Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: H-Town Restaurant & Sports Bar Opens, Van Leeuwen Soon

I scream, you scream, we all scream for Van Leeuwen!
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Van Leeuwen! Photo by Alex Montoya

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, 888 Westheimer, opens at the Montrose Collective February 23. Founded in Brooklyn, New York in 2008 by brothers Ben and Pete Van Leeuwen and Laura O'Neill, the ice cream is made with top quality ingredients. Over the years, the company has innovated to add vegan ice creams made with cashew milk or oat milk. In 2021, the company introduced its first line of dairy and vegan novelty bars.

With 27 shops in New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston, the brand continues to grow. The first Houston location opened in May 2021 in Rice Village, followed by an Uptown Park store in August 2021.
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Co-founder Ben Leeuwen has the scoop.
Photo by Alex Montoya
The third Houston scoop shop will debut with an exclusive flavor, done in collaboration with Houston celebrity chef, Christine Ha, owner of Xin Chao and The Blind Goat. The flavor, "Bananas for Cheese", is inspired by Ha's childhood snack, invented by her mother, that combined Laughing Cow cheese with banana slices. It was an effort to get Ha to eat bananas, which were her least favorite fruit. The new ice cream is made with a base of gouda and mascarpone cheeses blended with house-made banana jam and milk chocolate chips. It will be available at the new Montrose location as well as Ha's restaurants.

The three founders and Chef Ha will be onsite for the debut.
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Sports, booze, golf and more await at H Town Restaurant and Sports Bar.
Photo by Gary Hufham


H-Town Restaurant & Sports Bar, 6968 Wilcrest, had its grand opening February 4. This one of a kind venue offers indoor golf with simulators, 40-plus 4k televisions for sports viewing, private party rooms and iPourIt draft beers.

The food menu has standard sports bar favorites such as wings, burgers and nachos but there are finer dining options, too, such as Mussels Buerre Monte, New Orleans Creole Fry Quail and Filet Mignon au Poivre. There's also an extensive sushi menu of temaki, nigiri and sashimi. The executive chef is Jean Mayson, a professor at Lenotre Culinary School with 46 years of experience in the culinary world.
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Chef Jean Mayson brings fine dining to a sports bar.
Photo by Gary Hufham
The innovative iPourIt system allows guests to self-serve with the beers on tap starting at 40 cents per ounce with a large variety on offer. There are also brews in cans and bottles with specials on buckets. There's a curated wine list to go with some of the fancier fare plus some reasonably priced cocktails. The H-Town cocktails menu ($8) has choices such as the Saigon Breeze, Lychee Tini and its H-Town Margarita which has flavors of lemongrass and tamarind. Classic cocktails include Vodka Collins, Pimm's Cup and French 75.

Mapojeong Galbijib, 602 Studewood, opened softly February 15, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The new restaurant comes from Delicious Concepts hospitality group. Owner Ken Bridge has created a Korean barbecue restaurant that was inspired by his own childhood growing up Los Angeles' Koreatown and his own travels to Korea.

This modern version uses high quality ingredients such as marinated short rib (galbi), ribeye and New York strip plus other proteins like pork belly and marinated chicken. There will be dry-aged beef that's aged in-house in the future. The meats are served with the standard banchan, or sides, and cooked at the table by the server.

Shared plates include Korean Fried Chicken Bites, Kimchi Fried Rice, and seafood or kimchi pancake. There are dumpling choices such as mandu, with marinated short rib, and and bulgogi tteokbokki, made with ribeye.

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We just can't get enough of a good hot chicken sandwich.
Photo by Christian Pena
Bad Chx, 2802 Old Spanish Trail, is having a grand opening February 19.  There will be $3 Cheesy CHX or Classy CHX sandos for the first 1,000 people in line. There will also be giveaways such as iPhones and a Playstation 5 bundle plus Bad Chx t-shirts and free Bad Chx key chains while supplies last. The grand opening event runs from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. or until sold-out.
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The Royal Subs can be ordered according to heat tolerance.
Photo by Christian Pena
This is the first location for the Bad Chx brand which offers a variety of hot chicken items including sandwiches, loaded fries and burritos plus its Waffle Sammy, Royal Sub and Bad Tacos. The items are available with a four spice levels from no spice and mild to hot and lava.

Kelley's Country Cookin', 1502 W. Main, was almost completely destroyed by a fire February 14 in League City. The cause of the fire, which began a little before 7 p.m. according to KHOU 11, is not known at this time.

The family-owned business has seven locations. The first was opened in 1984 by founder James Kelley, a former Houston Police Department officer. The League City restaurant opened in September 2000.

In a Facebook post, the owners said that they were grateful no one was hurt and expressed their gratitude to the employee family, first responders, its customers and the community.
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Rustika Cafe and Bakery goes corporate.
Photo by Marco Reznick
Rustika Cafe and Bakery, 1302 S. Friendswood, recently returned to its full hours in Friendswood with new corporate management and staff. The cafe and bakery is debuting its renovations which include a private room for group gatherings plus new paint and decor. The business is also planning to host cooking and baking classes both for kids and adults.

Rustika was founded in 1994 by pastry chef Francis Reznick and eventually the family-owned business opened four locations throughout the Houston area. Reznick was born in Mexico and is of Jewish-European descent, a fact that is reflected in the international fusion flavors. Known for its beautifully decorated cakes, it also creates scratch-made items such as empanadas, chilaquiles, matzah ball soup and gourmet cookies.

With its grand reopening, Rustika is hosting The Birthday Joy Program, a non-profit organization that brings birthday parties to children in homeless shelters and group homes, for a free School of Li'l Chefs class in March. The children from the program will have a two-hour baking or cooking party in which the kids can choose to decorate cakes and cookies or make pizza, pastries or quiche.
The Five-Spiced Salmon is on the dinner menu at Graze.
Photo by Graze staff
Graze, 208 N. Elm, had its grand opening January 26. Located next to Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue in an old house, the new restaurant is bringing upscale nosh to Tomball, an area that could use some more fine dining options. The chef is a local who trained at the Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park.  His global travels are reflected in the international comfort food offered like Foie Gras Meatballs, Bolognese Ragu with fresh basil pappardelle, Marinated Chicken Street Tacos and Tikka Masala Fries. Guests might also luck out and find specials such as Chicken Spaetzle Soup.
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You can drink as well as graze.
Photo by Graze Staff
There are hand-spun cocktails including a Black Manhattan and Momma's Punch plus a selection of local beers on tap and by the bottle or can. There's also a wine list.

Cajunville, 28155 Tomball Parkway, opened February 1 in the Tomball area. The restaurant comes from Blake Landry who previously owned Bayou Blake's Boiling Hut in Spring, Texas. His new venture, Cajunville, is an expansion of the previous concept. Landry, a South Louisiana native, has Chef Robert Cormier in the kitchen creating authentic Cajun and Creole dishes using family recipes.

Some of the Louisiana cuisine of offer includes Po-Boys and seafood baskets plus gumbo, bisque, crawfish etouffee and red beans and rice. In addition to fried shrimp, catfish and crawfish tails, there's also the Gator Basket with fried alligator. There are daily lunch and dinner specials with Southern comfort food standards plus kids' baskets for a family-friendly $5.95.

In addition to the Cajun plates, the restaurant also sells boudin and cracklin by the pound. The cracklin is made with pork belly marinated in Cajun herbs and spices, cut into bite-sized pieces, fried, then dusted with its signature seasoning. Pistolettes are available with a choice of  shrimp, crab or crawfish.
The Soul Food Sunday Best Oxtails will take you to church.
Photo by Je'Ray Barr

The Foodie Barr
, 2155 N. Durham, celebrated its grand opening January 8. The owners, Charles Je'Ray and Silver Barr were raised in Houston neighborhoods, the Third and Fifth Wards, by single mothers who raised them to overcome immeasurable odds to graduate from Jack Yates and Phyllis Wheatley high schools, going on to further their education at Houston's Historically Black College, Texas Southern University.

They both went into education, teaching in the same neighborhoods where they grew up and also operated a non-profit which provided clothing, shoes and school supplies for students in need. At the beginning of the pandemic, the couple began to dream of owning their own food business to honor Silver's mother, Mercy, who had lived with the Barrs for a couple of years before her passing. She had trained Silver in  cooking for large groups by enlisting her help in preparing food for family and the church.

The Barrs eventually invested in a food truck, juggling their teaching careers with the food truck business. With the pandemic shutting down their usual spot at Rosehill Beer Garden for a while, they set up at apartment complexes, neighborhoods and even at Space City Drive In. They returned to Rosehill when it reopened selling fan favorites such as Beignet Monte Cristo, Baked Potato Soup, wings and the Foodie Barr's "no syrup" waffles.
These shrimp and grits are not playing around.
Photo by Je'Ray Barr
The business was building momentum when they moved into Houston Grub Park where long lines formed for the different flavors of waffles such as Peach Cobbler, Red Velvet, German Chocolate, Birthday Cake and Strawberry Shortcake. That success led them to open The Foodie Barr's first brick and mortar in the Heights this year, a centralized area that allows it to be accessible to the communities it has served over the past couple of years.

With the new space, the Barrs have expanded the menu to include seafood dishes and items like its much-acclaimed Soul Food Sunday Best Oxtails which were featured in the Houston Chronicle. The couple appeared on Fox 26 news this past week with Katie Stone to kick off EatDrinkHTX, a mini version of Houston Restaurant Weeks. From February 15 through February 28, participating restaurants around town will offer prix-fixe menus that will help bring in business to local restaurants while also benefitting Star of Hope and Houston Food Bank.

Kitchen United MIX, 1035 N. Shepherd, will make its Houston debut inside the Kroger grocery store at that location February 18 at 9 a.m. There will be a ribbon cutting with Kitchen United MIX executives on hand to open the location. The multi-restaurant ordering platform offers a new way to order takeout by featuring 10 independently-owned restaurant brands, both local and national, where shoppers can choose freshly prepared meals to-go or delivery. Customers can also customize their orders as well.

The ghost kitchen operates 14 locations in several states. The Houston location is the second for Texas with another located in Austin. There are three upcoming kitchens planned for Dallas.
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Xin Chao has a nice patio for dining al fresco.
Photo by John Suh
Xin Chao, 2310 Decatur, launches lunch February 18. Previously the Vietnamese-American restaurant from The Blind Chef Christine Ha and Chef Tony Nguyen served dinner only. Now, it is adding a Friday and Saturday lunch service from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. During lunch, it will also be offering $1 draft beers.

The restaurant will extend the Friday and Saturday fun by featuring happy hour specials such as discounted bar bites and drinks from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Xin Chao is also participating in EatDrinkHTX with a prix-fixe menu available at dinner.
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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.