn bright.