Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Pho Binh Now at Finn Hall, Trash Panda Next Week


click to enlarge Pho ga kho is served dry with broth on the side. - PHOTO BY PHUONG V. NGUYEN
Pho ga kho is served dry with broth on the side.
Photo by Phuong V. Nguyen

Pho Binh at Finn Hall
, 712 Main, opened July 19.  Originally slated for the downtown food hall in March 2020, the pandemic delayed its arrival. The chefs in charge, Kevin Pham and Di Nguyen, also own Pho Binh By Night on Bellaire. There are seven iterations of the Vietnamese restaurant, owned by different branches of the family, according to CultureMap Houston.

Pho is a traditional noodle and broth dish from Vietnam that became popular with Americans as Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s began to open family-owned eateries, usually in areas of cities that had large Asian populations. As Americans became more adventurous in their culinary tastes, foodies began to seek out ethnic fare and dishes that were considered "exotic,"  American appetites became exposed to the authentic cuisines of an immigrant nation. Now Houston, with its large Vietnamese population, has pho restaurants in nearly every shopping center. Its healthy, long-simmered broths are satisfying and the dish is relatively light making it a perfect lunchtime meal, though Vietnamese families will often have it for breakfast as well as dinner.

click to enlarge The Chicken Cabbage Salad is a healthy starter or meal. - PHOTO BY PHUONG V. NGUYEN
The Chicken Cabbage Salad is a healthy starter or meal.
Photo by Phuong V. Nguyen
The pho at Pho Binh is in the North Vietnamese style, pho bac, common in Hanoi. The menu at the Finn Hall location is short and sweet offering beef noodle soup (pho bo) with options of brisket (lean or fatty), rare steak, tender flank, beef tendon or beef meatballs. Chicken noodle soup (pho ga) is available as well as plain noodle soup.  Bone marrow is offered as a side to add to the pho along with extra meat, noodles and egg. For starters there are eggrolls and chicken cabbage salad with ginger fish sauce dressing.

click to enlarge It may not be healthy but it is technically a salad. - PHOTO BY DYLAN SCARDINO
It may not be healthy but it is technically a salad.
Photo by Dylan Scardino
Trash Panda Drinking Club, 4203 Edison, opens July 30 in the spot which formerly housed Edison & Patton. It comes from the recently formed Night Moves Hospitality with bar owner Greg Perez and chef Lyle Bento leading the brigade. The duo partnered with Chris Manriquez, the former owner of Edison & Patton. The 3,000 square- foot cocktail bar sits on a corner in the Lindale Park neighborhood, an area that is starting to get some love from the restaurant and bar business in Houston.


Three years ago, rising superstar chef Jonny Rhodes opened his critically acclaimed tasting restaurant in the area, his former neighborhood. Though prices are starting to rise in Lindale, as it succumbs to gentrification, it's still more reasonable than other neighborhoods located near the city. The influx of younger couples and families means more neighborhood bars and restaurants will be needed. Trash Panda follows on the heels of the hospitality group's first concept, Space Cowboy, which opened in April in the recently renovated Heights House Hotel, just across the freeway.

click to enlarge I like my bars a little on the trashy side and with velvet bar stools. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
I like my bars a little on the trashy side and with velvet bar stools.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Perez ran the bar program for Edison & Patton before becoming a founding partner at Monkey's Tail, which he is no longer affiliated with. He overhauled the space, painting the walls black, adding velvet bar stools and mid-century fixtures along with neon-lit slogans on the walls. Behind the bar is a painting of Trash's unofficial raccoon mascot, "General Rigby" from painter Sharon Urrego Casas. We say make the General official. Put a ring on it.

Floral artwork adorns the bathroom walls and ceilings while two large exterior murals from Gelson D. Lemus (@W3R3ON3) show rascally raccoons enjoying a few drinks as they greet guests in the parking lot. It sets a playful tone for what patrons can expect. (Just don't be the raccoon passed out at the bar — that's trashy).

click to enlarge Trash pandas getting trashed. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Trash pandas getting trashed.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Its drink menu is playful as well, crafted by former Monkey's Tail employees Matthew McEwan and Logan Pollack. These two young bar managers have created drinks like the Bubblegum Martini made with Brooklyn gin, hibiscus, lime and Green Chartreuse and something called 'bubblegum broth'. We're assuming it's not ABC gum. It's served in a champagne coupe that makes the most of its pink color. The Midori Sour is also served in a champagne coupe except that it's black giving it a forbidding quality despite being a rather light concoction.  The Purple Kush is a bit stronger, made with Santa Teresa 1796, Plantation O.F.T.D., habanero, yerba mate and ginger.

click to enlarge The mini crabs are meant to be eaten like chips. - PHOTO BY DYLAN SCARDINO
The mini crabs are meant to be eaten like chips.
Photo by Dylan Scardino
Bento's food menu has hints of Southern comfort that hearken back to his restaurant Southern Goods but also a bit of Mexican flavor like the Milanese, a common breaded steak dish in Mexico with Italian influences. This version is topped with mole, crema and queso fresco. The Fried Chicken Butts  is a dish of half a Cornish hen that has been Southern-fried in a spicy breading and is served with mini buttermilk biscuits. The Wedge is a hunk of iceberg lettuce topped with a little blue cheese, bacon and crawfish remoulade, with an abundance of crawfish tails.

Edison & Patton was the first bar managing job for Perez, who also grew up in the neighborhood. He says it feels like coming home. " The staff and I built something special at the last bar we opened in the neighborhood a couple of years ago and we hope to bring that same feeling to Trash."

click to enlarge Levi might be smiling but he's tight-lipped about his new concept for now. - PHOTO BY GOODE CO.
Levi might be smiling but he's tight-lipped about his new concept for now.
Photo by Goode Co.
Goode Company Restaurants has secured a lease at 1801 Yale, the former home of the neighborhood coffeehouse and bar, Down House, which closed  in February 2021. Goode Co. is a legacy, family-owned restaurant group, founded more than 40 years ago by Jim Goode with food geared toward the Texan palate. Now led by chef/owner Levi Goode, there are numerous restaurants under the Goode umbrella which includes Goode Co. Barbecue, Goode Co. Seafood, Goode Co. Kitchen and Cantina, Goode Co. Taqueria and Good Co. Armadillo Palace. For now, there is no set-in-stone concept for the new Heights location or opening date.

In a press release, Goode said, "Goode Co. is always looking for great spaces and new neighborhoods to become part of and we are excited to be opening one of our concepts in the Heights area. While we don't have details on the specific concept and opening date, we look forward to doing something Goode (natch) in this historic Houston neighborhood."

click to enlarge Superfruit Bowls keep healthy eaters on track. - PHOTO BY ANGELICA SOUSA
Superfruit Bowls keep healthy eaters on track.
Photo by Angelica Sousa
Original ChopShop, 5018 San Felipe, will open in mid-August. It will be followed by a second Houston location in River Oaks in late September. In preparation for the two openings, the company is hosting its hiring event Chop Up Hire Up August 3 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the upcoming Galleria location. Interested applicants can drop by and learn about the brand and available positions while enjoying games, music and giveaways. Interviews will be held for 70 jobs for "Chopsters" and attendees who bring a friend will be entered into a drawing for a $500 American Express card. The company is offering hourly members $13 to $17 per hour, flexible schedules, discounted meals and insurance benefits for full-time employees. Those who cannot attend the event will be able to apply online or make appointments for interviews through August 16.

click to enlarge Protein "chops" are a hearty meal. - PHOTO BY ANGELICA SOUSA
Protein "chops" are a hearty meal.
Photo by Angelica Sousa
The brand is the sister to restaurant to bellagreen American Bistro which operates five restaurants in the Houston area with another bellagreen planned for later this summer. Original ChopShop first opened in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona and currently has 15 stores in Phoenix and North Texas. Houston is the third market for the concept.  Its menu includes protein bowls, salads (chops), sandwiches, fresh juice, protein shakes, acai bowls, breakfast dishes and parfaits. Much of the menu is customizable to accommodate various dietary regimens with gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free choices and vegetarian and vegan options.

Are they the best chicken fingers in Houston? Caniacs say yes. - PHOTO BY JOEL BORDELON
Are they the best chicken fingers in Houston? Caniacs say yes.
Photo by Joel Bordelon
Raising Cane's is looking to hire 400 crew members as it prepares to open four new restaurants in Houston, bringing the number of Houston area locations to 45. The first will open at 4908 Garth Road August 3. Three additional stores will open at 13480 Northwest Freeway, 7351 FM 1960 and 8956 Barker Cypress in November and December of this year. The new locations will feature the brand's new design with double drive-thrus and expansive patios.

Founded in Baton Rouge in 1996 by Todd Graves, the chicken finger restaurant now operates nearly 560 restaurants in 31 states to keep its Caniacs happy. It has won numerous awards for its customer satisfaction and safety protocols for customers . It has also given millions of dollars back to the communities in which it operates.

click to enlarge Savory or sweet, Urban Brew has tasty crepes. - PHOTO BY JASON WANG
Savory or sweet, Urban Brew has tasty crepes.
Photo by Jason Wang
Urban Brew Coffee, 1815 Cleburne, opened April 19. It serves a variety of savory and sweet crepes including its best selling breakfast crepes with ham or turkey, bacon, spinach, eggs and cheese. There is a Smoked Salmon Crepe as well as The Italian made with prosciutto, tomato, spinach, arugula, basil, mozzarella and Italian cheese. On the sweet side, there's a Nutella crepe with strawberries and banana, a S'mores version and a crepe made with peanut butter and jelly.

There are also plenty of coffee and espresso drinks along with smoothies and matcha or chai lattes. The cafe also serves the trendy Butterfly Lemonade, which turns a pretty pink color from the addition of Butterfly Pea Flower.

click to enlarge Karen Wang is bringing a little bit of Paris to the Third Ward. - PHOTO BY JASON WANG
Karen Wang is bringing a little bit of Paris to the Third Ward.
Photo by Jason Wang
Owner Karen Wang is a self-professed coffee addict and has always wanted to open her own coffee cafe. With an investment from her in-laws, she's achieved her dream. According to reviews online, the service is part of the coffeeshop's appeal.
click to enlarge After nearly a year and a half, Old Chicago Katy will reopen. - PHOTO BY OLD CHICAGO
After nearly a year and a half, Old Chicago Katy will reopen.
Photo by Old Chicago
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom, 24515 Katy Freeway, will reopen in late September after closing in March 2020 due to the pandemic. It has used the time off to refresh the decor and the space will have a new look. The concept has more than 80 restaurants in 24 states. It's part of SPB Hospitality which is based in Houston and also operates Logan's Roadhouse and other specialty restaurant concepts.

For its reopening, the Katy restaurant, which first opened in 2015, will be hiring up to 100 new team members for the 5,000 square-foot restaurant. Multiple jobs are available including bartender, server, host, dishwasher and cook positions.

click to enlarge OMC,  that's a big piece of fish. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
OMC, that's a big piece of fish.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The Chipper, 1251 Pin Oak, opened June 16 in Katy after closing its previous spot in Magnolia May 22. It left many a northside fish and chips lover bereft but the owners are still scouting for possible locations around Montgomery County. Its popularity is due to its large portions of fried cod or haddock that keep native Texans and British ex-pats alike coming back. It even has specials on a dish it calls Cod Whales with fried cod as long as a forearm. For gluten-free diners, it has a dedicated fryer for GF fish.

It's more than just a chippy, however. Like any decent British restaurant, it offers savory pies like the Scottish Pie or Steak Pie and even haggis. In the future, it will serve beer and wine but for now, it allows BYOB.

NBNB Bakery & Cafe
, 11107 Bellaire Boulevard, celebrated its grand opening July 18. Located in Vietnam Shopping Center, it offers banh mi such as roasted pork, fried fish, bean custard grilled chicken and coconut-poached pork. It also has tropical fruit teas, smoothies, Vietnamese coffee and pastries.

click to enlarge Julep's new cocktails offer a lighter, summery flavor profile. - PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN
Julep's new cocktails offer a lighter, summery flavor profile.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
Julep, Washington, has launched a new food menu along with its new cocktail program. With consulting chef Kate McLean, the one-time executive chef at Tony's and former Houston Press food writer, the cocktail bar has added its first cheeseburger, with Texas Akaushi beef, as well as a picnic board inspired by owner Alba Huerta's travels to France. There's also its new French Onion Dip made with confit onions and crispy shallot-infused vinegar, served with Kettle chips. That same French Onion Dip also shows up on the burger as a tasty spread. The Oyster Picnic includes six Murder Point Oysters, Toulouse Sausage and slices of baguette from Houston's Magnol French Baking. It is served with House butter that can vary from day to day.

click to enlarge French onion dip and crystal pickles gives Julep's burger even more flavor. - PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN
French onion dip and crystal pickles gives Julep's burger even more flavor.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
On the new cocktail menu, created by Huerta and Julep mixologists Alexis Mijares and Lex Guitierrez, are herbal beverages that are light and refreshing such as the Nightshade Highball made with white Port, Manzanilla sherry, Select Aperitivo, lemon, red bell pepper syrup, thyme, and tonic water. The Swimming Upstream is made with tequila blanco, yellow Chartreuse, lime, strawberry and ginger. Other new cocktails include the Bourbon Pearl, Ela Milk Punch and New Vieux, a drink made with rye whiskey, aged rum, Alligator Pepper vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud's bitters and Mole bitters.

click to enlarge Oh my, it's boneless thighs. - PHOTO BY CHRIS NASTRI
Oh my, it's boneless thighs.
Photo by Chris Nastri
Golden Chick has introduced a boneless thighs dish to its menu as part of its ongoing menu innovation. The "Thighs and Fries" is a combo that includes two crispy boneless thighs, battered fries, a famous Golden Chick yeast roll and a 30 ounce drink for the low, low price of $7.99. It is available at all 208 Golden Chick locations.

TuttiLili, 2421 Bartlett, has re-launched its complimentary Saturday wine tastings from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It has also add several new Italian wines to its portfolio. For those who cannot make it out to the shop, it has convenient online ordering, curbside pick-up and home delivery options.

Besides a wide variety of Italian wines, the shop sells specialty gourmet products including extra virgin olive oil from producers across Italy.

click to enlarge Keepin' it veg. - PHOTO BY VERDINE
Keepin' it veg.
Photo by Verdine
Verdine, 449 W. 19th, has introduced Beyond Chicken tenders to its menu, as requested by its customers. Guests can add the meatless tenders to salads like the Modern Day Caesar, California Cobb and Everything Kale. Or diners can pick a salad and make it a wrap with the tenders. Wraps are only available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., however.

The Beyond Chicken tenders are made of faba (or fava) bean protein and vital wheat gluten. They have no cholesterol, nitrates, hormones or antibiotics and are non-GMO. they are also halal.