In light of Governor Abbott's guidelines for Phase Two of the Reopening of Texas more and more Houston restaurants are finally going forward with dine-in service. We even have a list this week of several new restaurants opening for the first time despite the current difficulties. Bars have a different capacity cap for now and it varies from business to business.
While it is exciting to return to some normalcy and visit our favorite establishments, their owners and their staff, please remember that everyone is doing their best during this difficult time. Drinks may take a bit longer, menu items may run out and guests may be asked to adhere to certain restrictions that may not be very comfortable. Nurse that margarita, order an extra plate of wings and enjoy your small party of four. And if you're more comfortable dining at home, Houston restaurants are happy to set you up with your favorite treats for take-out and delivery.
Kin Dee Thai Cuisine, 1533 N. Shepherd, opened May 22 at the Market at Houston Heights center. It comes from longtime friends, Lukkaew Srasrisuwan and Chef Miranda Loetkhamfu. The menu takes inspiration from four distinct regions of Thailand with a focus on noodle dishes. Srasrisuwan was raised in the Southern region of Thailand while Loetkhamfu hails from the North. Both women have put down roots in Houston and are thrilled to give Houston a taste of their native food culture. Srasrisuwan will oversee the managerial and business components of the restaurant while Loetkhamfu will serve as executive chef in charge of managing the kitchen.
Kin Dee translates to "eat well" in Thai and the duo will introduce guests to exotic flavors and presentations that showcase the regional flavors with hard-to-source ingredients from Thailand and quality scratch-made dishes. Each of the four regions highlighted have their own heat elements which drives the levels of spice and flavor for the restaurant's menu.
There will be creative appetizers like the Money Bag, or Tung Thong in Thai, which is deep-fried minced chicken wrapped in edible gold paper and Thai-style Grilled Pork Skewers done in the style of Thai street food. Entrees will come in the form of noodle dishes like Southern-style Green Curry or the Thai Boat Noodle Soup. More recognizable classic dishes such as Pad Thai and Chicken Satay will also be on the menu. Items range from $8 to $22.
The restaurant will offer 13 signature cocktails each designed specifically to pair perfectly with one of the 13 entree dishes. The Tom Yum is a hot and sour take on the traditional margarita, made with gin, lemongrass, chili, kaffir leaves and lime. The restaurant will also have a selection of wine, draft beer and Thai beer. Happy hour will run Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Srasrisuwan designed the 2,500 square foot space herself, blending modern and traditional Thai concepts. The interior seats 77 diners with 14 seats at the bar. There is additional seating for 20 on the patio. The large elephant mural on the wall represents Thailand's strengths as the elephant is the national symbol for the country.
The new restaurant will follow all CDC and WHO guidelines plus it will seat guests at tables six feet apart. Tables will be sanitized regularly, staff will wear masks and gloves and have their temperatures taken before each shift. Disposable menus will be used and disposable eating utensils will be available on request.
Bayou City Seafood and Pasta, 4712 Richmond, relocated from its 4730 Richmond location May 19 where it has served fresh seafood and pasta dishes for 30 years. Owner Christopher Mannery moved the restaurant to the opposite end of the same shopping center in order to increase the available space for the restaurant with seating for 200. It will also feature a patio, open to the bar through 40 foot Nano Doors that can be closed to create an enclosed climate-controlled private patio, seating up to 70 guests.
Starters include options such as boudin balls, fried pickles, oysters on the half shell and even alligator which can be fried, sauteed, blackened or grilled. Besides a variety of shellfish and seafood platters, there are more than a dozen salads to choose from and a variety of seafood or chicken pasta dishes. There's a selection of fresh fish which can be topped with one of the many Cajun toppings for an additional $8.99. There is also a kids menu.
Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Wednesday offering special pricing till close. Saturday has happy hour deal from open to 6 p.m. and Sunday has an all day happy hour.
Chapman and Kirby, 2118 Lamar, reopened May 14 after closing its doors December 31, 2019. There were plans to relocate The Prohibition Supper Club and the Conservatory food hall to the Chapman and Kirby space in an agreement between the partners at Chapman and Kirby and the owners of Company of Nomads, as we reported here in the Houston Press. That deal has fallen through, according to CultureMap Houston. The difficulty of operating a burlesque in a time when performance venues are restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic seems to have been the downfall for the new project which left the partners at Chapman and Kirby making the decision to reopen the restaurant and bar. It now features a more casual food menu and new cocktails.
The Toasted Yolk, 27008 Highway 290, will open June 15. The Cypress restaurant will be the thirteenth location for the breakfast, brunch and lunch restaurant which first opened in Conroe in 2010. There are plans for a fourteenth store in Fulshear.
Its breakfast and brunch menu offers American-style breakfasts of eggs, bacon, biscuits and more. There is a selection of different "Arnolds," its take on Eggs Benedict. Lunch items include a variety of salads like its popular Strawberry Field Salad, a Patty Melt, the Yolk Burger and Fried Chicken Sandwich. It also offers a selection of brunch cocktails to toast your toast and eggs.
For its grand opening June 15, diners can enjoy free churros donuts and $3 mimosas (for 21 and up). Its opening hours are from 7 a.m to 3 p.m. daily.
Treebeards, 315 Travis, will close June 26, as we first reported here in the Press. The Market Square location has been serving lunches of Southern comfort food to downtown workers, residents and tourists for 40 years. It also operates four other locations downtown including Pennzoil Place and 1100 Louisiana but the flagship restaurant is the one that offers a New Orleans feel with the iron balcony and historical buildings. In a Facebook post, the owners stated that the sharp increase in rent demanded by the landlord made it impossible to stay at the Travis location.
In an email to the Press, owner Charles Stinneford said that a new location downtown was still a possibility. The owners are also going forth with a plan to open a Treebeards at 9655 Katy Freeway which will have a full bar and patio. It is slated for July 2020.
Backstreet Cafe, 1103 S. Shepherd, reopened its dining room May 19. Its sister restaurant, Hugo's, reopened last week. Backstreet Cafe was the first restaurant for restaurateur Tracy Vaught and husband Hugo Ortega of H Town Restaurant Group.
The menu will be pared down, for now, but many favorites will still be available such as the Duck Spring Rolls, Red Corn Enchiladas, Tortilla Soup and Bucatini with Spicy Lump Crab. Online ordering for curbside pick up or delivery will still continue.
Safety measures will be in place including screening and temperature tests for employees, who will wear masks and gloves. Customers are also asked to wear masks until they are seated at a table and to put them back on when leaving the table. There will sanitizing stations and one-time use menus. There will be no valet service, per Texas guidelines, but there will be a parking attendant to organize the lot and keep an eye on the vehicles.
Reservations are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins will be seated when there is availability and must wait in their cars or at a safe distance from the entrance outside.
In a press release Vaught said, " We are so excited to get the doors to Backstreet Cafe open once again. We have seen and experienced a lot of things in our 37 years of business; we never imagined or experienced anything like this. We have loved preparing food for people to enjoy at home but it is not the same as welcoming guests into the dining room, our home".
Georgia James, 1100 Westheimer, will open at 50 percent capacity May 22. Chris Shepherd's steakhouse has been selling some of its carefully sourced meats as a pop-up butcher shop during the crisis. Now, with the easing of dine-in restrictions, the team at Underbelly Hospitality are ready to thrill diners with steaks from 44 Farms, Center-Cut Crab Legs and Charred Apple Pie. Right before the COVID-19 crisis, Georgia James had launched a Friday lunch special which included a prix-fixe three-course meal of an eight-ounce 44 Farms strip sirloin, a choice of soup or half- portion slab salad and roasted banana pie. It is bringing that deal to the dinner menu, along with the Georgia James Burger and steak salad.
Underbelly Hospitality is also reopening One-Fifth Mediterranean, 1658 Westheimer, at 50 percent capacity May 22. UB Preserv will not reopen for dine-in yet, due to its smaller space. It will continue curbside take-out including snack packs and meal deals. The Hay Merchant's dining room is currently the staging area for the Take and Bake meals that Shepherd's crew makes for H-E-B and curbside take-out. The Hay Merchant's menu is also available for to-go orders.
Hando, 518 W. 11th, will reopen May 27 at 11 a.m. The restaurant is known for its temaki-style sushi, or hand rolls ranging from $4 to $8.50 and are made to order. They can also be ordered in sets. There are Not Hand Rolls as well. Along with the sushi offerings there are signature cocktails like the Mole Money, Mole Problems ($11) made with mezcal, rum, ancho Reyes, mole grenadine and lime. There is a selection of sake, wine and beer, too. The restaurant will continue to offer take-out and delivery with a special menu that includes a variety of cut rolls and specials like the Chicken Karaage Meal ($15) and the Wagyu Beef Teriyaki Meal for Two ($45) which includes twelve-hour sous vide Wagyu beef, edamame, Brussels sprouts, sushi rice and two Nihon Sakarisake boxes.
The restaurant is cashless so have a credit or debit card on hand-o.
Heights Biergarten, 1433 N. Shepherd, will reopen its kitchen May 19 and May 20 until 10 p.m., then resume normal restaurant and bar hours May 22. It will be open Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. It will also serve its Boozy Brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
It menu includes burgers, sandwiches, salads and house-made sausages plus vegetarian options like pattypan squash with elote and roasted cauliflower.
Boasting more than 100 taps, Holman Draft Hall, 820 Holman, will reopen May 22. The food menu is limited with snacks like the Hummus trio or Mesquite Jumbo Wings and a patty melt and chicken sandwich. The Boozy Brunch runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and offers a small food menu as well with chilaquiles, migas, a brunch taco and a bacon and egg sandwich. To add a light bit of booze to the brunch, there are mimosas by the glass or customers can order Prosecco and juices by the liter to make their own.
Present Company, 1318 Westheimer, will reopen May 22 at noon with a happy hour that lasts till 7 p.m. Closing time is 2 a.m. The brightly colored fun spot will bring back its weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with $6 Bloody Marys and $12 pitchers of mimosa.
Pistolero's Tequila and Taco Bar, 1517 Westheimer, will reopen May 22 at 4 p.m. Its opening hours are Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and noon to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston, 1700 Post Oak, reopened its dining room May 20 and will be at 25 percent capacity. The Original Ninfa's on Navigation, which reopened May 1, is also sticking to 25 percent until the owners feel comfortable in increasing to the allowed 50 percent. Its parent company, Legacy Restaurants, has hired a full time Health and Safety Director to oversee the sanitation measures and to keep staff trained and up to date on the ever-evolving process.
Pitch 25 Beer Park, 2120 Walker, will reopen for its normal hours May 22. Its kitchen opened May 18 within the guidelines set by Governor Abbott. Co-founded by Dynamo legend Brian Ching, the pub has a soccer pitch but leagues and play have been suspended during the COVID-19 crisis.
Everything has been sanitized with separation for guests ordering at the bar. There's also an extensive outdoor area for social distancing. No matter how cute that person across the bar is, keep your distance.