Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: The Burger Joint Heights Finally Opens, One Fifth Makes a Change

Boozy shakes at The Burger Joint.
Boozy shakes at The Burger Joint. Photo by Becca Wright

The Burger Joint, 2002 N. Shepherd, opens February 21, after several years of anticipation. The first location opened in Montrose in 2015 and has been a hot spot for lunch, dinner and late night burger fixes. Owners Matthew Pak and Shawn Bermudez (Present Company) have had to jump over a lot of hurdles to get the new, much more expansive location open. Sited right off North Shepherd in a spot that originally was home to a gas station, Pak told the Houston Press that there were a lot of issues involved in getting rid of the gas tanks from the old station, then putting in new plumbing for the restaurant. With city permits and a new build, the venture was not an easy one.

click to enlarge
The Burger Joint has a massive patio for outdoor lounging.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
However, it is now ready to open its doors to the public, many of whom have been grumbling for years on social media. Good things come to those who wait and good burgers are what The Burger Joint provides, along with a few sandwiches, salads, and tasty sides. There are also split and grilled hot dogs for those who, inexplicably, prefer a dog over a burger at a burger joint whose name is literally, The Burger Joint. But to each his or her own, including vegetarians who want all the flavor without the meat. The Heights location will offer its Veggie burger, a favorite of Pak's wife, made with black beans, mushrooms and a little textured vegetable protein. However, they have also brought in an Impossible Burger made with ground Impossible product. Though Pak admits that the margin on serving the Impossible burger is very slim, he wanted to make sure there is something for everyone. Both the Veggie burger and the Impossible burger are cooked on separate grills than the meat products to ensure there is no cross contamination. That's a pretty high level of customer service.

The Classic Burger tends to be the best seller for the restaurant because Pak says guests like to customize their burgers and there are plenty of add-ons to make your burger the way you prefer, including fried egg, avocado, jalapenos, kimchi and grilled onions. There's the Chili Cheese burger, but Pak says it doesn't sell as well as the Chili Queso Fries. The house made chili does have kidney beans in it, which might get Texas chili purists steaming. Tell them that it has Japanese curry seasoning and their heads may explode.

click to enlarge
The Cowboy burger uses Black Hills Farm beef.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The team at The Burger Joint seem really pumped about the Cowboy burger, which for now, is a special. It's made with a 25-day-aged beef patty from Black Hill Farms and topped with Felix Florez's beef bacon plus spicy bbq sauce, pepper jack cheese, grilled onions and fried onion strings. This writer is excited about that because, until now, the only place I could find beef bacon was from a rancher in Amarillo at Paidom Farms and he is almost always sold out. Those quality ingredients put the Cowboy Burger a little higher in price, but we've seen burgers without premium meat for far more than the $12 The Burger Joint is charging.

Once you add a side of hand cut fries to your burger, you are edging up a little in cost, but you must have the fries. And order a couple of the house made sauces to dip them in, though they are delicious on their own. There are a variety of sauces to choose from such as garlic herb, chipotle, spicy bbq and creamy avocado. The Burger Joint also has its house-made spicy ketchup at no additional charge.

click to enlarge
I'd tap that.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The new Heights location offers a full bar with a large number of beer taps, some signature cocktails and a few boozy shakes like the peanut butter Elvis-a-vis and the Coconut Dream. There is some indoor seating but the majority of seats are on the covered patio which has heat torches and plenty of fans. There are televisions for sports games and unlike the Montrose location, plenty of parking for 100 cars. They are going to need it.

Look for there to be a third location to be announced in the coming months.

click to enlarge
Coconut Manila clams are a sign of great things to come at Xin Chao.
Photo by John Suh

Xin Chao, 2310 Decatur, is planned for the Sawyer Heights neighborhood in May 2020. The new modern Vietnamese restaurant will take over the space that once house the original Beaver's and Decatur Pop up Factory. The concept comes from Fox's Master Chef Season 3 winner Christine Ha and Houston chef Tony Nguyen (Saigon House) along with business partner, John Suh. Ha, who is legally blind,  and Suh are also the duo behind The Blind Goat at Bravery Chef Hall which opened last summer, showcasing Chef Ha's modern take on Vietnamese fare.

While Houston boasts a number of Vietnamese restaurants and cafes, Ha and Nguyen plan to take traditional family recipes and Vietnamese flavors and give them a modern twist with contemporary cooking techniques and presentation. Both chefs are native Houstonians of Vietnamese descent, so expect that they will be bringing some Texan influence in the form of smoke.

The restaurant will be a Vietnamese-style izakaya with small and large plates meant for sharing and there will be dishes evocative of street foods like tamarind king crab and grilled clams. There will be a large patio and a curated list of craft cocktails, wines and beers.

click to enlarge
You spell it taco, they spell it taqo.
Photo by Carla Buerkle

Taqo Mexican Kitchen and Tequileria, 1343 Yale, opened February 8. The modern, fast casual taco restaurant takes over the old building which formerly housed Happy All Day Cafe and the new owners have freshened it up while keeping some of the more historical elements.

Chef Marcela Perez has created a small but well-orchestrated menu of tacos and bowls. The various taco choices include slow-roasted pork carnitas, brisket barbacoa, chicken al pastor, chicken mole, portobello mushroom and fajitas. There's even a Buffalo Crunchy Cauliflower taco with bleu cheese. Guests can choose from house made corn or flour tortillas or opt for Chef Perez's cactus tortillas, which are also sold at Central Market.

click to enlarge
On or off the cob, elote is delicioso.
Photo by Carla Buerkle

While homemade tortillas are a sweet temptation, some diners might prefer the bowls which are just like the taco choices except that they are served with cilantro rice, black beans, pico de gallo, lettuce and shredded cheese without the tortilla. The bowls range in price from $7.95 to $10.95, while the tacos run from $3.50 to $4.75 each.

Guests will definitely want to start with the queso with chorizo and chips for $2.99. That's a bargain, considering what most queso costs around town. Chips and salsa are not free here, but for $3.50 you'll get chips with three salsas: green tomatillo, red and chili arbol.

click to enlarge
Jake makes his mark.
Photo by Carla Buerkle
There are sides like chicharrones, baby potatoes with cilantro pesto and Mexican elote, served off the cob..  There is also a variety of breakfast tacos and homemade desserts like tres leche and churros with cajeta.

Jacob Messa commissioned the vibrant murals that decorate the walls from by Marked by Jake. Jake is a former graffiti and tattoo artist who has done murals all over Houston for restaurants, businesses and homeowners.

While the Houston Heights folks are getting a bounty of new restaurants, folks on the Northside don't have to be jelly. Taqo is debuting a second location off Interstate 45 and Cypresswood in April.

Chick'nCone, 1919 N. Shepherd, is having a grand opening celebration March 6. There will be zydeco music, wine tasting, menu and drink specials plus free ice cream for kids from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.The restaurant opened February 13, a few months after originally planned as they decided to build out a patio for more seating.

The menu is basically chicken bites served in a waffle cone with a choice of six different sauces ranging from sweet to mild to spicy. Options include Cinna-Maple, Traditional BBQ, Yella BBQ (mustard-style), Kick'n Ranch, Buffalo Blue and Peri Peri. The cones are $8 or customers can make it a meal with Cajun fries and a soft drink for $12. The fast-casual restaurant also serves beer and ice cream.

The concept began in New York City as a food truck and began franchising several years ago. There are locations and food trucks in several states and even a few in Dubai. Chick'nCone was first brought to Texas in The Woodlands as a kiosk in Waterway Square in 2018, but it was short-lived. Now, Chick'nCone Houston owner, David Skala, is seeking to expand the franchise in the Bayou City. Skala says, “We are excited to finally get our first location open in Houston. Like our Corporate CEO, I believe in faith, family, and good food! Our goal at Chick'nCone® is to give each guest a selfie worthy experience they’ll want to share with their friends, family and followers!”

There is a second location of Chick'nCone in development at 2805 White Oak.

Bye-bye Baller Boat.
Photo by Julie Soefer

One Fifth Gulf Coast, 1658 Westheimer, will close March 23 to make way for the fifth and final iteration, One Fifth Lightning Round, as we first reported here in the Houston Press.The fourth concept was originally planned to cease at the end of July, but owner and chef Chris Shepherd had an early morning epiphany recently and has decided that the concept restaurant will be a culinary playground where he and his talented team can explore and execute the cuisines that they find compelling.

In a press release, Shepherd said, "On March 23, we are going to close One Fifth Gulf Coast and move into One Fifth (for the lack of better words) Lightning Round. We will start with Vietnamese and then move through other ideas and concepts without giving them a time limit. I want to try as much as I can but still give each one our full devotion."  The team does not plan to release the concepts ahead of time but will give three weeks' notice before closing each one.

The One Fifth idea began in 2017 when Shepherd leased the former Mark's American Cuisine space and launched the first idea, One Fifth Steak. After its cessation, it eventually became his steakhouse, Georgia James, named for his parents. Shepherd is currently seeking a space for a Mediterranean restaurant which began conception as the third experiment, One Fifth Mediterranean.

While loyal patrons will be bummed to see the Gulf Coast iteration retire early, Shepherd feels that there is so much more to do at One Fifth with only 18 months left.  And who knows? The Gulf Coast idea may breathe new life elsewhere, too.

click to enlarge
Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma

Feges BBQ, 8217 Long Point, is planned for early 2021, as we reported here in the Press. Husband and wife Erin Smith and Patrick Feges first opened their barbecue restaurant within Greenway Plaza in 2017. It quickly became a fan favorite among Houston's barbecue mavens for Feges' expertise with smoked meats and Smith's innovative side dishes.

Now, they are expanding with a second, much larger location in the Spring Branch Village Shopping Center. It will be open six days a week for lunch and dinner. The couple are residents of Spring Branch and being new parents, plan to create a family-friendly environment with a kid's menu, a play area and a large patio.

Smith will curate a 15 bottle wine list that will pair well with the smoked meats, along with offering local beers. The menu will be largely the same with a few additions such as burgers, sandwiches, salads and wings. There will also be daily specials.

click to enlarge
The Dulce de Leche crepe is just one of the dessert crepes available at Sweet Paris.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara

Sweet Paris Creperie & Cafe, 500 Baybrook Mall, will open sometime in March in Friendswood at the Baybrook Mall. This will make the ninth location for the crepe-focused cafe, which opened its first location in Rice Village in 2012. Owners and married couple, Allison and Ivan Chavez, wanted to "revive the art of eating crepes" and have now expanded to seven locations across Houston, with another two in San Antonio and Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico.

The sophisticated, yet casual atmosphere is perfect for enjoying mimosas with friends while lingering over one of the breakfast crepes like the Croque Madam with scrambled eggs, gruyere cheese, smoked ham and bechamel sauce, or the Le Canadiene with scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, poutine cheese and maple syrup. Breakfast crepes are served until 3 p.m.

click to enlarge
Mon Dieu! The milkshakes at Sweet Paris are formidable.
Photo by Sweet Paris
For savory crepes, there are choices such as Chicken Enchilada, Chicken Carbonara and The Vegan, made with portobello mushrooms, black bean puree, corn salsa and chipotle sauce. Everyone loves sweet crepes and Sweet Paris offers the usual Nutella crepes popular all over Europe but they also have creations like the Apple Cinnamon Brulee or the S'Mores Nutella.

Besides crepes, there are paninis, salads, soups, waffles and milkshakes. Beer and wine are served, as are hot beverages.

The new cafe will be located between Perry's Steakhouse and The Rouxpour, facing "The Lawn", an outdoor green area which hosts live music, movie showings and special events. Sweet Paris will have a covered patio which faces the lawn so that parents can do their adulting while keeping an eye on les enfants.

click to enlarge
Ooh La La Memorial City is closing its pretty pink doors.
Photo by Debora Smail
Ooh La La Dessert Boutique, 770 Sam Houston Park N., is closing February 22. Though the Memorial City shop will close, the other two locations at 23920 Westheimer Parkway and 20155 Park Row will remain open.

The dessert boutique was founded in 2007 by award-winning pastry chef Vanessa O'Donnell. The shops sell more than 80 different treats including pastries, cakes, pies, cookies and special creations for various holidays.

In a press statement, O'Donnell said, "This was not a decision that Mike — my husband and business partner — and I took lightly, but when the opportunity arose to simplify our lives and have more time to spend with our daughter, we knew we were making the right choice." Though leaving Town and Country Village is tough, the family will focus on the two Katy locations which are closer to their own home in Sealy.

click to enlarge
Alamo Drafthouse is going south to League City.
Rendering by 5G Studio Collaborative
Alamo Drafthouse, Interstate 45 and FM 646, is slated to open in late 2020 at Victory Lakes Center in League City. The movie theater will offer ten top of the line screens along with a 60 foot premium large screen for the "Big Show".

The seating will be 100 percent reserved giving patrons the opportunity to pick their over-sized recliner in advance. There is a food and bar menu with servers bringing drinks and munchies to your seat. There is also a stand alone lobby bar for grabbing a pre or post film cocktail.

Like the other locations, Alamo Drafthouse League City will host special events such as its Saturday Cereal Parties with an all you can eat cereal buffet and Champagne Cinema with special cocktails.

click to enlarge
The Sauer Kraut Grill offers hearty Bavarian cuisine.
Photo by Eric Morse
The Sauer Kraut Grill, 734 Crabb River Road, will celebrate its grand opening April 4, from noon to 8 p.m. with a parking lot party. There will be live music, games and activities plus vendors and food trucks.

The former food truck opened its brick and mortar in January and serves German cuisine like pork schnitzel and spaetzle and its popular "Schruben" sandwich. Its food truck is now back in rotation, so check its Facebook page for the line-up.

click to enlarge
BORI offers an elevated Korean BBQ.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
BORI, 1453 Witte, has launched a lunch service and exclusive private dining options. The Korean steakhouse offers South Korean bbq  in an upscale space surrounded by a Korean Art gallery and a peace garden which is meant to encourage unity between North and South Korea.

Lunch service will be Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.