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The Rest of the Best

Houston's top 10 pizzas.

And downtown, another closed restaurant will likely be revamped very soon: The Strip House, which closed in July, is rumored to be the new location of a Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. The exceptionally upscale steakhouse — one of the city's best — would be an ideal fit for downtown, but it would also give its equals like Vic & Anthony's a run for their money.

Also downtown, another restaurant was — like The Strip House — recently locked out for non-payment of rent. Yao Restaurant and Bar, the Chinese restaurant that opened in February 2010, has closed. The Westheimer location in Westchase remains open. According to the Houston Business Journal, retired Houston Rocket Yao Ming "loaned his name to the business but did not own any shares."

In other closings, Swamplot reported the remarkable news that a Smashburger actually closed. The burger chain has seemed to multiply like a warren of rabbits, but the Westchase location on Westheimer near Beltway 8 was one of "the chain's worst-performing" stores. The empty spot has already been leased to a Dunkin Donuts, so rejoice, you west Houston donut fans.

The Winner Winner at Austin import J. Black's.
Katharine Shilcutt
The Winner Winner at Austin import J. Black's.
Kevin Charif, left, and Jeff Anon are eager to get Berryhill Baja Grill's new food truck on the streets.
Katharine Shilcutt
Kevin Charif, left, and Jeff Anon are eager to get Berryhill Baja Grill's new food truck on the streets.

Also in expansions, the Houston Business Journal has reported that Peter Piper Pizza is moving into the Houston market, opening 25 pizza joints throughout the greater metro area. The first location will be at 6223 E. Sam Houston Parkway North on Beltway 8 at Wallisville Road.

Pappa Geno's has finally opened its second location, this one in Bellaire at Bellaire Boulevard and Mapleridge.

And although it seems as though its second location (in the Heights) was just announced, Torchy's Tacos has already announced its third location, too. Says B4-U-Eat in its weekly newsletter: "...they've signed the lease on their third location, 2400 Times Blvd. Well, they told us they would open 15 of them here."

In a final bit of good news, Houston has another empanada shop — this one in Jersey Village. Yummy Mpanadas just celebrated its grand opening and is now serving a full menu of everything from breakfast empanadas to dessert crepes. Katharine Shilcutt
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RESTAURANT NEWS

Lovely Lucy
First look at Houston's newest Ethiopian restaurant.

After being thoroughly disappointed with the one Ethiopian meal I had in Washington D.C., I began pining for a good meal at Blue Nile — my favorite Ethiopian restaurant here in Houston as well as the place where I'd first tried the cuisine many years ago. And then I remembered: Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge had just opened in a high-profile location along Highway 59 south of Hillcroft. Why not give this new place a try instead?

So I corralled some friends together for a family-style meal at Lucy — after all, eating family-style is the best way to eat Ethiopian food — and headed south one Saturday night. I think we were all astonished to walk inside what looks as if it were once a Golden Corral to find the building transformed into an elegant, casually chic restaurant with three distinct areas: a full bar, an Ethiopian-style lounge packed with people dining on the floor and a tall-ceilinged dining room lined with modish crystal chandeliers and a softly flowing waterfall.

Although Blue Nile has come leaps and bounds since it first opened in its little Richmond strip center, it's still safe to call it a hole-in-the-wall, albeit a clean and well-kept one. Lucy, on the other hand, is a flat-out destination. And one that I think will be ideal for introducing newcomers to the cuisine, thanks to its friendly waitstaff and lush, inviting interior.

Upon seeing a flood of new customers into her restaurant, Lucy's owner shuffled away some of her friends occupying a large communal table and tsk-tsk'ed at them to go sit at a smaller one. My friends and I chuckled at this, although we were a bit embarrassed to take their spot in one corner of the main dining room. (The displaced diners, for what it's worth, barely seemed to notice that they'd been moved, so deep in Amharic conversation were they.)

I was almost afraid to look at the menu, as I know that prices have gone up considerably at places such as Sheba Cafe and Blue Nile in the past few years. Surely at this lovely, far more upscale restaurant, the prices would be painful. Not so, I found: A vegetarian combo with six items (meant to feed two to three people) was $17, while a full combo platter of meats and stews (for three or four people) was $27. My friends and I went whole-hog and ordered a round of combo platters — three vegetarian plates, two meat-and-stew combos, plus a few more dishes of doro wat, tibs and kitfo.

My second fear was that the portions would be miserly. I've seen this trend at even the Ethiopian restaurants I like: Where you would once get a platter of lentils and greens and cabbage all piled high and overlapping onto each other, now it's more common to see several inches of room between each spoonful of food.

The food at Lucy, however, came out hot, fresh and in heaping portions. So big were the portions, in fact, that my table only finished a little over half of the food we ordered. The kitfo — one dish that a few folks were nervous about ordering — was a huge hit, the raw beef so well seasoned that one friend remarked he'd never know it was the Ethiopian version of steak tartare. Our vegetarian combo platters contained bright, jewel-toned scoops of red and yellow lentils, dark green collard greens, savory stewed cabbage — all of it deeply seasoned with fragrant garlic and ginger.

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1 comments
tom.chretien
tom.chretien

I have enjoyed the pizza at Napoli Italian at 14743 Memorial Drive and all six locations for over a decade.  Papa Zack has kept the highest quality ingredients and prices are very reasonable...  Napoli has great pasta, shrimp, calamari, and chicken parmesan, veal parmesan, and great sausage and meatballs.  The Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo is amazing!  It gets my vote for #1 Casual Italian.

I love Dolce Vita in Montrose also.  I love the marinara, meatballs, and salads are outstanding!  Totally different pizza places where Napoli is traditional what I grew up with where Dolce Vita is wood fired pizza with high quality ingredients.  I love the ambiance in Dolce Vita...  both get my vote for #1 Pizza in Houston Texas!

 
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