Reata restaurant faces move in Fort Worth, leaving Sundance Square and maybe downtown

March 31,2022


See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Bud Kennedy here.

Reata Restaurant, the restaurant that launched “cowboy cuisine” and produced a generation of chefs known for contemporary Western cooking and jumbo chicken-fried steaks, has been unable to work out a new lease and faces moving out of its anchor location in Sundance Square, owner Mike Micallef said Wednesday.

“We need to go find the next great location for Reata,” Micallef told KXAS/Channel 5 before a mid-morning press conference.

Reata, 310 Houston St., has not been able to renew a lease that ends in June 2024 and has started planning to move, Micallef said.

The restaurant’s website invites ideas from the public and says: “We have made the decision to search for our new home.”

Micallef has talked openly in recent months about how the change in downtown work patterns during the COVID pandemic has affected business, along with landlord Sundance Square’s 2021 decision to raise the valet parking charge to $21.

The higher parking fee is “one of the bigger issues,” he told KXAS.

Both Micallef and a Sundance Square spokesman declined to comment further. Sundance Square does not comment on tenant leases, spokesman Bryan Eppstein said.

Reata has been among downtown businesses affected as Sundance eliminated free valet parking for customers with validation and raised prices on some surface lots.

Free parking with validation is offered weekdays in a garage nearby at 345 W. Third St., along with another garage across the square. City-funded free parking is available in five garages at night and on weekends.

At the time, a Sundance spokesman said the higher valet charge would encourage garage parking, reducing congestion and improving safety on core streets already thick with pedestrians and rideshare drivers.

In 2016, Micallef himself was struck by an SUV going the wrong way.

On March 9, Micallef wrote a Facebook post showing new parking prices of $10 per hour on the square’s central surface lot at Fourth and Houston streets. The lot was once free for Reata lunch customers with validation.

Before COVID restrictions in 2020 limited use of Sundance Square Plaza, new owners Ed and Sasha C. Bass had begun an overhaul of the 40-year-old retail complex covering much of the north end of downtown.

Anchor restaurants closed, including Bird Cafe, Taverna and Taco Diner. Square managers have said they hope to refocus the center away from retail chains and encourage locally owned, unique shops operated by entrepreneurs through a “Next Big Idea” program.

In a Rotary Club of Fort Worth appearance Friday, Mayor Mattie Parker said she is concerned about closings in Sundance Square, but central business districts across America are still rebounding from the pandemic.

“Do we have a special set of circumstances? Absolutely,” she said. “But as your mayor, it does me no good to get in the middle.”

Parker said the primary concerns are businesses leaving and “how expensive it is to park.”

“I have a lot of faith that what’s happening in Sundance will come together,” she said.

A new location would be the third for Reata. T

The restaurant originally opened in 1996 in the 35th-floor penthouse of The Tower, wrecked in the March 2000 downtown tornado, then moved to the former Caravan of Dreams jazz nightclub and theater, a Sundance Square anchor known for its rooftop dome and patio.

The restaurant has produced chefs such as Tim Love of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena’s, Louis Lambert of Roy Pope Grocery and Dutch’s Hamburgers, and founding chef Grady Spears of now-closed Horseshoe Hill Cafe.

The dining room features the work of interior designer Carla Curry, who also designed sets for Fort Worth director Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” and “1883” TV series.

The annual Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival is underway throughout the weekend, including Reata and more than 50 local restaurants and chefs.