Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Big Chicken Richmond Opens Soon, Los Cucos Tomball Catches Fire

Shaq is back with more Houston restaurants.
Shaq is back with more Houston restaurants. Photo by Big Chicken

Big Chicken, 3415 FM 762, will open August 30 in Richmond across from Brazos Town Center. For the grand opening, the first 34 guests in line will receive Big Chicken sandwiches for a year, with a limit of one a week. The chicken restaurant has the famous face of NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal behind it as a partner and 34 was O'Neal's jersey number which was officially retired in 2012.

The brand from JRS Hospitality and Authentic Brands Group was debuted in Las Vegas in 2018 with O'Neal as one of three owners. It has since expanded to more than a dozen states with the Houston location being the first for Texas. We think Shaq should relocate himself from Dallas to Houston.
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Along with chicken sandwiches, there are sides like jalapeno slaw, fries and Lucille's mac 'n cheese.
Photo by Big Chicken
The fried chicken can be found in sandwich form or as tenders and popcorn bites. The M.D.E. is the basic with fried chicken, Shaq Sauce and pickles but customers can also try Uncle Jerome's Nashville Hot or the Crispy Chicken Grilled Cheese. The Chicago is perfect for fans of Buffalo sauce while the Shaq Attack delivers a capsicum kick with pepper jack cheese, jalapeno slaw and spicy chipotle bbq sauce. The Big & Sloppy has the added health benefits of mac & cheese, crispy fried onions and roasted garlic bbq aioli. There are also milkshakes and adult beverages.
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The grand opening of the West Houston restaurant was so hot it brought out the fire marshal.
Photo by DeVaughn Douglas
The Richmond restaurant will be the second Houston area location for the franchise which opened its first Houston store in April 2023. Recently, a third Houston Big Chickenwas announced for the Heights, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The Heights restaurant, expected to open in early 2024, will take over the space at 107 Yale, the former home of Corner Bakery which closed earlier this year as the company filed for bankruptcy.

The Houston expansion is part of a 50-unit deal with franchisees Fazil Malik, Frank Malik and Noordon Jhaver. All three men have experience in business ownership including restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations, both individually and together, with 30 years as business partners.

Los Cucos, 22390 Tomball Parkway, is closed temporarily due to a major fire which injured three firefighters, one of whom had to be hospitalized, according to Click2Houston. The fire began a little after 2 p.m. August 23 with crews being alerted around 2:18 p.m. Heavy traffic caused damage to some of the water hoses, requiring additional crews to be requested. The extra teams also helped to provide relief for first responders due to the extreme heat.

One firefighter was transported to Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in stable condition while two others were treated on site for heat exhaustion. The fire, which caused major damage to the back of the restaurant, is under investigation.

The Tomball fire comes just eight months after another Los Cucos location in Wharton was destroyed in a fire December 4, 2022. In March 2023, the City of Wharton terminated its lease with the building's owners, according to the Wharton Journal Spectator, requiring that the structure be torn down.
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Spring is getting a new coffee stand.
Photo by Diego Escobar
7 Brew Drive Thru Coffee, 21420 Kuykendahl, opens October 16 in Spring Town Center. It's the first Houston location for the company and part of the franchise group 7 Brew Texas which plans a whopping 80 locations in the Greater Houston area.
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Chilled beverages ae much needed in Houston.
Photo by Abbey Gowen
The stand-alone coffee stand concept offers its 7 Originals plus classic coffee drinks with an estimated 20,000 beverage configurations, hot or chilled. It also has a menu of infused energy drinks, chillers, sodas and teas.

The upcoming Spring location is currently hiring upbeat, energetic and friendly Brewistas. Hirees can expect flexible hours, competitive pay and free drinks. Coffee experience is not required.
Cutten Kitchen is convenient to Willowbrook and Champions.
Photo by Eva Valles/Cutten Kitchen
Cutten Kitchen, 6935 FM 1960 W., opened this week. It serves lunch and dinner with breakfast service coming soon. The menu is made up of American classics such as chicken fried steak, chicken fried chicken, pork chops and fried seafood. There are also grilled proteins like chicken breast and salmon.
Cutten Kitchen serves American fare like chicken fried steak.
Photo by Eva Valles/Cutten Kitchen
Its Quick Bites menu features starters including fried pickles, Southwestern egg rolls, loaded tots, spinach and artichoke dip and coconut shrimp. Along with its fried and grilled entrees, there is a selection of salads, sandwiches and burgers. There is a kids menu as well.

For beverages, there are sodas and teas along with coffee drinks from its Barista Bar. There is also a full bar with televisions for game watching.
Christine Crossin and Andrew Vandenberg bring panini sandwiches to Finn Hall.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
Artistry, 712 Main, is now open at Finn Hall. The European-inspired cafe from owners Christin Crossin and Andrew Vandenberg incorporates Texas flavors and ingredients into the menu which offers a variety of panini including the Cubano, Brie and Berry, Caprese, Ham and Pineapple and the Texini, which is mesquite pulled pork in barbecue sauce with caramelized onions and roasted jalapeno aioli. The Goat panini is made with grilled chicken, ratatouille chutney, caramelized onions  and goat cheese (not goat meat, as this writer mistakenly thought - my apologies). All are made with brioche bread and served with French fries.

There are several salads, butternut squash soup and Italian Budino, a traditional butterscotch pudding topped with caramel and vanilla bean Chantilly cream.

Nobie's, 2048 Colquitt, is now open on Monday and chef Kelly is debuting her caramel Pretzel Brownie Pie as well. Customers will be pleased to note that Monday service will also include its happy hour specials from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. or 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. The HH specials include 50 percent off all oysters and half-off select spirits, drink specials and wine by-the-glass. The double happy hour is also available on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Spot, 2502 Gulf Freeway S., is shooting to open in early September though a grand opening has not yet been set. The League City location will be the second for the Galveston restaurant and hot spot.
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Salt & Sugar is tucked away on West Road.
Photo by Daniela Sifuentes
Salt & Sugar Gastro Bar, 16010 West, opened softly July 29 in the former spot of Verna Mae's, the NOLA-inspired Cajun restaurant which closed in October 2022.

The new restaurant is a mix of Italian and French flavors with a menu of appetizers such as Burrata Caprese, fried calamari and meatballs baked in Neapolitan sauce. For pasta, there are dishes such as Bolognese, Napoletana, Carbonara and Amatriciana. Entrees include Ragu di Fileto and Crema di Gamberi, salted shrimp in garlic butter and homemade white sauce.
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Salt & Sugar also has wine.
Photo by Daniela Sifuentes
There is a selection of steaks plus a variety of crepes including chicken curry, stroganoff and chicken and mushrooms. Desserts include tiramisu and millefoglie alle fragole. There is a wine list that leans Italian along with an array of cocktails and mocktails.

There is a long bar, in addition to tables and booths, plus some outdoor seating. The interior is chic, bright and contemporary with creative light fixtures and decorative wallpaper touches. There is also a small outdoor space for dining.
Chef Jassi Bindra has a lot to ponder after his win on Chopped.
Photo by Rick Frank
Two chefs have been representing H-Town in a big way across national television this past week:

First, it was executive chef Jassi Bindra of Amrina in The Woodlands who won Food Network's competition cooking show Chopped: "Oh, My Squash!" which aired August 16. Bindra took home the $10,000 prize.

Bindra is the executive chef and managing partner at Kahani Social Group. As a Sikh American, Bindra's culinary point of view is a modern take on Indian cuisine with a blend of global influences and careful sourcing of ingredients. Bindra says he embraced the world of Chopped to challenge his culinary skills. He added,  "The show's dynamic grappling with unknown ingredients and rapid cooking decisions not only provided me with an exhilarating and demanding experience but also created an opportunity for me to present my culinary craftsmanship in a refreshingly distinct light."

Food Network's Chopped takes talented chefs from across the country and pits them against one another in a contest to use the secret ingredients in their baskets. Usually, the ingredients are quirky at best, bizarre at worst. Bindra's appetizer was his version of mirchi wala, an Indian stuffed pepper dish in which he had to utilize brick French toast, spicy peanut butter, watermelon radish and sardines. His entree course was grilled short ribs with a cherry cola and coconut sauce while his dessert was rabri, an Indian dish made with sweetened condensed milk. The Chopped version had to use candied squash and gooseberries and Bindra nailed it.
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Chef Mike Pham (standing) celebrates the big win with his family.
Photo by Donald Jones
Then, this week, it was another chef with ties to Houston that emerged victorious, taking home a well-earned $10,000 check. Mike Pham, chef and co-owner at Trill Burgers, was the last chef standing for Chopped: "Burger:Impossible." Pham's wife and children flew in from California to watch the episode live at the Trill Burgers restaurant.

Pham wowed the three judges in the first two rounds with his Apple Chutney Southwestern Slider and Quadruple Cheese Fondue Lamb Burger before clinching the win with his Pate a Choux Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Burger topped with a chocolate-glazed cherry.

Raised in California, the Vietnamese American chef has a classically-trained culinary background, having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Hollywood. He is paying it forward with plans to distribute the prize money to a youth culinary program at Trill Burgers. 
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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.