Giving Up the Fight

Wave of Austin restaurant shutters rolls on with closure of Airport Boulevard eatery

Wave of Austin restaurant shutters rolls on with closure of tapas spot

Bullfight Austin
Bullfight surprised Austin diners with a closure announcement late June 5. Photo courtesy of Bullfight

What’s going on with Austin’s restaurant scene? That’s a question that is surely on the minds of both hospitality professionals and diners alike as yet another upscale concept has unexpectedly shuttered.

In a 9 pm Facebook message on June 5, Parkside Project’s tapas restaurant Bullfight announced it was permanently closing at the end of the evening's service. It was the fourth high-profile shutter in three weeks, proceeded by Philip Speer’s Bonhomie, El Chile Group’s Alcomar, and South Austin cocktail bar Backbeat.

In the message, the team said they “have an opportunity to transform the space and create a concept more in line with our neighborhood and community,” adding that “restaurateur Shawn Cirkiel … will bring in a new partner to develop this concept.”

The restaurant debuted at 4807 Airport Blvd. in September 2015, reimagining the former site of a Valero gas station with a splashy Michael Hsu design. It initially received a fair amount of buzz, both for the roster of talent (including executive chef Ryan Shields, lauded sommelier Paul Ozbirn, and pastry chef Erica Waksmunski) and for introducing a destination restaurant to the funky Airport strip.

But the location may have proved to be the undoing of the restaurant. While neighborhood eateries like Tyson’s Tacos and Komé flourish on the restaurant row, Bullfight always seemed like a special occasion restaurant, more suitable to the night on the town that spots in downtown or East Austin can provide.

And Spanish cuisine has recently been somewhat of a hard sell in Austin. Since CultureMap published a roundup of our five favorite tapas spots in June 2016, three of our picks have closed. Malaga shuttered after an 18-year run, and Boca — temporarily closed until November — has since switched over to more Tex-Mex-inspired fare.

As for Bullfight, the statement said that a new concept will debut in early fall. Judging by the recent zeitgeist, we’ll make a guess that it is going to be another casual all-day cafe.