Way, way back in 1999, a fresh-faced young chef named Guy Fieri and his business partner Steve Gruber fulfilled America’s burning desire to eat barbecued meats and sushi at the same time by opening Tex Wasabi’s in downtown Santa Rosa, California. The restaurant became famous for its pioneering “Gringo Sushi” menu (Fieri and Gruber’s term, not ours), blowing Californian minds night after night with creations like the “Kemosabe Roll”: a sushi roll stuffed with a delectable filling of barbecued tri-tip, French fries, crispy onions, and a healthy schmear of garlic chili mayo. This all made complete sense in 1999.
Tex Wasabi’s and its sister restaurant, an Italian/Applebee’s hybrid called Johnny Garlic’s, soon grew into a ten-restaurant empire in central California. Then Fieri became a cultural phenomenon. Gruber stayed behind as his partner went onto bigger, more XXXtreme things, eventually purchasing all of Fieri’s shares in the company the built together in 2016. At the time he vowed that he would keep the party going—after all, this was the original Flavortown, and a veritable American institution. Sadly, the last Johnny Garlic’s closed in November 2018, and today the world must say goodbye to Tex Wasabi’s.
The restaurant abruptly closed on Monday, reports the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. A sign on the window read: “After nearly 20 years, we are sorry to announce that Tex Wasabis [sic] had closed its doors. Thank you to all for your support and patronage over the years.” Gruber chalks up the closing to the cost of doing business, and mentioned that a group of employees is currently trying to pool together money to buy the restaurant from him. There has been no comment from Fieri, but even though Tex Wasabi’s has long been in his rear view mirror, this is, no doubt, a very sad day in Flavortown.