HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Houstons in Rockville Closing!!!

  • m

Turns out that the landlord cannot come to terms with the restaurant on a new lease. Last day open is sometime in mid-December. A big loss for traditional American foodies in MoCo. Great place overall.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. OMG!!!--Despite the fact that I haven't eaten at Houston's in over 10 years!!! (I wasn't living in this area), but I really enjoyed THAT RESTAURANT, back in the 1990's. I would drive from Parkville, Md to the restaurant several times a month.

    Naturally, it didn't qualify as a truly standard "Chowhound" type of cuisine restaurant, but for a chain, it was really a fun place to visit. Inexpensive, basic food--just like Cheesecake Factory, Houlihan's , Ruby Tuesdays', etc. A fun place to grab a bite to eat during the week.

    I had always hoped that Houston's would open a venue in
    Baltimore. Well, it doesn't seem to be an eventuality. If they are closing in Rockville, well, it doesn't seem as though there would be any promise of a relocation to Baltimore or the immediate suburbs. TooBad. FoiGras

    2 Replies
    1. re: FoiGras

      Didn't Houstons get bought out as a chain? Heard Woodmont Grill the old Houstons in Bethesda just changed names. Maybe thats whats going on Houstons out and Woodmont will re-open. I always liked the opineapple marinated rib eye steak at Houstons when I'm in the area I've been going to Golden Bull off Delemar St. in Gathersburg their an old school steakhouse and family owned.

      1. re: FoiGras

        Houston's was nothing like RT's, CCF, TGIF, or any other crappy chain restaurants. Everything I ever had on their menu was wonderful - salads, burgers, ribs, whatever. Seems silly to talk about such a basic menu item, but their chicken tenders were the juiciest, most tender I ever had, with the most fantastic (light) breading ever - I'd have died for that breading recipe. It's a real shame it closed. BTW, as a matter of disclosure, I bartended there back in the 80's. Great memories and great food, at very reasonable prices.

      2. I see this more as an inconvenience...there's another one a few miles away in Bethesda.

        1. I'm sorry to read this news. I really like Houstons, & have for many many years. The option of Bethesda is not a good one for me, just that much farther on the dreaded 355.

          I don't suppose there's a chance they may re-open at another site in Rockville?

          I don't agree with Foigras's lumping of Houstons together with CC Factory, Ruby's, etc. I've always had consistent good quality food, and very good service, at the Rockville Houstons. I've seldom had that at CCF, and never at RT's.

          I'll be sad to see them go.
          Where else in Rockville or G'burg is a comparable spot?

          8 Replies
          1. re: mdfoodlover

            Clydes Tower Oaks is probably most comparable. Possibly even Red Rock at Rio.

            1. re: wysguymd

              The Chowhounders are good. This news just broke. You guys are as quick as Matt Drudge. The fact is, Houston's is one of the best continental American restaurant chains in the country. With this economy, it's hard to believe that a landlord wouldn't come to terms with an organization like this that has 40 or so stores in multiple states and has deep pockets. You don't kick out a long-standing tenant who can pay their bills in favor of an empty spot. No real estate firm that knows what they're doing would let this deal go south. The downturn has hurt them a little, but mostly, they're still pretty busy. The Bethesda location (now Woodmont Grill for some reason) was packed the other day at lunch and I had to wait 20 minutes to be seated. Something else is going on here. Investigative Chowhounders, get out there and beat the pavement and bring us the real reason for this great restaurant closing at this location.

              1. re: jac0077

                Actually I'm suprised it lasted as long as it did considering how difficult it is to get in and out of the parking lot there. I always thought that was a lousy location for a restaurant.

                1. re: dinwiddie

                  I always thought the parking lot was packed because the restaurant was packed.

                  1. re: Pappy

                    Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.

                    1. re: Steve

                      Good One!
                      It really is a shame they are closing. Rockville just doesn't have anywhere comparable, for my taste anyway. My wife recalls rumors of them closing several years ago. It sadly seems those rumors are now coming true.

                      1. re: mdfoodlover

                        I've never been a fan of theirs, they are OK, but nothing special. I can think of plenty of places in Rockville I'd eat before going to Houston's. However, most of them are ethnic places. If you want chain American food, admittedly pretty good for a chain, then Houston's might be just what you want.

            2. re: mdfoodlover

              I think Houstons is a step above in quality and service than those other chains just mentioned also not that cheap though. But I would always take Houston's over Cheesecake Factory any day.

            3. houston's rockville had some lease issues with their landlord a few years ago as well, and gave me and the hubs quite a scare, as we ate there once a week at that time. just before the plug was to be pulled, they reached an agreement. i hope they can do so this time, b/c waiting times for tables at the (twin) sister restaurant, the "woodmont grill", have practically tripled already. used to go there and be seated immediately or w/in 5 minutes or so. this will make the wait there even worse. great food but no delusions of grandeur. the landlord won't be able to duplicate houston's success in that location.

              1. Just went there last night. Our server told us that no last minute negotiation is expected, the decision to close was due to conflict on both sides and their last day of service is Dec. 21st. No indication at this point whether a different location will be chosen in the area. Woodmont Grill, owned by Houston's and formerly named Houston's, will remain open and unchanged. Many favorite Houston's items are avail. on their menu.

                12 Replies
                1. re: jac0077

                  Tragedy! I worked in restaurants for more than 10 years and I pay attention to details. I have long been in awe of Houston's: it is amazing in its high-quality consistency from unit to unit. No other chain comes close to that level of food and service quality. The burgers have gotten expensive over the years but they are often even better than Rays Hell Burger. I live 45 minutes away but still I will really miss them.

                  1. re: bobovespa

                    Bob gets it.

                    Attention to detail is vital but most restaurants, especially at Houston's price point, don't understand this. One other issue on their closing is that Mont. Co., which is Big Brother and anti-everything, is such a headache to deal with that Houston's is almost glad in a way.

                    1. re: jac0077

                      I think it would be great if they opened a branch in Howard Co. I know Maple Lawn has had several unsuccessful American Food ventures, none of which could hold a candle to Houston's.
                      Is Howard Co more or less business friendly?

                      1. re: mdfoodlover

                        victoria gastropub in HC is a great restaurant and is what I would call in the Houstons type just with much better and current food

                        1. re: dining with doc

                          I've never been there. Is it somewhere near the Harris Teeter off Guilford?
                          I should give it a try, as I've seen it mentioned a number of times. Thanks.

                          1. re: mdfoodlover

                            It's at the end of Snowden River Parkway that runs into Route 100. Former Bennigan's location right there on the corner.

                          2. re: dining with doc

                            Since I haven't dined at Houstons in nearly 8 years, I can't really compare to Victoria Gastro Pub. BUT--I do agree with "dining with doc," in that the Pub has much more "current" cuisine and many interesting offerings which are quite nicely executed. I have no issue with "older" - type food though.

                            It's unfortunate that Houston's is now closing along with so many other favorites-i.e., Brass Elephant, Ixia, etc. Maybe with the so-called upturn in the economy we will see many more individual establishments holding their own and staying in business. I realize that Houston's is part of a chain, so it is quite surprising that they are closing down. FoiGras

                          3. re: mdfoodlover

                            What were the several American Food ventures in Maple Lawn that were unsuccessful?

                            1. re: sydshad

                              Oz Steakhouse and Ranazul.
                              My personal experience in both places.
                              Fairly decent food, served by inept staff with an attitude. Overpriced. Pretentious.
                              Oz was the worst.

                              1. re: mdfoodlover

                                I've had good experiences at Ranazul and since it's open and a Tapas restaurant I would have a hard time classifying it as an unsuccessful American Food venture in Maple Lawn. I agree with your opinion on OZ Steakhouse and that could also apply to the failed seafood restaurant, Trapeze but I wouldn't classify them as American Food ventures like Houston's.

                                1. re: sydshad

                                  My mistake. I should have typed Trapeze, not Ranazul. I've never been to Ranazul, only the other two failed places.
                                  Sorry for the mind slip

                                  1. re: mdfoodlover

                                    What a shame! What a loss!
                                    And I would never compare Victoria's Gastro Pub to Houston's.

                    2. How does the food at Woodmont Grill compare with Houston's? Is it exactly the same?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Steve

                        Yep. Same owner, same deal on food and service. They changed the name in anticipation of the legislation that will soon be voted on in Mont. Co, which requires chain restaurants with more than one outlet in the county to publish every ingredient and nutritional info on their menus. Houston's doesn't want to deal with that you know why?
                        Because they grind their meat daily for burgers and make every single menu item in their store from scratch daily. Putting exact ingredients is not possible because they don't make cookie cutter food and that's a good thing. Just one more crazy hoop restaurants in Mont. Co. have to tragically jump through.

                        1. re: jac0077

                          even if the make their food from scratch they can list the ingredients. that doesnt make any sense. the reason they dont want to list the information is because of the calories and fat and they dont want people to see how bad a lot of their food actually is for you.

                          1. re: elegantelliot

                            Houston's has many items that are healthy including daily fresh catch, delicious salads and fresh steamed veggies every day. That's not the reason for its name change. My post above is the reason. Not opinion. That comes directly from their GM.

                            1. re: jac0077

                              it may come from the GM but that doesnt make it so. do you work there? do you think that the GM would tell you its because the food isnt very good for you? i enjoy houstons very much, but not listing the ingredients and calories because everything is made from scractch each day makes absolutely no sense at all.

                            2. re: elegantelliot

                              Houston's has had lots of heart healthy items on their menu such as the seared tuna. That can't be the reason.

                              1. re: tpogue

                                I used to love getting a loaded baked potato & prime rib for dinner. I usually started with a chicken tender appetizer. Oftentimes I'd follow it all up with a hot fudge sundae. These were my favorites for many years.

                                A heart attack in 2007 changed my ways.
                                Since then, trips to Houstons always started with Peel n eat shrimp (superb), a nice salad, and then usually the fresh grilled fish of the day. This more healthy grouping always tasted excellent, and left me feeling no guilt.

                                If you choose your meal, it is very easy (or, it was) to eat healthy at Houstons.

                        2. Despite being a chain, I have always enjoyed this restaraunt. Especially the bar staff whom I have gotten to know over the years as a loyal patron. It is sad to me to see a thriving, succesful restaraunt go. It is a financial loss to the landlord and clearly some other personal or petty motive at work. It is consistantly packed, making money hand over fist. It seems like a lot to just let go. It is a loss for the area- and I am losing one of my fav go to places!

                          1. I have heard rumors that they are relocating to Rio, in Gaithersburg...

                            17 Replies
                            1. re: pikeserver

                              would love to see Houstons come to olney to the old Cuckoos nest location. would be perfect

                              1. re: dining with doc

                                they should move a block up the road to the old bennigans

                                1. re: elegantelliot

                                  Could always try the ill fated location of PGA Grill (and Shelly's Wood Roast before that). I heard that the local majority owner wanted to own his own building, and not deal with landlords. Also heard that the strip where it is now will eventually be replaced by a high rise.

                                  1. re: nickdanger

                                    That spot was, IIRC, originally a Hot Shoppes with drive in service & the "Mighty Moe" burger serviced by girls on roller skates. When Shelly's took over the building & gave it a facelift, I thought t was a good thing. Too bad it didn't last ( for multiple reasons I'm sure.

                                    I'm with dining with doc, please come to Olney, Houstons

                                    1. re: mdfoodlover

                                      Wasn't that location also a That's Amore for one brief shining moment? One of the other boards reports that Matchbox will be opening a new location there some time in 2010.

                                      1. re: mdfoodlover

                                        Can't argue with that. With the loss of Pumpernickel’s and Blue Ox (and the incursion of Green Turtle), Olney is losing its culinary distinctiveness. My fear is that it becomes another--gasp--Rockville, foodwise.

                                        1. re: pgreen

                                          If only Olney WERE like Rockville.

                                          Then, it might have places like, just to name a few:

                                          Amici Miei
                                          Amina Thai
                                          Bobby's Crabcakes
                                          Bob's Noodle
                                          Caribbean Feast
                                          China Bistro
                                          China Canteen
                                          Il Pizzico
                                          Joe's Noodle House
                                          La Limena
                                          Michael's Noodles
                                          Niwano Hana
                                          Oro Pomodoro
                                          Pita Hut
                                          Seven Seas
                                          Sol de Espana
                                          Spice Xing
                                          Yekta Kabobi
                                          York Castle

                                          1. re: DanielK

                                            OK, you got me. My real complaint about Rockville is how hard it is to find the wheat among the (chain) chaff, unless you know exactly what you are looking for. What I always liked about Olney (when I first moved nearby) was how many distinctive, non-chain restaurants there were and how few chains. That was a stark contrast to Gaithersburg in particular.

                                            1. re: pgreen

                                              Fair enough. Olney doesn't have a "Rockville Pike" where all the big box stores and chains sit. The flip side is those huge crowds make the smaller more interesting places possible.

                                          2. re: pgreen

                                            I would hardly classify Pumpernickel's closing as a foodie loss. ....

                                            1. re: ciaoda

                                              Pumpernickel's in recent years has not been great, but for a time, if you stuck with the deli/NY Jewish specialties, it was arguably the best of it's breed in the DC area.

                                              1. re: DanielK

                                                Ive lived in Olney for 15 years and during that time, they've always been mediocre deli, filthy, and Barry and his schtick got old...... If you ask anyone today, their only positive response will be that they liked the pickel bar....

                                                1. re: ciaoda

                                                  Each to their own. I've had some very good corned beef, pastrami, and tongue sandwiches over the years there, and their chicken-in-a-pot was also very good.

                                                  And I liked the pickle bar. :-)

                                                  1. re: DanielK

                                                    They got their deli meat from Saval I believe, which you can pretty much get at any supermarket (minus the filth). :(

                                                    1. re: ciaoda

                                                      Maybe they did at the end, but they definitely used to make their own corned beef and pastrami at one point.

                                                  2. re: ciaoda

                                                    I always liked looking at those mile high cakes in the upright display case. I never did try one, as my wife was watching my diet long before I was.
                                                    The pickles were indeed the highlight of the place.
                                                    Yeh, the filth was (is) quite nasty.

                                          3. re: nickdanger

                                            shellys/pga is going to be Matchbox. Excellent addition and in my opinion a better version of Houstons

                                    2. If half the people in this thread who are bemoaning the loss actually ate there regularly, they probably wouldn't be closing...

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: DanielK

                                        Did you miss the reason they're closing? They lost their lease, not lack of business.

                                        1. re: reiflame

                                          "landlord cannot come to terms with the restaurant on a new lease" usually means either: landlord wants to raise rent to market value, and restaurant can't make it work in their business model; or restaurant not doing great, looking for decrease in rent, so landlord looks for a new tenant.

                                          Either one points back to a need for more revenue.

                                          I don't know their particular situation, obviously, but I do know the business.

                                          1. re: DanielK

                                            Either way, it's a bad economy and a common story in DC - landlord raises rent, restaurant closes/moves, even with a good client base. I wouldn't rush to blame diners for not eating there particularly when you don't know the situation (as you say).

                                            1. re: DanielK

                                              The landlord is the Lerners, and they've apparently tried to force Houston's out for years. Houston's is the only tenant that brigs business into that strip mall, and they've done great business there for years. It really boils down to the Lerners being my-way-or-the-highway with everyone they deal with, and the rumor is they want to tear down the strip mall and put up a high rise anyway. So, no, it really has nothing to do with how well Houston's did.

                                              1. re: DanielK

                                                Daniel - you DON'T know the business. Houston's has done EXTREMELY WELL there for over 20 years. They tried to leave 5 years ago, but Lerner enticed them to stay.

                                                1. re: Bob Slade

                                                  As I said, I don't know *their particular situation* - I was generalizing.

                                                  If their business model is so brilliant, why aren't they reopening elsewhere?

                                                    1. re: DanielK

                                                      They haven't said that they're not.

                                                      1. re: DanielK

                                                        they also closed in Georgetown and the business there was phenominal - but they would not deal with the heavy handidness of the LL- they know what they are doing- but it may not fit the average business model

                                                        1. re: cocoagirl

                                                          From what I heard, the increase on the rent was somewhere in the neighborhood of $38k to 55k. Hard to see how you can grow business in this economy to justify that much scratch. I htink there are currently 4 or 5 big box restaurant spaces on the pike all in shopping centers or buildings with a lot of visibility and parking.

                                              2. I was in Houston's Bethesda Woodmont Grille on Tuesday night, and they were packed to the rafters. I'm assuming the crowd was larger than normal because of the closing of the Rockville branch.

                                                1. Againn is opening in the old Houston's spot, according to WaPo. June 1 is the proposed opening.

                                                  1. So here is the rest of the story, as I understand it....this property is a LERNER property and, presumably, they are not interested in "negotiating". The GOOD NEWS issss...the current BUZZ is that Houston's IS planning on going back into that location as both sides work to come to a agreement. IF this is so...all I can say is RIDICULOUS that it could not have been reached prior to vacating the space!!! Same source has confirmed that Matchbox IS def going in to the former PGA Grill spot.

                                                    Additionally...I absolutely agree with the person who stated prior, that Red Rock Canyon Grill, now renamed Copper Canyon in Rio Shop. Ctr. is a close runner up to Houstons. LOVE it!! Great food, great servic, call ahead seating AND an outdoor dining area lakeside. They run the restaurant and trained the staff in accordance with the training and philosophy that defined Houstons. Check it out.

                                                    One last bit of Info....SLADES, which closed in the area, has been reborn under the name of NORTONS in Tysons Corner Mall. Former mgr opened it...same menu, etc!! Worth the drive. ttfn...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: steval

                                                      It's already been reported that AGAINN will open its second location in the old Houston's Rockville spot.

                                                      1099 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001

                                                    2. Did you guys read WaPo's article?


                                                      Here are some choice quotes:

                                                      ""Cooking to the suburbs," as the founder of the restaurant developer Whisk Group calls it, means putting more sandwiches and steaks on the menu."

                                                      "Still, I sympathize with executive chef Wes Morton, whose new audience can be a tough sell. "What are bangers and mash?" I overhear a diner in the next booth ask his waiter. "

                                                      How insulting.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: reiflame

                                                        I read that too with equal consternation and infuriation. Thus, I have begun my one-man boycott of all Wes Morton establishments until he sees fit to serve MoCo at least as well as he does those in DC.

                                                        If anyone happens to know Mr. Morton, please inform him personally of this growing ground-swell against his suburban discrimination.

                                                        1. re: reiflame

                                                          I believe the article mentioned that more of the DC location dishes would be added to the menu as they transition over from Houston's. Apparently they felt Houston's was liked enough that there should be a soft transition (and seeing this thread I can see where they got that idea...).

                                                          Also, that last comment is from the WP reviewer, Tom Sietsema, not from the owner (Weiss?), who made the "cooking to the suburbs" comment. Wes Morton isn't quoted in the article as saying anything anti-suburban or otherwise, so I can't imagine why you would boycott him for something he didn't say and had nothing to do with.

                                                          But carry on, more for me that way.

                                                          1. re: Raids

                                                            Sietsema also panned it, so if you want it all to yourself I suppose you can.

                                                            1. re: reiflame

                                                              He did not pan it! To quote him from his chat last week directly: "Whoa there! I didn't trash the place, and I like parts of it (that shepherd's pie, for instance). I also appreciate the fact it's *not* part of a big chain."

                                                              He also said that he feels for them and that he thinks the old Houston's crowd seems like an awfully tough sell. I can only agree.

                                                              Seeing as people in the District can't stop talking about the place, I'm sure the Rockville location will do just fine.

                                                            2. re: Raids

                                                              Have you tracked down the original exchange on Sietsema's chat? I also thought someone from the restaurant -- not Sietsema -- made the swipe at suburban tastes. Unfortunately, I can't locate the chat that included the original exchange to check this out.

                                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                                From the Chat...

                                                                "Cooking to the suburbs..."
                                                                I've been to the Aggain downtown, but not the one in Rockville, ... There are plenty of restaurants that "cook to the suburbs" and many of them are chains (e.g. Houstons). I choose to spend my money on something special.

                                                                * –
                                                                August 18, 2010 9:25 AM

                                                                Tom Sietsema writes:

                                                                Frankly, I think the owners would have been better off calling it something other than Againn (Tavern) and not even bothering to offer anything British. Still, I admire their attempt to bring a taste of Againn to Rockville. In the end, of course, you want people to buy into what you're selling. Sounds to me like the old Houston's crowd is a tough audience.

                                                                Cooking for the Burbs?
                                                                I have to say I'm a little horrified by Mark Weiss's comment that he's cooking for the burbs and therefore needs to tone things down.....

                                                                Tom Sietsema writes:

                                                                Gotcha. Having spent a considerable amount of time eating in Silver Spring, Wheaton and Rockville recently, I totally agree with you. However, I should point out that those comments by Weiss (and chef Wes Morton) were based on feedback from customers in the tavern's first few months.
                                                                – August 18, 2010 11:10 AM

                                                                Tom Sietsema writes:

                                                                Whoa there! I didn't trash the place, and I like parts of it (that shepherd's pie, for instance). I also appreciate the fact it's *not* part of a big chain.

                                                                But when four people spend almost a hundred bucks a head on a place, as my party did at AT, I expect more finesse from the staff, steak to be cooked as we ask for it, drinks to show up before we've eaten our apetizers, etc.
                                                                – August 18, 2010 11:20 AM

                                                                1. re: Indy 67

                                                                  The original "cooking to the suburbs" comment was printed in the First Bite review of Againn Tavern, and was made by the owner, Weiss, not the chef, Morton.

                                                                  Another comment about suburban diners not knowing what bangers and mash were was made by the reviewer, Sietsema, in the article.

                                                                  These comments were discussed at length in last week's chat - significant portions pasted below.

                                                                  Both the First Bite column and the chat can be found here: http://projects.washingtonpost.com/st...

                                                                  I think the chat is the third one from the top.

                                                                  In context in the article, I think what the comment meant is that based on the feedback, the old Houston's crowd was responsive to a traditional suburban pub menu, and not that all people living in the suburbs have simple tastes, although it was certainly poorly phrased.