Restaurant News

Jinya Ramen Heights Opens, Mendocino Farms Uptown Next Week

The spicy and creamy vegan ramen at Jinya  will satisfy veg lovers.
Photo by Takahiro Yamauchi
The spicy and creamy vegan ramen at Jinya will satisfy veg lovers.

Jinya Ramen Bar
, 449 W.19th, opened at the Heights Waterworks September 17. This makes the seventh Houston location for the upscale ramen restaurant. It's sleek and sexy and increasingly popular among noodle lovers. The broth is the star at JINYA and is slow-simmered for more than ten hours with either pork or chicken bones or vegetables, plus other authentic flavorings  added such as bonito, dashi and kombu. The broth is also made with FUJI water to protect the broth from impurities. The noodles themselves are made fresh daily, then aged for three days to concentrate the flavors.

Founder Tomonori Takahashi came to the United States from Japan in 2010 and saw a need for authentic Japanese ramen. His father owned a successful Isakaya-style eatery in Japan called Jinya and Takahashi opened his own JINYA in Tokyo in 2003. He opened his first U.S. location in California and has now expanded with multiple locations across the country and Canada.

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The team at JINYA Heights is ready to serve the ramen.
Photo by Ferdie Birondo
The Jinya Tonkatsu Black is one of the most popular items with pork, kikurage, green onion, nori, seasoned egg, garlic chips, garlic oil, fried onion and spicy sauce. The Tonkatsu Red is for those who like to spice it up with red chili oil and  (Editor's Note: We are told the red ramen is not sold in Houston) Diners can choose a spice level from 1 to 10. Over level 6, an extra $1 is charged, however. There's also cold ramen without broth and vegetable soup ramen. Most range from $11.95 to $13.50.

There are small plates to start like Brussels Sprouts Tempura or Takoyaki (octopus balls) and Jinya's mini tacos in crispy wonton shells, including a vegan version. There are a couple of curry rice bowls and a California Poke Bowl, too.

A new Houston area location is planned for Sugar Land  at 13509 University Boulevard.
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The Nam's Schoolhouse Charity Banh Mi is for a great cause.
Photo by Erica Allen
Mendocino Farms, 1111-05 Uptown Park Boulevard, opens October 3. This makes the second Houston store for the California-based, fast casual sandwich and salad restaurant. Founded by husband and wife team Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen in Downtown Los Angeles in 2005, the small chain has expanded across California with Houston being its first foray outside the state. With an ethos of "Eat Happy", the photogenic couple are bringing the healthy, energetic Cali vibes to Houston.

The first Houston location opened in Rice village in July 2019.  The new Uptown Park spot will have a modern farmhouse design thanks to famed architect Michael Hsu, in keeping with its farmhouse hospitality and dedication to sourcing ingredients seasonally, locally and responsibly. The wooden shingled exterior beckons diners in to a Napa-inspired interior with weathered wood and crisp gingham. Besides the interior seating for 80, there will be an additional space for 30 guests on the patio.

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Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen want Houston to Eat Happy.
Photo by Erica Allen
The company prides itself on featuring local purveyors and for Houston that means the family-run Pure Luck Dairy, Slow Dough Bakery and cookies and desserts from Cake and Bacon. There is a designated kids corner with a chalkboard wall and small communal table adjacent to a lush living wall, so it's family-friendly.

For its fall menu, Mendo, as its regulars like to call it, is featuring the Nam's Schoolhouse Charity Banh Mi made with chicken thigh, lemongrass relish, spicy ginger pineapple slaw, cilantro and chili aioli on a pressed panini roll. A portion of the purchase price will go to the philanthropic project of Nam Harrison, an 11-year-old classmate of the co-founders' daughter who was adopted from Vietnam and has set out to build a school for underprivileged children in his home country. There is also the Pachamama Cubano made with pork from Pachamama Farms and the Napa Vineyard Salad.

Other sandwich favorites include Mendo's Fried Chicken Sandwich, made with organic chicken and there are vegan options such as the Smoke Tempeh or the Vegan Banh Mi. Salads include choices like the Pink Lady Beet and Goat Cheese and the Avocado and Quinoa Super Ensalada. There are craft beers and wines also.

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Peggy and Daniel Chang are bringing Sushi Rebel to Spring, Texas.
Photo by John Kim

Sushi Rebel, 1700 Lake Plaza, will join Star Cinema Grill, Island Grill and Common Bond Bakery at Springwoods Village. Owners Peggy and Daniel Chang opened Uptown Sushi in the Galleria area in 2004 with it quickly becoming a popular spot for its innovative and well-executed sushi. It closed for renovations in late 2018 and reopened in March 2019 with an upgraded decor and open concept, allowing diners to be part of the action with an exposed kitchen, as reported here in the Houston Press. Now, the couple are bringing their modern sushi to the north side of Houston in Spring, an area seeing rapid growth in its dining and entertainment scene. The restaurant is expected to open in late 2020.

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Healthy seasonings mean healthy grilling.
Photo by Phariss Photos

Soul Fit Grill has launched its line of eight specialty seasonings into Whole Foods Stores in the Houston Metroplex. Owner Chaz Daughtry began his quest for healthy food in 2014 by growing his own vegetables and produce. His Sweet Water Farms HTX is now a six-acre urban farm in Houston. In 2015, he began creating a line of seasonings and spices that are fat-free with no MSG, sugar or preservatives. In 2017,  he designed the Legacy Mini Kamado-style grill and is turning the SoulFitGrill line into a successful multi-million dollar venture.

Chaz Daughtry is more than just a Houston influencer.
Photo by Phariss Photos

Daughtry will host a launch party October 4 at the Omni Houston Hotel, 4 Riverway, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The party is free and includes complimentary hors d'oeuvres, but registration is required at to attend.

His entrepreneurial quest to highlight a healthy grilling lifestyle has led to Daughtry to be nominated for Forbes Magazine's 2019 Influencer Award 30 Under 30. Among the top 600 nominees, he hopes to be one of the 30 finalists announced in November. Good Luck, Chaz!

Wings of Houston, 403 Westheimer, opened September 21. The new restaurant comes from the team at Just Mac., according to Eater Houston. Wet rubs include Original or Extra Hot Buffalo, Tikka Masala, Maple Bacon and Caribbean Jerk. There are also dry rubs like the Wings of Houston rub, Old Bay Chesapeake and even a Pastrami rub.

Sides include jasmine rice, a good accompaniment for the Asian Ginger or Tikka Masala sauces. Wingers can also order french fries or veggie sticks to nibble on between saucy bites of wings. Besides wings, the eatery offers chicken sandwiches and beers on tap.

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Frozen soft serve is a delicious way to get your nutrition at Pressed Juicery.
Photo by Ashlee Huff

Pressed Juicery, 714 Yale and 2437 University, are set to open in early 2020. The juicery's first Texas location opened in Uptown Dallas in  August 2019 and two more locations are planned for the DFW area later this year. Now, the company has set its sights on Houston with two locations in the Heights Mercantile complex and the Rice Village area.

The company sources its produce from growers with whom it has long-standing relationships. The focus is on getting the produce from farm to bottle to fridge within days of harvest. The company operates over 75 retail stores in six states and is available in nearly 2,000 locations through wholesale partners. It offers over 40 cold-pressed juices, plant-based milks, nutritious shots and its vegan Freeze, a frozen dessert that is also dairy and gluten-free. Besides single servings, the juicery also offers six-juice, one-day cleanses for $34.50. It recently launched a membership platform with further savings on its juices and plant-based milks.

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Chef Mike Lim is leaving Tobiuo.
Photo by Kimberly Park
Mike Lim, renowned sushi chef, has left Tobiuo, according to CultureMap Houston. Lim will be opening a new restaurant, Kanau Sushi, with business partners Vinh Nguyen, Harry Nguyen, and Tony Le. It will offer some of the similar French-inspired Japanese cuisine that Lim showcased at Tobiuo. The sushi restaurant will open in early 2020 at Drewery Place, the newly opened Midtown residential tower located at 2850 Fannin.

El Topo is opening a brick and mortar restaurant at 6119 Edloe, in the spot previously occupied by Pizza Motus, according to CultureMap. Chef/owner Tony Luhrman and business partner Mike Serva hope to open in December. Using quality meat from purveyors like 44 Farms for its award-winning Houston Taco, made with beef barbacoa and the Chinatown Taco, with sirloin, the food truck has been serving upscale tacos with some authentic and some innovative twists since February 2016. The homemade tortillas are another reason the tacos are extraordinarily tasty.

Luhrman recently won the Golden Cleaver at Butcher's Ball 2018 in Brenham and also Best Traditional Taco at Tacolandia 2018, hosted by the Houston Press. The new cafe will offer more than just tacos with a cuisine combining Mexican, Southern and Texas "frontier" influences.

Carter and Cooley Company Delicatessen
, 375 W. 19th, closed August 30, according to The Leader News. In operation in the Heights since 1989 in a 1920s two-story structure, the shop was known for its inexpensive fare and hearty sandwiches. Owner Neil Sackheim is retiring and granting ownership rights to Charles Salas and Zena Cortez, two longtime managers at the deli.  However, per the terms of the lease, they will not be able to operate the deli at the current location. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, an Ohio-based company,  has filed permitting documents and is named as the current occupant for the location. No word on an opening date as of now, but it will be the first Houston location for the ice cream chain.

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Darkness Falls in a delicious way at Astral Brewing.
Photo by Jose Ceja

Astral Brewing, 4816 N. Shepherd, is bringing back its Darkness Falls Porter to the taps, September 27. The new batch is similar to the first version with hints of chocolate and coffee with mild roasted barley flavors and East Kent Golding hops to provide a hint of bitterness to balance the residual malt sweetness. We do love a good porter, especially in the fall.

With the re-launch of the Darkness Falls, the Houston Sauce Co.'s Burger Pop Up Kitchen will be on hand serving its vegan fare.That's a good thing since the porter has an ABV of 6.5 percent.

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There's a new bagel in town.
Photo by Ziggy Gruber

Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen has brought in master New York bagel baker, Barry Shapiro, to provide both its Post Oak and Buffalo Speedway locations with more than a half dozen varieties of bagels. Owner Ziggy Gruber was searching for a new purveyor and one bite of Shapiro's bagels sealed the deal. As an introduction to the new bagels, the restaurants will offer a dozen bagels for $10 on Saturday and Sunday while supplies last. The deli is also offering six bagels for free, with a purchase of a half pound or more of its hand-sliced smoked fish, including the Nova Scotia salmon. The deal is temporary so book it to K&Z's while it lasts.

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Liberty Kitchen is popping up in Round Top.
Photo by Carla Gomez
Liberty Kitchen is hosting a pop up restaurant at Bader Ranch, 470 S. Washington, as part of the Fall Antique Show extravaganza that takes over the town of Round Top each year. After searching for vintage tchotchkes and antique bargains, you can go relax in the country-coastal chic decor created by Liberty Kitchen Developmental Director Carl Eaves and sample Lance Fegen's menu for the week-long pop up, from September 26 to October 4. To add to the small town, laid-back fun, there will be live music from David Lee Holt, September 28 to September 30, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. So, get on your best Junk Gypsy gear and head out of the city. For more information about the pop up and to make reservations, go to

Openings Reported for September 2019:

The Annex Crafthouse, 122 A Vintage Park Boulevard, opened September 23
The Annie Cafe & Bar, 1800 Post Oak, opened September 25
Ben's Den, 5610 Clinton, opened September 19
Candente, 4306 Yoakum, opened September 16
City Hall Lunch Market, 901 Bagby, reopened September 18
Choong Man Chicken, 1927 Gessner, opened August 19
Electric Feel Good, 2416 Brazos, opened September 10
The Flying Biscuit Cafe, 12389 Kingsride, opened September 2
Gooey's, 25626 Northwest Freeway, opened August 24
Ike's Love and Sandwiches, 1051 Heights Boulevard, opened August 19
Juice Well, 797 Sorella Court, opened mid-September
Mala Sichuan Bistro, 231119 Colonial Parkway, opened late August
Ms. Green Acai Cafe, 11191 Westheimer, opened August 12
One Dim Sum, 510 Gray, opened August 28
Peli Peli, 1201 Lake Woodlands, opened September 3
Postino Wine Cafe, 805 Pacific, opened September 15
Preslee's Southern Good Eatery, 1430 W. 19th, opened September 26
Saltgrass Steakhouse, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, opened September 10
The Toasted Coconut, 1617 Richmond, opened September 4
The Toasted Yolk, 12151 Westheimer, opened September 23

Closings Reported for September 2019:

Duck Donuts, 3157 W. Holcombe, closed September 13
Napoli's, 13323 Jones, closed late August
Saigon House Midtown, 3101 Main, closed August 31