Restaurant News

Benjy's Turns Local, K&Z Buffalo Speedway Closes

Benjy's is converting to Local Foods Market.
Benjy's is converting to Local Foods Market. Rendering by Michael Hsu

Benjy's, 2424 Dunstan, closed back in March after the pandemic restrictions were instituted regarding restaurant dining. Benjy Levit's last location of his eponymous restaurant will not reopen. Instead, the space is being transformed into a Local Foods and Local Foods Market, another of Levit's concepts. It is expected to open this December.

In mid-March, Levit also closed his American-style diner, The Classic, and continued to do pop-ups with some of its dishes at the Local Foods locations which also added a small grocery to its offerings. The Classic, 5922 Washington, will not reopen and much of its furniture and lighting fixtures were sold back in August, according to its Facebook page.

The new Local Foods location will also offer its Local Foods Market products such as produce boxes, meat, cheeses, wine, beer, coffee, toilet paper, flour and olive oil. In addition, there will be grab and go items plus a counter-service menu with free range rotisserie chicken, house-cured pastrami, hot smoked salmon and Frixo's slow roasted fish and mushroom scallion tofu. The items can be ordered al a carte or served over vegetables, salad or rice. To-go and dine-in service is available plus there will be an expanded patio. The new space is being designed by Michael Hsu who has designed restaurant and bar spaces all over Houston.

For wine lovers, the second floor will feature a large selection of natural and organic wines with prices below retail.
click to enlarge K&Z's is shuttering its Buffalo Speedway location. - PHOTO BY ERIC SAUSEDA
K&Z's is shuttering its Buffalo Speedway location.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
Kenny and Ziggy's New York Delicatessen Restaurant, 5172 Buffalo Speedway, has closed permanently. The second outpost of the popular restaurant, known for its towering sandwiches, traditional comfort foods and generous cake slices, had remained shuttered due to the pandemic restrictions this past March. Now, owner/chef Ziggy Gruber has made the decision to close the second location for good. Because of the probability of the pandemic continuing for quite some time, Gruber said, "The West University store was doing well pre-pandemic. But the reality is, it is such a narrow space that by the time you figure in social distancing, we'd only have room for six to seven tables... Economically, it doesn't make sense to keep it open."

The shuttering of the Buffalo Speedway location does not affect operations at the 2327 Post Oak restaurant which continues to do a thriving business for take-out and dine-in. Gruber is also continuing with his plans to relocate the current store to a much larger space at 1743 Post Oak in mid 2021.

Masraff's, 9655 Katy Freeway, opens softly next week before officially opening its doors November 9 for full service. The restaurant left its Post Oak location when the lease expired in April with plans to reopen in the Memorial City area in May 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic waylaid those plans for a bit and the restaurant in the meantime has been serving curbside and delivery meals through Russell Masraff's upscale bar concept, By Popular Demand at 12420 Memorial.

We will have more on Masraff's official opening in next week's Openings and Closings so check back with us.

click to enlarge Bread, glorious bread. - PHOTO BY SHAWN CHIPPENDALE
Bread, glorious bread.
Photo by Shawn Chippendale

Bread Man Baking Co.
, the local wholesale bread company from CEO and founder Tasos Katsaounis, is expanding its bread program with Whole Foods Market bakeries into the southwest region of the United States. Previously, the breads were available in the Greater Houston area only.

The expansion began October 27 and includes 48 stores in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. For the Fall, the bakery will feature a new series of four varieties including Pumpkin Spice Brioche, Jalapeno Cheddar Sourdough, Chocolate Cherry Sourdough, and White Chocolate Orange Challah. Using Texas-grown grains from King Arthur Baking and Barton Springs Mills, the bakery will offer more communities a taste of its naturally-leavened breads baked with unbromated and unbleached premium flours, no artificial additives and no high fructose corn syrup.

Katsaounis said in a press release, "The expansion within Whole foods is a dream come true. The ability to showcase our products to a new audience is exciting. Whole foods gave us the creative liberty to create seasonal flavors so we came together as a team and immediately explored our own favorite holiday flavor combinations."

click to enlarge Pluckers Wing Bar has wings for game night. - PHOTO BY MELISSA SKORPIL
Pluckers Wing Bar has wings for game night.
Photo by Melissa Skorpil
Pluckers Wing Bar, 2958 E. Sam Houston Parkway, will open November 16 in Pasadena. This makes the 29th location for the company which was founded in Austin in 1995. The restaurant offers a variety of signature sauces for its wings from Buffalo and Spicy BBQ to Gochujang and Ginger Peach Sriracha. Besides its wings, it offers beer-friendly appetizers like fried pickles, queso and its Holy Macaroni, a fried mac n' cheese creation. Most of its menu leans heavily toward the unhealthy side, though there are a couple of salad options. Chicken sandwiches and beefy burgers offer hearty fare including the Bypass Burger made with bacon, cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos and Pluckers sauce.

Through the month of November, the new Pasadena location is offering Pluckers Club memberships for $10, half-off the normal price. The restaurant will be seating at 75 percent capacity and reservations through the Yelp waiting list are encouraged. Guests are asked to limit parties at one table to ten or less and a forty-five minute cap on table occupancy is requested.

Pluckers is also offering a virtual live-streaming Trivia night every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. on its Facebook page and a Family Trivia Game Night on Sunday at 6 p.m.

click to enlarge The Vintage Park staff is masked up and ready for Caniacs. - PHOTO BY AVA HERNANDEZ/RAISING CANE'S
The Vintage Park staff is masked up and ready for Caniacs.
Photo by Ava Hernandez/Raising Cane's
Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, 10950 Louetta, opened in Vintage Park October 28. The fast casual restaurant known for its One Love chicken finger meals was founded in 1996 by Todd Graves and named for his yellow Labrador, Cane. The new location makes the 39th in Houston, 169th in Texas and 527th systemwide.

The Port of Peri Peri, 10850 Louetta, has signed a lease for the space at The Shops at Vintage Lakes. The new restaurant is part of a chain which has 19 locations nationwide and quite a few more to come in the Greater Houston area. A location opened in Sugar Land in 2019. Founded in 2014, the brand serves healthy, flame-grilled chicken with its secret peri peri sauces. The company occupied the location at Vintage Lakes October 1 and is shooting to open by the end of 2020.

click to enlarge Tumble 22 is close to opening. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Tumble 22 is close to opening.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Tumble 22, 10723 Louetta, is hiring staff which means it should be opening pretty soon, joining the multitude of chicken restaurants converging on the Vintage Park area. The Austin-based chicken joint offers Nashville Hot Chicken from owner/chef Harold Marmulstein, who is also chef and partner at Salty Sow in Austin.

Tumble 22 began as a food truck in 2017 and now has three Austin-area locations. The Houston store will be number four offering its take on Nashville Hot Chicken, an item that has expanded from its Tennessee roots to all over the United States. Houston, being the spice-loving city that it is, has welcomed the fried chicken with open mouths.

It offers heat level choices from Wimpy to Cluck'n Hot and diners can opt for tenders, crispy chicken sandwiches, salads or bone-in birds. There are family packs and combo meals plus a Chicken Picnic Kit that feeds four people. Happy Hour specials include food and adult beverages.

click to enlarge Who doesn't love a good patty melt? - PHOTO BY LUCAS FLORES
Who doesn't love a good patty melt?
Photo by Lucas Flores

Pronto Southwest Grill, 13110 FM 529, opened September 19. This independently owned restaurant serves slow-roasted chicken, dry-aged slow-roasted brisket, fajita tacos, burgers and stuffed baked potatoes. It sources bread from local bakeries including challah hamburger buns and pain de mie for sandwiches. The tortillas are homemade locally as well.

One of the restaurant's owners, Lucas Flores, told the Houston Press, " It's been a dream of mine to open a restaurant that serves great food and an even better experience. For me, food and feelings go hand in hand. I know it sounds weird but I can't separate the two."

click to enlarge Slow-roasted chicken  can be ordered half or whole at Pronto Southwest Grill. - PHOTO BY LUCAS FLORES
Slow-roasted chicken can be ordered half or whole at Pronto Southwest Grill.
Photo by Lucas Flores
The beef at the restaurant is always fresh, never frozen and is butchered locally in Houston. The chicken is all natural. Family platters are available for those wishing to dine at home and include choices of whole slow-roasted chicken, brisket and more. There is also a small kids menu. Happy Hour runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday with specials on beer and margaritas.

Jimmy G's Cajun Seafood
, 307 N. Sam Houston Parkway, will close its doors permanently October 30 at 2 p.m., as reported by Community Impact. The restaurant has dished out Cajun and Creole favorites for 35 years. This writer did a stint there many moons ago and learned quite a few cooking tips from the chefs in the kitchen. Back then, they had a damn good seafood gumbo.

Gianinna's Pizza and Catering
, 9740 Barker Cypress, reopened its dining room at 50 percent capacity September 9. It had reverted to take-out, delivery and catering only due to the pandemic restrictions but it has now reopened for dine-in and BYOB service.

The family-owned restaurant in Cypress offers pizzas in ten- and 14-inch sizes plus a handful of pasta dishes, meatball sandwiches, salads and Italian desserts.

B2jSuancai Fish, 9393 Belaire, softly opened October 29. A grand opening is planned for November 4, The first location, Buerjia Chinese Sauerkraut Fish, opened in Redmond, Washington in May 2019, according to The Seattle Times. Married couple and restaurateurs PeiPei Cao and Xiaomeng Liu, who own the restaurant, tried Chinese Sauerkraut Fish on a visit to Guangzhou, China and decided to bring it stateside.

It seems to be catching on. The couple are expanding the footprint for the dish made with pickled mustard greens, Szechuan peppercorns and dried chiles, making for a spicy and warming broth. It is served as an entree for multiple persons beginning with the small version for one to two and the large for three to four diners. Guests can also add on items such as noodles, rice and fried bread.

There are cold appetizers such as Chrysanthemum Leaves Salad and sliced mushrooms and hot apps like fried chicken wings and Chinese doughnuts. For dessert there are choices such as matcha ice cream and Chinese Jello.

click to enlarge Cozy up to the Foie Gras at Bludorn. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL ANTHONY
Cozy up to the Foie Gras at Bludorn.
Photo by Michael Anthony

Bludorn, 807 Taft, has launched its Fall/Winter menu. Owner and chef Aaron Bludorn is creating autumnal dishes such as Foie Gras with apple, brioche donut and hazel nut or White Truffle Risotto. There's also a 5 Seed Crusted Ora Salmon with smoked eggplant and caponata and Maitake Mushrooms with cashew puree, scallion vinaigrette and pickled Fresno chiles. In addition, there is a selection of seasonally sourced truffles from across the globe. The seasonal menu is available through December 2020.

click to enlarge Put yourself in the chef's hands at Tobiuo. - PHOTO BY DRAGANA HARRIS
Put yourself in the chef's hands at Tobiuo.
Photo by Dragana Harris
Tobiuo Sushi and Bar, 23501 Cinco Ranch, has relaunched its nine-course omakase, or chef's tasting, after being on hiatus due to the pandemic. With newly installed plexi-glass barriers at the sushi bar, the restaurant is offering diners a pristine and safe environment in which to enjoy some of the best sushi offerings in Houston. The omakase runs from $150 to $175 and can also be done with beverage pairings. The courses include nigiri, hot and cold plates and an artful dessert. It is offered at the sushi bar or at table. Reservations must be made in advance.

Restaurant Openings Reported October 2020:

Acadian Coast, 2929 Navigation, opens October 31
Amsterdam Co., 807 W. 19th, softly opened September 21
Better Luck Tomorrow, 544 Yale, reopened September 30
Brass Tacks, 612 Live Oak, softly opened September 12
Burger-chan, 4901 Rose Street, opened October 5
Chiba Hot Pot, 12426 FM 1960, opened September 17
Chicken Salad Chick, 2110 Pearland Parkway, opened October 21
Del Vista, 6565 Del Monte, opened softly mid-October
East End Backyard, 1105 Sampson, opened October 9
Hurts Donut, 5801 Memorial, opened October 22
Jollof Rice King, 3833 Richmond, opened October 13
Julep, 1919 Washington, reopened for limited hours October 2
Katz's Deli and Bar, 2200 N. Shepherd, opened September 15
Krazy Katsu and Udon, 4747 FM 1463, opened October 7
The Parish Bistro, 815 Plantation, opened August 18
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, 1200 McKinney, reopened early October
Permission Whiskey and Service Co., 2920 White Oak, opened mid-October
Prince's Hamburgers, 6600 Harbor Twon, opened early October
1101 Southern Kitchen, 12020 FM 1960, softly opened September 7
The Sporting Club, 5102 Washington, opened October 22
Treebeards, 9655 Katy Freeway, opened October 2
Very Fresh Ceviches and Snacks, 18379 Kuykendahl, opened August 19
Warren's Inn, 307 Travis, reopened October 12
Xin Chao, 2310 Decatur, opened softly September 25

Restaurant Closings Reported October 2020:

The Union Kitchen, 4057 Bellaire, closed permanently
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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.