Houston Restaurant Urban Eats is Closing Despite Efforts to Change its Fate
Levi Rollins, who runs Urban Eats at 3414 Washington Avenue with partner, Eric Munoz, says that the restaurant and market’s last meal service will be brunch on Sunday, January 28, which is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The closing is coming despite a sudden influx of support from Houston diners over the past two weeks.
On January 12, Rollins — a cancer survivor who, in 2022, held a fundraiser for a non-profit to celebrate his remission status — posted a plea for customers to visit on the business’s Instagram account. “During COVID we needed to take on substantial debts to keep our amazing and dedicated staff employed and business operating. Since then, the costs of supplies, ingredients, taxes, rent, labor, and more have continued to rise and have further put strain on Urban Eats. For over a year, we have dug deep to find a path forward and implemented changes to decrease costs and increase revenue where we can. Unfortunately, this has not been enough,” the post stated.
The restaurant’s followers responded, with so many dining at Urban Eats that the restaurant apologized a few days later for any service bobbles: “Please be patient as we strive to deliver great service as well as awesome food. The team was stretched thin this weekend and we know it showed.” That same Instagram post also thanked customers who visited, saying that the sudden influx of cash allowed the company to, “pay our amazing team of 28, order inventory, prepare more food for our fans, stock our market shelves and pay some past due bills”.
Unfortunately, the droves of customers that Urban Eats so desperately needed came too late to ultimately save the business — and it may have been better for the owners to publicly share their situation earlier. Rollins told Houston Food Finder that things have come to a head with the landlord. Including back rent and taxes, Urban Eats owes a total of approximately $150,000. “Our landlord was very kind and clearly upset about what’s happening, but he feels like the debt is too great to overcome, and it is in his best interests to move forward with terminating the lease and finding a new tenant,” Rollins said.
Urban Eats is not just a restaurant. Most of the downstairs is also a market of artisan and gourmet groceries, as well as a bakery and café. Rollins and Munoz will sell off as many of the goods as possible at a discount.
The hardest part, of course, is having to let go of the staff. “Laying off my team is the hardest part of this entire thing,” Rollins said. “I’m contacting each of them to let them know we are going to take care of them as much as we can financially. They will be paid before anyone else.”
Those who would like to communicate with Rollins about the business, such as inquiring about purchasing market inventory, kitchenware and service items, or offering job opportunities for the employees, can send an email. (For that matter, the owners are going to need new positions, too.)
Urban Eats does not take reservations, so those who would like to dine at the restaurant one final time will have to just show up. The hours for the last days are Tuesday, January 23 through Thursday, January 24 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, January 25 and Saturday, January 26 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Until the last day, Urban Eats will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, but do expect a limited menu as its ingredients inventory dwindles.
“We want to express our deepest gratitude for the incredible nine years we’ve spent with you,” read a post announcing the closing on Instagram. “Your support has allowed us to realize our dream of owning and operating a restaurant. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.