The hit parade commenced in January, when Johnson County's TooJay's Deli shut down. The relatively new building is already scheduled to be razed so that the Cheesecake Factory can build an even bigger one in the Fountains Shopping Center.
Raymore's Wind River Grill was blown out of town and replaced by the more home-style Mom's Place. Lee's Summit's Cork & Grill lasted only a few months before it was revamped as the Victorian Peddler. Ditto for that lulu of a restaurant known as Loula's, recently reborn as another Hannah Bistro Café. I don't think anything's clucking yet in the Lee's Summit building where the Chicken Shack once roosted.
After three decades on the Country Club Plaza, Houlihan's is packing up to move into the abruptly vacated Fairway Grill location, which it snagged out from under PB&J's Paul Khoury and Bill Crooks, who tried to buy the building from the Houston's chain. Rumor has it that California Pizza Kitchen will set up shop in Houlihan's former space, where Tom Houlihan once ran a haberdashery shop, back before the Plaza became the El Dorado of American chain restaurants. The independently owned Classic Cup is still thriving on the Plaza, but its original location in Westport was taken over as venue for restaurateur Ann Liberda's third Thai Place.
Was anyone surprised that the artfully composed but absurdly unfriendly Oldham in the City Market never caught on? Not me, though I did like chef Kevin Smith's cuisine and have to admit that the ill-fated eatery's former owner, designer Nick McNeil, did wonders in turning a long-vacant hotel lobby into a space as striking as any contemporary art gallery. It might have had more success as an art gallery.
It certainly wasn't McNeil's year. Not only did Oldham get shuttered, but his elegant interior for the one-year-old Mosaic Bistro in Prairie Village was ripped out when that restaurant was closed and re-created as the more family-friendly Blue Moose Bar & Grill.
Restaurants come and restaurants go, but here's a toast to better times in 2003.