Each Friday, Gastronaut rounds up the most notable opening and closing of the week.
The crap news of the week comes to us courtesy of CultureMap, where Eric Sandler reports that Rice Village stalwart Yum Yum Cha will be closing soon. For at least the last 10 years, the restaurant was the only place inside the Loop to get dim sum, but was also notable for being, simply, a relaxing and welcoming place to enjoy lunch with portions and a pace of your choosing. I can stand driving outside the Loop for dim sum; I'm sad, however, for the loss of a family restaurant where one could enjoy a short, simple meal of shu mai and shrimp dumplings or a leisurely feast that sampled extensively from the 50-item picture menu.
The closing—which will occur on June 15 or whenever the restaurant runs out of food, whichever comes first—comes at a time when Rice University appears to be on a property buying spree, having recently purchased not only the building on the corner of Times Blvd. and Kelvin Dr. that houses Yum Yum Cha but also the 15,000-square-foot space on University Blvd. that houses Urban Outfitters and other shops that have made the area a destination for years.
The university, which has long owned the land that Rice Village sits on (hence the name), has been purchasing and managing properties in the area since the 1980s. Recent acquisitions as well as the departure of mainstays such as Yum Yum Cha—which told CultureMap it was only offered a six-month lease by the Rice Management Company—have led to speculation that the university has even bigger plans for the area than simply making it hipper and more attractive to nearby college students. David Kaplan reported on this eventuality in a Cite article from way back in 1996, quoting then-Rice University treasurer and vice-president tor investments Scott Wise as saying: "The land is strategically located just west of the university. For long-term purposes, it makes sense for Rice to own that land. It's the only direction the university could grow. It allows flexibility for our successors, in fifty years or more, it the need should arise. In the short term, we think it's a good investment."
In happier news, Tacos Tierra Caliente remains open despite rumors to the contrary, perhaps perpetuated by the truck's move from one Montrose corner to another a couple of years back. One fan passed me a note on Facebook saying he'd heard the venerable taco truck hadn't passed its latest inspection and was off the streets permanently. A call to Tacos Tierra Caliente this afternoon confirmed that the truck is as operational as ever, with its usual plans to open at West Alabama Ice House this evening, serving the best lengua tacos and spiciest green sauce in town until 11 p.m. and, hopefully, continuing to post delightful Twitter updates such as the one below. God bless Tacos Tierra Caliente.