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Openings & Closings: July 2011

Another busy week in the city where good things happen in threes: Three coffee shops are opening soon, three chefs have moved into new positions, and three restaurants are fast on their way to opening (or reopening, in one case). And bad things happen in twos, I guess: two notable restaurants closed over the past week as well.

In chef news, The Inn at Dos Brisas has hired its third chef (hopefully this third time really is a charm): Raj Dixit, who worked with former chef Craig Shelton at The Ryland Inn in Whitehouse, New Jersey. While Dos Brisas's charms are many, it remains to be seen if this small-scale, truly farm-to-table restaurant in rural Texas will ever be "big" enough to keep high-caliber chefs like Shelton and Dixit around -- Forbes five-star rating and all.

If you've ever wondered where the food on all those Gulf construction and dive boats comes from, your answer is in Alvin. Cardinal Culinary Services caters primarily to those subsea construction vessels, and it has a new chef: Louis Cressy, a New Orleans native who'll be heading up catering efforts for the company as well as its weekly deliveries of prepared meals, fresh groceries and cooking supplies. While this might not be a traditional restaurant, it's pretty damn interesting what goes on in our watery backyard nevertheless.

Ever since Frank Triola closed up Azzarelli's under curious circumstances (Azzarelli's has since become Bistro Catron), the chef has been flying under the radar. No more, as he has now landed at Smith & Wollensky. As an assistant manager.

Moving on...

Will a TJ's soon take over the Alabama Theater?
Will a TJ's soon take over the Alabama Theater?

A trio of coffee shops is coming soon, beginning with Cafe Luz opening downtown on August 8. The shop will open at 907 Franklin (the Bayou Lofts building) in the retail storefront portion of Kitchen Incubator. Kitchen Inc. co-owners Lucrece Borrego and Jesus Acosta will be running the shop along with veteran barista Frank Freeman, who helped establish the cafe at Revival Market. We'll have more info on Cafe Luz -- including plenty of photos -- on Monday, as well as an interview with Freeman himself on the new cafe, which also includes an old-fashioned soda fountain concept.

In Montrose, news spread yesterday that two heavy-hitters are opening within blocks of each other shortly: Blacksmith, run by David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto, will occupy the old Mary's space. And Sean Marshall's next venture (aside from roasting beans for Fusion) will open soon next to Uchi, to be called Southside Espresso.

Up north, Aldo's Cucina Italiana is preparing to open in Spring (Spring the city, not spring the season, that is). Meanwhile, Raia's Italian Market on Washington Avenue has been sold to customer Terry Polovina. You can read more about the changeover at Raia's website.

And opening its first Inner Loop restaurant is Twin Peaks, according to CultureMap, who were all giggly over the idea of the breastaurant's close proximity to the more refined and elevated Haven just across the parking lot. (I admit; I was a little giggly over it, too.)

Although the news earlier this week was that Trader Joe's was considering The Woodlands as its first landing spot in the greater Houston area, the Chronicle has us thinking otherwise: A tip from a source reveals that the grocery giant might actually be eying the old Alabama Theater location after all. Please and thank you, Trader Joe's.

And just when you thought Houston couldn't get any more food trucks, yet another cupcake truck has been "franchised" from Los Angeles. Cupcakes a Go-Go offers cupcakes as well as whoopie pies, ice cream and cold milk.

Last but not least, two restaurants closed this past week: Red Balloon Cafe and Habanero's Mex Grill on Milam. Pour one out for our fallen, then read ahead for the month in openings and closings.

  Openings

Bambolino's Pizza, 1504 Airline, 713-802-2221 Brew -n- Bake, 145 Oyster Creek Drive, Lake Jackson, 979-297-1433 The Brownstone Cafe, 2736 Virginia, 713-489-9524 Coal Burger, 20 Waterway Avenue, 281-292-6385 Dickey's Barbecue Pit, 601 Highway 75 North, Huntsville, 936-295-8700 Hot Bowl Mongolian Grill, 17440 West Grand Parkway South, Sugar Land, 281-239-2988 House of Fries, 5322 Antoine, 713-682-4111 Hubcap Burgers and Beer Garden, 1133 West 19th, 713-862-0555 Kelley's Country Cookin', 11555 West Airport Boulevard, Stafford, 281-903-7795 Magnolia Cafe & Bakery, 14020 Highway 3, Webster, 281-218-6744 Majorca Island Bistro and Tapas, 207 West Gray, 832-582-7176 O'Yeah Cafe, 5004 Kirby, 713-524-0449 Relish Fine Foods, 3951 San Felipe, 713-599-1960 Seaside Bistro, 6300 Seawall Boulevard, Galveston, 409-744-1447 Sorrel Urban Bistro, 2202 West Alabama, 713-677-0391 Soup Cowboy, 711 Louisiana, Suite 206 (in the tunnels), 713-920-9137 Tiny's No. 5, 3636 Rice Boulevard Tradicao Brazilian Steakhouse, 12000 Southwest Freeway, Stafford, 713-339-1122

Closings

Bibas Diner, 607 West Gray Bootsie's Heritage Cafe, 112 Commerce, Tomball Byrd's Market & Cafe, 420 Main Casa Rico's, 1620 Research Forest Drive, The Woodlands The Enclave Sports Grill, 1140 Eldridge Parkway, Suite 100 Expressions Fine Chocolate, 3535 Wilcrest Extreme Pita, all locations except the University of Houston main campus location Formosa Bistro, 14838 Park Row Hunan Downtown, 821 Capitol La Vista, 12665 Memorial Drive Starfire Grill, 3801 Bellaire Boulevard and 2412 Bay Area Boulevard



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