Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Common Bond Heights Open, International Smoke Closes

Common Bond will fulfill your carb-filled fantasies.
Common Bond will fulfill your carb-filled fantasies. Photo by Troy Fields

Common Bond Cafe and Bakery, 449 W. 19th, opened December 5.  This is the third location for the European-style bakery in Houston. The first opened in Montrose in 2014 followed by a location in the Texas Medical Center in March 2019. There is also a planned location for Understory food hall downtown and another in Springwoods Village in 2020.

The new Heights Waterworks location has an all-day kids menu, an outdoor green space and a Wineemotion self-service wine dispenser, according to Eater Houston.

The Common Bond concept was bought from the original owners in 2016 by George Joseph and restaurateur Johnny Carrabba. After three years, the two ended the business partnership amicably so that Carrabba could put his efforts into his Mia's Table restaurants while Joseph focused on the expansion of Common Bond.

click to enlarge There are almost too many sweets to choose from (I said almost). - PHOTO BY BROOKE VIGGIANO
There are almost too many sweets to choose from (I said almost).
Photo by Brooke Viggiano
The breads and pastries at Common Bond are the handiwork of executive pastry chef Rakesh Nayak and his team. The croissants are a must try item and many patrons will also grab a crusty, beautiful loaf of artisan bread to take home for dinner. Deciding between the macarons, kouign amann, chocolate brownies and fruit tarts is painful. They aren't cheap, but they are worth the splurge. There are coffee and espresso drinks to nurse while watching the world around you and savoring a perfectly constructed pastry.

click to enlarge The Common Bond Burger and yummy parmesan fries. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The Common Bond Burger and yummy parmesan fries.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
If you are wanting more substantial fare, the cafe serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. There are European dishes like beef bourguignon, croque-madame and steak frites but also flat breads, salads and soups. The Common Bond Burger is a popular item and the parmesan fries that come with it are tasty.

click to enlarge Get ready to lick your lips and fingers at Sticky's. - PHOTO BY BENSON VIVARES
Get ready to lick your lips and fingers at Sticky's.
Photo by Benson Vivares
Sticky's Chicken, 2313 Edwards, softly opens in Sawyer Yards December 13. During the soft opening phase, there will be a limited menu with items being added as it rolls toward its grand opening January 11. The hours will also follow its former food truck times, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Sticky's began as a food truck from siblings Patsy and Benson Vivares in 2014. It has taken up  weekly residence at McIntyre's in the Heights since 2016. Celebs like DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans and hip hop artist Bun B have stopped by for a bite. Now, it is setting up in a permanent spot with the help of Andy Nguyen, chef Michael Pham (Shomi Noods, Hottie's Fried Chicken) and Tuan Bui, part owner of Nguyen's Dough and Arrow. Nguyen is co-founder of Afters Ice Cream and other food concepts and has been dubbed by the Food Network as "the mash-up king in the food industry".

click to enlarge Patsy and Benson Vivares have their dad Ceferino (center) to thank for sticky sauce. - PHOTO BY SHAIDER DIVINA
Patsy and Benson Vivares have their dad Ceferino (center) to thank for sticky sauce.
Photo by Shaider Divina
The proprietary "sticky" sauce recipe comes from the duo's father, Ceferino Vivares who grew up in the Philippines. It's featured on dishes like Chicken Over Rice and wings. Expect Sticky Sticks and Sticky Sliders at the new brick and mortar and an expanded menu in January, which may include chicken katsu, burgers, tacos and burritos. Wine and beer will also be served.

click to enlarge A signature dish on the International Smoke menu? This trio of smoked, St. Louis style pork ribs. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
A signature dish on the International Smoke menu? This trio of smoked, St. Louis style pork ribs.
Photo by Mai Pham

International Smoke
, 800 Sorella Court, has closed its Houston location. The highly acclaimed restaurant opened in July 2018, as we reported here in the Houston Press. It was the second location for the concept from restaurateur and chef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry, lifestyle maven and Food Network star. Curry is married to Steph Curry, the NBA superstar player for the Golden State Warriors.

The original location opened in San Francisco in November 2017. With the exploding restaurant scene in Houston and the city's love of smoked and grilled meats, it seemed a perfect fit. While some questioned opening a smoked meats restaurant in Houston without Texas-style barbecue, a case can be made that the diversity of Houston's demographics lends itself to global flavors and the richness of a multi-cuisine menu. The Caribbean and Asian flavors should have been well-received. We don't always need brisket and white bread.

So, why did the concept not succeed? Contributing writer, Mai Pham, found the food delicious and fun as she reported here in the Press. Alison Cook put International Smoke on her annual Top 100 list for the Houston Chronicle this year. It was located in a popular retail area with lots of foot traffic but also a number of dining options. And maybe that's the problem in Houston. The restaurant choices are many. With astronomical rents and booming development, even world-class chefs and celebrities are up against some serious competition.

click to enlarge Mico's Hot Chicken with cool cole slaw. - PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER FRYDENLUND
Mico's Hot Chicken with cool cole slaw.
Photo by Christopher Frydenlund

Mico's Hot Chicken, 1603 N. Durham, is planned for a January or February 2020 opening. The Nashville Hot fried chicken truck currently operates at 2829 Chimney Rock in the Galleria Food Truck Park and has been tingling people's taste buds with its different levels of heat since it opened this past June. Customers can choose between no heat (really, why are you here?) mild (safe), medium (stepping it up), hot (show-off) and x-hot (uh, are you sure?).

Now, it is expanding to its own permanent spot, taking over the shuttered Balls Out Burger space. And that's a good thing because the food truck can get overwhelmed with hungry patrons and the cooked to order chicken can take a while. Waiting in the Houston heat and humidity for a half hour, then eating a spicy chicken sandwich is a recipe for heat stroke.
click to enlarge Chris and Kimico Frydenlund are feeling blessed. - PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER FRYDENLUND
Chris and Kimico Frydenlund are feeling blessed.
Photo by Christopher Frydenlund
Owners Kimico and Christopher Frydenlund told the Houston Press that the food truck was never a permanent plan. They had always planned for a brick and mortar and feel blessed that it is happening so quickly. However, the food truck will remain in operation for now, for which Galleria folks are thankful.

The owners said that there will be some additions to the new menu such as waffles, wings, mac n' cheese and collard greens. They will go back to selling ice cream, something they had put on hold while operating the food truck. That should be a great way to cool down your tongue. They have also applied for a beer and wine license. We cannot think of much in life that is a better pairing than a juicy, spicy fried chicken breast and a cold beer.

Rendering by Edge Realty Partners
Hamsa, 5555 Morningside, is planned for summer 2020 in Rice Village. The modern Israeli restaurant comes from the team at Doris Metropolitan, the upscale and critically acclaimed steakhouse which opened first in Costa Rica in 2010, then New Orleans in 2013. Its third location opened in Houston in December 2017.

Owners Itai Ben Eli, Itamar Levy and executive chef and partner, Sash Kurgan chose the name from an ancient Middle Eastern symbol called a hamsa hand which is a palm-shaped talisman meant to protect from evil forces. The word also means "five" in Arabic befitting the 5555 Morningside address of the new restaurant.

“Modern Israeli cuisine is just like the country of Israel itself,” said Kurgan in a press release. “It’s a melting pot of traditional Jewish food from all over the world, along with the local Arabic food of the region. Its diversity creates a rich palette of tastes and aromas that I’m very excited to share with Houston.”

Besides the diverse culinary offerings, there will be a unique bar program which will include some Israeli wines and spirits along with Old World and American selections.

click to enlarge Aaron Franklin cranking out juicy slices of brisket at the Southern Smoke  Foundation Festival. - PHOTO BY ERIC HESTER
Aaron Franklin cranking out juicy slices of brisket at the Southern Smoke Foundation Festival.
Photo by Eric Hester

LORO, 1001 West 11th, is planned for Winter 2021. The Asian Smokehouse & Bar is a collaboration between Tyson Cole of Hai Hospitality and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin. This will be the third location of the restaurant. The duo opened the first in Austin in April 2018. There's a second location planned for Dallas in 2020, according to Eater Austin.

Both Cole and Franklin are James Beard Award winners. Cole won for Best Chef: Southwest in 2011 after three  straight years of being a semi-finalist. Franklin won the coveted award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2015 as the only barbecue chef to ever be nominated or win.

Hai Hospitality is an Austin-based restaurant group behind Uchi and Uchiko. Cole brought Uchi to Houston in 2012. Franklin Barbecue has garnered nearly every award there is in the barbecue world, including Texas Monthly's Best Barbecue Joint in Texas and Bon Appetit's Best Barbecue Joint in America. Needless to say, both men bring some serious experience to the table.

The fare at LORO features grilled and smoked meats, combining Southeast Asian flavors with traditional Texas BBQ. Dishes include Chicken Karaage, Char Siew Pork Belly and Franklin's famous Beef Brisket served with a chili gastrique and Thai herbs. Sides include coconut scented rice and Texas sweet corn with yuzu kosho aioli.

If the drinks menu in Austin is anything to go by, LORO Houston will have plenty of craft beers, wine and sake, plus batch cocktails and boozy slushies.

The restaurant will be located in a 1940's structure in the Heights. Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and RE:VIVE Development will preserve the structure as it is transformed into a 5,500 square foot restaurant with an outdoor deck and patio.

Korny Vibes will open its first brick and mortar at 403 Westheimer, according to Eater Houston. A post on its Facebook page states that the plan is for the end of the month. The vegan food truck is known for its Onion Ring Sliders and different flavors of vegan chicken sandwiches. The jalapeno poppers are another hit.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Cabo Bob's Burritos, 1810 Fountain View, had its grand opening December 5. This is the first Houston location for the Texas-based burrito and taco joint. There are three in Austin and one in San Antonio. It first opened in Austin in 2008.

The fast casual restaurant uses only unbleached, untreated wheat flour for its flour tortillas which are made in house with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Even the colors come from the ingredients themselves in the ancho chili, cilantro-tomatillo and buttermilk flour tortillas.

The restaurant uses a Kamado Joe to grill the meats over natural oak charcoal. The steak is grass-fed beef sirloin and the brisket is Angus choice. If you love beans, you'll have a hard time deciding between pinto, black, or the Baja Beans which is a four bean medley and spices.

There are chicken options, Baja fish tacos and the 17 Veggie Burrito which is vegan. You can choose a signature item or build-your-own burrito, three tacos, bowl, salad or nachos. Most items are between $6.99 and $8.89.

click to enlarge Tomball is getting a new diner. - PHOTO BY HUDDLE HOUSE
Tomball is getting a new diner.
Photo by Huddle House
Huddle House, 27030 Kuykendahl, is expected to open in the second quarter of 2020 in Tomball. The Southern diner serves breakfast around the clock and its breakfast items make up 70 percent of its sales. Breakfast items also tend to have the best margins financially.

The chain is more prevalent in the Southeastern part of the United States, with its headquarters in Atlanta. The first Huddle House opened in 1964 in Decatur, Georgia. Now, there are over 339 stores in twenty-three states. The three closest to Houston are in Willis, Huffman and Sealy.

Its success is due in part to its Southern hospitality and large portions at inexpensive prices.

See You Again, 9126 Bellaire, softly opened November 30. It serves Chinese barbecue skewers and all kinds of offal, including many bits and pieces like chicken gizzards, duck heart and pork brains. In fact, there are many parts of the duck marinated here, including feet, head and wings. You can munch on a wide variety of skewers while being entertained by the karaoke.

It serves beer, soju and a variety of fruit juices.
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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.