Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Concura Opens, NettBar Expands

Even the food is stylish at Concura.
Even the food is stylish at Concura. Photo by Claudia Cabarian

Concura Italian Bites
, 4340 Westheimer, opened August 17. The new restaurant is a project by Italian fashion and design consultant, Jessica Biondi, who hails from Fano, Marche in Italy. Biondi's Italian heritage is inspiration for a menu that explores the less discovered regions of Italy and she has brought in executive chef, Angelo Cuppone to create a rotating chef's menu with contemporary versions of traditional dishes. Cuppone is also a native of Fano, Marche and the two have a passion to create a vibrant restaurant that pays homage to the Italian way of life with the sophisticated ambiance of a restaurant tucked away in Italy.
click to enlarge Concura offers Italian style in an intimate space. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW ROOD
Concura offers Italian style in an intimate space.
Photo by Matthew Rood
The menu features small and large plates that encourage guests to share and explore together. There is a variety of tartare and charcuterie featuring a selection of cured meats and salamis sliced extremely thin and made to order. Because the Marche region of Italy is located on the Adriatic Coast, guests can expect to see seafood offerings like Polpo e Patate con Olive Taggaische and Carbonara di Pesce.
click to enlarge Life is short. Eat and drink like an Italian. - PHOTO BY CLAUDIA CASBARIAN
Life is short. Eat and drink like an Italian.
Photo by Claudia Casbarian
The curated wine list leans heavily toward Italian wines but also has other global varietals.  A variety of Italian-inspired cocktails will be offered including variations of Negroni and Aperol Spritz. It will also have signature cocktails like the La Vita é Bella with vodka, cappelletti, raspberry, lemon, and orange. Its house gin & tonic is made with Gin Mare, rosemary, sage and lemon peel.
click to enlarge La vita e bella at Concura. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW ROOD
La vita e bella at Concura.
Photo by Matthew Rood
Concura has been in the works for the better part of a decade with Biondi searching for the perfect space for years. The attention to details in the gorgeous, intimate space is reflective of Biondi's style and passion for hosting, wanting guests to experience a tribute to the Italian way of life. She said in a press release, "Think of Concura as a place you come to gather with friends. The inviting atmosphere will make you feel comfortable and right at home. 'Eat, drink, and feel Italiano' – that’s our motto."
click to enlarge Shady Acres will get a new bar and restaurant next summer. - RENDERING BY VIVIANA VELASCO/KROMADIK DESIGN STUDIO
Shady Acres will get a new bar and restaurant next summer.
Rendering by Viviana Velasco/Kromadik Design Studio
NettBar,1717 W. 22nd , is shooting for a July 2022 opening. Construction is expected to commence soon and the owners are currently seeking investors on NextSeed. This will be the second location of the concept from John Caravello and Oswaldo Gutierrez, which first opened in 2017 at 4504 Nett in the West End.

The new Shady Acres location will have two buildings with a mix of indoor and outdoor seating for 250 to 300 patrons. There will be a fenced kids' play area and plenty of room for relaxation and game activities plus a good-sized parking lot. There will be a full kitchen on site with a menu from chef Matt Mui of Muiishi Makirrito's food truck.
click to enlarge NettBar will offer an expansive outdoor space. - RENDERING BY VIVIANA VELASCO/KROMADIK DESIGN STUDIO
NettBar will offer an expansive outdoor space.
Rendering by Viviana Velasco/Kromadik Design Studio
NettBar also plans to expand its event programming with a weekly schedule of activities like Geeks Who Drink Trivia, dart and bocce ball tournaments, goat yoga, and musical bingo. Other planned events include a regular steak night and a monthly artisans market, popular features at the current NettBar.
click to enlarge Flank steak is cooked perfectly at Ixim. - PHOTO BY ULISES GARCIA
Flank steak is cooked perfectly at Ixim.
Photo by Ulises Garcia
 Ixim, 409 Travis, softly opened at Bravery Chef Hall July 20. The new concept, which takes over the space vacated by Cherry Block Craft Burger and Kitchen, comes from Jonathan Gallardo (Secret Garden HTX) and former Caracol executive chef, Tim Reading. A Boston native, Reading graduated from the Culinary Institute of America before working in restaurants in Boston and Germany. He had very little experience with Mexican cuisine before staging at Caracol with James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega, according to EaterHouston. He took on the role of sous chef then made his way to the position of executive chef, working closely with Ortega and accompanying him on culinary trips to Mexico. Now, he is taking that experience and creating Mexican-inspired dishes of his own along with sous chef Rebecca Aguirre.
click to enlarge These meatballs get an elegant presentation. - PHOTO BY ULISES GARCIA
These meatballs get an elegant presentation.
Photo by Ulises Garcia

The focus is on fresh and homemade at Ixim, which means 'maize' in ancient Mayan. Guests can expect dishes like ceviche and aguachiles as refreshing starters and hearty entrees like Pollo ala Pipian, a crispy roasted chicken dish. The Albondigas Fritas at the food hall restaurant are made with a blend of lamb and pork for heavenly meatballs and the Pancita de Cerdo is fried Berkshire pork belly with achiote, corn puree, confit pineapple and agave.

click to enlarge Mini churros can be ordered in a sampler box. - PHOTO BY DEREK CHOI
Mini churros can be ordered in a sampler box.
Photo by Derek Choi

The Loop Handcrafted Churros, 5216 Morningside, will open August 28 in Hanover Rice Village. This will be the first location out of Southern California for the brand which began in SoCal in 2016. It is also the first franchised store for the company which has set its sights on expansion in Texas and beyond.

It was founded by siblings Minh and Loan Nguyen as a fast casual dessert concept selling scratch-made fried churros with a variety of customizable flavors. Its signature looped churros can be topped with flavored glazes, sugars and toppings. The Loop also offers soft serve ice cream and customers can create their own treat with the churros and ice cream or try signature combinations like S'mores, Cookies and Cream, Glazed Toasted Marshmallow and its Creme Bruloop. There's also the Lil' Loop Sampler with six mini-loop churros in flavors such as White Chocolate Oreo, Matcha Fruity Pebbles and Strawberry Sprinkles. For traditionalists, there's Original Cinnamon Sugar. Besides handcrafted churros and soft serve ice cream, there are lemonades, teas and cold brew coffee.
click to enlarge The Birthday Cake combo is made for social media buzz. - PHOTO BY DEREK CHOI
The Birthday Cake combo is made for social media buzz.
Photo by Derek Choi
Churros have become a trend in Asian countries like Singapore and South Korea, which inspired Minh and Loan to open a dessert business that also rides the wave of over-the-top Instagram-worthy sweet concoctions that get a lot of buzz on social media. The Loop has over 247,000 Insta followers and with the new Houston location it's set to get even more. It will have several different social media-friendly walls including a greenery wall with a large The Loop logo and a magnetic alphabet wall sporting a neon sign inspired by the Museum of Ice Cream in New York. For even more "look at me" fun, there's an in-store photo booth.
click to enlarge Be first in line for a free drink. - PHOTO BY DEREK CHOI
Be first in line for a free drink.
Photo by Derek Choi
For the opening, the first 100 guests will receive a free drink and the first 200 customers will be eligible to win a Nintendo Switch, iPad, AirPods and other prizes. The Loop  will be open daily from noon to 10 p.m.

Additional locations are planned for Houston as well as Austin, Dallas, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, Utah.
click to enlarge Subs for a crowd is easy at Jersey Mike's. - PHOTO BY JERSEY MIKE'S SUBS
Subs for a crowd is easy at Jersey Mike's.
Photo by Jersey Mike's Subs
Jersey Mike's Subs, 14044 Grant, will open August 18. There will be grand opening and fundraiser from August 18 through August 22 and franchise owner Cody Lovins has chosen Combined Arms as the beneficiary. Customers with a special fundraising coupon can make a minimum $2 contribution to Combined Arms in exchange for a regular sub. The coupons are typically handed out to businesses and residents in the nearby vicinity of the new location. Since 2010, Jersey Mike's locations have raised over 65 million dollars for local charities.

Jersey Mike's Subs was founded in 1956 and its freshly baked bread is still made in-store from the same recipe. The meats and cheeses are sliced on the spot and customers can choose between a variety of hot and cold sandwiches. Most of its regular patrons enjoy 'the juice', a red wine vinegar and olive oil blend that gives the subs an East Coast touch. Over the years, it has grown into a nationwide system of over 2,500 stores with more under development.

Jersey Mike's Subs, 1907 W. Gray, was slated to open August 18 along with the Cypress store but it has been delayed, according to a spokesperson.

The Palm, 6100 Westheimer ,will relocate to 1201 Fannin with plans to open in the fourth quarter of 2021, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The Houston location first opened on Westheimer in 1978 bringing a New York favorite to the Bayou City. The Palm first opened in NYC in 1926 as a bustling Italian restaurant owned by two immigrants from Parma, Italy. According to the restaurant's website, the owners' accents were so thick that people thought they were saying 'palm' instead of Parma and the name stuck. With requests from patrons for cuts of steak, it began its foray into the steakhouse realm and eventually became known for its giant lobsters, too.

Over the decades it became a hot spot for celebrities, artists, politicians and presidents, eventually opening a number of locations around the country. However, the family-owned business declared bankruptcy in 2019 amid some inner circle squabbles, according to Restaurant Business Online. Houston businessman, Rockets owner and restaurateur Tilman Fertitta acquired The Palm brand under his company Landry's Inc. in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic shutdown.

The Palm Houston will continue to operate at its current location until the new restaurant is completed.
click to enlarge Taste has a National Waffle Day special you don't want to miss. - PHOTO BY JEREMIAH JONES
Taste has a National Waffle Day special you don't want to miss.
Photo by Jeremiah Jones
Taste Bar + Kitchen, 3015 Bagby, is celebrating National Waffle Day August 24 with a flight of waffles including a new flavor. Chef Don Bowie told the Houston Press that he never really ate s'mores that much until he fell in love with the S'mores Galore Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Now, Bowie has created his own s'mores concoction in waffle form.

Taste opened in 2019 as an elevated Southern chicken and waffles restaurant. On the menu are nine different sweet and savory waffles and eight chicken and waffle combinations, including General Tso's, Jerk, Buffalo and a vegetarian version made with cauliflower. For National Waffle Day this year, Bowie decided it was time for a new flavor made especially for the day.
click to enlarge The Red Velvet Waffle at Taste is sinfully good. - PHOTO BY JEREMIAH JONES
The Red Velvet Waffle at Taste is sinfully good.
Photo by Jeremiah Jones
Guests can try the new flavor, along with three other favorites in a special waffle flight. For a sweet (in more ways than one) $8, the flight includes four of the little Belgian-style waffles. First, there's the red velvet, a dense waffle that's more like the cake itself with a drizzle of cream cheese glaze. There's also a waffle topped with sweet potato that toes the line between savory and sweet. Then, for lovers of all things pecan, there's the praline waffle topped with a decadent, dripping caramel filled with pecan pieces. And finally, there's the new, one-day-only s'mores waffle; a chocolate chip waffle with a homemade marshmallow, marshmallow creme, chocolate syrup and crumbled graham crackers. It's up to you to decide if you want to share.

Chef Bowie has a new concept, Rare, in the works. Details to come, soon.
click to enlarge Nature is an important part of Le Jardinier's design and menu. - PHOTO BY CLAUDIA CASBARIAN
Nature is an important part of Le Jardinier's design and menu.
Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Le Jardinier, 5500 Main, will launch its lunch service September 3. It will welcome guests at the bar beginning at 11 a.m. with lunch service beginning a half hour later. The new lunch menu will be offered Wednesday though Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The modern and airy restaurant is located in the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. It opened this past May with a seasonal, French-inspired menu from Michelin-starred chef Alain Verzeroli. The new lunch menu was curated by Verzeroli and chef de cuisine Andrew Ayala and offers dishes like Carolina Gold Rice Risotto with roasted squash, mimolette cheese and crispy kale. In keeping with its name, which means 'the gardener' in French, Le jardinier is also offering summer dishes like Avocado tartine with cherry tomatoes and feta. Other lunch dishes include Texas Gulf Shrimp with homestead gristmill grits, savoy cabbage and bisque plus Green Circle Chicken with chestnuts, brussels sprouts and pear.
click to enlarge The patio offers diners a view of the Cullen Sculpture Garden. - PHOTO BY CLAUDIA CASBARIAN
The patio offers diners a view of the Cullen Sculpture Garden.
Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Le Jardinier and its parent company Bastion, also boast desserts from another Michelin Star recipient, Salvatore Martone. Guests can finish their elegant dining experience with a choice of the plant-based ice cream trio, a Venezuelan dark chocolate cremeux with a salty caramel sabayon or the pecan and maple tart.

Ayala says, " It's been incredible to see the restaurant filled with new faces each night and we're excited to have people experience the space during the day. The lunch menu will be a natural extension of our offerings and reflect the rhythm of nature, which takes on a new meaning in the daylight."
click to enlarge Tacodeli now offers cocktails for dine-in or to-go. - PHOTO BY MACKENZIE SMITH KELLEY
Tacodeli now offers cocktails for dine-in or to-go.
Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
Tacodeli, 1902 Washington, is serving cocktails and beer for the first time in its 22-year history beginning August 24 along with a new dinner menu and extended hours. Chef/founder Roberto Espinoza says that the new additions just add to the experience and that its loyal fans plus new guests will approve. In a press release, Espinoza said, " As we grow as a restaurant company, we continue to focus on providing our guests with the best quality sourcing and preparations. We are thrilled to introduce vibrant new alcohol and dinner menus that we hope our guests find as exciting as we do!"

Some of the new alcoholic beverages that will be on the menu are margaritas made with 100 percent blue agave. There's the SenoRita Margarita, on the rocks or frozen, plus different flavors like watermelon or horchata. Guests can also opt for a swirl of one of Tacodeli's house-made agua frescas in their frozen rita. The La Dama Paloma is made with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, El Jimador silver tequila, lime juice, citrus bitters and topped with Rambler grapefruit sparkling water. Both the margarita rocks and paloma are also available to go in 16 ounce and 64 ounce sizes.
click to enlarge Tacodeli has new dishes for your belly. - PHOTO BY MACKENZIE SMITH KELLEY
Tacodeli has new dishes for your belly.
Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
The farm to taco concept has also expanded its dinner menu to include items like Pastor Yucatan, a dish of thinly sliced pork butt and achiote mix cooked in a banana leaf with a garnish of red onion escabeche.  The Mole de Pollo is made with chicken thighs, mole and garnished with queso fresco crumble and sesame seeds. Escalopas Especiales (seared scallops),  Arrachera Flank Steak and Esquites (mexican street corn) are also new entries on the menu.

There are 11 Tacodeli locations in Texas but only one here in Houston. Phooey.
click to enlarge Harry's is now offering refreshing cocktails. - PHOTO BY JOHN PLATSAS
Harry's is now offering refreshing cocktails.
Photo by John Platsas
Harry's Restaurant, 318 Tuam, has a newly renovated bar and loyal customers will be happy to know that Harry's is reopening August 21 after a twelve-day hiatus. The owners announced on Facebook that the brief closure was to give staff a break after the grueling months of the pandemic.

In May the family-owned restaurant brought in consulting agency Not Too Sweet Ventures to help launch its cocktail program. Not Too Sweet is made up of Justin Ware and Patrick Abalos who recently opened their own bar and restaurant, Night Shift, this past July. For now, the new beverage program is offering a limited selection with frozen drinks like margaritas and pina coladas plus classic cocktails such as Bloody Marys and Gin & Tonics. However, with Not Too Sweet's guidance, the G&T at Harry's is made with La Mare Gin, lime, fennel-honey cordial and 1724 Tonic.

Guests who need a little excitement in their lives can try the Frozen Passion, a frozen margarita swirled with passion fruit/mango puree. It has a selection of beer and wine plus drinks such as the Mumbai Bellini and the Michelada.
click to enlarge A low-carb beer can be a well-made craft brew. - PHOTO BY KARBACH BREWING CO.
A low-carb beer can be a well-made craft brew.
Photo by Karbach Brewing Co.
Karbach Brewing Co., 2032 Karbach, launched its Love Street Light  August 16. This lighter, less caloric take on its very popular Love Street Blonde is now available in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Beaumont, Galveston, College Station, New Braunfels and Corpus Christi.  It has floral notes from the Tettnanger hops which are also used in the production of its blonde, older sister. However, unlike Big Sis, it has only 96 calories and three grams of carbohydrates. It's also a little less alcoholic with an ABV of 4.2 percent compared to LSB's 4.9 percent.  For beer geeks, its IBU (International Bitterness Units) is 10 compared to Love Street Blonde's 16. For my friend Big-haired Kim, that means she can go back to being a blonde without guilt.
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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.