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The Ten Summer Openings We're Most Excited About

Get excited for chef Justin Turner's first brick and mortar restaurant!
Get excited for chef Justin Turner's first brick and mortar restaurant!
Photo courtesy Bernie's Burger Bus

Just as the warmer weather, longer days and lack of school bring out the blockbuster films in Hollywood-land, summer is generally a time to welcome a slew of new blockbuster restaurants in Houston. Last summer was fairly slow for restaurant openings, but this year is poised to shake up the H-town dining scene in a great way.

Get ready for new ways to satisfy your hunger after strolling through museums, new spots to get your drink on and lots and lots of doughnuts. From food trucks going brick and mortar to chefs and restaurants imported from across the country, the Houston restaurant scene will be positively hopping now through August.

This list isn't everything set to open soon, of course--just the places we're most excited to try. As is always the case with restaurant openings, some of these may get pushed back to the fall (or later). But for now, these are the projected blockbuster hits of the summer season.

Azuma Group Restaurant It's so new, it still doesn't have a name! At least, we're told that as of last week a name had not been chosen and the menu is still being developed. We're not sure if that's on schedule for the upcoming restaurant, but back when it was announced to the Houston Chronicle in late March, the projected opening date was mid to late summer. The Azuma group, who owns Kata Robata, Soma Sushi and Azuma Sushi are opening a Japanese izakaya in the Midtown space that used to house Farrago World Cuisine. Kata Robata chef Manabu Horiuchi, affectionately known as Hori-san, will be involved in the menu creation, as his experiences frequenting izakayas in Japan after a long day's work were the inspiration behind the new spot.

Bernie's Burger Bus Stop We've been hearing about it for months, and it's finally (almost) here! Bernie's Burger Bus Stop will be opening soon at its new brick and mortar location in Bellaire. First there was the truck, then there were more trucks, then a spot in Reliant Stadium (but only if you had a ticket of course), and now, after waiting for years for a spot where you could sit down and order a burger like a civilized human being, our prayers have been answered. And by civilized human being, of course, we mean crazed burger fiend with that delicious homemade ketchup dripping down your chin. It's impossible to eat a Bernie's Burger and stay clean. At least beginning in June there will be a table to catch the mess.

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Soon we'll be able to look at the actual space, rather than a mock-up.
Soon we'll be able to look at the actual space, rather than a mock-up.
Photo courtesy Bistro Menil

Bistro Menil The name isn't as exciting as we'd hoped, but the concept still has us anxious to check it out. Greg Martin, formerly of Cafe Express, Cafe Annie and Taco Milagro, will serve as executive chef of the cafe, which will feature wine, beer and, according to an article in the Chronicle, European-inspired American fare. One of the craftsmen-style bungalows on the property will house the cafe, in accordance with the original wishes of the architect, Renzo Piano. Bistro Menil is scheduled to open sometime late summer.

Glazed: The Doughnut Cafe Call it a craze. The first of two exciting doughnut shops coming soon, Glazed has one really awesome thing going for it: It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Doughnuts whenever you want them! The proximity of the new spot to the Medical Center is one reason for the extended hours. The other? People just want good, gourmet doughnuts in a town that has plenty of classic doughnuts but is light on the fancy stuff. CultureMap first reported that Glazed will serve "raised, cake and baked doughnuts, with at least some of the baked varieties being both vegan and gluten-free." Flavors will include creme brulée citrus jalapeno, blueberry cake, red velvet and maple bacon, and there will also be kolaches because we live in Texas, and that's just what you do. Look to be glazed and amused in June.

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Partners Matt Toomey, Charlotte Mitchell and Brad Moore of The Honeymoon.
Partners Matt Toomey, Charlotte Mitchell and Brad Moore of The Honeymoon.
Photo by Molly Dunn

The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar Take a mini vacation with The Honeymoon, a new bar from Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse of The Corinthian Bar Group (Goro & Gun, Lei Low Bar, OKRA, Bad News Bar, Big Star Bar and Grand Prize Bar) and Matt Toomey and Charlotte Mitchell of Boomtown Coffee. Originally scheduled to open this spring, the bar is now eyeing a summer debut, and we can hardly wait. The Honeymoon is promising a New Orleans vibe, combining beer, wine and cocktails with coffee and small, gourmet eats in one convenient setting on Main Street downtown. Amanda McGraw is developing the food menu, and Justin Burrow of Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar & Spirit Lodge is creating the cocktail menu. The cafe and bar aims to capture all types of people who find themselves downtown, from theater-goers to office workers and all the drinkers in between.

Hugs & Donuts H-Town StrEATs, which opened a long time ago by food truck standards, is one of the original gangster gourmet food trucks in Houston, but it may soon be parking for some time as the chefs/owners, Jason Hill and Matt Opaleski, embark on a new project. At Hugs & Donuts, there will definitely be doughnuts, and Opaleski tells us, there will probably be some hugs, too. The duo can't say for sure whether opening up the doughnut and kolache shop in the Heights next to Fat Cat Creamery will force them to hang up their truck driving hats for good, but once Hugs & Donuts opens in July, it will be their primary focus. Back when they started planning the restaurant more than a year ago, there weren't any true gourmet doughnut shops in Houston. Now, they're starting to spring up in truck and building form, but Opaleski and Hill remain convinced that there's a place for their uber doughnuts in the Houston scene. If you've had the awesome eats from H-Town StrEATs, you're no doubt sold on the concept as well. Stay tuned for a Kickstarter to fund the new restaurant launching soon.

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Of course we need more ramen in Houston!
Of course we need more ramen in Houston!
Photo courtesy JINYA Ramen

JINYA Ramen JINYA Ramen may be a chain, but it's expanding quickly for a reason. The California-based eatery was originally supposed to debut in Midtown in March or April, but it's now set to start dishing up ramen this summer. Like the as yet unnamed Azuma concept, JINYA Ramen will be part izakaya, featuring items like tempura brussels sprouts and pork dumplings in addition to nearly a dozen varieties of ramen. Based on reviews of some of the other locations in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Las Vegas, Houstonians have a lot to look forward to. LA Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold even named JINYA Ramen one of the top ten ramen restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area, and that city's been on the ramen trend far longer than we have.

Julep Julep co-owner Alba Huerta recently chatted with us about the upcoming southern cocktail bar, for which she created all the cocktails based upon old recipes from magazines. The bar will open in the next two to three weeks in the Washington Corridor, and with the Clumsy Butcher name behind it (the group responsible for Anvil and the Pastry War), it's sure to be a popular destination the moment it starts slinging mint juleps. In an ode to ice, which revolutionized eating and drinking in the deep south more than 100 years ago, the bar will also feature a menu of fresh, raw seafood prepared by Adam Garcia, formerly of Revival Market & The Pass and Provisions.

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The fancy new Marriott will house Main Kitchen & 806 Lounge.
The fancy new Marriott will house Main Kitchen & 806 Lounge.
Photo courtesy Main Kitchen & 806 Lounge

Main Kitchen & 806 Lounge The luxury JW Marriott hotel isn't quite finished yet, but when it is, the hotel restaurant will be one of the main draws. Erin Smith, formerly the culinary director for the Clumsy Butcher group, will be the executive chef at Main Kitchen & 806 Lounge, and Plinio Saldalio is returning home from Austin to serve as pastry chef. In a statement to CultureMap, Smith said, "Together, we hope to develop an exceptional culinary program for Main Kitchen and 806 Bar & Lounge that will become a staple of Houston's thriving restaurant scene." The swanky new hotel and accompanying eateries will open late this summer.

Museum Park Cafe and Bosta For the last several years, chef Justin Basye has been working primarily behind the scenes for the Pappas restaurant group, but now he's ready to get back in the spotlight as he will serve as executive chef at the new Museum Park Cafe and adjacent coffee and wine bar, Bosta. Chris Leung, the culinary director for Balcor Hospitality and chef at Cloud 10 Creamery will be doing desserts, and David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto of Greenway Coffee will create Bosta's coffee program. The restaurant's website promises "a distinctive but approachable menu of savory American cuisine," that will cater to people from all walks of life. Expect families with kids, area businesspeople and museum district tourists alike to converge on the "laid back but contemporary" new cafe.


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