Openings and Closings: The Rustic Rolls In, Raffa's Reopens

The Drunk Chick at The Rustic giving 'tude.
Photo by Kevin Maple
The Drunk Chick at The Rustic giving 'tude.

The Rustic, 1836 Polk, will celebrate its grand opening November 1 with an invitation-only VIP party early in the evening and a performance by country artist Pat Green. The restaurant/bar/music venue will open at 10 o'clock that night to the public, so if you're out on the town, you might want to drop in for a first look. The restaurant itself will open officially November 2.

This will be the third location for the restaurant and concert venue from Free Range Concepts. Founders Kyle Noonan and Josh Sepkowitz also operate The General Public and Bowl & Barrel. The Rustic is a collaboration with Green, who is a Texas country musician and recording star.

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This chicken is hot. Nashville-style.
Photo by Kevin Maple
The massive undertaking includes a 25,000 square foot restaurant, a large outdoor patio, a retractable roof, two VIP areas, an Uber Lounge for folks waiting for their rides, and a u-shaped bar. There will be live music nightly, Texas themed cocktails, and a number of craft beers from across The Lone Star State.

A look at the menu shows a definite lean toward cowpoke comfort food like Calf Fries (testicles to you clinical types) and Texas Quail. Of course, there are nods to our Tex-Mex favorites like Tamales Three Ways, with smoked brisket, pork carnitas and chicken tinga. The Texas Cheesesteak is served with the beloved Southern condiment, pimento cheese. The Rustic sources many of its ingredients from local farmers, ranchers and vendors.

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Get your dancin' boots on.
Photo by James Coreas
With beer, meat and music, there's bound to be a few urban cowboys, but you're more likely to see Texas Pam here than Sissy.

Raffa's Waterfront Grill, 1660 West Lake Houston Parkway, reopened October 21. The fine-dining, family-owned restaurant in Kingwood received devastating damage from Hurricane Harvey and it's taken over a year for the owners to get it back up and running. According to its Facebook page, there is still new furniture arriving and some tweaking to be done, but its loyal patrons seem thrilled for the return of the lakeside restaurant.

There are some new small plates like smoked brisket and cheddar wontons and duck confit with parmesan polenta. The Raffa's Burger is still on the menu, with its smoked cheddar, house-made pickles and bbq aioli,

Other favorites like the chicken fried steak with tasso ham gravy and blackened redfish seemed to have made the new menu as well.

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Croissant-mi for thee.
Photo by Chelsea Pham

Banh Appetit, 11191 Westheimer, opened October 18. The restaurant serves what it likes to call croissant-mi. While many banh mi purists may turn their noses up at using a bread other than baguettes for the Vietnamese sandwiches, diners who think outside the foodie box are enjoying the buttery croissants filled with tasty fillings like pork belly sous vide and lemongrass chicken.There are also flavors like Chicken Tanning in the Sun (grilled chicken) and Amazing BBQ Pork with caramelized brandy sauce. And if you must have your baguette, the option is there.

The restaurant also serves Thai tea and cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee) from local Houston company, Caphin. For noodle heads, there are vermicelli bowls. For vegetarians, there is tofu for you. And vegetables.

The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Light Years Natural Wine Shop and Bar, 1304 W. Alabama, opened October 13.The wine shop and bar claims to be the first wine retail shop and bar in Houston dedicated to natural wines. The business focuses on small producers with artisanal wines that have been farmed organically and fermented wild, with little intervention, manipulation or additions to the wines.

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Go au naturel at Light Years.
Photo courtesy of Light Years
Owners John Glanzman and Steve Buechner, formerly front-of-house for New York restaurants, Per Se and Blue Hill at Stone Barn, spent six months immersed in the natural wine community, primarily in Paris, a hot bed for the natural wine movement, which began in France in the 1980's. You can read more about natural wines and other Houston restaurants that sell them here in the Houston Press.

Light Years does not have a printed menu, but encourages oenophiles to peruse the bottles and ask questions. Customers can buy retail bottles to go, or for a $10 cork fee, stay and enjoy the bottle in the bar or out on the small patio. There will be rotating daily by-the-glass options and $5 selected wines on tap for happy hour.

The shop and bar are open seven days a week from noon until midnight. It will feature tastings on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There is cheese, charcuterie and small bites on the food menu, plus Bordier butter from Brittany, which is available with its butter plate. I don't know what a butter plate is, but I'm in.

There will also be pop-up food events on the weekends, with a pizza pop-up from The Doughfather November 3.

House of Pies
, 1330 Lake Woodlands, was supposed to open October 15, but that does not seem to be the case. We have reached out for more information and will let the good people of The Woodlands know when they can partake of the gloriously good pies in their own neighborhood. Until then, there are three other Houston locations serving flavors including coconut cream, cherry and the ultimate pie, Bayou Goo.

Willie's Grill and Icehouse, 6815  N. Grand Parkway West, however, did open October 15. This makes the seventeenth location of the Texas chain. With its casual ice house decor, reliably good burgers and ice cold beer, it's a popular place for families who want to watch the game while Little Cody plays in the sand box.

Diners can choose brews from the iced beer stand while standing in line or order a frozen margarita at the counter. Besides the decent offerings on the kids menu of burgers, dogs, tenders and grilled cheese, there are also delicious milkshakes, the chocolate being a favorite of my kid.

There are plenty of beer-friendly appetizers like fried pickles, onion rings or nachos, plus substantial seafood entrees. There are also salads for the more delicate types.

Order the chips and queso, The chips are thin, the queso is cheesy, but it's the fresh salsa that really stands out.

The Edge Lakeside Restaurant and Bar, 15659 Marina Drive, did not open in September, as reported in Community Impact. I espied the restaurant while I was out that way near Lake Conroe, but my mom was driving too fast for me to get a photo. You'll just have to take my word for it. Its Facebook page has been recently updated this week, so it could be very soon.

Jack and Ginger's, 2416 Brazos, was slated to open October 25, as we reported here in the Press. According to a spokesperson, the opening has been delayed until early November. We will update this information when an opening date is confirmed.
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A Ferris wheel makes a party.
Photo courtesy of Truck Yard
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Truck Yard has plenty of beer and fun.
Photo courtesy of Truck Yard
Truck Yard, 2118 Lamar, is OPEN.  The adult playground opened May 2 as a bar and music venue hosting local and independent food trucks. On August 24, the business was informed by the city that the food trucks could no longer operate on the premises because the large open canopy, which extends 30 feet above the trucks, could not house propane for safety reasons.

Truck Yard Houston is working with its architects and the city to remove the canopy and resubmit plans for approval. It hopes to have the food trucks return within a month. Fingers crossed, because bureaucracy is a mutha.

Meanwhile, the venue is still operating its Steak Me Home restaurant which serves several varieties of cheesesteaks, so it's not like you'll starve. I have been in an English pub where the only food on offer was a bag of chicken-flavored crisps. Cheesesteaks are a definite step up. There's beef, chicken and vegetarian options to choose from. Drink a cold beer, play a game of ping pong, admire the Ferris wheel and listen to music as you enjoy the fall temperatures from one of its many outdoor spaces. Or sit inside if fresh air scares you.

You can also bring your chihuahua, Killer, because it's pup-friendly. Dogs like cheesesteaks, too.

Photo courtesy of Neo Baguette

Neo Baguette
, 201 East 20th, softly opened September 11, as we reported previously. Now, they are going prime time with a grand opening October 29. On that day, patrons can get a free coffee drink with the purchase of a lunch entree or you can can opt instead for the star anise creme brulee. Decision, decisions.

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Creme Brulee gets a kiss of star anise at Neo Baguette.
Photo courtesy of Neo Baguette
Founder and culinary director Karim Kasri offers French and Italian cuisine with a Moroccan spice. Lunch items include salads, sandwiches and a couple of toast options like avocado and saumon fume (smoked salmon). Dinner is served after 4 p.m. and includes tagine poulet and the Moroccan Burger, with  Moroccan spices, avocado, caramelized onions and chipotle mayo.

For lovers of the grape, the BYOB corkage fee is a mere $5 per table.

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Put a little Tex-Mex in your breakfex.
Photo courtesy of Goode Co. Kitchen and Cantina

Goode Co. Kitchen and Cantina, 9005 Katy Freeway, will begin its weekend breakfast service October 27. Expect a blend of Tex-Mex favorites with eggs, bacon, waffles and pancakes. The Famous Pecan Waffle and Eggs ($12) or the Chilaquiles ($10.50) will start your morning off with a Texas kick or you can opt for tacos ala carte at $3.50 each for a mix and match of flavors such as migas, chorizo and egg, pork and green chili guisada.

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It's 11 a.m. somewhere.
Photo courtesy of Goode Co. Kitchen and Cantina
There are different coffees available for those who have plans for the rest of the day and boozy morning cocktails for those who do not.