“Dude, What Gives?”: Cafe Artiste’s Disappearing Act

Cafe Artiste, Houston, April 18, 2008

“Café Artiste’s closing is fraught with mystery,” declares the River Oaks Examiner. A sign posted on the front door of the cafe at 1601 W. Main St. near the Menil reads “Café Artiste will be closed today — sorry for any inconvenience.” The sign has been posted for about a month.

People are pining for their favorite hangout and its owners’ whereabouts, but no one seems to have an answer. Messages scrawled onto the “closed” sign reveal the sudden nature of the cafe’s closing as well as people’s curiosity and, in some cases, their disappointment.

“Dude, what gives?” read one handwritten message, while the question “Forever?” had been scribbled right under the words “closed today” along with a sad face drawn next to it. . . .

A separate sign in the window, put there by Keller Williams Realty, said the property is up for lease, but calls to the company were not immediately returned.

After the jump: those signs!


Front Door of Cafe Artiste, May 1, 2008

Counter and kitchen help wanted too! The mystery deepens . . .

Sign on Front Door of Cafe Artiste, Houston, May 1, 2008

Photos: Flickr users lcboelsche (top) and DrPantzo (signs; license)

11 Comment

  • My friend used to work at Artiste and we’ve seen this coming for months. They didn’t even have the money to pay their employees on time, much less keep the cafe running. This place had been going downhill for a long time.

  • Hmm. Ever-broken wifi, so-so coffee, uninspiring food – I can’t imagine what went wrong. (note that I used to really like the place and spent quite a bit of time and money there.)

  • I remember when that building housed Chicago Pizza Company. Pretty good pizza, that. Anyway, a few months ago some friends and I wound up at Cafe Artiste for dessert and coffee on a weeknight. We were a bunch of middle-aged guys, just hanging out, not being rowdy or noisy at all. We did have a conversation and some laughter, certainly nothing that would be unusual in any restaurant. We were very amused by all the very dirty looks we were getting from the place’s twenty-something clientele, all of whom were absorbed in their laptops and totally silent, even to the person sitting across from them with their laptop. It was very surreal. Even so, we’re going to miss Cafe Artiste.

  • The week before it closed I ate a ham and cheese on french bread. I stayed there for 2 hours talking and on my exit I hurled my dinner back out onto the street and suffered from food poisoning for the next 36 hours. The place was nasty. I washed my hands but It seems maybe that they didn’t. It would be nice if it was like Magnolia Cafe in Austin. But it wasn’t.

  • I’m going to miss Cafe Artiste. :( I hope another cafe type place takes its place because that neighborhood needs a really good walking distance cafe. I used to like their brunch that came with eggs and tamales, and I never hurled after eating there.

  • I used to spend a lot of time there. The wifi did kind of suck, but it was a rare place where people actually seemed to go to work instead of sitting around and talking and being seen. Granted, you could always just work at home if in search of peace and quiet, but this joint was a happy middle ground. Too bad they screwed their employees. Not cool.

  • I saw it coming too:
    *paychecks were bounced (I knew employees also)
    *Wi-fi was poorly maintained
    *Owner & owner’s son both had pretty shitty attitudes towards the end.

    Too bad, it was a great place a few years ago and I will miss it…

  • If anyone is still following this thread–

    If you’re in the neighborhood you’ll notice that the new owners have finally painted over the last of the Cafe Artiste murals. We heard that the same folks who own/run Shade are opening a new, upscale restaurant there to be named “Sofia”. The new business should open in the next month or so.

    I miss Cafe Artiste and the people who were regulars there–it was my coffee office for quite a while. The wifi did suck and the quality of the food had steadily gotten worse over time, but the place had heart and a good attitude. However, I’m sure the last set of owners weren’t grounded in the restaurant business and the place’s days as a cheap coffee hangout were numbered a long time ago.

    And BTW–I remember Chicago Pizza…

  • Cafe Artiste is now Sophia! I ate there for it’s informal opening on Saturday night and it was great! Prices are considerably higher than Artiste; but the food was worlds better (Cafe Artiste had great breakfast dishes, but other meals. . . not so much) and they seem to be trying to polish up the funky building. I’m just so glad that they didn’t tear down the restaurant to build four townhomes there, you know?!

    Open for dinner at 5 pm; BYOB until they get their license.

  • Volks:
    I had heard that the people who own/run Shade on 19th Street in the Heights were the new owners of Sophia. If that’s true, it bodes well for the new venture.

  • I used to work at the Artiste and i drove up for work one morning and saw the sign i was taken back by it i never got paid either they always had money troubles. that could be the reason for the shutdown.I miss the work enviorment though it was a fun place to work.