It’s official: Matt’s out, Mi Cocina in

Matt Martinez III confirmed what has been floating around since the spring — the Lakewood institution that his father brought to the shopping center more than two decades ago is moving. The Matt’s lease expires in February 2012, and after that? Martinez said that there’s a reasonable chance he’ll open in a new location, and even has one under consideration — “as close to Mi Cocina as possible.”

The change has been confirmed by Hillary Artzt, who works for Mi Cocina owner MCrowd Restaurant Group, and who issued this statement: “M Crowd is excited to bring Mi Cocina to Lakewood and we hope to be open by mid-2012.”

Briefly (and I’ll have more details in my July column):

Matt’s had a 20-year lease, dating to the time it moved from the corner of the center, where Centennial and Starbucks are now, to its present location. As renewal approached, Martinez realized he would have to pay substantially more rent, and was prepared to do it: “I knew we had a low rent structure, based on what the shopping center was like when we signed the lease.”

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The owners, a partnership led by W.W. Willingham III, put the property out for bid, and MCrowd made what appears to have been been the best offer. It included much higher rent (how much no one is talking about) and the promise to spend $1.5 million on site improvements. Martinez said he was given the opportunity to match the offer; he said he’d pay the higher rent, but that it didn’t make sense for his company to spend that much money renovating the building.

“I know this was a business decision,” says Martinez, “and I don’t have any hard feelings about what happened. I just have to do the best I can for Matt’s. We’re sad to go, but that’s business.”

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  • Tom Roach

    Went to have lunch at Matt’s
    It is now gone. 

    Mi Cocina…yuk.

  • Jill

    So sorry that Matt’s is leaving. Frequently, we meet our Lakewood area homeowner son and wife there for dinner or for large get-togethers in the private side room. We live in Rockwall and have been twice to the recently opened Mi Cocina at that location. I hope that the Lakewood Mi Cocina won’t continue with the sterile decor of that attempted “upscale” Mexican restaurant.
    Matt’s in Lakewood has always been a vestige of the laid back and friendly Austin location….I wish you luck in the search for the new destination and know a great commercial real estate guy if you need help.

  • Liesl McQuillan

    This is not the first time Mi Cocina has done something like this. Los Vaqueros was a Highland Park Village institution for at least 20 years and was pushed out by Mi Cocina. It’s unfortunate when money wins out over community.

  • OneVoiceCounts

    Welcome to Lakewood Mi Cocina! Thank you for investing in Lakewood. Great location – that is what Matt’s capitalized on. Matt’s needs to downsize as it had slipped in customer service and quality of food. Surely it will stay in the ‘wood as it has a following here.

  • Elizabeth Ardanowski

    I still remember when this spot was an italian restaurant BEFORE Matt’s moved in. Matt’s is more “Lakewood” than MiCocina. I sure hope this change doesn’t ruin our un-Dallas feel in Lakewood. And PLEASE don’t bring valet parking – no one here wants it.

  • Elizabeth

    Noooooo!!!! Matt’s is one of the only places we can take my wild 2 year old and get decent food. Great family friendly place and patio. We will miss you.

  • I love the chili rellenos, the atmosphere, and the staff at Matt’s. I think Cantima Laredo will be the biggest winner from this deal, unless Matt’s can find a great location. Dallas has all too few great patio dining places, of which Matt’s was one. Lakewood Bank is now Wells Fargo, Wyatt’s Cafeteria is now a bank, Dixie House and Lakewood Theater are managed by people I wouldn’t sit at the table with, and now this. Change isn’t always progress, and progress in the wrong direction isn’t progress at all.

  • Drew

    I’m not a fan of Matt’s. I prefer Zuzu for fresh Tex-Mex. But they do have a great patio and it’s a lakewood institution. Mi Cocina is NOT a Lakewood-type of restaurant. Uggh.

  • Lakewoodres

    How about moving into the old blockbuster spot on lower greenville? It was a restaurant at some point in the past and no more hard-to-find parking issues.

  • David Simmons

    20 years in one location is awesome! Was the Austin location earlier or later? Aren’t both these restaurant chains family owned businesses? I love Matt’s too but I’m sure there’s enough vacant space in East Dallas for both to thrive. Matt, we’re happy to help with site selection.

  • jkb

    Tragic! I must get a king margarita (old style with Grand Marnier, of course) tonight and wallow in the news.

  • fan in alabama

    A friend in Dallas just sent us this news, and it is terrible! When we make our all too infrequent trips home to the Motherland, one of our musts is to have chile rellenos and a Bob Armstrong at Matt’s. There’s nothing like it in Alabama OR in Texas. Mi Cocina may be good (I’ve only eaten there once), but it ain’t Matt’s. But, unfortunately, I predict that Matt’s will only be a distant memory to a few within a year. I’m all for change when it is needed. This change is not.

  • mur

    It is incredibly sad news that an institution like Matt’s is leaving. We’ll miss our fave foods (the chile relleno, that tortilla soup, etc.), but mostly we’ll miss seeing the friendly waitstaff who welcomed and served us. I hope they find a great space nearby.

  • ProjectGirl

    Ugh. Not. Excited. I think the culture of that Lakewood corner will be damaged by the new asthetics and the type of crowd that will be attracted. How disappointing… change can be hard.

  • montemalone

    They’ll hang douchebags all over the place to make their customers feel at home.

  • Jennifer F

    I never understood the following Matt’s has. Mariano’s is where it’s at. But I know a lot of people will miss it!

  • Amy

    Where will I get my monthly chili relleno and Bob Armstrong fix!? I’m sad about this. I hope the can find a great place to reopen.

  • Roger

    Sure hope that Matt’s will find another place to open. I have never had anything but bad experiences at Mi Cocina. It’s either Matt’s or Marianno’s for me anyway. Tex-Mex is pretty good too. Trouble is the SPACE at Matt’s is great. I love that patio!

  • FRED

    Please no Parkie restaurants in Lakewood!

  • It’s a shame

    Okay, well not necessarily kills. I hope Matts finds a great place to move to nearby.

  • It’s a shame

    Another chain restaurant kills an established mom and pop community oriented business. Bleargh. You won’t see me darkening their doors.

  • Kerry Slaughter

    If I’m not mistaken, WW Willingham is also the new primary owner of the land on the SW corner of Audelia and Walnut Hill in Lake Highlands. Nothing against MiCO, but here’s hoping a similar fate does not await the family run local establishments already in existence on that site. Those folks took a chance on LH when no one else would and they deserve to stay. Highlands Cafe, T Hee Greetings, My Office, LH Donuts, Highlands Nails…

  • Abby

    Well, this is kind of sad. Matt’s has been an iconic fixture of the Lakewood shopping center since before it moved a couple doors down. Nothing against Mi Cocina, they’re fine. But to see Matt’s move out of there is sort of sad. Change is the name of the game and I hope they find a great spot and continue to thrive.

  • Anne

    I really hate to hear this. Not a fan of Mi Cocina’s food or the type of crowd their restajrants typically attract. And just go ahead and shoot me if they bring valet parking with them.

  • Christy Robinson

    I’m curious what renovations MCrowd would make to the site.