Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Agnes Cafe Debuts, Soto Opens Quietly

Cinnamon and cardamom add some spicy sweetness to cake.
Cinnamon and cardamom add some spicy sweetness to cake. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam Photography

Agnes Cafe & Provisions, 2132 Bissonet, will open June 8 for breakfast and lunch with dinner service to come later in the month. The Mediterranean-inspired concept comes from Molly Voorhees, President of Beck's Prime and The Chocolate Bar, and longtime friend, Carolyn Dorros, Executive Vice-President of Wolff Companies. The two friends are both graduates of St. John's School in Houston followed by Stanford Business School for Voorhees and Harvard Business School for Dorros. Now they are opening a casual, elegant cafe together.

Dorros, a passionate home cook says that she loves cooking and traveling and was missing some of the foods she enjoyed in her travels. Her culinary skills have resulted in a menu influenced heavily by the Mediterranean cuisine of countries like Spain, France and Turkey. She and Voorhees felt that the Boulevard Oaks area could use a neighborhood restaurant. Dorros said in a press release." With only a few restaurant options in the area, we wanted a relaxed yet elegant gathering place, walkable for neighbors to catch up with friends over a fantastic meal, coffee or a glass of wine."

click to enlarge Agnes Cafe and Provisions offers goodies to take home. - PHOTO BY DANIEL ORTIZ PHOTOGRAPHY
Agnes Cafe and Provisions offers goodies to take home.
Photo by Daniel Ortiz Photography

The 2,225-square-foot restaurant will have indoor tables plus a 500-square-foot patio for al fresco dining. There will also be a grocery retail space with hostess gifts, grab and go items, baked goods, cookies and provisions.

The restaurant was designed by Sean Garrison and Levi Lemaster of Garrison Design Office. Guests can relax in the tan leather banquettes amid an interior of natural tones, oak table tops and brass light fixtures plus an expansive marble bar. There will be counter service for pastries, breakfast and lunch with table service at dinner.


click to enlarge Travel the Mediterranean by table. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM PHOTOGRAPHY
Travel the Mediterranean by table.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam Photography
Chef Romulo Hinojosa, formerly of Omni Hotels in Austin, will be in charge of the kitchen. Breakfast and lunch dishes include Baklava Granola with Bulgarian yogurt and honey, Freekeh Salad, Black Bean and Beet Burger, and a Breakfast Mezze with nine-minute egg, labneh, hummus, pickled tomatoes, cucumber and flatbread. Taking its influence from the Mediterranean, there will also be Stuffed Turkish Flatbread with a choice of lamb kofta or spinach and feta. All-day dishes include items like Conservas, tinned anchovies, mussels, clams or tuna served with sourdough bread and butter. Once dinner service commences, guests will find elegant offerings such as slow roasted carrots and avocado, duck fat potatoes with salsa brava, half roasted chicken with turmeric and green olive vinaigrette, and filet mignon with herb butter.

Brandon Fetzer will serve as general manager while John Mason, currently the wine and beverage manager at River Oaks Country Club, consulted on the wine list. There will also be cocktails like the rosemary paloma, blood orange mezcal margarita and the tomato martini made with fresh tomatoes.

click to enlarge Is it the Best burger in the USA? Try for yourself. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Is it the Best burger in the USA? Try for yourself.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
And, if opening a new restaurant wasn't enough excitement for Voorhees, Beck's Prime was just declared to have the best burger in the USA 2021 by Gayot.

Salmon over Fire is an Insta-worthy shot at Soto. - PHOTO BY BEN CHENG
Salmon over Fire is an Insta-worthy shot at Soto.
Photo by Ben Cheng

Soto, 224 Westheimer, opened May 29. This is the third location of the upscale sushi concept for chef and owner Andy Chen. The first opened in Cedar Park, followed by the second in Austin.

Chen has been doing sushi for the past twenty-two years. At Soto, guests have an option of doing the omakase ($150 per person), the premium omakase ($250 per person), or ordering off the daily specials list, Japan Express, with fish like sakura masu (cherry trout), kinmedai (golden eye snapper) and buri toro (fatty king yellowtail) that is brought in from the Tsukiji market in Japan. There's also a full menu of items such as nigiri, sashimi, makimono rolls, chili hamachi, uni pasta and much more.  A creative list of cocktails, wine and Japanese whiskies plus a wide variety of sake mean there's something for every taste and every dish.

Soto springs up quietly in Houston. - PHOTO BY BEN CHENG
Soto springs up quietly in Houston.
Photo by Ben Cheng
The restaurant's temporary hours for June are Sunday, Wednesday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Once the restaurant gets its staff to full force, it will open daily and add lunch service like the Austin locations. It is already bringing in two new sushi chefs this week.

click to enlarge Blue-lit steps are a new touch at Angel Share HTX. - PHOTO BY DESIGN RIOT
Blue-lit steps are a new touch at Angel Share HTX.
Photo by Design Riot

Angel Share HTX, 924 Congress, will open June 11 in the same spot that previously housed OKRA Charity Saloon. OKRA, an acronym for Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, was founded by industry professionals Bobby Huegel, Miriam Carrillo and Paulie Petronella in 2012. The proceeds from the bar went to various local non-profits which were voted upon each month by patrons. In 2020 OKRA went through the roller coaster of mandated bar closings, reopening briefly and doing to-go orders to keep afloat.

Now, OKRA's longtime general manager, Mary Ellen Angel, will take charge having bought the bar for $10, according to CultureMap Houston. It will continue the charitable efforts with a portion of the bar's proceeds going to local charities. It will begin with two winners from OKRA that were already in the pipeline. As with OKRA, Angel Share HTX will also allow patrons to vote for a new non-profit to benefit each month.

click to enlarge Mary Ellen Angel continues the mission. - PHOTO BY DESIGN RIOT
Mary Ellen Angel continues the mission.
Photo by Design Riot
Much of the OKRA interior will stay the same with some light remodeling. Husband and wife team Yolle Lemberger and Kati Ozanic have contributed to its new look with their murals and woodwork. The duo are also known as Yakwerks and have helped to build floats for H-E-B's Annual Thanksgiving Parade and create scenery for local theaters and festivals.

Besides cocktails, wine and craft beers, Angel Share HTX will have a late night snacks menu created with help from Dax McAnear of Shoot the Moon.

click to enlarge Alex Smith, Steve Radom and Eric Smith plan an Italian concept for Montrose Collective. - PHOTO BY ATLAS RESTAURANT GROUP
Alex Smith, Steve Radom and Eric Smith plan an Italian concept for Montrose Collective.
Photo by Atlas Restaurant Group
Atlas Restaurant Group will be opening a yet-to-be-named concept at the Montrose Collective in the 800 block of Westheimer. The Maryland-based restaurant group brought Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar to Houston over two years ago. The new concept was created specifically for the Montrose Collective, the mixed-use project from developer Radom Capital, which is also responsible for the Heights Mercantile development.

Though thus far nameless, the concept will take up 5,500 square feet of space in Montrose with a 225-seat Italian restaurant, expected to open in Spring 2022.

Atlas is owned by brothers Alex and Eric Smith. The restaurateurs first made their Houston debut with side-by-side concepts Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar in 2019. The success of those two ventures has increased their commitment to growing their Houston portfolio. Alex Smith says, "Frankly, we love Houston and plan to continue creating new brands here under the Atlas umbrella wherever it makes sense. And Montrose Collective made absolute perfect sense."

Local architect Tim Cisneros has been brought in for the design build-out of the new concept. Cisneros will work in tandem with Maryland-based designer Patrick Sutton to create a restaurant that brings handmade pastas, charcuterie and prime steaks to the Montrose neighborhood.


click to enlarge Cafe patios are trending. - PHOTO BY ITAI BEN ALI
Cafe patios are trending.
Photo by Itai Ben Ali
Badolina, 5555 Morningside, opened June 3 in Rice Village. It comes from the newly formed restaurant group Sof Hospitality, which also operates Doris Metropolitan, an Israeli steakhouse, and the upcoming Hamsa, a modern Israeli restaurant.

Sof Hospitality, made up of owners Itai Ben Eli, Sash Kurgan and Itamar Levy, was established as the restaurateurs began to form new brands. Badolina Bakery & Cafe is a spin-off of Doris Metropolitan’s much-praised bread service and custom cakes from partner and executive pastry chef Michal Michaeli. Badolina will  showcase her passion for the craft of baking.

click to enlarge Bread is the delicious staff of life. - PHOTO BY RALPH SMITH STUDIOS
Bread is the delicious staff of life.
Photo by Ralph Smith Studios
Ben Eli, CEO of Sof Hospitality said, "Badolina is a true reflection of Michal’s talents. It's grand and impossible to showcase through just one segment of our restaurant (Doris Metropolitan). We’ve spent a lot of time conceptualizing the bakery and its offerings. It’s a culmination of the team’s experience working in restaurants from all over the world."

The new bakery will offer freshly baked breads, sweet and savory pastries, custom cakes, desserts, and house-ground coffee.
click to enlarge The Raspberry Rose cake is pretty in pink. - PHOTO BY RALPH SMITH STUDIOS
The Raspberry Rose cake is pretty in pink.
Photo by Ralph Smith Studios

Michaeli and culinary director Sash Kurgan, also a partner, have been testing recipes for more than a year, getting feedback from family and friends. The two chefs are excited to be able to share their unique offerings and tasty pastries with the community.

The cozy, European-style patio in the front of the bakery will eventually be shared with its sister restaurant, Hamsa. There are two designated parking spots in front for customers picking up cakes, pastries and breads to-go.
click to enlarge Jeni's has seasonal and classic ice cream flavors. - PHOTO BY JENI'S SPLENDID ICE CREAMS
Jeni's has seasonal and classic ice cream flavors.
Photo by Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
, 801 Town and Country Boulevard, is now open at CITYCENTRE. The 889-square-foot shop, designed by 505 Design, overlooks the green park plaza which often hosts community events. This is the second Jeni's to open in Houston. The first location opened at 375 W.19th in January 2020.

Jeni's is not only known for its fresh ingredients, sourced from family-owned dairies and farms, but also it's status as a Certified B Corporation meaning it is recognized for its social, environmental and business leadership. In 2019, it was a best for the world honoree for being in the top ten percent of B corporations for community impact.

While that may be important to those who seek to use their dollars wisely, it's the unique flavors that have contributed to its popularity. Brown butter almond brittle is a bestseller while the dairy-free dark chocolate truffle gives lactose-intolerant folks a delicious option. Jeni's has recently made news with its collaboration flavor with everyone' s favorite country music queen Dolly Parton and also its everything bagel choice complete with onion and garlic.

Its brand new cake-inspired flavors include its buttercream birthday cake and its wedding cake, made with buttercream ice cream, sponge cake crumbles and swirls of lemon sauce and sweet-tart blackberry jam.

The Houston Heights location will host a first day of summer event June 21 with free scoops of ice cream and some Jeni's swag. Though we would argue that Houston's summer has already begun.

click to enlarge Boiled or fried, seafood is ideal for a lazy day in Kemah. - PHOTO BY LANDRY'S
Boiled or fried, seafood is ideal for a lazy day in Kemah.
Photo by Landry's
Joe's Crab Shack, #7 Kemah Boardwalk, re-opened its Kemah Boardwalk location on May 28 with the first-ever Joe’s Burger Bar. The new casual dining burger concept is located below the well-known Landry's beach-themed seafood restaurant.

Joe's Crab Shack opened its first restaurant in Houston in 1991 selling steam pots, fried seafood platters and crab buckets. It has changed hands over the years with bankruptcy proceedings and was reacquired by Landry's Restaurants Inc. in 2017. 

The Kemah location offers a casual, upbeat ambiance that appeals to tourists enjoying the ocean breezes coming off of Galveston Bay. Not everyone is a seafood fan and the addition of Joe’s Burger Bar offers a laid-back, family-friendly place to enjoy burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, salads and more. Menu items include Joe’s Broiler Burger, Joe’s Dog and a fried chicken sandwich. The specialty “Betcha Can't" burger is a triple-patty burger topped with a fried egg, fried onion rings, lettuce, fresh tomato and cheese. Visitors can cool off from the sun with a tasty milkshake or a cold beer. Joe’s Burger Bar provides walk up window service with separate dining areas including an outdoor patio with beautiful views of Kemah.

"We are thrilled to re-open Joe’s Crab Shack and introduce the first Joe’s Burger Bar to the Boardwalk," said Rio Gueli, Sr. VP & COO of Joe’s Crab Shack. "Kemah is the perfect spot for high energy, fun dining experiences, and Joe’s seamlessly complements our existing lineup of family-friendly restaurants."

click to enlarge The Whole Blueberry Chiffon Cake is a fluffy taste of heaven. - PHOTO BY PARIS BAGUETTE
The Whole Blueberry Chiffon Cake is a fluffy taste of heaven.
Photo by Paris Baguette

Paris Baguette, 1400 Blalock, is currently under construction in Spring Branch. The bakery first opened in Korea in 1988 and has locations worldwide. In the U.S. the company is hoping to open its 100th location by the end of 2021 with 1,000 domestic units planned by 2030. While the Spring Branch location will be the very first in Houston, the corporate team is excited to say that it is the first of many.

The shops sell a variety of sweet and savory pastries including croissants, fruit tarts, hot dog rolls, sandwiches, macarons and donuts. While the pastry is French-inspired, some of the fillings are more influenced by Asian flavors such as matcha cream and red bean spread. It's also popular for its pretty cakes.

The opening date has not been set but we're keeping watch.

click to enlarge Underbelly Burger will open this summer at Houston Farmers Market. - PHOTO BY TAYLOR HALL
Underbelly Burger will open this summer at Houston Farmers Market.
Photo by Taylor Hall
Underbelly Burger, 2520 Airline, is slated to open this summer. The announcement was made May 28, as we reported here in the Houston Press. The new burger concept from Chris Shepherd will be located at Houston Farmers Market, next to another upcoming Underbelly Hospitality concept, Wild Oats.

Shepherd's penchant for locally sourced ingredients will even be more local as the beef for the small restaurant will come from RC Ranch next door as well as longtime supplier, 44 Farms. There will be seasonal burgers on the menu and the standard burger will be an updated version of the Cease and Desist Burger at Hay Merchant.

There will be sides like its sidewinder fries, crispy on the outside and soft within, and Shepherd's bacon sausage will be available for a burger add-on as well as in hot dog form. Chicken sandwiches will also be on the menu. Victoria Dearmond, pastry director for Underbelly, will create a selection of milkshakes with classic flavors as well as seasonal options such as peach and strawberry.

The burger spot will only have twelve seats but there will be a pick-up window for customers who wish to take their orders to enjoy at one of the outdoor tables throughout the market.

Homestead serves up breakfast and brunch with Southern touches. - PHOTO BY TRACI LING PHOTOGRAPHY
Homestead serves up breakfast and brunch with Southern touches.
Photo by Traci Ling Photography
Homestead, 600 N. Shepherd, is expected to open in July. It was originally shooting to open at M-K-T Heights April 2021, as we reported here in the Press. It will join two other restaurant concepts, Rakkan Ramen, which opened May 3, followed by Da Gama Canteen May 15. Homestead will serve a menu of Southern, Cajun and Tex-Mex favorites.

The restaurant is currently hiring for a number of positions, including bartender, server, line cook, hostess, barback and more. Interested applicants may apply online and inquire about its $500 sign-on bonus.

click to enlarge Stacked Pickle has cheesy burgers for the big game. - PHOTO BY LAVANDER ECKFORD
Stacked Pickle has cheesy burgers for the big game.
Photo by Lavander Eckford
Stacked Pickle, 6944 FM 1960 W., will open June 11. The family-friendly sports bar offers a mix of burgers, sandwiches, salads and rice bowls along with the munchables people expect at sports bars such as fried pickles, wings and mac and cheese bites. Its house-made Texas chili can be ordered by the cup or bowl and makes an appearance on the Texas Stacked Burger as well. The selection of burgers also includes a Beyond Burger for non-meat eaters and a turkey burger, chicken breast or veggie patty can be substituted for the beef on any of the burgers. There's a kids menu for wee sports fans.

It ticks all the boxes for watching televised sports with friends and family. There's a full bar, cold beer and sports memorabilia on the walls.

click to enlarge Jinya is pleasing vegans with dishes like Agedashi Tofu. - PHOTO BY JINYA RAMEN BAR
Jinya is pleasing vegans with dishes like Agedashi Tofu.
Photo by Jinya Ramen Bar
Jinya Ramen Bar has added two vegan items this summer to its Chef's Special Menu. Beginning June 1, the ramen restaurant will offer agedashi tofu with fried vegetables and lightly fried tofu served in a vegan tempura sauce made with vegan dashi, mirin and soy. There's also the new Vegan Maze-Men with zero broth but all the flavor. It's a dish of extra-thick noodles with vegan umami sauce topped with sautéed curry cauliflower, soy meat soboro, bamboo shoots, corn, green and red onion. It's garnished with sesame seed and shredded nori. The two new vegan items are in addition to the Flying Vegan Harvest and Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen and are available for a limited time. Price varies by location.

Jinya Ramen was founded in 2010 by Tomo Takahashi. There are forty restaurants systemwide with more planned for the future.
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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.