Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Cafe Leonelli Debuts Soon, Ritual Closes This Week

Do we spy sfogliatelle?
Do we spy sfogliatelle? Photo by Evan Sung

Cafe Leonelli, 5500 Main, will open at the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building at Museum of Fine Arts Houston April 16. The cafe comes from The Bastion Collection with partner and Michelin-starred chef Jonathan Benno at the helm. This will be the first Houston outpost for the Leonelli brand. Currently, it operates Leonelli Bakery and Leonelli Restaurant and Bar in New York City.

The menu will feature traditional Italian dishes inspired by Benno's trips through Italy with dishes like a Porchetta Sandwich with rapini, hot peppers and provolone, eggplant parmigiana and a variety of house-made focaccia such as the Pepperoni with tomato, caciocavallo and Sicilian oregano. While the menu leans Italian, Benno will also make use of local purveyors for ingredients such as Houston Dairy Maids, Lonestar Mushrooms and Homestead Gristmill.

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A great meatball is a work of art at Cafe Leonelli.
Photo by Francesco Sapienza
The cafe will offer counter service and guests can admire the display of hot items in cast iron Staub cookware and copper-coated pans. Beverages include Italian sodas and coffee drinks made with its signature Leonelli blend roasted by La Colombe. Cafe Leonelli will also have another Michelin star recipient, Salvatore Martone, as its executive pastry chef. Guests can expect Italian pastries and cookies plus an outpost of Martone's Miami-based  ice cream shop, Frohzen. The cafe will have indoor and outdoor seating with spectacular views of the surrounding area, the Cullen Sculpture Garden and art installations.

Le Jardinier, a more upscale fine dining concept with Michelin-starred chef Alain Verzeroli, is expected to open soon at MFAH and will share the kitchen with Cafe Leonelli. We reached out for a projected opening date and were told that there is no definitive date as of yet.

The Angry Bird at Ritual flies away April 4.
Photo by Troy Fields

Ritual, 602 Studewood, will have its last service April 4, Easter Sunday. The announcement was made by Delicious Concepts Restaurant group March 29. Ritual first opened in 2016 and was known for its Southern fare and meat-centric menu. Owner Ken Bridge plans to replace the concept with Mapojeong Galbijib, an upscale Korean barbecue restaurant. It's expected to open in mid to late May.

It will offer "prime" only graded proteins with in-house, dry-aged beef and pork. The cocktail program promises to offer one of the largest selection of Infused Soju and Asian-inspired craft cocktails. House-made kimchi and a variety of banchan, traditional accompaniments to Korean bbq will round out the menu. The new concept in inspired by Bridge's travels to Seoul and his time spent growing up in L.A.'s Koreatown.

In a press release Bridge said, " We had an incredible run with Ritual and would like to thank all of our amazing supporters and staff. The pandemic was such a difficult time for most of us and I decided about halfway through it that once able, we would emerge as Mapojeong Galbijib and offer guests a new KBBQ experience in a fun and vibrant environment that they have never seen before."

With prime, dry-aged beef and pork, that's a certainty.

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Private dining at Tonight and Tomorrow offers old-fashioned elegance.
Photo by La Colombe d'Or

Tonight and Tomorrow
and Bar No. 3, 3410 Montrose, opened March 29 along with the boutique hotel at the historic mansion La Colombe d'Or. The 1923 mansion was once home to the Fondren family but was acquired by Dan and Steve Zimmerman in 1973. La Colombe d' Or features several hotel rooms in the mansion and more in the luxury 34-story building which houses The Residences at La Colombe d'Or.

Designed by Rottet Studio, the interior features a mixture of original plaster walls with graphic wall coverings. Natural light streams in through the large windows, creating a modern, yet warm ambiance. Velvet banquettes offer plush seating while black glass dining tables, leather chairs and mohair sofas create a mood of cozy intimacy. Artwork from the Zimmerman’s private collection featuring artists Raoul Dufy, Dorothy Hood, Richard Hambleton and Man Ray adorn the walls of both restaurant and bar.

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The croque madame at Tonight and Tomorrow is on the brunch menu.
Photo by La Colombe d'Or
“La Colombe d’Or has been a culinary and cocktail destination for our city for over four decades,” said Dan Zimmerman, Principal of La Colombe d’Or. “We are very excited to introduce Tonight & Tomorrow and Bar No.3 in our newly redesigned hotel spaces that reflect the energy of our neighborhood and our new hospitality experience.”

Tonight & Tomorrow serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, offering modern European cuisine with Southern influences. Chef Jonathan Wicks is in charge of the menu using seasonal ingredients from local and regional farms when available. Chris Fleischman serves as food and beverage director. There are classic dishes like Crab Ravigote, Red Snapper served on vermicelli, Lamb Rack and Pork Coppa. There's also a Whole Roast Chicken for Two ($80). Lunch options include salads, seasonal fish and meat entrees and sandwiches like a layered club and a decadent burger. Craft cocktails like  ‘L’Air de Panache, a cognac-based cocktail with rye and Benedictine, will rotate with the seasons. Befitting its historic past, there will also be plenty of classic cocktails plus an extensive wine list for pairing with the food menu. Tonight & Tomorrow offers multiple indoor dining options plus a large outdoor dining space in La Colombe d’Or’s sculpture garden.

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Bar No. 3 blends traditional elements with modern furnishings.
Photo by La Colombe d'Or
Bar No.3 is located on the ground level of the Mansion welcoming guests with a mix of classic and seasonal craft cocktails. A selection of small plates  like charred onion dip with chips and even caviar service is available daily from 11a.m. until 11 p.m. Bar No.3 will also offer morning coffee service. There is indoor seating within the bar and overspill seating in the charming library. An outdoor living room, complete with fireplace, is accessible through the bar. Guests can also enjoy seating on the Mansion’s front porch for a taste of old world glamour among a busy, modern city.

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Stacy's crab agemono made it to the menu at Uchi.
Photo by Kat Ambrose
ReikiNa, 800 Town and Country, is expected to open soon at CityCentre. In the meantime, it is hosting two previews April 8 and April 23 with all proceeds going to Southern Smoke Foundation. The new tasting menu concept comes from Chef Thomas Stacy, a former prep cook at Uchi. He has with him Andrew Herron as Director of Operations. Both Stacy and Herron bring experience working as servers in the restaurant industry: Stacy, at such places as Coppa Osteria and Herron at Rosie Cannonball, and most recently, Tiny Champions.

The idea came about during the pandemic as Stacy found himself creating multi-course tasting dinners for his friends. It turned into weekly pop-up dinners at his Montrose apartment. The name comes from reiki (divine energy) and sakana,  a combination of sake and na, a term given to side dishes or snacks paired with sake.

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Thomas Stacy and Andrew Herron will open a tasting concept at CityCentre.
Photo by Thomas Marsella
The new 3,500 square foot restaurant will feature an eight-course tasting menu that will rotate every six to eight weeks. There will be 20 seats per service and reservations are required through Resy. Guests will enjoy their dining experience around an 11-foot communal table built by Stacy himself out of 200-year-old reclaimed white oak barn siding.

Designer Cat Matthews describes the restaurant's interior style as retro, mod-Bohemian, French femme. The furnishings will include bespoke and antique pieces sourced from estate sales and antique fairs like the one in Round Top. Even the dishware will be upcycled finds, creating an eclectic mix for dining. A long gallery wall will feature local artists who will keep 100 percent of their sales.

For the previews benefiting Southern Smoke, tickets are available through Resy for $150.  The tasting menu for the event starts with dishes such as Brussels Sprouts with burrata and kimchi, Scallop with ponzu and purple mustard and continues with Uni with fresh egg pasta, guanciale, trout roe and green onion, Short Rib with potato, leek and pineapple nuoc cham au jus and ends with a Coriander Buttermilk Pie with curry ice cream and raspberry gel.

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Benjamin Berg keeps expanding the Berg Hospitality empire.
Rendering by Finch Creative

NoPo Cafe, Market and Bar
, 1244 North Post Oak, is shooting to open this May. Construction is currently underway for the all-day café, market and bar. The new concept is a collaboration from Benjamin Berg with Robert Clay of Clay Development & Construction. Berg is the founder of Berg Hospitality Group, which includes B&B Butchers & Restaurant in Houston and Fort Worth, B.B. Lemon, B.B. Italia Kitchen & Bar, The Annie Café & Bar and Turner's. Conveniently, the new NoPo concept will open next door to Berg Hospitality's corporate office.

The 3,000 square foot space will include café seating in the front and a 60-seat dining room in the back . There will also be a ten-seat full service bar. The rustic French Country design will include white birch floors, high ceilings with chandeliers, vintage rodeo wall décor and a custom-made pewter bar. The market will offer a large selection of local provisions, grab-and-go meals and freshly baked pastries. There will be counter service for breakfast and lunch with full service at dinner.

Berg Hospitality has also hired two new key members, Sean Mohammed, who will serve as the VP of Concept Development, along with Jose Hernandez, who will serve as the Culinary Director. Mohammed has led culinary programs at prestigious restaurants in cities like New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Dubai and London including collaborations with Chef Claude Troisgros, Ian Schrager and Jeffrey Chodorow.  Hernandez brings more than 20 years of experience honing his pastry and savory chef skills at renowned restaurants throughout Mexico, Manhattan and now, his adopted hometown of Houston.

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The new Dish Society in Katy is bright and airy.
Photo by Sabrina Miskelly
Dish Society, 2643 Commercial Center Boulevard, opened March 18 in its new, much larger location. Originally opened in 2015, the new Katy location in La Centerra at Cinco Ranch has nearly twice the available seating capacity of the original space plus a more prime location including an 80-seat covered patio right on the shopping mall's green. Taking over the spot formerly housing The Blue Fish, most of the changes to the space have been primarily cosmetic, reflecting the same modern, fresh and airy decor that aligns better with Dish Society's more recent buildouts at other locations.

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Dish Society offers fresh fare like avocado toast.
Photo by Kimberly Park
The interior allows for seating up to 100 guests and also provides more space for staff and patrons to move around, including families with strollers. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open onto the patio and will remain open during pleasant weather, giving an even more open feeling to the restaurant.

The kitchen has also been expanded for a better workflow. There will be two dedicated parking spaces for contactless curbside pick-up.

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Can you hear the doughnuts screaming?
Photo by Jenn Duncan

Voodoo Doughnut, 1214 Westheimer, celebrated its grand opening March 30 with proceeds benefiting The Montrose Center, a non-profit whose mission is to help LGBTQ individuals and their families live healthier and more fulfilling lives. This is the second Houston location for the quirky doughnut shop. The first opened at 3715 Washington in January 2020, just two months before the pandemic restrictions were instated in Texas.

Founded in 2003 by Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson and Tres Shannon, Voodoo Doughnut offers over 50 types of cake or raised yeast doughnuts, including a few vegan options. In keeping with its slightly rogue vibe, the brand gives a few naughty names to some of its doughnuts along with some standard favorites that won't make your mom blush.

The Bacon Maple Bar is one of its best sellers, probably because it comes topped with two actual slices of bacon rather than the usual bacon crumbles. Its mascot Voodoo Doll treat has a pretzel stick in place of a voodoo pin while The Old Dirty Bastard will please fans of chocolate peanut butter cups. Besides its doughnut choices, Voodoo introduced the Cannolo in 2019.  Similar to a cream horn, the raised yeast doughnut shell is filled like a cannoli. Currently, matcha filling or elderberry cream are the two options. Voodoo also has seasonal offerings and holiday-themed doughnuts as well.

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Photo by Jenn Duncan
The Montrose store is decorated with its signature pink walls and New Orleans-style black chandeliers plus a Doodle Art mural done by Blair Janine. It includes more than 30 art icons depicting the local Montrose community and the city of Houston. Each Voodoo Doughnut store has a custom painted velvet painting by Portland artist Juanita (Jennifer Kentworth). The Montrose location has one of Wes Anderson. The Washington shop has local boy Patrick Swayze as a velvet guardian angel, keeping an eye on things.

As with its other locations, the Montrose store will be open 24/7 which is a good or bad thing depending on your will power. It does not have a drive-thru as the Washington store does but it is conveniently located next to Erotic Cabaret if you want to pick up a sequined thong unitard to pair with your Maple Blazer Blunt.

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Greenway's Texas Cinnamon Latte is now available at Finn Hall.
Photo by Greenway Coffee
Greenway Coffee, 712 Main, is open at Finn Hall in the Jones on Main building. It was founded in 2009 by co-owners and coffee connoisseurs David Buehrer, Ecky and Niken Prabanto with a commitment to sourcing high quality coffees and teas from small producers all over the world. Its expert staff can customize any coffee drink, whether a traditional beverage or one of the shop’s specialties. There are Texas-inspired brews such as the Texas Honey and Cinnamon Latte, which features local honey produced by Bee2Bee Honey. Greenway also offers a wide selection of teas and non-coffee beverages including their newest drink Birds of Paradise, an ice matcha latte with a guava cloud on top. There's also the Blue Jasmine, an oat milk based tea. There are plans to offer a selection of homemade pastries from Tlahuac HTX, a craft Mexican food pop-up created by the owners of Finn Hall’s Papalo Taqueria in the future.

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Ecky and Niken Sabranto are co-owners at Greenway Coffee.
Photo by Christina Sun

“We are thrilled to open our new location at Finn Hall and bring our caffeine haven to Downtown Houston,” said Niken Prabanto. “Coffee culture is all about bringing the community together, so it’s exciting to join a group of dynamic concepts that offer unique and different flavors to Houstonians all in one spot.”

In addition to Papalo Taqueria, Greenway Coffee joins six other independently operated food establishments at Finn Hall, including Lit Chicken, Pizza Zquare, Craft Burger, Yong, Dish Society and Swallow’s Nest. With a variety of seating and server options including the bar, semiprivate booths, and a full-service communal seating area , guests can grab a coffee, cocktail or a bite to eat while still maintaining social distancing in which they are comfortable.

Greenway Coffee will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Layne's Chicken Fingers, 23703 Cinco Ranch, will open this summer. The Katy location comes from local restaurateur, Masroor Fatany, who is the exclusive franchisee for the Houston area. The iconic College Station restaurant first opened in 1994 quickly earning a devoted following of students at Texas A&M University and local residents as well. Its signature Soon to Be Famous Chicken Fingers are hand-cut, marinated and breaded on site. It has three locations in College Station plus restaurants in Frisco, Allen and Lewis, Texas.

Besides its famous chicken fingers, the fast-casual concept offers The Sandwich made with three chicken fingers and Layne's Secret Sauce on Texas Toast. The Club Sandwich adds crispy smoked bacon and cheddar cheese to the ix. Sides include Thick-Cut Crispy Fries, housemade potato salad and Texas Toast. Its homemade sauces include Layne's Secret sauce, Buttermilk Ranch and BBQ. Party packs are available for feeding the crowd. Fatany, a graduate of Texas A&M said, " We have wanted a Layne's in Houston for years and the fact that it's finally happening is very exciting...I couldn't be more thrilled to introduce them to Houston and reconnect my fellow Aggies with some food from home."

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A New York Pie comes to Houston via Austin.
Photo by Home Slice Pizza

Home Slice Pizza, 3701 Travis, is expected to open this fall next to the Breakfast Klub in the two-story building which once housed Monica Pope's Sparrow Bar and Cookshop. This will be the first Houston location for the Austin-based independent pizza restaurant and the fourth in Texas. The original Austin location opened on South Congress in 2005 and was founded by Jen Strickland, Joseph Strickland and Terri Hannifin Buis. It has become a very popular spot for hungry University of Texas students and local families alike with its NYC-style pies, subs and calzones. It also offers Sicilian-style pizzas for those who crave a thicker crust.

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Square pegs prefer square pizza.
Photo by Home Slice Pizza
On hand to open the Houston restaurant is Jeff Mettler, who also helped to open the second and third stores. Mettler moved to Houston in November 2020 to get a feel for the city. In a press release Mettler said, " I've had so much fun getting to know Houston as a resident over the past few months. The diversity of the food scene, the endless neighborhoods to explore and the spirit of the people here are unlike anything I've ever experienced." Yep, we're pretty awesome. And it was kind of Mettler not to mention our traffic.

The Houston pizza joint will be primarily take-out but there will be booths for dining in and a dog-friendly temperature-controlled patio. I repeat, temperature-controlled. Besides dine-in and pick-up, there will be third-party delivery options. As with the previous locations, there will be its trademark Slice Window for walk-ups.

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Chef Holley has returned to do what he does best.
Photo by Davis St.
Davis St. at Hermann Park, 5925 Almeda, reopened April 1 after having been closed throughout the pandemic. Chef Mark Holley will be back in the kitchen creating Southern comfort food, seafood dishes and some Pan-Asian offerings thrown in, too. Guests can expect dishes like Crispy Thai Shrimp, Charbroiled Oysters and even a Seafood Tower. Cocktails and a creative wine list offer perfect beverage pairings.

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The Mango Squeeze is one of forty flavors at Jeremiah's.
Photo By Amir Haghighi
Jeremiah's Italian Ice, 4030 FM 1463, opened March 9 in Katy. This is the first Houston area location for the frozen treat brand and the third for Texas. Since its founding in 1996, the company has grown to over thirty stores in Florida, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas. It began franchising in 2019.

It offers over 40 flavors of Italian ice and soft ice cream. The Jeremiah's Gelati is the best of both icy worlds with its layers of Italian ice swirled with homemade soft ice cream. Customers can enjoy the treats indoors or out and there's a drive-thru for treats on the go. There's also delivery through third party apps.

CEO and Founder Jeremy Litwack said about the new location, " Katy is the perfect community for Jeremiah's because it's one of the fastest growing communities in Texas and we can't wait to share our treats with everyone." Italian ice on the Prairie. Who would have thought?

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Get some delicious me time at Magnol French Bakery.
Photo by Reese Littleton
Magnol French Bakery, 1500 N. Post Oak, is expanding its retail space and menu items. While the bakery has plenty of custom from restaurant partners such as Bludorn, Ostia, MAD, Rosie Cannonball and Better Luck Tomorrow, just to name a few, it is turning some of its focus on its retail service. It has tripled the size of its lobby from 250 square feet to 750 square feet while also allowing space for several tables that will seat up to six guests with social distancing. The 300 square-foot patio space will allow for 12 customers comfortably.

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Otto and Krissy Sanchez stand with Matthieu Cabon in front of Magnol.
Photo by Carla Gomez
In addition to the expanded space, the bakery has added a few additional treats to its 2021 menu including Hazelnut Lemon and White Chocolate Financier, Coffee Religieuse, and assortment of Kougloffs, a Chocolate Eclair with Valrhona chocolate pastry cream and the Black Forest Dome, made with sour cherry cremeux, sour cherry compote, dark chocolate mousse and almond chocolate sable. The bakery is also creating a coffee and tea program with Katz Coffee beans and tea from Mariage Freres.

Magnol opened nearly two years ago with founder and chef Otto Sanchez and bakery partner Matthieu Cabon. Sanchez has trained with superstar chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon and was most recently executive pastry chef at La Table, here in Houston. Cabon, a native of Brittany, France also worked with Chef Robuchon in Las Vegas and was named Houston Rising Star Baker 2019 by StarChefs.

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Acme Oyster House is almost ready.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Acme Oyster House,  1201 Westheimer, is set to open in April 10, according to its Facebook page. We reported here in the Houston Press about its April opening and it seems as if it is still on track to do so. We are keeping an eye on its progress.

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Orange is always in season in Houston.
Photo by Julie Nong
Riel, 1927 Fairview, has created a shandy cocktail in honor of Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros pitcher who claims chef Ryan Lachaine's Riel as one of his favorite restaurants in Houston. The LMJ is a pint of Live Oak Hefeweisen with house-made orange cordial topped off with a little Topo Chico sparkling water. It will be available through the Astros' season for $8.

Restaurants Reported Open for March 2021:

Boudreaux's Boiling Shack, 37707 FM 1774, opened February 26
Common Bond On-the-Go, 3210 N. Shepherd, opened March 4
The Continental Club, 3700 Main, reopened April 1
The Cookshack, 4015 Washington, opened mid-February
Golden Chick, 125 Remington, opened March 15
The Halal Guys, 609 Main, opened March 2
Island Fin Poke, 9910 Gaston, opened March 15
KP's Kitchen, 700 Town and Country Boulevard, opened February 14
Little Woodrow's, 11241 Timber Tech, opened February 23
MARCH, 1624 Westheimer, opened March 3
Pacific Coast Tacos, 6329 Washington, opened February 26
Parma Restaurant and Lounge, 6003 Richmond, opened March 4
Pearl and Vine, 26151 Nelson Way, opened February 26
Plus Kitchen, 798 Sorella Court, opened March 18
Ramen Tatsu-Ya, 1722 California, reopened dine-in March 24
Red Crab Juicy Seafood, 5370 W. 34th opened March 4
Seafood Connection, 507 Westheimer, opened March 12
Thirteen, 1911 Bagby, opened March 4
Trinity Street Food Woodway, 5709 Woodway, opened February 22
Vintage Crown Micheladas and Tacos, 628 FM 517, opened January 16
W Kitchen Chinese Restaurant, 10928 Westheimer, opened February 15
Yelo Banh Mi Artisans, 23119 Colonial Parkway, opened March 3

Restaurants Reported Closed for March 2021:

Burt's Meat Market and Cajun Foods, 5910 Lyons, closed March 31
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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.