Taco Cabana, one of the state’s best-loved fast-casual restaurant chains, suddenly closed nineteen locations Monday, mostly in Houston and North Texas. The closures, effective immediately, “eliminate all stores with significant losses,” said Fiesta Restaurant Group’s president and CEO, Richard Stockinger, in a press release. Dallas-based Fiesta is the parent company of both Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical.

In an interview with Texas Monthly, CFO Dirk Montgomery echoed Stockinger’s comments. “The business is very proud of its forty-year history in Texas,” he said, adding that the closures affected only underperforming stores. “It is always a very hard decision to make when individual employees are impacted,” he said. “But the company is going to be offering positions to nearly all the employees at other Taco Cabana locations.”

Taco Cabana was founded by Felix Stehling and his family in 1978. Its first store, located in a former Dairy Queen at 3310 San Pedro Avenue in San Antonio, has been a fixture of Tex-Mex fast-food culture ever since (it underwent a renovation in 2013). Stehling’s stepson and Taco Cabana cofounder Lynn Moody died New Year’s Eve at age 68, the San Antonio Express-News reported. His death came a week after the passing of artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade, who died Christmas Eve at 76. Three of Wade’s ten-foot-tall frog sculptures grace the roof of the Lower Greenville Taco Cabana, which was the only Dallas store to close. (While the future of the “Tango Frogs” is unknown, Culture Map suggested some ideas.)

One of the first taco joints I ever ate at in Texas was a Taco Cabana. While my wife and I were visiting her home state from New York, we stopped at a Grand Prairie location. I remember eating the pleasantly greasy barbacoa on a freshly made, squishy flour tortilla. Some of the grease leaked onto my shirt and permanently stained it. Over the years, Taco Cabana breakfast tacos have been an occasional road trip food for my family. We get a box of them to split with my in-laws before heading to Thanksgiving family gatherings in the Hill Country. My son went through a Taco Cabana crunchy taco phase. I took its existence for granted. Not anymore.

In the course of our conversation, I shared my story with Montgomery. He said the company wants to build on the brand’s strong following. “There are certainly things that the brand can improve, including continuing to stress more value and more value-based offerings, which they started in the fourth quarter, and [offering such services as] catering online and delivery.”

810 West Stacy Road, Allen
8620 Burnet Road, Austin
701 Texas Avenue South, College Station
2220 South Loop 288, Denton
1827 Greenville Avenue, Dallas
11560 Dallas Parkway, Frisco
5350 Preston Road, Frisco
7105 Interstate 30, Greenville
12518 Tomball Parkway, Houston
13480 Northwest Freeway, Houston
2535 South Texas Highway 6, Houston
6522 Westheimer Road, Houston
9220 Gulf Freeway, Houston
1495 Precinct Line Road, Hurst
Texas Highway 288 and This Way Street, Lake Jackson
1675 Texas Highway 46, New Braunfels
5036 Rufe Snow, North Richland Hills
11701 Blanco Road, San Antonio
825 South Sixth, Waco