Updated Dec. 29 with news about Italian restaurant Macellaio closing in Oak Cliff.
Like the “in memoriam” tribute at the end of the Grammys each year, the list of restaurant closures in Dallas-Fort Worth is always bittersweet. But it’s more bitter than sweet in 2020, because the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of restaurants that might have otherwise survived.
In early 2020, Crossroads Diner chef Tom Fleming didn’t anticipate he’d close his breakfast spot later in the year. But then he was hit with eight months of dismal sales due to the pandemic. “There’s not enough money coming through the door,” he says. “That’s what it is: There’s just not enough.”
Even before the pandemic hit, a host of notable restaurants shuttered. Chef Stephan Pyles closed his Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe in early January. Six months later, he looked back on that decision, thankful: “What was actually dumb luck looks like brilliance,” the chef said.
Here are noteworthy restaurant closings in Dallas this year, listed chronologically by the date they went out of business.
A string of restaurants in the Bishop Arts District — Tillman’s, Bolsa and Hattie’s: First Tillman’s announced it would close at 1 a.m. Jan. 1, 2020, after a New Year’s Eve goodbye party. Then came Bolsa’s closure on Jan. 21. And then it was Southern restaurant Hattie’s in February, its end coming after a 17-year run in the now-popular dining neighborhood. In a surprising spin during a challenging year, all three restaurant spaces have since been filled: Tillman’s is now an Argentinian restaurant named Chimichurri; Bolsa’s chef has resurrected the space as Encina, and the old Hattie’s is expected to open as an upscale Indian restaurant in 2021.
Stephan Pyles Flora Street Cafe: Pyles’ ultra fine dining restaurant closed Jan. 2 in the Dallas Arts District. The restaurant was likely Pyles’ last full-time effort as a chef; he’s now consulting part-time after spending 40 years in the industry.
Taco Cabana: The 26-year-old Taco Cabana on Lowest Greenville closed on Jan. 13. The building has been vacant since then, though there’s been movement up high: The three “Tango Frogs” — sculptures commissioned some 40 years ago — were moved from the vacant Taco Cabana to the nearby Truck Yard in December.
Burger Street: Remember the 25-year-old Burger Street on Mockingbird Lane in East Dallas? It’s hard to picture it, maybe, because the building was flattened not long after its late February closure. They paved (burger) paradise and put up a parking lot. Other Burger Streets in North Texas remain open.
Picasso’s Pizza and Grill: All three Picasso’s Pizza shops shuttered in February, with little explanation other than lockout signs on the door. The Lake Highlands restaurant had been open for about 30 years. The others were in Far North Dallas at the Dallas North Tollway and Frankford Road and in Preston Hollow at Inwood Road and Forest Lane.
The Lot: Parents shed a tear when The Lot announced it wouldn’t reopen. It was a popular patio spot for East Dallasites and their kids because it had a big play area and lots of outdoor seating. Operator John McBride says the restaurant accrued a significant portion of its yearly sales in the spring, when the weather is pleasant. “When you take days or weeks out of that season, it becomes virtually impossible,” he says. It was one of the earliest closures related specifically to the pandemic.
Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck: Five Sixty was a special-occasion restaurant, one of Dallas’ most iconic places to dine. An estimated 700 couples get engaged at the high-in-the-sky Reunion Tower every year, which means there are thousands of people missing a piece of their love story now that its restaurant Five Sixty has closed. The restaurant’s shuttering in late April was attributed directly to the pandemic.
Dakota’s Steakhouse: Downtown Dallas steakhouse Dakota’s closed in May after 36 years in business. Our partners at NBCDFW called it “Dallas’ underground jewel.”
Highland Park Cafeteria: One of the biggest restaurant losses this year was when Highland Park Cafeteria announced in May it would not reopen after being temporarily shuttered since March 16. It first opened in 1925 on Knox Street — an incredible 95 years ago. It moved to Casa Linda in East Dallas and changed ownership, changed names, then changed back. Last we heard, the owners were “safeguarding the secret recipes, all 932 of them.” What’s to come of those? We can dream.
Tacos Mariachi(s): Jesus Carmona’s taco shop on Lowest Greenville closed permanently in June. His original Tacos Mariachi, on Singleton Boulevard, is closed, too, though he expects to reopen a taco shop in West Dallas at some point.
Peggy Sue Barbecue: It’s tough to say when Peggy Sue Barbecue in Snider Plaza took its final bow, because it had been closed for most of 2020. Signs on the door mentioned renovations and sidewalk construction, but by August, the restaurant unceremoniously never reopened. New York Sub chef-owner Andrew Kelley, inspired by the barbecue restaurant’s decades in University Park, has launched a side business selling barbecue under the Peggy Sue name. It isn’t at the original location — and it isn’t run by the longtime owners — but it’s a sweet tribute to a beloved company.
Savor: The handsome glass box in a corner of Klyde Warren Park sits empty after the restaurant closed in August. The park’s board is eager to fill the space in 2021 because a restaurant pays rent to the park. “It’s critical,” says Klyde Warren Park President Kit Sawers, “not only from a revenue perspective but also from the perspective of keeping people in the park and allowing them to spend the day there.”
The State Fair of Texas: It’s not a restaurant. Still, the State Fair of Texas is one of the most alluring places to eat in Dallas in September and October every year, and this year, nobody got to have a big, sweaty food feast. The fair replaced its usual 24-day affair with a drive-through food parade, where ticketholders were handed fried Oreos and Fletcher’s corny dogs. State Fair execs are hopeful Big Tex can welcome guests in 2021.
El Fenix on Lemmon Avenue: Just one month after its 60th birthday, El Fenix Mexican Restaurant closed on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas in October. The brand itself is over 100 years old, founded by Miguel “Mike” Martinez, who is credited with helping to create Tex-Mex. (Fun fact: El Fenix didn’t start as a Tex-Mex restaurant. Its first menus had oysters, spaghetti and meatballs and chicken-fried steak. It was only after its cooks started selling “kitchen food” — the spicy, hearty Mexican dishes they made in the back — that El Fenix found its lasting identity.) El Fenix continues to operate more than a dozen other restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Trinity Groves closures: The West Dallas restaurant park had a tumultuous 2020. First came the shuttering of LUCK (Local Urban Craft Kitchen), a restaurant that joined Trinity Groves early in its development. LUCK called it quits Jan. 19. Then Chino Chinatown announced its closure in mid-February. Then came word that Sushi Bayashi was permanently shuttered. Off-Site Kitchen, a beloved burger joint, closed when the pandemic started and never reopened. Others, like Babb Bros. BBQ and Blues, closed temporarily and are back open. Others, like The Hall Bar & Grill and Amberjax Fish Market Grille, closed permanently. Trinity Groves is no longer a restaurant incubator, though investor Phil Romano is planning to build a beer garden in 2021.
Salaryman: One of Dallas’ best new restaurants, Salaryman, closed in mid-October after its chef Justin Holt announced he’s battling leukemia. Holt is an ambitious chef whose food was artful and delicious. The team at the Oak Cliff izakaya made their own soy sauces, ramen broth and noodles.
Crossroads Diner: Gone are those famous cinnamon sticky buns. Breakfast spot Crossroads Diner closed in mid-November, a heart-breaking five days before it would have celebrated 10 years in business.
Macellaio: The Italian restaurant in Oak Cliff from husband-wife owners Jennifer and David Uygur is closing permanently. In its place, sister restaurant Lucia will relocate from a few blocks away. Next-door, the former Salaryman will become Lucia To Go. All of this movement means the Uygurs can continue making excellent Italian food. “It means we can still work in the neighborhood we love,” they explain on Facebook. “It means we have hope for the first time in months.” Lucia was one of the hardest places to get a reservation in Dallas, we wrote in 2016, and it’s continued to be one of Dallas’ “most outstanding” restaurants.
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Addison: After years of serving craft beer before craft beer was cool, Flying Saucer in Addison is closing on New Year’s Eve. It was the second Flying Saucer and lasted for 25 years. Customers who had a Ring of Honor plate on the wall, a prize given to those who had sampled 200 beers, can pick it up Jan. 1 through 15.
For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.
Other notable closures: The Common Table in Uptown; Start Restaurants in Dallas; Perfect Union Pizza in Highland Park; The Foundry/Chicken Scratch in West Dallas; Houston’s in Addison; Gung Ho on Lowest Greenville; Wheelhouse and Sassetta in the Dallas Design District; Fuddruckers and Luby’s — not all of them, but some; Matchbox in Preston Hollow; Barbec’s in East Dallas; Dude, Sweet Chocolate in downtown Dallas; four Ascension coffee shops.