Philly Poutine

A first look at the new Pappa Geno's in Bellaire.

In closures, Block 7 Wine Company has closed after only four short years in business. It was one of the first new-build restaurants to move into the Washington Avenue corridor and was equally lauded for its retail wine shop component (which allowed customers to purchase bottles of wine on premises for a nice discount) as well as its upscale comfort food, like the dry-aged beef burger topped with Gruyère and a smoky bacon relish. (We loved it so much we gave it Best Burger in our 2010 Best of Houston® issue.)

Word from my sources is that Block 7's ownership had been in talks to revamp the warehouse-like space, as the retail wine side of the business eventually faltered and closed and the restaurant needed new direction. A big-name chef was hired to redo the menu and relaunch the concept, but sources say that too much lag time left Block 7 in the lurch and the owners finally closed its doors this past week.

In other news along Washington Avenue, chef Tommy Birdwell left TQLA — this past June — although I just found out about his departure this week. No word on where Birdwell has landed.

Philly poutine. Patent it, Pappa Geno's.
Katharine Shilcutt
Philly poutine. Patent it, Pappa Geno's.
Arellano is speaking at the University of Houston on November 15.
Arellano is speaking at the University of Houston on November 15.

Our friends at B4-U-Eat have the scoop on the brand-new Cafe Pita+ that's opening this weekend, marking the second location of the Bosnian restaurant that's a foodie favorite. "It's not at 5500 Richmond as announced but at 5506 Richmond, formerly Casablanca Couscous and Grill (and no, we don't know when that one closed)," read this week's B4-U-Eat newsletter.

And one more great tidbit of news from B4-U-Eat: Westside favorite Hollister Grill will soon have a location inside the Loop. Owner Chuck Pritchett is opening a second location in the recently vacated Cova space at 5555 Washington. Look for it to open within the next month or two. Katharine Shilcutt

Top 10

Galleria Glitz
Our picks for the best restaurants in the Galleria area.

Long the bastion of boring chain restaurants and overly expensive hot spots, the Galleria has seen a resurgence in the past few years when it comes to food. Chef-owned-and-driven restaurants are upping the ante along Post Oak Boulevard, while places like E-Tao and White Oak Kitchen + Drinks are showing shoppers that it's possible to have a great meal inside the massive mall itself without splashing out or trudging through the subterranean food court.

And in the surrounding blocks around the Galleria, brand-new eateries like family-owned Adair Kitchen and low-key French bistro Etoile Cuisine et Bar are drawing new fans to the area each day. And while there are still plenty of terrific, inexpensive options to stretch your dining dollar — Zabak's, Jenni's Noodle House, Cafe Mawal and Jake's Philly Steaks spring to mind as just a few — today's list of Top 10 restaurants in the Galleria has changed quite a bit since the last time we tackled this part of 2010.

And considering that holiday shopping season is right around the corner, getting reacquainted with some good places to fuel your shopping spree isn't a bad idea.

10. 1252 Tapas

The new Uptown Park location of this suburban import (the other two 1252 Tapas locations are in Cypress and The Woodlands) features a sleek, modern menu of traditional Spanish tapas and a much more urban vibe than its far-flung counterparts. Get the tabla alfonso x if you go with a group so that you can taste 1252's array of excellent Spanish cheeses and cured meats or get experimental if you go on your own: Morcilla (blood sausage) with apple and Dijon mustard sauce and pulpitos en su tinta (baby octopus sautéed in its own ink) are two favorites.

9. Tango & Malbec

Yes, the Galleria is full of steakhouses — but none of them are quite like Tango & Malbec. The large, well-appointed restaurant features the cuisine and wines of Argentina and its neighboring South American countries, which means lots of meats grilled on a wood-burning fire. The extensive menu has some Italian influences — items like the carpaccio, provoleta (grilled provolone), and various pizzas and pasta dishes are all expertly prepared. Meat lovers will adore the bife de lomo (filet steak) and the bife de chorizo (rib eye) as well as the Wagyu beef short ribs. Whatever you do, leave room for the magnificent desserts, such as the torta rogel (dulce de leche cake with meringue), the chocolate soufflé and the profiteroles.

8. E-Tao

In a shopping center saturated with middling fast food and ultra-expensive chains, E-Tao is a welcome happy medium: a low-key, low-cost restaurant with great food. Situated near Nordstrom in the Galleria IV, the newest of the expansions to the gigantic mall, E-Tao serves traditional Sichuan favorites that are far more authentic than one would expect for mall food. While it's gaining a following for its soup dumplings (xiaolongbao), the rice-and-pork-stuffed chicken wings are equally excellent. And if you can't deal with the drive out to Chinatown, E-Tao makes a surprisingly good replacement for the Bellaire Boulevard dumpling houses.

7. The Oceanaire

The Oceanaire — a sleek seafood palace that anchors "restaurant row" in the Galleria — is designed to resemble an art deco ocean liner, and the pampering service fits right into the theme. The staff is extremely well-trained, with spot-on knowledge of every oyster and fish variety on the menu and the attention to detail that means getting a white or black napkin based on the color of your clothing. Tell them it's your birthday or anniversary when you make your reservation and you'll get a specially printed menu and a congratulatory card when you sit down at your table. And that's really where the Oceanaire shines; it's a special-occasion sort of place that really does make the occasion feel special. The Oceanaire was also one of the first places in Houston to carry so-called Gulf appellation oysters — so you know it's on-trend with its dishes — but it also carries old standbys that most places have done away with, like Baked Alaska.

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