By all accounts, 2016 has been a real dumpster fire of a year. The abysmal election (and its depressing aftermath), the loss of creative forces like Prince and Leon Russell, the closure of some of Dallas' most beloved restaurants — for many, this year has not been easy. This is especially true here in Dallas, a city that suffered unthinkable loss this summer after five police officers were killed by a gunman at a downtown protest.
But where there is shock and sadness, there is also hope, and in many cases, the promise of a new beginning. That's often true in the restaurant industry, a volatile world where dreams are crushed and quickly replaced by the next person in line. Not many industries face as much failure and redemption as bars and restaurants do, but the same can be said of the industry's resilience in the face of tumult.
From the small but unexpected to the downright incomprehensible, here are the most shocking moments that have rattled the Dallas food and drink industry this year.
Kent Rathbun Seriously Injured in ATV Accident
In early November, acclaimed Dallas chef and restaurateur Kent Rathbun was seriously injured when an ATV he was riding overturned on rocky terrain in rural West Texas. He suffered broken ribs, vertebrae fractures and had to be flown to a hospital in Odessa. He later underwent surgery and, according to updates on a crowdfunding page set up to help offset medical expenses, he was released from the hospital in mid-November and is improving. That is far from the only shocking news in Rathbun's world this year — in June, he walked away from his namesake restaurant group and has since been involved in a bitter legal battle with his former partners, who bafflingly continue to use Rathbun's name despite the fact that he's not involved with the company.
After the Unthinkable Happens in Dallas, Local Bars Became a Port in the Storm
It goes without saying that the most unexpected and painful news hit Dallas hard on July 7, when Dallas police and DART officers were gunned down at a protest. One thing that wasn't surprising: that in the aftermath, the Dallas bar and restaurant industry banded together to feed weary first responders and host fundraisers that raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the families of officers hurt or killed in the shooting. In a time of serious hurt and sadness, the hospitality industry stepped up big-time, and the city of Dallas isn't likely to forget that kindness anytime soon.
A Heartbreaking Chef Departure
To say that Misti Norris' departure from Small Brewpub was surprising is an understatement. Up until the announcement in September, Norris was by all accounts the biggest rock star chef in the city this year, having been named a James Beard semifinalist and continuing to garner praise for her adventurous dishes served in an Oak Cliff brewpub setting. But this summer, Small's ownership decided to take the restaurant in a new direction in an attempt to bring in more business. Norris, understandably unwilling to take a culinary step backwards, left the restaurant. It was recently announced that 23-year-old chef Alex Henderson would take over to make Small a more "neighborhood-accessible place" with less expensive, more approachable dishes. The brewpub's new menu was launched this weekend.
This One's a Shocker: Remedy is Closing and Reopening as an American/Chinese Restaurant
We certainly didn't see this one coming: Remedy, the popular modern soda fountain on Lower Greenville, is shuttering Dec. 31 and re-concepting as a Chinese spot. The new restaurant is slated to open in late spring or early summer 2017.
Dallas Bars and Restaurants Meet Tonight to Fight Possible City Regulations Limiting Patios
Dallas bar and restaurant owners believe the future of Dallas' vibrant patio scene may be in jeopardy because of recently proposed regulations that would require more parking and limited hours for establishments with sizable patios. The city's potential plan would count outdoor space when factoring in how much parking a business needs to offer. Owners are outraged, with many claiming that such regulations would have meant that their businesses wouldn't likely have met the stringent requirements. Also discussed: requiring establishments with patios to apply for special permits in order to operate past midnight in an effort to curb drunken behavior and noise in bar-heavy neighborhoods. Several Dallas residents recounted stories of unfortunate drunken behavior that has increased in their neighborhoods in recent years. The next meeting to discuss the issue is Monday, Dec. 12, at City Hall.
Hibiscus Will Close After Dinner Service on Saturday
Hibiscus, a beloved restaurant on Henderson Avenue that specialized in mouth-watering steaks, closed in September. “Though purely a business decision based on the lease expiring in the near term, closing Hibiscus is also a poignant one,” said Tom Johnson, managing director for restaurants at Headington Cos. “The restaurant has been a favorite for many years, but we knew it was the right time to close, particularly as we look ahead to opening several restaurants over the next few months.”
There is No God: Luscher's Red Hots is Closing
This one hit us like a ton of bricks on Friday afternoon, and we're still in mourning.