When Cafe Montrose closed late last year without notice or explanation, many Houston food lovers chalked it up to the slow economy and the general malaise following Hurricane Ike's landfall. The general consensus was they'd just be closed a few weeks, ride out some tough times, maybe do some much-needed sprucing up, then re-open to great fanfare. Then weeks turned into months, and the "temporarily closed" sign was replaced by a landlord's notice that the locks had been changed. Cafe Montrose, that quirky bastion of Belgian food, was gone for good.
Then a few weeks ago a sign went up above a storefront in a strip center at the corner of Westheimer and Bagby: Jeannine's Bistro. Rumors circulated that this was the second coming of the beloved Cafe Montrose.
Jeannine Petas is the restaurant's namesake and -- by her own account -- one of the original founders of Cafe Montrose along with her brother, Andrew Klarman. She confirmed that Jeannine's Bistro is a Belgian restaurant specializing in moules-frites (mussels and french fries), with her brother Klarman as chef. In other words, Cafe Montrose reborn.
Petas is currently waiting on city permits to be approved and hopes to open this week or next. She is putting the final touches on the menu, which will of course be heavily influenced by the old Cafe Montrose menu. The current space contains only eight tables, but she is working with the landlord to build out the adjacent space. Beer and wine will be served. The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner.
Petas mentioned that she had been reading this blog to keep up with the one-off dinners that Catherine Duwez -- Klarman's ex-wife and former partner in Cafe Montrose -- is hosting at various locations around Houston. Petas is quick to note that Duwez's father -- who has been brought in from Belgium as the chef for these dinners -- left Cafe Montrose in 2004, and it was Klarman who helmed the kitchen at Cafe Montrose in its last few years.
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So there seems to be some controversy about who is the true successor to the legendary Cafe Montrose Belgian cuisine. Ultimately, of course, Houston food lovers will decide. Bon Appétit!