Burger Bars

Houston's Top 10

Legacy Restaurants, which bought Ninfa's on Navigation and Antone's in 2006, will still own and operate the restaurants, and the talented Alex Padilla will still serve as executive chef for both. Heugel, Michael Burnett and Kevin Floyd will be responsible for the future operations of both the Original Ninfa's and Antone's, while Niel Morgan and his son Chase will continue as owners and custodians of two of Houston's oldest and most iconic brands — both of which are celebrating anniversaries soon. Ninfa's will turn 40 next year, while Antone's will turn 50.

"We have worked hard to preserve both the Original Ninfa's and Antone's traditions for a new generation to enjoy. There is no other group of restaurateurs we would trust more to help us continue this effort," said Niel Morgan in a press release. "Their dedication and success in preserving and enhancing the culinary scene of Houston makes them perfect."

Meanwhile, Ninfa's on Navigation is getting a new neighbor — and some serious competition — in the form of a brand-new El Tiempo Cantina. The restaurant chain has Houston roots that go even deeper than Ninfa's, too: It's been around for 55 years and is run by none other than Dominic Laurenzo, grandson of Mama Ninfa Laurenzo herself. Dominic's father, Roland, purchased the property next door to his mother's original restaurant and has already laid the slab for what will be a $1.75 million restaurant when it opens early next year.

A Rudyard's burger in the "living room of Montrose."
Katharine Shilcutt
A Rudyard's burger in the "living room of Montrose."
The $13 burger at Branch Water is worth the price.
Mai Pham
The $13 burger at Branch Water is worth the price.

Another culinary team has announced big plans: The Revival Market crew will be opening Coltivare this coming spring in the Heights at 3320 White Oak, not far from Revival's current location. Coltivare, which means "to cultivate" in Italian, will serve Italian food created with local, seasonal ingredients — many of which executive chef Ryan Pera hopes will come from Coltivare's adjoining 3,000-square-foot garden.

"The Italian cooking philosophy is all about using the seasonal ingredients on hand and keeping the preparation pure and simple," said Pera in a press release. "At Revival Market, we've cultivated an environment in which our diners come to experience the purest essence or presentation of a given dish, whether it be the perfect cup of coffee, the best B.L.T. sandwich, the kolache that gets you up in the morning. I cannot wait to get at the challenge of making a pizza worthy of the Revival name."

Coltivare plans to open in the spring for dinner and weekend brunch. And in keeping with the Heights' "dry" tradition, the restaurant will offer "private club" membership with a unique wine list and full bar.

Since leaving Concepción earlier this month (which, I might add, is still open for business), Jonathan Jones has already secured a new position: as executive chef for the Monarch at the Hotel Zaza. Chef Adam West left to pursue other interests, leaving a spot open for Jones, who hopes to shake things up at the hip Museum District hotel.

"I will...take two weeks to assess the team and the menu," reported Jones. "It's a large operation with many working parts. But they want a dynamic fall menu based around farm-to-table produce and proteins and an aggressive Gulf-to-table seafood program." Jones starts at the Monarch this week.

The grocery store that Houstonians have been waiting for with fanaticism and fervor finally opened its doors last Friday: Trader Joe's has finished its renovation of the Alabama Theater and is open for business. Preservationists will thrill to see the original art deco medallions inside have been restored to their original glory, even if the theater is otherwise unrecognizable in its new incarnation.

Also now open: The Shack in Cypress, which has reopened after a temporary absence and changed its name from Love Shack.

And last but not least, pour some tequila out for Vida Sexy Tex-Mex. The ill-fated Tex-Mex restaurant that we gave a scathing review back in February has closed. Owner Trey Melcher tells Sarah Rufca at CultureMap that he plans another concept for the space, one which will hopefully be more well-received. Katharine Shilcutt

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