Houston’s TGI Fridays closings go deeper than the two reported locations

Thank God It’s Friday! Today, we’re covering the recent closings of multiple TGI Friday’s locations in Houston. If you’ve paid attention to any national news lately, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that TGI Friday’s closed 36 restaurants, two of which were in Houston (shoutout to HHR reader Kirk who was the first person to share a location list with the Houston location in it). These closing lists have been making headlines for years. Usually, they’re an easy way to get clicks, views, or whatever the author is after. In the current days of clickbait, it’s all too common to see a non-region-specific title applied to a location list, attached to a couple of sentences of commentary, and a slideshow of photos through the years of a chain, often from the originating city of a republished article. It’s to retail journalism what the History Channel is to Swamp People and Pawn Shops, the mainstream. While these lists can be useful later on in retail research, the lack of region-specific information leaves lots out of the story, as is the case with TGI Friday’s. Such is the case with TGI Friday’s, which has closed far more than just those two stores in the past couple of years. Those who have been in Houston for a while know that Friday’s has been here for quite a while, and while not a Texas original, its current status of two locations in the area is a far cry from what it once was. Depending on who you ask, TGI Friday’s could be considered the first fern bar. It was easily the first in Houston, opening here in 1973. The chain’s success was bolstered by slow growth, locating near major malls, and embracing its image as a fern bar, even though it came with a bit of a stigma. However, by the 1980s the chain was realizing things would have to change as the generation of free love and swinging singles was settling down, they wouldn’t take their children to TGI Friday’s.

To counter this, the company would develop another format named Dalt’s Diner, which was essentially a Friday with a kid’s menu, and the lights turned up a bit. The Houston Dalt’s located in Greenspoint Mall would be one of the first to open and one of the first to close. After Friday’s realized that the stores ran the same costs as a Friday’s, but sold less liquor and food, the decision was made to bring the Dalt’s ideas into Friday’s. This would create the more family-friendly, somewhat watered-down version of TGI Friday’s, which people my age grew up around. At this point, TGI Friday’s was entering a diverse market and was largely outshined in Houston by Chili’s. Despite this Friday’s lingered on, never completely wandering away from their bar image. In fact, they would debut the Friday’s Front Row Sports Bar concept here. Over the years, the chain would try other concepts, but to this day, they still rely heavily on being “the bar outside of the mall.” With the fall of malls in the 2000s, TGI Friday’s switched to building in power centers, a concept which wouldn’t last long, with most locations closing in the 2010s holding steady with mall locations. In Houston, the first mall restaurants to close would start in late 2019, when the TGI Friday’s near First Colony and Baybrook Malls both closed. These two restaurants were closed without replacements and were both demolished in 2022. The next Friday’s to close was the Katy Mills Mall location, which shut down towards the end of 2020. It would reopen briefly as Maceo’s Mexican Restaurant, which closed after only a few months. This was followed shortly after by the Pearland location near Pearland Town Center, which, yes, I know is not a traditional mall, closed abruptly in 2021 to become a Willie’s Grill & Icehouse, which it still is. The two most recent locations to close are Almeda and Woodlands Malls, which shut down earlier this month. At this point, Houston has two remaining TGI Friday’s locations, Willowbrook and Deerbrook Malls. While these two locations don’t appear to be in immediate danger of closing, I hope this article helps to serve some future retail historian, where others fall short!


  1. Funny that you mention the History Channel — one of their shows, The Food That Built America, actually had an episode on TGI Friday’s, called “Chain Reaction.” I feel like the show (as do most of its kind) has a tendency to oversimplify some stuff in favor of making it fit nicely within the time block, but it’s still a fairly complete story, and I always find myself thoroughly fascinated by it! One of my favorite programs.

    The “watered down” version of TGIF with a kids menu is indeed the version I grew up with; I remember going there several times as a kid (whereas we never went to Chili’s, for whatever reason, and stopped going to Applebee’s after a while, as they went quite downhill). Eventually we stopped going to Friday’s as well, and during COVID, the Memphis-area franchisee threw in the towel, with all local locations closing. The one in Southaven that I went to wound up being torn down for a new-build Whataburger, their very first location returning to the region after numerous decades away.

    The one in Overton Square in Memphis had long since closed years and years before the pandemic, but when it opened in 1972, it was the first-ever franchised TGIF location to open outside of NYC! (Some articles suggest it is the second-ever TGIF location, but I think they are confusing the facts on that; and the History Channel episode doesn’t mention Memphis when mentioning the chain’s franchising and expansion, but I’m more inclined to trust the local sources than the show.) Here is an article: https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2015/may/16/square-roots/

    I was probably a weird kid because the item I always remember from TGI Friday’s is the carrots and ranch 😛 Probably because we always had lite ranch at home, and Friday’s probably had some very fattening version, haha!

    1. Very interesting, I had no idea about the Memphis connection. I actually only went to TGI Friday’s a hand full of times as a kid, we were a Chili’s family, lol. Being based out of Texas there was sort of a loyalty to them. They did some pretty authentic albeit basic versions of good Tex-Mex back then. I went a few times in High School, and once or twice in College, because it was open late. Again though being in Texas we had lots of other 24-Hour options., Whataburger of course being one of them!

  2. Bummer! The Almeda location is where I took my (now) wife on our 3rd date, back in 1984. After seeing a movie at the now-closed theater next door. This Fridays was practically the only place left in the SE Houston area that we went to back in those days.

  3. From the POV of an ignorant consumer, I never liked going to Almeda’s TGI Fridays. The drinks were decently cheap, but the location didn’t have any A/C, the food was expensive and mid-tier, and the lack of TouchTunes (instead Top 40 pop hits played at low volume) was enough for me to despise the place and never go back. I’d much rather make the drive to Fairmont’s AppleBee’s if I’m looking for food + drinks after 12am.