Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: B.B. Lemon Montrose Opens, Monkey's Tail Swings In

Look cool and stay cool with summer sippers at B.B. Lemon.
Look cool and stay cool with summer sippers at B.B. Lemon. Photo by Daniel Ortiz

B.B. Lemon, 4319 Montrose, will open officially July 8. Owner Benjamin Berg, of Berg Hospitality Group, has transformed the space, which housed the acclaimed restaurant Pax Americana until this past January, into a cozy, dimly-lit bistro, reminiscent of a venerable New York tavern with green plaid walls, vintage paintings and over-sized tufted leather booths.

This is the second location of the B.B. Lemon concept, which joins Berg's other restaurants, B&B Butchers and Restaurant, B.B. Italia and B.B. Pizza To-Go. The original opened in November 2018 on Washington.

click to enlarge The atmosphere is cozy and comfy at B.B. Lemon. - PHOTO BY DANIEL ORTIZ
The atmosphere is cozy and comfy at B.B. Lemon.
Photo by Daniel Ortiz
The menu of American fare will contain many of the same items, but the second location will also have more seafood options, allowing Executive Chef Emily Trussler to produce dishes that she has been eager to experiment with like snapper crudo, Bigote's campechana and stuffed flounder with crab, mascarpone and Dijon seafoam. There will still be the delicious Texas Wagyu beef burgers and house-made corned beef and cabbage to satisfy meat eaters. On the dessert side will be America's favorite treats like banana pudding, strawberry shortcake and Berg's favorite, brownie a la mode. The a la mode part goes beyond just a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Trussler sets the chocolate brownie on a sea of marshmallow fluff, a sweet addition that Northeastern transplants will recognize. Trussler will be overseeing the kitchens and menus at both B.B.Lemon locations.

click to enlarge Checking out the cocktails. - PHOTO BY DANIEL ORTIZ
Checking out the cocktails.
Photo by Daniel Ortiz
Another crossover professional will be Beverage Director Monique Cioffi-Hernandez, who will be leading bar staff at both restaurants in creating cocktails like the Nothing to Lose, with white rum, hibiscus liqueur, pomegranate juice, lemon juice and orange bitters.

click to enlarge Houston needs more patios like this. - PHOTO BY DANIEL ORTIZ
Houston needs more patios like this.
Photo by Daniel Ortiz
The patio at B.B. Lemon, with its bistro chairs, brick walls and lemon yellow decor will definitely be a forerunner for the coolest spot to have a cocktail or split of champagne in Houston.

The restaurant has been softly opening for events including a party for the Lawndale Art Center last week. If you would like a sneak peek, there will be one more charity event on July 7. The Beach Bash and Drag Brunch will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and will feature DJ Ramalama. There will be cocktails, beverages and brunch bites. Tickets are $75 and all proceeds will benefit Montrose Center, a non-profit dedicated to empowering members of the LGBT community. Festive beach attire is encouraged.

click to enlarge McCormick and Schmick's Uptown Park wowed guests with its handheld desserts for the grand reopening. - PHOTO BY DAVE ROSSMAN
McCormick and Schmick's Uptown Park wowed guests with its handheld desserts for the grand reopening.
Photo by Dave Rossman

McCormick and Schmick's
, 1151-01 Uptown Park, celebrated its grand reopening and new menu June 19 with a tasting and party which included some local celebrities like Mike Garfield, the High Tech Texan. Part of the Landry's portfolio, the seafood and steaks restaurant has gotten a modern renovation with white marble walls, copper accents and modern lighting. The new logo, signage and branding will be rolled out to the other Houston area locations by the end of 2019. The revitalized menu includes its inaugural Oysterology program with a focus on sustainable seafood. The restaurant has its own proprietary signature oysters, Johnny Shucks, being raised for this upscale chain in a Chesapeake Bay oyster bed. There will be fresh and sustainable fish such as Open Blue Caribbean Cobia and Pacifico True-Striped Bass.

click to enlarge Oysters on ice are really quite nice. - PHOTO BY DAVE ROSSMAN
Oysters on ice are really quite nice.
Photo by Dave Rossman

The Oysterology menu will include a variety of raw and hot oysters. The restaurant is on trend with the addition of "pearls", a reverse spherification process that infuses the little beads with ingredients like sriracha, lemon and ponzu, resulting in a pop of intense flavor which enhances the brininess of the raw oysters.

“It was time for McCormick & Schmick’s to modernize our look and logo,” said Howard Cole, Senior Vice President and COO, Landry’s Restaurant Division. “We have a great new menu and mixology program that is geared towards sustainability, guest experience and engagement while delivering exciting new flavors and textures.”

click to enlarge McCormick and Schmick's has a new look. - PHOTO BY DAVE ROSSMAN
McCormick and Schmick's has a new look.
Photo by Dave Rossman

While the prices at McCormick and Schmick's reflect its uptown location, there is a generous daily bar happy hour from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. with great deals on cocktails, beer and wine, plus, with a minimum beverage purchase of $3.40, hungry imbibers can snack on bites like tomato bruschetta ($3.50), crispy Baja fish tacos ($5.50) and M&S's A-1 Blue Burger ($7.50). Check out its website for more information and more tasty choices.

click to enlarge Justin Yoakum is State Fare's new chef. - PHOTO BY MEAGAN ULBRICH
Justin Yoakum is State Fare's new chef.
Photo by Meagan Ulbrich
State Fare Kitchen and Bar, 947 Gessner, has a new executive chef. Justin Yoakum has returned to his native Houston to collaborate with the staff at the upscale Southern restaurant to create new menu items for lunch, brunch and dinner.

Staples like Frito Pie and Gulf Fried Shrimp will remain, but there will be new dishes with a Southern spin including fried green tomatoes, with lump crab, remoulade and jalapeno for a luxe twist on the traditional dish. For Gulf Coast fare, the N'awlins BBQ Shrimp, Tails and Grits will please the palate with fried crawfish tails and heirloom grits. There are also items like the HTown Slab Pork Belly and whiskey-glazed brussel sprouts.

click to enlarge When it's hot in Houston, make s'mores indoors. - PHOTO BY ADRIAN VERDE
When it's hot in Houston, make s'mores indoors.
Photo by Adrian Verde
For brunch, there will be new choices like the Crawfish & Creole Benedict while the extra-large griddle cakes will still be on offer for their fans. There will also be a "Lighter Fare" menu including the EaDo Poke Bowl and Veggie Veggie Spaghetti. Yoakum's new dessert offerings include SoO's (Southern Fried Oreos!) and 610 Traffic Jam S'mores, a delicious DIY project for the table.

Yoakum brings his experience working at restaurants throughout Las Vegas and Los Angeles, including Mastro's Steakhouse and Jessica Biel's kid-friendly concept, Au Fudge in West Hollywood.

click to enlarge Gelazzi is closed for now. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Gelazzi is closed for now.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Gelazzi, 3601 White Oak, has closed. Owner and operator Louie Comella is a Renaissance man with boundless energy from film and commercial productions, to real estate transactions to running a gelateria and Italian grocery. Unfortunately, the gelato gig has been put on hold for the time being as Comella finds himself unable to fly back and forth from his film and commercial work in order to scoop gelato. Because of his fierce protectiveness and pride in his family recipes, Comella is not ready to turn the operations over to a second party and possibly sacrifice the quality. Therefore, Gelazzi is, hopefully, on a temporary hiatus.

Comella has sold the building at 3601 White Oak, with its awesome Houston mural to some "well-known" people. Hopefully, those well-known people keep some of the wonderful elements that make it such a neat landmark. Comella told the Houston Press that he owns a couple of other buildings and has plans and ideas for those in the near future. One plan includes working with seven local muralists, so it should be interesting.

click to enlarge Houston loves its murals. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Houston loves its murals.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Besides its delicious gelato, Gelazzi was known for its Chicago-style pizza and sandwiches. With its marquee lights, photos of famous Italian-Americans and some quirky artwork, it was more than an ice cream shop. Comella, with his infectious enthusiasm, enjoys being part of the community and greeting customers. Until he has the time to do it again, Houstonians will have to seek out other sources of authentic gelato and friendly Italian- American hospitality.

Gatlin's BBQ and Catering, 3510 Ella, had its catering trailer stolen this past weekend. The acclaimed barbecue joint (as in Texas Monthly's Top 50 acclaim) moved from its previous W. 19th spot to its current Garden Oaks/Oak Forest location in 2015.

Loyal patrons of pitmaster Greg Gatlin's smoked meats are lighting up Facebook with their outrage. We suggest the thieves do the right thing and return the family's trailer, undamaged. If not, watchful eyes are keeping a look-out for it on the street.

If you have any information, please call the police and Gatlin's BBQ.

click to enlarge The long bar at Monkey Tail's is now open. - PHOTO BY SHANNON O'HARA
The long bar at Monkey Tail's is now open.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara

Monkey's Tail, 5802 Fulton, opened July 3 in the space formerly occupied by Ike's Place. The Mexican-American bar serves craft beers and cocktails plus a selection of booze-friendly finger foods, New York-style pizzas and burgers from Steven Ripley's menu. Ripley has experience working around Houston at places such as Jonathan's the Rub and Helen Greek. The new hot spot is owned and operated by Sharif Al-Amin with Jessie Gonzales as partner.

Greg Perez, beverage director, will bring his cocktail craftsmanship from stints at Calle Onze and Edison and Patton. The Mexican-American theme comes through with concoctions like 3 Milks, made with rum, tres leches, pineapple, strawberry, cherry and nutmeg. There's also an herbal drink called the Esta Sabe con Madre, consisting of vodka, chamomile, sage, St. Germain (an elderflower liqueur), lemon and lychee.

click to enlarge Elote is the perfect beer snack. - PHOTO BY SHANNON O'HARA
Elote is the perfect beer snack.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
The Feliz Meals, or Happy Meals, are adult-friendly combos. There are no cheap, plastic toys included. Instead, patrons get a choice of pizza slice, 3 ounce Chango burger, hot dog or 5 piece wings. Pick a Tecate, Lonestar, shot of Sauza tequila or Old Grandad as your beverage. For $8, that should bring smiles to your wittle faces. Take a dollar off during happy hour.

Chips and queso and pizza options like the Pastor or Barbacoa go great with the craft beers. Mark Nichols of Quality Draught installed the extensive draft system with a custom designed tower of 20 taps. The options will include a nitrogenated ale and four of Perez's draft 'tails.

click to enlarge It's time to monkey around at Monkey's Tail. - PHOTO BY SHANNON O'HARA
It's time to monkey around at Monkey's Tail.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
The name Monkey's Tail was inspired by the nearby train tracks. The handle for moving the tracks was called a "monkey's tail" in slang. The monkey is also seen in the Mayan and Aztec cultures as a symbol of art, games and fun, which is the inspiration for the bar's theme. The light fixtures and furniture were sourced by interior designer Leslie Slade (Letterset) with most of it being made in Mexico.

There's a dog-friendly patio. There's a pool table. There's a 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour. There are reasonable drink prices even when it's not happy hour. Your summer just got lit.

Mendocino Farms, 5510 Morningside, will open in Rice Village, will open July 18 in Rice Village. The California-based company was founded in 2003 by husband and wife, Mario del Pero and Ellen Chen before expanding over the next 15 years to locations throughout California, primarily in the Los Angeles area. The Houston location is the first outside of The Golden State. Three more are planned in the upcoming months.

The sandwich concept is based around using local and seasonal ingredients from regional vendors and producers in the area. For the Rice Village location that includes Slow Dough Bread Co. and Luck Dairy (Dripping Springs). The owners have also collaborated with local Houston chef, Chris Shepherd (Georgia James, UB Preserv) to create The Charity Sandwich, made with Shepherd's smoked bacon sausage, wedge slaw and roasted garlic aioli. All proceeds from the sandwich will go to Shepherd's Southern Smoke Foundation, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The foundation assists hospitality employees and restaurant industry workers with financial help during times of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, and medical bills that can wipe out a family's finances.

Check out its website for upcoming news about pre-opening specials, parties and chances to win free meals.

Understory, 800 Capitol, seems to be softly opening as two of its food vendors have opened up shop at the Bank of America Tower. The 35-story office development from Skanska will feature a huge atrium space designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture. There will be five points of access from the tunnels and the building will connect the tunnels to street level.

Flip 'n Patties, the Filipino food truck and restaurant have softly opened their counter as has MONA Fresh Italian Food. Other upcoming food vendors includes East Hampton Sandwich Co., Seaside Poke, Boomtown Coffee, and Mama Ninfa's Tacos Y Tortas. We will be keeping an eye on them in the upcoming weeks.
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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.