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You can have a pizza, a calzone or a pizza/calzone at Creed.
You can have a pizza, a calzone or a pizza/calzone at Creed.
Photo by Dean Fierro

Openings and Closings: Creed Replaces Mascalzone, Taste Bar + Kitchen Opens Soon

Creed Italian Restaurant and Bar, 12126 Westheimer, opened in the spot formerly occupied by Mascalzone, which closed February 28. Creed Italian quickly opened, after a few minor renovations, March 1 for its soft opening. A grand opening is planned for next month.

The new owner, Alireza Delavari is a native of Tehran, Iran and owned and operated a number of coffee shops and restaurants in his home country. He came to the United States six years ago to join family members who already own restaurants in Houston, the Kasra Persian Grill on Westheimer and NASA Parkway.

Owner Alireza Delavari and Manager Elena di Stefano are ready to welcome diners to Creed.
Owner Alireza Delavari and Manager Elena di Stefano are ready to welcome diners to Creed.
Photo by Dean Fierro

While the restaurant has a new owner and a new name, much of the menu will stay the same, including the pizzas and calzones that come piping hot out of the Marana Forni oven. Still on board will be manager Elena di Stefano and most of the chefs and staff of the former Mascalzone.

The patio at Creed is perfect for wine and conversation.
The patio at Creed is perfect for wine and conversation.
Photo by Dean Fierro

There will be some new menu items and an expanded wine program. Delavari hopes to launch nightly specials and wine dinners in the future plus live music on the weekends. Meanwhile, diners can still enjoy the pasta and pizza under the sultry gazes of Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni or kill a bottle of Sangiovese with tuo amore on the patio next to the waterfall.

Openings and Closings: Creed Replaces Mascalzone, Taste Bar + Kitchen Opens SoonEXPAND
Photo by Jeremiah Jones

Taste Bar + Kitchen, 3015 Bagby, will open this March. The upbeat and casual spot from chef Don Bowie and entrepreneur Kevin Kelley, will offer globally-inspired comfort food with a Southern touch. If waffles are your jam, you're sure to find one, savory or sweet, that will inspire your global taste buds as well. The new restaurant offers specialty chicken and waffles with General Tso's, Cajun and Jerk chicken choices. There's even a chicken fried lobster variation for a blending of Southern and New England cuisines.

For diners craving sweet waffles, there are flavors like strawberry cheesecake, spiced butter pecan and red velvet. You can carry on the dessert theme with Taste's cocktails. Try a Cinnamon Toast White Russian or a Bourbon Pecan Pie from its dessert-themed, hand-crafted cocktail list.

There's more than chicken and waffles at Taste Bar + Kitchen.EXPAND
There's more than chicken and waffles at Taste Bar + Kitchen.
Photo by Jeremiah Jones

If waffles are not your jam, there's a variety of mac and cheese dishes with posh upgrades like smoked Gouda and lobster. Jerk lamb chops are another non-waffle option, plus sides such as sweet potato souffle and collard greens round out the menu.

But come on. Who doesn't want to try a cheeseburger waffle?

Astral Brewing, 4816 N. Shepherd, opened March 3. This new brewery in the Independence Heights area is open Thursday through Sunday, serving hoppy ales  like IPA, Pale Ale and Kolsch. For winter there is a porter as well.

Co-founder Jose Ceja is a Tucson native who came to Houston eight years ago after graduating from the University of Arizona College of Law. Ceja will serve as Head of Operations and will be in charge of the business side of the brewery. His fellow founder, Alex McDonald holds a degree in physics from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He will serve as Head Brewer and mad scientist creating the recipes for great tasting brews, focusing on IPA styles.

The brewery is dog-friendly and brings in food trucks for hungry drinkers. Check its Facebook page for its food truck line-up and special events.

What a great way to spend a couple of bucks.EXPAND
What a great way to spend a couple of bucks.
Photo by Viri Maldonado

Wow, What a Taco, 3005 S. Dairy Ashford, opened January 12. Yes, that's a couple of months ago, but sometimes we miss some of the smaller businesses further out. We still want to give them the love and Wow, What a Taco is already getting some love for its inexpensive, made from scratch street tacos.

If you like tacos, and you'd better if you live in Houston, Wow has a smorgasbord of tacos to choose from. Whatchou want? Baby, they got it. Shrimp tacos, fish tacos, tacos al pastor and breakfast tacos with eggs, potatoes and ham. They even have tradicional birria which is a spicy lamb taco. They are all available starting at $1.59 for breakfast and $1.99 to $2.25 for street tacos made with homemade flour or corn tortillas.

Wow, What a Taco offers more than just tacos.EXPAND
Wow, What a Taco offers more than just tacos.
Photo by Viri Maldonado

There are also fajitas, chilaquiles, enchiladas, flautas, menudo and more.Most of the plates come in under $11. The interior is clean and bright, with succulent plants on the tables, giving it a fast casual decor.

If you're too lazy or too hurried to get out and eat a few tacos in the dining room, Wow also has a drive-thru. Just exercise a little patience as the prices are fast food, but the food is not.

The spicy eggplant at Flower Child is a side of joy.
The spicy eggplant at Flower Child is a side of joy.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Flower Child, 1533 N. Shepherd, will open in early 2020 in the Market at Houston Heights. This will make the third Houston area location for the healthy eating restaurant from Fox Restaurant Concepts.. The Uptown Park location opened in September 2018 and more recently, The Woodlands store debuted last week.

The Market at Houston Heights is currently under construction and is described as a 30,000 square foot lifestyle destination. The Heights area is killing it. You should have bought that fixer-upper twenty years ago.

J. Alexander's, 1180 Uptown Park Boulevard, is returning to Houston this year, according to the Houston Business Journal. The restaurant is one of several concepts by J. Alexander's Holdings Inc., which operates forty-six restaurants in sixteen states. The company is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

The 8,000 square foot space is being designed by Shea Architects Inc. out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Former CEO and President, Lonnie J. Stout II, says " We expect to begin construction immediately with an opening currently scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year".

Stout has served as CEO and President for more than 30 years, but will relinquish the role May 1 to serve as executive chairman, as reported by Restaurant Business. Mark Parkey, the former CFO will take over as CEO and President, while Jessica Hagler will serve as the new CFO.

J. Alexander's closed its location at 11103 Westheimer January 28, 2017, as reported here in the Houston Press.

Boiling Pho, 2705 Broadway, opened February 20 in Pearland. The Vietnamese restaurant serves three sizes of pho, with the small $7.95, large $8.95 and the XL for $15.95. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., there is a daily happy hour pho special which includes an eggroll, small pho and a drink for $10.

There are also wings, lo mein, vermicelli and rice bowls on the menu, plus drinks like Vietnamese coffee. There is a vegetarian menu with items like General Tso's Tofu or vegetable fried rice.

The Red Oak stands for strength.
The Red Oak stands for strength.
Photo by Kim and Ed Oravetz

The Red Oak Cafe, 1200 Bypass 35 North, began its soft opening February 26 and celebrated its grand opening March 1. This is the second location of the family-owned cafe. The original location is at 6011 W. Main in League City.

Kim Oravetz lost her son Justin in 2007 and her family planted a red oak tree in his memory, which still stands today in their backyard. With help from family, Kim, her son Ian, and husband Ed fulfilled her dream and opened the original Red Oak Cafe in 2016. The family decided to open a second location to relieve some of the business from the first location, but so far, both locations are hopping. Fortunately, diners can choose to sign up on Yelp's Waitlist to grab a table beforehand. Otherwise, be prepared to wait, especially if you go after church on Sunday.

The smiling crew at Red Oak Cafe.
The smiling crew at Red Oak Cafe.
Photo by Kim and Ed Oravetz

The cafe is popular for its short and tall sweet cream pancake stacks which can be customized with mix-ins like fresh berries, chocolate chips,Nutella and even bacon.There are breakfast paninis, Belgian waffles and various egg dishes to get your eyes open for the day. The cafe also serves Katz coffee.

For lunch and dinner there are sandwiches, panini, soups and salads. It also serves comfort food like Chisholm Trail chicken pot pie or Cow Poke beef stew. And for a taste of Texas nostalgia, Red Oak makes a yummy King Ranch Casserole.

The friendly service and warm welcome are what keep loyal patrons returning.

Burgerim, 5623 Garth Road, opened January 31 in Baytown. The slider chain began in 2011 and now has more than 160 burger restaurants across the globe. Diners can choose the uno, duo or trio options. Each burger is made with a three-ounce patty of your choice. There's beef, beef mixed with merguez, dry-aged, Spanish, turkey, lamb or chicken breast. Wagyu is available for an extra cost.

Patrons can then choose one of the various styles like the Cowboy or Caliente. The burgers start at $6.99 for two, with the option of making it a combo for an additional $3. The fast casual chain also offers wings, chicken strips, salmon and falafel. However, it's the burgers that are the big seller. Regular customers appreciate the option of half fries and half onion rings. Expect something a little different from the fries. They are round like potato chips, similar to Greek fries.

Pop Top Burgers, 3122 FM 528, opened at its new location in early February, just down the road from its original location. Webster residents love its hearty burgers at reasonable prices. These are not for the faint of heart nutritionally. Choices like the Oh-Lay burger made with cheddar cheese, picante, refried beans and Frito corn chips or the off-the wall RazzBurger topped with razzberry sauce, cream cheese, jalapenos,lettuce and mayo will make your taste buds happy, but your doctor sad.

Besides belt-busting burgers, Pop Top also serves a Texas-style cheese steak and hot dogs that will blow your diet for the week. The Dawg Gone Wild is a batter-fried jalapeno cheese dawg topped with Philly steak, grilled onions, a bacon slice, queso and a special sauce. Daaaawg.

This writer plans to make a visit for the fried burritos topped with chili, queso and onions for a mere $5.99. That's a pretty sweet price for a nostalgic return to my high school days.

Bernie's Burger Bus, 6324 Highway 6, softly opened its drive-thru March 14 and opens its doors March 15 for dining and drive-thru service beginning at 11 a.m. The Missouri City location makes the fourth for the former food truck (bus) founded by Justin Turner in October 2010.

Besides its cheekily-named burgers, fans appreciate the hand cut fries and house made ketchup.

Killen'sTMX offers brunch served on hand-painted China.EXPAND
Killen'sTMX offers brunch served on hand-painted China.
Photo by Dragana Harris

Killen's TMX, 9330 W. Broadway, is debuting its lunch and brunch service March 16 and 17, respectively. This will be the first brunch service at one of Ronnie Killen's five restaurants.  There will be a choice of an expansive lunch buffet or an a la carte menu. The buffet is $35 for adults and $12 for children 12 and under.

The buffet will feature Le Creuset Dutch ovens filled with Tex-Mex favorites like carne guisada, plus more regional items like huitlacoche tamales. Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on corn and is a Mexican delicacy, prized for its smoky flavor.There will be typical Southern brunch favorites like skillet potatoes and shrimp and grits, plus eggs and bacon offerings.

The a la carte menu will have pancakes, which can be topped with horchata cream and dishes like huevos rancheros and a crab tinga omelet.

You can make it a lazy afternoon with fresh mimosas, sangrias and Bloody Maria's.

Lunch will be served Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with traditional Tex-Mex choices ranging from cheese enchiladas to tacos al carbon and various combo plates. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. with a menu focusing more on regional Mexican specialties.

De Dao Hunan Style Tapas, 25410 Northwest Freeway, has reopened. We didn't even know it had closed. No matter. It has returned, according to a post on Houston Foodie Friends.

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