Culture / Restaurants

Houston’s Best Restaurant is Closing

Shuttering to Free Superstar Chef Up for New Projects

BY // 12.02.16

Say goodbye to Houston’s best restaurant. The award-winning Oxheart is closing for good with its James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Yu planning to replace it with a new restaurant with a drastically different format than the tasting menu mecca.

Yu plans to shutter Oxheart on March 15 as it reaches its exact fifth anniversary. Rumors of Oxheart’s impending demise have been swirling in Houston’s food community for months, but like a good college football coach (see Tom Herman), Yu and his reps dismissed such talk.

Yu finally spilled the beans to Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook, who recently named his Oxheart the No. 1 restaurant in Houston. Cook first broke the news of its impending closure on Twitter.

Yu also opened up about the decision in a blog post.

“I want to be ahead of our own curve,” Yu writes. “I know regardless of what previous successes we’ve had, we can’t sit here and expect success with the same formula. I’ve never had a child (although now I have a dog. His name is Elliott), but I can imagine the similarities. They’re both living, breathing things with personalities of their own. Oxheart has changed; and, importantly, I have new goals and challenges I’d like to take on.

“So, as lucky as we’ve been to have survived more than the first 6 months of opening, I want to make a change. I want to make an even better restaurant.”

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Oxheart’s current Nance Street space in the Warehouse District will house Yu’s new restaurant as well. He had already revealed plans to open up a new neighborhood spot in The Heights at 544 Yale Street with cocktail king Bobby Heugel in 2017. PaperCity food guru Jailyn Marcel wrote about that project in early September.

Now, Yu will have two new restaurant projects — and no Oxheart.

Losing Oxheart is still a blow to Houston’s food scene no matter what else Yu does. It will be awfully hard to duplicate the exacting magic Yu pulled off on a nightly basis at the small 35-seat spot. In many ways, Yu revolutionized cooking in Houston, showing that vegetables could be made the star of the show even with proteins on the menu.

To reduce some of the burden on himself, Yu’s new Nance Street restaurant will have a chef de cuisine (Jason White, who worked under Yu at Oxheart for years). Yu will not be the one carrying the show night after night like he was at Oxheart.

Oxheart’s been a tough reservation to get at times during its tenure — and it figures to be so again in its swan song. It’s not a bad business move to let everyone know that the most acclaimed restaurant in the city is closing… soon.

Tom Herman would be proud.

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