2020 was a devastating year for Houston’s restaurant industry. As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered dining rooms, forced impromptu pivots to takeout and delivery, and throttled revenues, Houston’s restaurants were in a battle for survival all year long.
And unfortunately, some of the city’s most beloved establishments just weren’t able to weather the storm. In this installment of the Year in Eater, we reached out to the city’s top chefs and food writers to hear which permanent closures hit them the hardest.
Erin Smith, chef/owner, Feges BBQ: All of them. Answering this question gives me sadness, anger, heartbreak, and tremendous fear all at the same time. I’ve never felt so connected to a community than I do right now to every restaurant owner, server, bartender, dishwasher, and cook. We are all on the verge of collapse.
Mai Pham, contributor, Eater Houston: It really hurt me to see Dolce Vita close. Ditto for Blackbird Izakaya. I loved both places so much!
Chris Shepherd, chef/owner, Underbelly Hospitality: Too many to say.
June Rodil, master sommelier and partner, Goodnight Hospitality: I will be so sad when Morningstar closes at the end of the year— It’s been my neighborhood coffee joint and just a walk away from my house. I’ve never had that before and am sad that I only got to experience it for such a short time. They are wonderful people and we’ll continue to support their other concepts and proudly serve their coffee at our locations.
On a national scale, when Meadowood burned down, it was just gutting. They are lucky and will have the resources to rebuild — which is wonderful — but I remember watching the footage of it burning to the ground and having such a sinking feeling about the the industry and thinking, “Are you fucking serious, 2020??!?!?!”
Alex Au-Young, chef/owner, Phat Eatery and Phat Kitchen: Burger-chan.
Caroline Fontenot, photographer, Eater Houston: Indika and Penny Quarter.
Brittanie Shey, associate editor, Eater Houston: A bunch of spots closed in The Montrose including some neighborhood icons like Guava Lamp, Acadian Bakery, even Disco Kroger, and some newer spots, like Dolce Vita. It’s just a stark reminder that the character of this neighborhood is changing. Change isn’t always bad, but homogeneity is bad.
Ryan Lachaine, Riel: Uncle Boons Thai restaurant in New York. It’s one of my favorite places to eat in the United States. If I ever go to New York, I’ll usually eat there twice.
Megha Bhandari, contributor, Eater Houston: I was very disappointed to hear that Tropicales closed. I am a big David Buehrer fan, and it had become a regular hangout of mine for coffee, cocktails and a well-thought out all-day menu. I was also sad to hear Night Heron closed. It was a great neighborhood gem and the tucked away location is really special.
Nick Wong, chef de cuisine, UB Preserv: The most personal one was Momofuku Ssam Bar. But locally, Burger-Chan.