Iconic Houston Bar, Bakery & Woman-Led Woodlands Restaurant Close Due To COVID-19

Alice owner of Alice's Tall Texan

It’s inevitable that at some point a favorite bar or restaurant is going to close. Between thin margins and fickle consumers, the hospitality industry is notoriously volatile, even in the best of times — but for small bars and restaurants, the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst of times. There is a growing list of those that have been forced to close permanently because of COVID-19-related economic struggles. The hardships include bars being ordered to close twice and dining rooms having yet to reach full capacity since mid-March. Adding to the pile of challenges: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) didn’t provide financial relief to many small businesses and insurance companies are denying interruption of business claims related to COVID-19. As a result, three businesses, each significant and important in its own way, joined the permanently closed list this week: Alice’s Tall Texan, The Acadian Bakery and Broken Barrel in The Woodlands.

Iconic interior of Alice’s Tall Texan. Photo by Richard Knight.

In business for 36 years, Alice’s Tall Texan Drive Inn at 4904 North Main in the Heights is a true Houston icon. Known for serving frozen chalices — often pulled from the freezer by Alice herself — of Lone Star and Shiner Bock, the bar announced via Facebook on Thursday, July 30 that it is closing at the end of August. The statement says, “Hi Tall Texan Family, this damn Coronavirus has got us, and got us bad. We are deeply saddened to say Alice’s Tall Texan will close permanently.” Many were shocked and saddened by the news. Within just four hours, the Facebook post had already been shared 421 times. With its neon signs lining the walls, a pool table, a Crock-Pot of chili or hotdogs usually sitting on a table pushed against one wall and a jukebox often playing Tejano music for the Latinos who were the bars main patrons, Alice’s was one of the woman-owned joints that are the backbone of Houston’s classic bar scene. Others include Rose Garden, Rudyard’s, La Carafe and Warren’s Inn

Those who want to help Alice’s gracefully transition to its deserved, if untimely, place in Houston’s history books can do so by buying beer. Alice’s is selling off its inventory on “select weekend days,” starting Friday, July 31 from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, August 1 from 3 to 7 p.m. Singles, 6- and 12-packs and cases of beer will be available for to-go only. For every purchase of a 6-pack or more, buyers can choose a mug or one of the famous chalices. The staff is also looking into how to sell the draft beer via growlers and, in August, they will announce plans to sell beer signs and other memorabilia.

Eater Houston recently announced that another Houston icon has closed. The Acadian Bakery at 604 West Alabama in Montrose is now permanently shuttered. For 41 years, this classic bakery was Houston’s go-to for Mardi Gras king cakes. On March 18, it announced it would be temporarily closed until March 31. Unfortunately, it never reopened, and the space is now for lease. At the end of 2019, longtime owner and LBGTQ advocate Sandy Bubbert had sold the business, which offered a variety of cakes as well as lunch items such as soups, salads and sandwiches. However, the new owner was not able to survive the COVID-19 crisis, and many Houstonians will now need a new source for king cakes.

Restaurant interior with tables, chairs and glass window wall
Broken Barrel in the Woodlands combines modern style with eclectic dishes. Photo by Ellie Sharp

On Wednesday, July 29, Broken Barrel at 1950 Hughes Landing in The Woodlands announced via Facebook and on its website that it is permanently closing. Helmed by Hilda Ysusi, one of the area’s few woman executive chefs, Broken Barrel, which opened in 2017, quickly became a popular destination on The Woodlands’ restaurant row. Originally from Mexico City, the Culinary Institute of American graduate was serving creative dishes such as duck pastor and burned tortilla hummus.

The restaurant’s final Facebook post states, “It is with great sadness that we are announcing the permanent closure of Broken Barrel. This was not an easy decision, but after much consideration we have determined that we are unable to sustain the business in the current circumstances. On behalf of the entire staff, we want to thank you for your support. We have truly enjoyed being a part of this wonderful community and serving you, our loyal customers.”

Broken Barrel is a big loss for the community. Not only were the dishes thoughtfully and masterfully executed, the atmosphere was incredibly inviting. Guests could sit on the waterfront patio to catch the breeze while sipping cocktails or relax inside where the décor was at once modern, homey and eclectic. It was absolutely worth the drive from Houston any day of the week. We hope to see Ysusi in a restaurant kitchen again soon.

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