Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Daily Gather Opens, Stella's Debuts

Charcuterie brings all your friends together.
Charcuterie brings all your friends together. Photo by Debora Smail
Daily Gather, 800 Sorella Court, opened January 11 at CityCentre. The new concept comes from Aaron Lyons, founder and CEO of Five 12 Restaurant Concepts, along with owner Trent Patterson and Culinary Director Brandi Key. Lyons is best known for his farm to table concept, Dish Society, which has six locations around Houston.

Key, who has been a key player in launching new operations for Clark Cooper Concepts and working with Claire Smith at Alice Blue, has extensive experience in creating well-balanced and ingredient-focused menus. Key is also following the Dish Society mantra of using local purveyors like Atkinson Farms, 44 Farms and Greenway Coffee Co. by adding Kraftsmen Baking, Houston Dairymaids and Blue Horizon Seafood to the list of sources for the restaurant. The menu at Daily Gather will also evolve with the seasons. 
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The Brisket French Dip has our name on it.
Photo by Debora Smail

The menu starts with shareables like Cornbread Elote, Tuna Aquachile, Cacio e Pepe Frites and a vadouvan-spiced and roasted whole cauliflower. Other vegetable-focused plates showcase local harvests while grilled or chilled oysters cater to the seafood lover. The entree portion of the menu is tightly curated and includes Braised Short Rib with Parisian gnocchi, a favorite of Lyons', and a sumac-marinated rotisserie chicken. Key will also feature fresh, seasonal pastas.
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The Sailor Smash makes a pretty shadow.
Photo by Sabrina Miskelly
Its suburban setting in a pedestrian-friendly retail and dining development means there will be plenty of eager brunch fans and at Daily Gather, there will be offerings at brunchtime such as a smoked salmon board and a pastry board of seasonal items like homemade pop tarts, financiers, muffins and other baked goods. Pancakes, French toast, biscuits and sausage gravy and a Cheesy Bacon Benedict round out the brunch menu. A mimosa flight offers pineapple, grapefruit, orange and cranberry juices with sparkling wine.
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Daily Gather mixes warmth with comfortable elegance in its design.
Photo by Kimberly Park
The restaurant's interior was designed by Gin Design Group and built out by Course Construction. The atmosphere is playful with comfortable seating, giant windows and a variety of vignettes around the dining room and bar, meant for gathering with friends and family.
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The wine team is experienced and ready to help at Stella's Wine Bar.
Photo by Fertitta Entertainment
Stella's Wine Bar, 1600 W. Loop S., opened at the super-luxe Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston January 8. The new wine bar joins a number of restaurants and cocktail bars at the hotel complex from billionaire businessman Tillman Fertitta. It gets its name from the Fertitta family's pet pig, Wine Bar. Just kidding, the pig's name is actually Stella.

There will be an extensive selection of reds, whites, rosès, and sparkling wines for sipping and an array of charcuteries, light bites, and shareables for noshing. The daily varietals available will be displayed on a 12-foot chalkboard column and for those with a nose that knows. Stella's Wine Bar can access the award- winning cellar with more than 5 million dollars worth of inventory from over 25 different countries. 
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The money shot.
Photo by Fertitta Entertainment
To guide guests toward varietals that will please their preferences, there is Master Sommelier Keith Goldston who leads the hotel’s wine program. With over 35 years of experience, Goldston has selected every label on the menu. The Napa Valley native passed the wine industry’s most challenging and highest-certification exam in 2001 becoming the the 47th Master Sommelier in the Americas. He serves on the Board for the Court of Master Sommeliers and has judged countless international wine competitions.

Joining Goldston is Advanced Sommelier Julie Dalton who serves as Stella’s wine director. Dalton brings experience from a previous stint as Mastro’s Steakhouse wine director and won Houston’s Iron Sommelier in 2018.
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The pretty patio is kept warm with built-in heaters.
Photo by Fertitta Entertainment
Besides lots of grape offerings, there is a food menu curated by the property’s award-winning executive chef Jean Luc Royere. Charcuterie selections include House Made Duck Rillettes and Spanish Chorizo. There are a number of cheeses such as Meredith Australian Goat, Truffle Gouda Artikaas, and Mountain Maple Brie. Shareables and light bites include Marinated Mediterranean Olives, Fig & Gorgonzola Prosciutto Flatbread, and Beef & Bacon Jam Sliders.

The design is provincial, yet elegant with white marble-topped tables, distressed walnut armchairs and floor-to-ceiling wine racks. The wall to wall climate-controlled refrigeration keeps the wines at the most-desired temperatures.

Stella's also features an outdoor patio with an open-air pergola, built-in heaters and a 13-foot olive tree as a focal point. Dining tables are repurposed from solid oak wine barrels, where guests can linger under the stars and admire the Houston skyline.
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Terrence Gallivan is opening a crudo and pizza spot this spring.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Elro Pizza // Crudo, 2405 Genesee, is slated to open this spring. The neighborhood pizza restaurant and crudo bar comes from Terrence Gallivan, the former owner/chef at The Pass and Provisions which closed in May 2019, as we reported here in the Houston Press. Most people expected that it wouldn't be too long before Gallivan reappeared on the Houston restaurant scene and his new concept takes a page out of the Pass playbook with specialty pizzas on the menu along with salads, snacks, sandwiches and seasonal crudos. The restaurant gets its name from Gallivan's children, Eleanor and Ronan.

At The Pass and Provisions, Gallivan was both chef and wine buyer and the curated and concise wine list at Elro will offer natural sparklers, New World favorites and Old World classics. There will be cocktails and tap beer, as well.

Located in a former bungalow, the intimate space will be cozy and welcoming, anchored by a comfortable wooden bar. There will be velvet banquettes in the small lounge and a spacious outdoor patio.

For his part, Gallivan wants the space to feel homey where guests can pop in for a drink wearing shorts and flip-flops or linger for an intimate date night. As for the addition of crudo to the concept, Gallivan said, " Since Houston is hot most of the time, balancing pizza with some lighter, more refreshing, cold seafood dishes is a nice combination."
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The hallowed dining room at Tony's.
Photo by STP Images
Tony's Restaurant and Catering, 3755 Richmond, announced that Austin Waiter, its executive chef for the past four years, is moving on to a new opportunity. In his place, owner Donna Vallone, wife of the late Tony Vallone and the restaurant's namesake, has chosen to bring back Tony's former executive chef, Kate McLean. McLean, who spent seven years in the kitchen at Tony's, four of them as executive chef, has been a Jill of all things culinary in the past four and a half years including writing for the Houston Press, bartending, leading non-profit events and co-hosting, producing and writing 83 weekly episodes of the restaurant-industry-focused podcast Pre-Shift with Kate and Brossa, produced by GOW Media.

McLean made news in 2013 when she was pegged to lead the kitchen at Tony's because she was the first female chef to ever do so in the restaurant's decades-long history. Tony Vallone died in September 2020, leaving behind a legacy of serving his Italian cuisine to presidents, royalty and celebrities plus a multitude of Houstonians since the restaurant's opening in 1965. Of her time with Vallone, McLean says, " I am blessed to have had ten years with Tony, both professionally and later as friends. I watched him, asked questions and made sure that I was someone worth mentoring."
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Chef Kate McLean, Tony Vallone and Donna Vallone share a smile and a table at Tony's in earlier times.
Photo by Tony Vallone's Restaurant
Obviously the Vallones were certain that the young chef was a valuable asset and with her return there will be some new ideas implemented such as bottle service with Tony's caviar service and a happy hour with elevated finger foods like shaved A5 Kuroge Washu Wagyu wrapped in liquid Parmigiano Reggiano and Foie Gras Cotton Candy. McLean also plans to add seasonal tasting menus and Kate's Playground, where guests can book the Tony's Wine Library Experience with a multi-course dinner. McLean makes her return February 10.

The restaurant will also be hosting a new annual party for Tony Vallone Day, April 1. The event will feature passed hors d'oeuvres , martinis and Tony's classics with formalwear encouraged as a tribute to Vallone's habit of wearing a tuxedo.
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Chef Shaun King is preparing to open Uchiko this spring.
Photo by Hai Hospitality
Hai Hospitality announced January 13 that Stephen Conklin will take over the role of chef de cuisine at Uchi Houston as Chef Shaun King prepares to open another Hai Hospitality concept, Uchiko, at Zadok's Post Oak Place in early spring 2022. Conklin most recently served as executive chef at Cafe Leonelli at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. A graduate of Utah State University, Conklin has trained at the Institute of Culinary Education and staged at restaurants such as Le Bernardin, Irving Mill and La Grenouille in New York.
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Stephen Conklin is headed to Uchi Houston.
Photo by Hai Hospitality
King and Conklin will kick off Conklin's new role with a ten-course collaboration dinner at Uchi in Montrose which will also offer a sneak peek into Uchiko Post Oak's menu. The first dinner will be held in the private dining room January 23 at 7:30 p.m. It only seats 20 and the tickets are $180 per person and will go live 9 a.m. January 14.

The following evening, January 24, the collaborative omakase menu will be available through dinner service for $125 per person, not including tax and gratuity.  Reservations may be made via Open Table or by phone at 713-522-4808.
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The bar at Amrina will be a stunning mix of gold embellishments and jewel-toned colors.
Rendering by CH Design Studios

Amrina, 3 Waterway Square, is shooting to open in the first quarter of 2022 in The Woodlands. This is the first restaurant concept from Kahani Social Group, founded by brothers Preet Paul Singh and Surpreet Singh. The word "kahani" translates to "story" and the group plans more stories in its portfolio.

It begins with Amrina, an Arabic Islamic Muslim name meaning "princess." In keeping with the restaurant's story, the atmosphere, eclectic menu and visual cocktails will reflect the life of a modern princess, one with mystery and edginess.
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Chef Jassi Bindra has a culinary story to tell.
Photo by Rick Frank
Joining the tale will be Chef Jaspratap "Jassi" Bindra as executive chef and managing partner of Kahani Social Group. The menu will feature Indian-inspired dishes with Bindra's creative flourishes with some global influences. Bindra most recently served as executive chef at Punjab Grill in Washington D.C., earning the restaurant a Michelin plate and a mention in the Michelin Guide in 2019. The chef's mission at Amrina is to create a voyage of taste and texture using locally-sourced ingredients and zero-waste practices. 
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The princess garden seating is romantic and dreamy.
Rendering by DH Design Studios
The restaurant will be a jewel box of gold-embellished details with a warm, sultry design. In addition to the main dining room and cocktail lounge, there will be a 30-foot indoor/outdoor bar servicing the main dining area and patio. There will also be private dining rooms, princess garden seating with booths facing the impressive wine selection and an in-kitchen chef's table.
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We like alotta burrata on our pizza pie.
Photo by Russo's New York Pizzeria
Russo's New York Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen is opening two new locations in spring 2022. The Katy restaurant will open at 22723 Morton Ranch while the address for the Richmond location is not yet available.

The Morton Ranch spot will be a new fast-casual version with 2,200 square feet of space, an open kitchen and an outdoor patio. There will also be new menu items such as Truffle Garlic Knots, Prosciutto Burrata Pizza, Truffle Mushroom Pizza, Truffle Burrata Gnocchi and bruschetta. We sense a theme, here.

Both new locations will be owned and operated by first-time franchisee Carmen Maria Torres. Torres and her husband are based in Mexico City but spend part of their time in Houston. "We have been Russo's customers for years and love the food, service and the entire Russo's concept and franchise model." She also says that the easy access to founder Anthony Russo instead of dealing with a large corporation is what attracted the couple to the Russo's franchise opportunity.
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Roll-Em-Up is rolling in.
Photo by Shane Chanka/Brink Media
Roll-Em-Up Taquitos is currently seeking franchisees for its foray into Texas and Oklahoma. The nation's first taquito-focused chain was founded in 2019 by Ron and Ryan Usrey in California. The father and son duo based the idea off the beef taquitos recipe of wife and mother, Mama Karen. Unfortunately, Mama Karen passed away before the dream was realized but the business has now successfully rolled out three locations in California and with its new franchising model begun in 2021, there are 420 possible locations in various forms of development. The company has partnered with David Weaver and Blake Terry to bring 315 units to Texas and Oklahoma.

The restaurant serves five different taquitos, all hand-rolled and pan-fried to order in cast iron skillets. Fillings include shredded beef, shredded chicken, potato, cheese and avocado. Topping options such as cheese, sour cream, mild or spicy house sauce, guac sauce, queso sauce and its famous "lit" sauce can be added.

Its menu also includes house-made bacon beans, rice, Bomb AF chips, street corn and churro doughnuts.
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World of Sourdough will take up tenancy at 1440 Studemont.
Photo by Stuart Rosenberg
World of Sourdough, 1440 Studemont , will open in early 2022 in the Lower Heights mixed use district in a recently built structure which will feature street level retail and second-story offices. The California-based concept will have a 1,744 square-foot storefront. World of Sourdough offers specialty and traditional sandwiches on its signature house-made sourdough plus soups, gourmet salads and a rich mac & cheese. Some of the soups can be ordered in sourdough bread bowls. Screw Keto, we want a bread bowl. 

The concept uses a San Francisco starter for its sourdough recipe which means we can all finally get rid of the dying starters in our fridges left over from the early days of the pandemic.
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Dozier's BBQ has fired up the pits after a temporary closure.
Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
Dozier's BBQ, 8222 FM 359, reopened January 12 after a brief closure due to COVID precautions.

Jersey Mike's Subs, 5675 Fairmont Parkway, opened January 12 in Pasadena. Known for its fresh sliced/fresh grilled sub sandwiches, the new location is owned by Willie and Bebe Mora. The couple will host a grand opening from January 12 through January 16 to support Pasadena Memorial High School Baseball Booster Club. Customers with special fundraising coupons can make a minimum $2 contribution in exchange for a regular sub.

The new store will be open daily, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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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.