Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Feges BBQ Spring Branch, Mo' Better Brews

Summertime in Spring Branch is smokin' hot.
Summertime in Spring Branch is smokin' hot. Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

Feges BBQ Spring Branch, 8217 Long Point, opened June 20. This will be the second location of the barbecue restaurant from husband and wife Patrick Feges and Erin Smith. The first opened in the food court of the Greenway Plaza office complex in 2018. Feges is a Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq. He and Smith met while working at Chris Shepherd's restaurant, Underbelly, in 2012.

With Feges' mastery of the pit and Smith's culinary prowess with sides, they have built a devoted clientele at Greenway Plaza but the pandemic took away some of their customers as many office employees worked from home. They soldiered on with take-away deals, pop-ups and selling their products at local farmers markets while working toward opening the Spring Branch location. The couple are residents of the area and since becoming parents themselves, they saw the need for a family-friendly neighborhood barbecue joint. The new restaurant will have a kids menu and play area.

click to enlarge Erin Smith and Patrick Feges open a neighborhood restaurant in their neck of the woods. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY
Erin Smith and Patrick Feges open a neighborhood restaurant in their neck of the woods.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

It will also have extended hours compared to the Greenway Plaza food court spot. Because it will be serving both lunch and dinner, there will be two separate smoke cooks on the J&R Manufacturing Oylers, meaning the standard of quality will be the same for both services. The all-day menu will include much of the original location's menu but will also feature salads, sandwiches and new entrees like smoked meatloaf and fried chicken.

Service begins with counter ordering but the food will be brought to the table by a server who will continue to take care of the table from that point, including taking payment.

click to enlarge Vintage Western gets a contemporary twist. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY
Vintage Western gets a contemporary twist.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
The 5,000 square-foot interior space was designed by Collaborative Projects with a glass-enclosed smoke room as a focal point. Commissioned artwork from Denver-based artist Laura Goodson provides vintage Western imagery with a modern flair on the walls of the restaurant.

Smith, who spent a year as a sommelier for Camerata, collaborated with fellow sommelier Christopher Poldoian to create a sixteen-bottle wine list of varietals that pair well with smoked meats. There will also be beers from local brewers such as Saint Arnold, Eureka Heights, No Label, 8th Wonder and more.

click to enlarge That's an " I Can't Believe it's Vegan" photo. - PHOTO BY CHASITIE LINDSAY
That's an " I Can't Believe it's Vegan" photo.
Photo by Chasitie Lindsay
Mo'Better Brews, 1201 Southmore, celebrated its grand opening June 19, right on time for Juneteenth. The 100 percent vegan coffee shop, cafe and record store comes from owners Chasitie and Courtney Lindsay, the couple behind Houston Sauce Co. which launched in 2017. The Lindsays have several other vegan concepts including Sauce Co. Shoppette and Houston Sauce Pit, a vegan barbecue food truck. The couple conceived of the vegan breakfast idea years ago but weren't financially ready to add another concept until now, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Chasitie Lindsay says that more people are embracing the vegan lifestyle, including those in the Black community. In an email she said, " We've always been creative and well-seasoned as a people, so once we stepped out of our comfort zone of typical meats and dairy, we discovered that the possibilities are endless. Even the older generation has been coming around and enjoying a vegan meal and it makes me smile every time! " She also added that many of their customers are not vegan; they just love the mind-blowing flavors that husband Courtney creates with different plants, fruits and vegetables.

click to enlarge The Lindsays pose with their children in front of their new venture. - PHOTO BY CHASITIE LINDSAY
The Lindsays pose with their children in front of their new venture.
Photo by Chasitie Lindsay
The new venue, inspired by Spike Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues, offers caffeinated brews plus vegan breakfast and lunch specialties, some of which are also gluten-free. Breakfast dishes include the Mo' Better Breakfast Combo with grits, truffle hash or tofu scramble, breakfast sausage and toast with elderberry jam. There's also the Johnny Nash Sweet Potato Hash, named for the Houston-born singer who had a hit with " I Can See Clearly Now" in 1972. Many of the dishes are inspired by music including the Motown Monte, a vegan spin on the Monte Cristo sandwich. There's also the Coltrane Croissant Sandwich, named for John Coltrane, and the Bootsy Bagels and Lox, inspired by Parliament-Funkadelic musician Bootsy Collins.

click to enlarge The outdoor patio offers a comfortable space for relaxing with friends. - PHOTO BY CHASITIE LINDSAY
The outdoor patio offers a comfortable space for relaxing with friends.
Photo by Chasitie Lindsay
Not only will Mo' Better Brews be serving up drinks made with coffee from Three Keys Coffee and tasty vegan food but guests can also rifle through its selection of vinyl records for sale. The restaurant is decorated in memorabilia and records from artists like Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins. There's also an expansive and comfortable outdoor area for lounging with greenery and cushioned couches. Live music events are planned for the future.

click to enlarge The shawarma wrap uses a different kind of bread., - PHOTO BY IBRAHIM HALAWA
The shawarma wrap uses a different kind of bread.,
Photo by Ibrahim Halawa
Abu Omar Halal, 2424 Yale, will open July 10 with a grand opening celebration. This will be the eleventh Houston area location for chef/owner Mohammad Omar's concept, which includes three brick and mortar restaurants. The Yale location will be its eighth Houston food truck. There are now 24 locations across Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida and most recently, North Carolina.

Omar founded the brand in 2011 and claims to have opened the first halal food truck in Houston. Born in Jordan, Omar came to the United States in 2008 to earn his master's degree in Houston. While attending college, he worked in restaurants across the city and was inspired to combine his passion for cooking with the business side of restaurant ownership. What started out as "Abu Omar Taco" food truck became a multi-location success due to the popularity of not only the halal tacos but the fan favorite, chicken shawarma. The brand became Abu Omar Halal and the young entrepreneur has been expanding his concept ever since.

click to enlarge Chef Mohammad Omar is shawarming Houston with another location. - PHOTO BY IBRAHIM HALAWA
Chef Mohammad Omar is shawarming Houston with another location.
Photo by Ibrahim Halawa
The food trucks serve kabobs and sandwiches along with falafel options. The shawarma, a Middle eastern wrap, is available with halal chicken or beef. It is served on a tortilla-type bread because as Omar said, "The tortilla bread was the closest thing I could find to saj. "  Saj bread is a thin, unleavened bread common in Turkish and Arab cuisine. However, customers can choose pita bread for the shawarma if they prefer. There's also rice bowl and salad options for the gyro, shawarma, kabobs and falafel.

Abu Omar offers a variety of snacks and starters such as hummus, fried eggplant, kibbe balls and stuffed grape leaves. Dessert choices are rice pudding and baklava. For customers on grand opening day, there will be a free serving of baklava while supplies last.

click to enlarge Westchase gets a taste of Tarka. - PHOTO BY ANGELICA SOUSA
Westchase gets a taste of Tarka.
Photo by Angelica Sousa
Tarka Indian Kitchen, 10550 Westheimer, celebrated its grand opening June 21. This is the fourth Houston location for the fast casual Indian restaurant which first opened in Austin in 2009. It currently has nine stores in Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

It serves a variety of curries, kabobs, biryanis and snacks like samosas and pakoras. To accommodate vegetarians and vegans, the restaurant has added items such as vegetable pakoras, Beyond Keema Curry, vegan lassis and more. There are some gluten-free choices as well. For those who do eat meat, the chicken is all-natural and hormone free while the lamb is pasture-raised, grass-fed and halal.

In a press release, CEO Tinku Saini said about the new location, "We're in a perfect location in Westchase and have hired an enthusiastic team to help us bring our authentic Indian cuisine to the area. We are committed to giving back to the communities we serve, so partnering with Daya is the perfect opportunity for us to make an impact through our grand opening."

Daya is a Houston non-profit that assists South Asian women, men and children who have suffered physical or sexual assault. From July 5 though July 11, Tarka Indian Kitchen Westchase will donate a portion of its proceeds to the  organization.

click to enlarge Eating salads doesn't mean sacrificing flavor. - PHOTO BY SALATA
Eating salads doesn't mean sacrificing flavor.
Photo by Salata

, 1555 Lake Woodlands, celebrated its grand opening June 24. This is the third location for Salata Supreme Greens Franchise Group. The Houston-based Salata, a built-to-order salad kitchen, has more than 80 corporate-owned and franchised operations in Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisiana and Southern California and more new markets are in the works.

click to enlarge Escape the mall and get a refreshing salad. - PHOTO BY SALATA
Escape the mall and get a refreshing salad.
Photo by Salata

Across from The Woodlands Mall, the new Salata will be 2,620 square feet and offer customizable salads and wraps plus soups, organic teas and lemonades. The fruits, vegetables and lean proteins are prepared in-house daily. There are five salad bases, more than 50 toppings and 11 house-made, gluten-free dressings.

For those who missed the grand opening giveaways, The Woodlands Salata will offer the first 50 guests to visit June 26 a " Be Our Guest" coupon ($12 value) for a free meal on a return visit.

click to enlarge Bellagreen is green all over. - PHOTO BY ANGELICA SOUSA
Bellagreen is green all over.
Photo by Angelica Sousa
bellagreen, 5018 San Felipe, will open later this summer. It will be the sixth store for Houston and the eighth in Texas but it will be the first bellagreen location to be carry-out and delivery only. The limited footprint model fits with the company's brand and mission to "Eat Well and Tread Lightly".  As the pandemic forced some restaurants to adjust their mode of feeding people, many began to offer more delivery and take away options to keep afloat. As the world begins to open more, the new way of operating seems to have become a permanent option.

 According to bellagreen CEO Jason Morgan, " We are catering to a new environment where consumers crave convenience so we are building our first carry-out and delivery only prototype to meet this need and beyond."

click to enlarge There's more than salads at bellagreen. - PHOTO BY ANGELICA SOUSA
There's more than salads at bellagreen.
Photo by Angelica Sousa
Bellagreen was conceived as a casual, healthy and eco-friendly bistro that could offer many people with dietary restrictions more options. On its menu, customers will find dishes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian. The meats are responsibly sourced including Texas Angus beef and its seafood is BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) certified.  Its dedication to eco-friendly practices has meant a reduction of 90 percent in its plastic footprint.

The new model will use its own drivers for delivery instead of operating through third party delivery services, helping to keep the costs down for both the company and consumer. Individual and catering orders can be done through its website or by phone and in-person.

click to enlarge One Fifth's chicken parm takes a cue from Nonna. - PHOTO BY TAYLOR HALL
One Fifth's chicken parm takes a cue from Nonna.
Photo by Taylor Hall
One Fifth: Red Sauce Italian, 1658 Westheimer, will begin June 29. It will take the place of One Fifth: Georgia James Tavern Takeover which will end June 26. Chef/owner Chris Shepherd has no end date planned for this concept but its closing will coincide with the opening of another Underbelly Hospitality restaurant, Wild Oats at Houston Farmers Market. Currently, Wild Oats, which will have chef Nick Fine at the helm, is under construction. The UH team's plan is to seamlessly transfer the staff from One Fifth to Wild Oats when it opens. In the meantime, Shepherd and his crew are going old school Italian-American with the new One Fifth menu.

Those of us who have been fortunate to grow up with Italian nonnas, or at least marry into a family of them, know that many authentic, contemporary Italian restaurants don't usually serve the dishes that many American Italians, especially in the Northeast, grew up eating. There's a multitude of reasons for the evolution of Italian-American cuisine but one of the hallmarks is the red sauce, or gravy, that sometimes envelops many of the dishes.

click to enlarge Victoria Dearmond's tiramisu uses a mascarpone pudding. - PHOTO BY TAYLOR HALL
Victoria Dearmond's tiramisu uses a mascarpone pudding.
Photo By Taylor Hall
Shepherd's menu will have some of the red sauce comfort foods such as Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti and Meatballs. Shepherd's approach will be to use local fresh tomatoes from Atkinson Farms and Good Thyme Farm for some dishes and canned plum tomatoes from Bianco Dinapoli Tomatoes for many of the cooked sauces. Much of the pasta will come from local chef Ben McPherson's BOH Pasta and Pizza. Shepherd's mootz of choice is Liuzzi Mozzarella for its texture and flavor. Pastry director Victoria Dearmond will use chocolate from Videri Chocolate Factory for her Hearth-baked Chocolate Torte.

The wood-burning oven at One Fifth, which Shepherd believes may be the oldest non-gas assisted wood oven in Houston, will also be used for pizza. And just one pizza: pepperoni. This writer sure would like to see someone do a fried eggplant pizza. Or even a clam pie like they do in New Haven. Hint, hint.

Shepherd is a man of many friends and as an homage, he has included some items from other chef pals. The Caesar Salad from the now-closed Pass & Provisions will be on the menu as well as the Ragu alla Napoletana from chef Sarah Gruenberg's Monteverde Restaurant and Pastificio in Chicago. It's a hearty dish of tomato-braised pork osso buco, meatballs, cacciatore sausage, fusilli and broccolini rapini.

The menu will also include a New York-style cheesecake and toasted ravioli, Shepherd's take on a childhood favorite of his from Mister C's, a longtime, now-shuttered Italian restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska.

Barkley's Midtown, 2300 Louisiana, began its soft opening June 11. Gradually, it is beginning to open its kitchen as well but the bar is also bringing in food trucks occasionally as it gets its kitchen staff in order. Located in the former space which housed Irish Cowboy,  it is an oasis for dog lovers to bring their canine companions for games, sports, craft cocktails and cold beer.

The AstroTurf lawn makes a nice area for doggies to run, fetch and sniff. There is even a menu for the pups which includes the Cheeseburger in Pawradise and Pupcorn. For adult humans, there are cocktails with dog-themed names including the Old Yeller Fashioned, Rin Tin Tin and fittingly, Hair of the Dog. As the kitchen comes up to speed, guests can expect a menu of burgers plus snacks like Let's Get Twisted, a thirteen-inch pretzel served with mustard, smoked queso and chorizo chili.

Yappy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 .m.

click to enlarge Bludorn will go dark for ten days. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY
Bludorn will go dark for ten days.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
Bludorn, 807 Taft, will take a summer break from July 4 through July 14. It's been an exciting first year for chef Aaron Bludorn and his team at the critically acclaimed restaurant and they are taking a ten day vacation to rejuvenate for another year of successful collaborations and spectacular food.

Currently, the restaurant is holding a Fourth of July Burger Drive benefitting the Southern Smoke Foundation. Customers can order the Bludorn Burger Kit ($90) online at toasttab. It includes four 8-ounce patties made with its dry-aged ground beef blend and four ounces of caramelized onions plus toppings like Redneck Cheddar, frisee, whole grain mustard aioli and cornichons. The orders should be picked up between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. July 3 at the restaurant.

The online ordering also allows customers to make a financial donation to Southern Smoke, chef Chris Shepherd's non-profit which aids fellow hospitality industry members in a  multitude of ways from natural disaster relief to financial assistance due to the pandemic crisis. And, for those who like a good brew to accompany a good burger, there's an option for adding on a six-pack of Horseshoe Pilsner for $12. Horseshoe is a collaboration from Karbach Brewing with Shepherd and pitmaster Aaron Franklin with a portion of sales going to Southern Smoke.

click to enlarge How does he stay so slim living a Hogg Life? - PHOTO BY PINEAPPLE MEDIA PRODUCTIONS
How does he stay so slim living a Hogg Life?
Photo by Pineapple Media Productions
Chick'nCone, 1919 N. Shepherd, is launching a new off the menu item, June 26, in collaboration with one if its regular customers, Houston rapper Slim Thug. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., guests can come try the new Hogg Life Cone while enjoying some music from a live DJ, drink specials and a chance to get a photo and autograph with the rapper/Chick'nCone creator.

The new Hogg Life Cone is a hand-rolled waffle cone filled with fried chicken bites tossed in Thug's special "Hogg Life" sauce which is sweet, savory, smoky and spicy. It gets even more over the top with the addition of mac 'n cheese, crispy fried onions and a hint of salted bacon. A note from your doctor is not required but this is definitely a cheat day treat.

Woodall's BBQ, 22920 Kuykendahl, opened June 12. The family-owned barbecue restaurant offers meat plates with ribs, pulled pork, chicken, turkey breast, brisket and sausage. The meats can also be ordered by the pound to go. There is a burger basket and sandwich plate and the Texas Twosome lets diners combine a sandwich and a baked potato. The Choice Sides are sold by the half-pint, pint and quart and include potato salad, corn, pinto beans, coleslaw, green beans and mac 'n cheese. The Prime Sides menu offers Seasoned Fries, Onion Rings, Fried Okra Basket and a Baked Potato All-the-Way. There is also a kids menu for twelve and under or big kids 55 and up.

Elin Asian Bistro & Ramen,13708 Northwest Freeway, opened June 13. With its extensive menu of Chinese-American favorites, traditional ramen and a few Thai dishes as well, it has plenty to choose from. There are the usual lunch specials on dishes like General Tso's, Orange Chicken, Pepper Steak and Kung Pao plus specialties and family packs. Ramen options include Tonkotsu, Spicy Miso, Umami Shoyu, Spicy Seafood and more. The cute and contemporary interior makes a pleasant spot to have a meal and end it with one of the build-your-own waffle ice creams.

Baan Thai Cuisine, 5350 FM 1960 E., opened June 8. In an area short of Thai options, Baan Thai offers an extensive menu of standard favorites such as red, green, panang and massaman curries plus Spicy Eggplant, Lemon Fish (with Pampano) and Spicy Thai Basil Salmon. Soups include Tom Kha, Tom Yum and Poa-Tak. For starters, guests can try Roti, Fried Tofu, Fish Cakes and Chicken Satay.

Lunch specials ($9.95) run Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

click to enlarge Dylan McShan poses with his prize along with judges and fellow competitors. - PHOTO BY EMILY JASCHKE
Dylan McShan poses with his prize along with judges and fellow competitors.
Photo by Emily Jaschke
Julep, 1919 Washington, hosted the 5th Annual Oyster Shucking Competition June 14. The mood was set with music by DJ Cherry Like Bounce and tacos were supplied by El Topo food truck. The competition began with ten contestants shucking the perfect oysters for judges Chris Shepherd, Eric Sandler, Linda Salinas and Tim Malcolm. Time penalties were given for oysters that were cut or had grit.

Five competitors were cut from the first round leaving Dylan McShan (Rosie Cannonball), Alvin Schultz (private chef), Ben Quasius (NASA nuclear physicist and reigning champ), Felix Castro (Acme Oyster House) and Pre- Shift Podcast host and former Houston Press writer, Kate McLean, to fight it out. In the end, Julep owner Alba Huerta announced McShan as the 2021 Oyster Shucking Champion, much to the delight of his team which included staff from Rosie Cannonball. Proceeds from the event went to McShan's chosen charities, The Houston Women's Center and The Galveston Bay Foundation.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.