Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Cherry Block Smokehouse Opens, North Italia Woodlands Soon

It's a Texas spread fit for a king at Cherry Block.
It's a Texas spread fit for a king at Cherry Block. Photo by Becca Wright

Cherry Block Smokehouse, 1223 W. 34th, opened September 7 in Garden Oaks at the Stomping Grounds. This new smokehouse comes from Felix Florez who was the force behind the now-shuttered Cherry Block Craft Butcher's at Bravery Chef Hall. Cherry Block left the food hall in January 2021, opening Cherry Block Market in Katy soon after, with business partner Jess DeSham Timmons. Timmons is no longer affiliated with Cherry Block.

The new Southern steakhouse is truly a ranch-to-table affair and Florez, owner of Falcon Lake Farms, is committed to an ethos of "Texans for Texas" when it comes to sourcing food products. His family's meat distribution company raises and harvests meat livestock that are then butchered at Cherry Block Market. Florez is also focused on using sustainable ingredients and products from local vendors, helping to keep the enterprise community-focused while also keeping price points for quality steakhouse dining at accessible levels. Also helping to keep it accessible will be the casual approach the restaurant takes with counter and seat-yourself service.
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Felix Florez and Jordan Economy are smokin'.
Photo by Emily Jaschke
The menu itself is full of Southern food favorites and smoked barbecue meats. And loyal customers will be happy to see its signature Cherry Block Burger returning, a culinary item that was key to luring investors on the crowd-funding platform, NextSeed.

Other faves like the brisket gumbo and hand-cut steaks join items such as a Texas Chili Dog with beef cheek chili, Shrimp + Cracklings, Mushroom Pistolette and a Citrus Chicken Sandwich.

Leading the kitchen will be executive chef Jordan Economy and chef de cuisine Melissa Hart. Economy has done stints at Salt & Time, Doris Metropolitan and Prohibition Supper Club so his experience with butchery and meat-centric concepts is extensive. Hart is also a hospitality veteran, with experience at Chopin Mon Ami Catering in Galveston and most recently, she was a back of house supervisor at Common Bond Brasserie and Bistro in downtown Houston.
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Cherry Block keeps it casual and personal.
Photo by POP Studios
The new restaurant was designed by Gin Design Group and reflects Florez's family history with displays of old photographs and heirlooms. The 2,600 square-foot restaurant opens up to the green space at Stomping Grounds and guests can see into the butcher's room in the market area while the butchery is being done. Guests will also be able to make meat selections from the companion market.

Besides his expertise with butchery and smoke, Florez is also a veteran sommelier so wine lovers can expect a list with boutique varietals from family-owned wineries in addition to the full bar program.

The restaurant is now open for lunch and dinner daily with a brunch program planned for the future. There will be a grand opening and ribbon cutting September 20 at 11 a.m.
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The Italian Meatballs are served atop creamy polenta.
Photo by North Italia

North Italia, 1201 Lake Woodlands, will open October 5. Located at The Woodlands Mall, this will be the second Houston-area location for the concept and the seventh in Texas. The first Houston location opened on Post Oak. The modern Italian restaurant was created in 2002 by Fox Restaurants Concepts founder Sam Fox. Using freshly-made from-scratch pasta and quality ingredients, it has expanded to 32 locations nationwide.
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Pizza, North Italia-style.
Photo by North Italia
The Woodlands spot will offer dine-in service as well as takeout and delivery through its online ordering platform. The restaurant will serve lunch, dinner and weekend brunch along with a weekday happy hour. There will be an indoor/outdoor bar and an extensive covered patio.

At the kitchen's helm will be Executive Chef Shawney Severns, a longtime team member at North Italia. Joining her will be Brynn Ward, another North Italia veteran, as general manager.
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White Truffle Garlic Bread is an indulgence.
Photo by North Italia
Guests can begin with small plates like Crispy Calamari or Zucca Chips or opt for the Grilled Bread & Good Olive Oil. There are Chef's Boards for carnivores and veg-heads alike. There are also pizzas such as The Pig with spicy pepperoni, soppressata and Italian sausage or the simple, but delicious, Cacio e Pepe with pecorino crema, mozzarella and cracked pepper.

There is a selection of sandwiches and pasta at lunch time. For dinner, there are also fresh pasta dishes plus entrees such as Hanger Steak Tagliata, Grilled Branzino, Diver Scallops and Tuscan Half Chicken.
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The interior at Second Draught is contemporary and Mad Men retro all at the same time.
Photo by Taylor Cooper
Second Draught, 4201 Main, opens at the Ion September 12. Last week, we reported here in the Houston Press that it was opening soon. Apparently, it was real soon. Come Monday, it'll be all right when the 2,000 square-foot taproom opens as a comfortable watering hole with 18 beer taps and two wines on draft. Guests order at the bar and then find a seat at one of the 66 indoor seats or a spot on the outdoor patio which faces the Ion Plaza.
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The Ion is starting to fill up.
Photo by Geoffrey Lyon
The taproom will highlight mostly local Houston brews. There isn't a kitchen but owners Sarah Pope and Adam Cryer told the Press that there will be a digital system set up for guests to order food from soon-to-open fellow Ion tenants, Late August and Lymbar.

Pope and Cryer are co-founders at Baileson Brewing Co. which they opened in 2017. The couple says that they may have one of their brewery offerings on tap but they hope to showcase many of their fellow brewers' quaffs.
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The exterior has a European cafe look.
Photo by Tatiana Zeuskevich/TX Film Productions
Adair Kitchen, 5176 Buffalo Speedway, opened August 16 at Plaza in the Park in the West University area. It comes from Adair Concepts, a family-owned and operated hospitality group which will also open another of its restaurants, Los Tios, at the development in late 2022.

This is the second location for the Adair Kitchen concept. The first opened at 5161 San Felipe in 2012 and will celebrate its 10th anniversary September 10. There is also a small-scale version, Adair Downtown, which is open for breakfast, lunch and bar bites.  Relying on generations of family recipes, the newest restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a small selection of healthy fruit and vegetable juices.
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The interior is light and open at Adair Kitchen.
Photo by Tatiana Zeuskevich/TX Films production
Breakfast or brunch can be a simple plate of eggs and bacon, breakfast tacos or a three-egg omelette. There are breakfast bowls, avocado toast, waffles and pancakes, too. The lunch menu offers a variety of burgers and sandwiches along with freshly-made soups and salads. For dinner, guests will find small plate options such as Fried Asparagus, Bacon Wrapped Dates and its Texas Trio with chips and three dips. There are healthy bowl choices on the dinner menu plus House Favorites such as Pesto Salmon, Bone-In Pork Chop, Lean Turkey Meatloaf and Filet Fiorentina.

Adair Kitchen also offers a menu of classic cocktails, beer and wine and an attractive bar and patio for lounging and conversing.

Bellaire Broiler Burger, 5216 Bellaire Boulevard, closed September 5, according to its Instagram account. It cited the reason for the closure as "circumstances beyond our control". However, it teased that the concept would be returning and that it would be "as good as you remember."

The property itself has been sold for use as a law office, as first reported by Bellaire-West University Essentials. The iconic building on the property was designed in 1959 by Roger Converse.

The burger concept began in 1951 as Brittain's Broiler Burger. The Bellaire location, the third for the brand,  first opened in 1959. While the Brittain's Broiler Burger restaurants eventually closed, the Bellaire location was subsequently owned by John M. Fish in 1970, according to a clipping on The Arch-ive, before  being purchased and operated by the Daneman family in the early 1970s. Tom Daneman took over the business in 1999 after his parents passed away.

Daneman closed the restaurant in June 2020, citing in a Facebook post the passing of a longtime employee. It was then purchased by Jason Scheinthal, the former owner of Eighteen36, a Houston bar and restaurant that closed in February 2022.

While many longtime fans of the burgers and fast food sold at BBB were delighted to see its possible revival, the restaurant itself never reopened and Scheinthal began operating the concept out of a food truck on the property. Unfortunately the higher prices, some of it due to the rising cost of beef and supply chain issues, had former customers of the Bellaire burger institution grumbling. Others felt the flame-broiled burgers were just not the same.  In addition to operating the BBB concept, the food truck was also serving as a "ghost kitchen' for a number of virtual restaurants, including a couple of other burger concepts.

Meanwhile, the building was supposedly under renovations and customers were eagerly anticipating its reopening. However, the cost to renovate the building was on track to be more than a half million dollars, according to the Houston Chronicle. Scheinthal told the Chronicle that his father asked him to list the property to see if there were any buyers and indeed there was; one offering more than the already high asking price.

As for the 1950s building itself, we don't hold out much hope. Houston has a problem. It is a fast-paced city that is repeatedly tearing down its history and character in favor of the shiny and the new. Up go more offices, down go quirky pieces of our city's past.
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Tacos get international flavors at Velvet Taco.
Photo by Velvet Taco

Velvet Taco, 10201 Katy Freeway, is opening this fall at Memorial City. This will be the 23rd Texas location for the brand and the 35th system-wide, with plans to open several more restaurants in Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and South Carolina in 2022.

Founded in Dallas, Texas in 2011, the taco concept is known for its globally-inspired offerings which include tacos such as Spicy Tikka Chicken, Cuban Pig and Buffalo Chicken. There are seafood options like Grilled Salmon and Fish n' Chips plus vegetarian tacos such as the Nashville Hot Tofu, Fried Paneer and Falafel.
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Velvet Taco has more than tacos.
Photo by Velvet Taco
In addition to the array of creative tacos, there are a couple of queso options including Queso Blanco and its Thai-inspired Red Curry Queso plus appetizers like the Barbocoa Brisket Nachos and sides such as the Crisp Tots & Local Egg. There is a kids menu and an adult beverage menu which includes its signature Kick Ass Margarita, Ranch Water, Paloma and beer.

For those wanting to try something really unique, the Chicken and Waffle taco starts with a waffle taco shell which is filled with crisp chicken tenders, peppered bacon, peppercorn gravy, green apple slaw, maple syrup, red chile aioli and chives. We don't know how many cheat points that is but we're guessing a lot.
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The Lower Heights District is adding more dining destinations.
Photo by Stuart Rosenberg
Flat Top Grill will open at Gulf Coast Commercial Group's Lower Heights District, 2795 Katy Freeway, in December 2022. It will be located in the development's recently completed second phase. The new retail and dining development serves the First Ward Arts District, Washington Corridor and the Heights, linked to the project by a hike and bike trail extension. Flat Top Grill will join the fast-casual sandwich concept World of Sourdough as a dining option at the development.

The Asian fusion stir-fry restaurant was founded in Chicago in 1995 as a create-your-own bowl concept with full-service dining and a bar program. Guests can choose from more than 80 fresh ingredients to create their own bowls, ramen or poke. Indecisive folks can order chef-composed bowls as well. There are also entrees like Thai Red Curry and Spicy Pepper Ribeye Steak. With its customizable offerings, Flat Top Grill has a multitude of choices for any diet or lifestyle.

The restaurant also has signature exotic cocktails like the Yuzu Smash or Dragon Fruit Paloma plus tasty mocktails such as the Mango Mist or Red Bull Rip Tide.

The Houston location will be the first Flat Top Grill outside of the Midwest.

Roswell's Saloon, 1417 Westheimer, has a website up and an Instagram page but that's pretty much all we know about Shawn Bermudez's upcoming concept. It will take over the spot previously occupied by another Bermudez hot spot, Stone's Throw, which closed in January 2020. It's adjacent to the entrepreneur's dive bar concept, Boondocks.

Bermudez is the brains behind a number of Houston businesses including the colorful and playful bar, Present Company, and his restaurant ventures, The Burger Joint and The Taco Stand, with business partner Matthew Pak.
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Julie Dalton has joined an exclusive group of Master Sommeliers.
Photo by Fertitta Entertainment
The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, 1600 W. Loop S., announced that its wine director, Julie Dalton, earned the rare status of Master Sommelier, making her the second female Master Sommelier in Houston and also the second Master Sommelier for The Forbes Five-Star Post Oak Hotel and its gorgeous lounge, Stella's Wine Bar. Keith Goldston, who earned the designation and coveted pin in 2001, leads the hotel's wine program.

The first Master Sommelier exam was given in the United Kingdom in 1969 and since then, only 274 people have passed the four-part examination.

White Rhino Cocktail Bar, 319 Milby, is hosting a fundraising event, in conjunction with Gallery Furniture, September 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for World Rhino Day. There will be a silent auction benefitting the Houston Zoo and guests are encouraged to wear safari attire. There will be live music, free food and other entertainment throughout the evening.

Guests may also bring in glass bottles to be crushed into sand by the White Rhino bottle crusher. The sand is safe to use as a landscaping material among other uses. It's part of the cocktail bar's commitment to sustainability which also includes the use of Airlite, a paint that purifies the air, and its reverse osmosis water generator.

There will be a special cocktail, Electric Rhino, made with locally-owned EaDo vodka. All sales of the electric Rhino will go to the Houston Zoo.
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Customers can score some interesting buys at Roots Wine Bar this Saturday.
Photo by Michael Anthony
Roots Wine Bar, 3107 Leeland, is hosting its semi-annual wine sale September 10 from noon to 4 p.m. There will be a number of vendors showcasing a hand-selected variety of wines at a significant discount, along with samples and information about the wines.

Customers can fill out the forms, choose their wines and make payments at the event. The wines will then be available for pick-up the following week. Admittance to the wine sale is free but the wine purchase prices vary. 
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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.