Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: d'Alba Opens, NY Eatery Arrives, Pastry War Will Shuttter

There are lots of pizzas with fresh ingredients at d'Alba.
There are lots of pizzas with fresh ingredients at d'Alba. Photo by Becca Wright



d'Alba, 3715 Alba, opened September 18 in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area. Owner Daut Elshani spotted the property where the new restaurant is located while on a bike ride through the area in 2020. Despite the grim outlook for the pandemic and the restaurant business, Elshani decided to lease the property with a view to opening a restaurant. While scouting and meeting with chefs, he was not finding one with the same vision for the concept until he crossed paths with Geoff Hundt, executive chef of Local Foods. Hundt, a Garden Oaks resident, was able to help Elshani understand the demographics of the area and create a menu that would be attractive to locals.
click to enlarge The interior at d'Alba reflects its casual, yet elevated theme. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
The interior at d'Alba reflects its casual, yet elevated theme.
Photo by Becca Wright
With Hundt on his team, Elshani convinced a couple of family members, Leon and Fatos Barileva, veterans of upscale dining in Manhattan, and his brother Filiz Elshani, to move to Texas and join with him in the venture. The crew then got to work on the design, concept definition and menu creation. Elshani took charge of the interior and exterior design focusing on functionality and a modern, clean theme. Contractors C&P Electric and RD Enterprises pushed to meet deadline but supply shortages and the rising cost of materials coupled with staffing difficulties meant the July opening was scrapped. Eventually, Elshani and his team decided to open with a limited number of employees.

The small staff means that executing the entire menu daily is challenging. The use of fresh, local ingredients requires a lot of prep work on a daily basis so the restaurant sometimes runs out of certain dishes. Unfortunately, d'Alba is not alone these days in the struggle for workers as the pandemic did not disappear completely with the vaccine roll-out.
click to enlarge D'Alba's comfortable patio lures in local GOOF residents. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
D'Alba's comfortable patio lures in local GOOF residents.
Photo by Becca Wright
However, the restaurant is meeting its goal of being a casual dining establishment with elevated ingredients that fits in with the neighborhood's professionals and young families. Hundt, who consulted on the food menu, will continue to maintain and update the menu along with chef Mike Hartley, a former sous chef at Brasserie 19. Guests can start with shareables like Alba Balloon Bread with pesto, garlic and truffle honey or Chili and Lime Roasted Cauliflower. The restaurant has a charcuterie selection and wood-fired pizzas. Gulf oysters, salads and hand-made pastas are also on the menu along with Big Plates like the Falcon Lakes Burger, Confit Chicken Thighs and Gulf Fish with roasted sunchokes and grilled corn chutney.
click to enlarge The Chili 7 Lime Roasted Cauliflower is a vegetarian delight. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
The Chili 7 Lime Roasted Cauliflower is a vegetarian delight.
Photo by Becca Wright
The cocktail menu was curated by former Anvil mixologist, Kehlen Selph, and offers 22 craft cocktails. Since its quiet opening, the restaurant's best-selling drink has been its updated Old Fashioned, with its medjool date-infused Old Forester 100 proof bourbon.

In the next several weeks, d'Alba will add a lunch menu with new items and brunch service Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


click to enlarge Upscale deli? - PHOTO BY SHAWN CHIPPENDALE
Upscale deli?
Photo by Shawn Chippendale
New York Eatery, 5422 Bellaire Boulevard,  will open October 14. The sister restaurant to the family-owned and operated New York Deli & Coffee Shop has been much-anticipated since it was announced in November 2019. New York Deli has been a breakfast and lunch eatery for more than 45 years. The new restaurant will offer some of the core favorites along with elevated reinterpretations and original creations for breakfast and lunch daily from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will debut its dinner service in the next few weeks.

The new spot will also house the family's catering company Houston Catering Concepts. It shares the building with the second location of Bagel Shop Bakery, part of the family's holdings but a distinct business of its own.
click to enlarge The Astoria Rueben loads up on the good stuff. - PHOTO BY SHAWN CHIPPENDALE
The Astoria Rueben loads up on the good stuff.
Photo by Shawn Chippendale
In total, the space occupies 6,000 square feet and includes outdoor seating, indoor dining areas and seats and high-tops in the bar. A private party room is also available. Initially, the space will offer seating for 235 guests with a look to increase greater capacity as pandemic protocols become less necessary. A drive-thru window will be added next year.
click to enlarge The cozy diner gets a contemporary upgrade at New York Eatery. - PHOTO BY SHAWN CHIPPENDALE
The cozy diner gets a contemporary upgrade at New York Eatery.
Photo by Shawn Chippendale
The bright new space will have the nostalgic ambiance of a neighborhood deli but with contemporary and chic elements that epitomize a modern diner. The coolness of the retro black and white tiles are balanced by the warmth of rustic wood finishes as crisp, white light fixtures create the effect of cylindrical origami overhead.
click to enlarge Roshni Gurnani will kick your ass with flavor. - PHOTO BY SHAWN CHIPPENDALE
Roshni Gurnani will kick your ass with flavor.
Photo by Shawn Chippendale
Executive chef Roshni Gurnani, a veteran of television shows like Hell's Kitchen, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay, has developed a menu that pays homage to deli favorites while updating the options for a contemporary dining public. Smoked salmon, a deli staple, becomes Table Side Carved Smoked Salmon at dinner service. Seinfeld's " The Big Salad" is a kitchen sink creation of fresh greens, seasonal vegetables, assorted cheeses, boiled eggs, ham, turkey and bacon. Diners will find a selection of burgers like the Godfather and Coney Island Dogs. The Astoria Rueben is house-made corned beef with sauerkraut, melted Swiss cheese and OG sauce on toasted rye bread that is made in house. Breakfast fare includes The Original Yellow Cab with two eggs (your way), a choice of meat, home fries, choice of bagel and honey butter. The diner also offers plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes, too.
click to enlarge The Pastry War offered a plethora of agave-based spirits. - PHOTO BY KATE MCLEAN
The Pastry War offered a plethora of agave-based spirits.
Photo by Kate McLean
The Pastry War, 310 Main, will close October 30, according to its Facebook and Instagram pages. Owner Bobby Heugel, best known for his craft cocktail bar Anvil, made the announcement October 6.

The agave-centric cocktail bar was founded in 2013 by Heugel and Alba Huerta, owner of boutique Southern cocktail bar, Julep. While tequila has been a predominant liquor in Houston due to the city's love of margaritas, mezcal and other agave-based liquors were not as well known. In fact, most Houstonians would probably associate mezcal with Scott Glenn's character from Urban Cowboy sucking the worm, actually moth larvae, from the bottle of cheap rotgut.

Heugel and his team were part of the change in perception of mezcal as Houstonians, with their intense love of barbecue, warmed to the smoky and earthy flavors of mezcal and other agave-derived liquors. It now has a place on almost any decent cocktail menu around town.

In the social media posts, Heugel offered several factors for the decision to close, as we reported here in the Houston Press. The pandemic was one of them and the loss of downtown patrons due to the March 2020 shutdown and the subsequent on again/off again restrictions severely affected sales. The hoped-for aid from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund did not come through, as it failed to do for two-thirds of the applicants. Despite having a supportive landlord, Heugel saw the pending end of the lease as a time to shutter the mezcaleria and move on with other projects such as a planned second location of Better Luck Tomorrow with Justin Yu.

Heugel also said that the end of The Pastry War is not the end of his agave-spirits passion and a new venture may be in the cards because he wants to continue highlighting the excellent mezcal producers in Mexico with whom he has built strong bonds.
click to enlarge The Ribeye Marina is a South African version of surf and turf. - PHOTO BY CORINE MICHEL
The Ribeye Marina is a South African version of surf and turf.
Photo by Corine Michel
Mozambik South African Kitchen, 5085 Westheimer, opens October 8 in the Galleria. This is the second location of the South African restaurant which took over The Woodlands location of the now-shuttered Peli Peli and is now taking over the Galleria spot of the former Peli Peli as well. It comes from restaurateur Ryan Stewart who has been a co-owner of the South Africa-based Mozambik since 2008. In 2018, Stewart, a native of Johannesburg,  came to Houston to work with the Peli Peli Restaurant Group. He and his partners at Mozambik plan to open more locations throughout Texas and the U.S.
click to enlarge The interior at Mozambik honors South African culture. - PHOTO BY RYAN STEWART
The interior at Mozambik honors South African culture.
Photo by Ryan Stewart
The restaurants cuisine focuses on the coastal fare and braai of South Africa with dishes like peri peri chicken, trinchado, espetadas, Sodwana Bay crab cakes, Malay curry and bobotie. New menu items will be introduced every six months along with monthly specials.

The bar program features a wide variety of South African wines including the country's signature Pinotage. Cocktails inspired by the African nation include drinks like the R&R, a traditional rum cocktail known as "Tipo Tinto" by South Africans.
click to enlarge Peri peri chicken is a South African staple. - PHOTO BY CORINE MICHEL
Peri peri chicken is a South African staple.
Photo by Corine Michel
Former patrons of The Galleria Peli Peli will find some major changes to the decor as the space has been transformed from the dimly lit, romantic dining atmosphere to a more vibrant, family-friendly space with colors and patterns inspired by South African culture. The carpet has been replaced with tile and a mural of Nelson Mandela oversees the new dining room.
click to enlarge Fried catfish takes its place among home-cooked sides. - PHOTO BY ESTHER'S CAJUN CAFE
Fried catfish takes its place among home-cooked sides.
Photo by Esther's Cajun Cafe
Esther's Cajun Cafe & Soulfood, 5700 N. Shepherd, will open a new location in Houston’s Independence Heights this fall. Founder and chef Esther Lewis-Bernard, better known as Queen Esther, will serve an expanded menu that still reflects the family-owned and operated restaurant's traditional and authentic Cajun and soul food dishes. The new location will also feature additions such as a full bar full of Southern cocktails and extended hours. Its slogan is " This seat is for you at Esther's Cajun, where the food is amazing!"

It will be the third destination for the legendary Houston brand, which includes Esther’s Signature Dish Private Events Venue & Catering and the first outpost, now called The Original Esther’s Cajun Cafe & Soulfood On Yale, at 5204 Yale Street. The original opened in 2008.

Though less than a mile from the original Esther's, the new spot will provide plenty more space in which to serve the community. It will be a little roomier and a little more elegant and yet still offer its much-loved comfort food. Esther's daughter, Dru Evans, is the designer for the new space. The decor will pay tribute to her mother's roots and the family's rich history. Pops of red add energy to the dining area while an heirloom cherry-red vintage stove passed down through Esther's family, and one she used for feeding her own six children, has a seat of honor in the new restaurant. Esther's son, Lonnie Dow IV, leads the restaurant's architect design team.

And it's the importance of family that threads its way through the ambiance and the menu. A kid-friendly patio will offer families an outdoor option while a walk-up/curbside service window makes accessibility easy for those on the go. The expanded menu includes dishes that were previously difficult for Esther to prepare in the original restaurant's much smaller kitchen like turkey necks, white beans, beef tips and lamb chops. Staple favorites include oxtails, a saucy smothered pork chop, smothered pepper steak and crispy fried chicken. Cajun dishes like Shrimp & Crawfish Etouffee and Cajun Fettucine Pasta will still be on the new menu along with home-cooked sides such as black-eyed peas, okra, candied yams, mustard greens and mac 'n cheese.  Sweet Southern desserts include banana pudding and peach cobbler.

The bar menu will offer Louisiana and Southern-themed cocktails along with traditional cocktails, for pairing with the home-cooked fare, including an adults-only Kool-aid and specialty frozen drinks.

Queen Esther said that the business is not moving, it's growing. "We’ll still be right here in Independence Heights, where I raised my six children and my parents Nathaniel and Gladiola Lewis raised all 11 of their kids. This is our home, and we love serving our community."
click to enlarge Spring Branch residents have a relaunched Live Oak Grill. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
Spring Branch residents have a relaunched Live Oak Grill.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Live Oak Grill, 10444 Hempstead, will open October 15. The neighborhood bar is a sort of relaunch from Live Oak owner and proprietor John Ganim in partnership with Night Moves Hospitality, led by owner Greg Perez. This is the third concept to open this year from the newly-formed hospitality group which opened Space Cowboy at the Heights House Hotel in April and Trash Panda Drinking Club in July. A fourth concept, Chivos, will open soon in the space that formerly housed Calle Onze.

Live Oak first opened in 2001 and closed this past September for renovations. Ganim bought the property 20 years ago planning to build a warehouse. However, the historic home, built in 1915, and the beautiful oak trees on the property changed his mind. In a city that sees its history and greenery being demolished on a regular basis, the preservation of historic buildings and century-old trees is a cause for thanksgiving.
click to enlarge We love trees. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
We love trees.
Photo by Dylan McEwan

Located on close to three acres, Live Oak's expansive patio is shaded by five live oak trees, estimated to be 130 years old. The outdoor space offers lawn games, four televisions and two large projector screens. There's also an outdoor kids' playground. The bar is family-friendly until 8 p.m. The hundred-year-old home is the setting for the indoor area.

There are 20 brews on tap plus a large selection of canned beers. the cocktail menu includes a Pear Moscow Mule and Cucumber Mojito along with four frozen cocktails. The all-day food menu offers pub dishes like a shrimp po'boy, pulled pork sandwich, chicken fried steak and boudin balls. The bar and restaurant will be overseen by general managers, Sam Melton, Hope Herman and Jessica Fallon.
click to enlarge Fresh-baked bread makes these sandwiches tasty. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Fresh-baked bread makes these sandwiches tasty.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Click Click Chew, 11910 Grant, opened its virtual food hall at the end of September. The ghost kitchen is a new venture from Adam and Katie Womack, who many in the Cypress area will recognize as the owners of the popular pizzeria, Locatelli's. In the midst of the pandemic, the Womacks closed two locations of their family-owned restaurants. With the now-extra space in the 3,000 square-foot commissary kitchen, Adam Womack came up with an idea to put it to use. Deciding to create a virtual food hall, Womack worked with chef Omar Pereney, founder of Culinary Matters, and his team to create the menus for four new concepts that could accommodate a variety of tastes from one designated kitchen.

The first is Wing of Fire with 11 different flavors of chicken wings plus tenderloin strips and pizza sticks. Sides include fresh-cut fries, salad, and chicken fries. There are Party Packs for the big game or board game night. For sandwich lovers, Bailey & Buns offers an array like Philly, Meatball, Cubano and Banh Mi sandwiches in 6 or 12-inch versions. Customers can choose from homemade bread in either French white, multigrain or asiago and herb. Soups, salads, Sea Salt Kettle Chips and cookies can be added as sides.
click to enlarge Wing of Fire is one of four concepts at Click Click Chew. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Wing of Fire is one of four concepts at Click Click Chew.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Knowing the palates of Houstonians, Click Click Chew has Tex-Mex and barbecue choices as part of its virtual food hall as well. Tia Rita's has tacos, enchiladas and grilled fajitas while The Smoking Joint offers a selection of smoked meats including brisket, baby back ribs, house-made beef and pork sausage, pulled pork and pasture-raised chicken. traditional sides like baked beans, potato salad and mac 'n cheese are also on the menu.

The food can be ordered online at clickclickchew.com and delivery is available within an 8 mile radius. Guests can also pick up their orders at the Grant location where there are high top tables for waiting or for guests who want eat on-site. The four menus are also available through third party apps.
click to enlarge Montrose gains a craft brewery taproom. - PHOTO BY SOUTHERN YANKEE BREWING CO.
Montrose gains a craft brewery taproom.
Photo by Southern Yankee Brewing Co.
Southern Yankee Crafthouse, 1312 W. Alabama, opened late September, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. Taking over the space vacated by Good Dog in November 2020, the new restaurant and bar is an expanded outpost for Southern Yankee Beer Co. whose owners needed an extra location to further distribute its brews. Its northside brewery near Spring, on FM 1960, was producing more product than it could sell to the local community. An offshoot in Montrose, nearer to the big city action, was a reasonable choice for the brewery.

The new taproom and restaurant will serve a variety of its brews including the Fuzzy Bastard cream ale, Que Pablo Mexican lager and its double IPA, Hop Rambler. Just in time for a Houston version of autumn, there will be heartier brews on tap including the P. Nutty, a peanut butter porter and The Fat Irishman, a dry Irish extra-stout. Sorta like me, without the dry part.
click to enlarge The Southern Yankee Craft Burger goes well with a cold brew. - PHOTO BY SOUTHERN YANKEE BREWING CO.
The Southern Yankee Craft Burger goes well with a cold brew.
Photo by Southern Yankee Brewing Co.
Beer is not the only beverage on the bar menu. There is a small wine list of whites, reds, roses and bubbles. There are also some craft cocktails that have some imagination behind them. The Ma's Lazy Susan is made with bourbon, orgeat, pineapple, lime and Creole bitters while the Cosmonaughty is a concoction of hibiscus vodka, poblano chile liqueur, mint and lemon.

The food menu at Southern Yankee revolves around wood-fired dishes, including its pizzas. Guests can order the Sweet and Spicy Pepperoni, Gorgonzola and Bacon and  Jalapeno BBQ Chicken among a number of other pies. There are shareable bar snacks like the Slow Dough Giant Pretzel, Truffle Fries and Crispy Pork Belly. For entrees, guests can opt for dishes like a Pepper-crusted Ribeye, Cast-iron Gulf Flounder with crawfish Creole sauce or Wood-fired Beer Can Chicken.

Southern Yankee Crafthouse is currently open Wednesday through Sunday but there are plans to open  seven days a week in the future.
click to enlarge The pumpkin spice craze invades the doughnut world. - PHOTO BY VOODOO DOUGHNUT
The pumpkin spice craze invades the doughnut world.
Photo by Voodoo Doughnut
Voodoo Doughnut, 9320 Barker Cypress, will open in the Cypress area soon but the actual opening date is not ready for release, according to a spokesperson. However, for those who follow the new Voodoo Doughnut on social media, doughnut handouts are being teased.

Meanwhile, Houstonians have two locations in the Houston area for trying its newest fall treats. The Caramel Cha Cha Chai is part of its Quarterly Giving Campaign in which the company gives a portion of proceeds to a charity organization, with a new designated non-profit and treat each quarter. Proceeds from the Caramel Cha Cha Chai, a chai-filled shell topped with caramel drizzle, whipped cream and chai spice,  will go to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund until December 27 when the chai says bye-bye.
click to enlarge Eat a doughnut for a good cause. - PHOTO BY VOODOO DOUGHNUT
Eat a doughnut for a good cause.
Photo by Voodoo Doughnut
The funky doughnut shop has also brought back its popular autumn doughnut, The Dashing Pumpkin. The pumpkin spice doughnut has a cream cheese topping, fall sprinkles and a dusting of pumpkin spice. It is available through November 30.
click to enlarge Adam Cryer and Sarah Pope join The Ion's list of new businesses. - PHOTO BY ALLYSON HUNTSMAN
Adam Cryer and Sarah Pope join The Ion's list of new businesses.
Photo by Allyson Huntsman
Second Draught Taproom, 4201 Main, will open early next year at The Ion, joining highly anticipated restaurants, Late August from Dawn Burrell and Chris Williams and The Lymbar from David Cordua.  Common Bond On-The-Go and STUFF'd Wings are also on the list of restaurants in the area.

The new hyper-local, craft-centric taproom comes from Adam Cryer and Sarah Pope, the husband and wife team behind Baileson Brewing Co., a neighborhood brewpub off Bissonet that opened in 2017. At the new taproom, the couple will be showcasing a wide selection of offerings from local brewers on its many taps.
click to enlarge Dak & Bop has a new dessert offering. - PHOTO BY DAK & BOP
Dak & Bop has a new dessert offering.
Photo by Dak & Bop
Dak & Bop, 1805 W. 18th, reopened October 4, according to Houston Food Finder. The restaurant, known for its twice-fried Korean fried chicken and creative takes on bao, is owned by Jason and Mary Cho, who opened the business in the Museum District in 2014.  That location closed in May 2020. The new location in the Heights opened in January 2020 in a former Pizza Hut building. Unfortunately, the structure suffered severe water damage caused by a roof collapse due to heavy rains in the Houston area a couple of weeks ago. The restaurant was able to continue doing take-out orders but the lack of dine-in resulted in greatly decreased sales. On top of the income loss, property insurance did not cover the water damage and the owners were on the hook for out-of-pocket costs. A GoFundMe account has been set up for the business to help cover employee wages and repairs to the restaurant.
click to enlarge As is the past year and a half has not been difficult enough. - PHOTO BY LAUREN LEWIS
As is the past year and a half has not been difficult enough.
Photo by Lauren Lewis
The couple and their team are excited to welcome back dine-in customers and house pastry chef Zek Benak has created a Black Sugar Cheesecake to tempt diners to return. It's made with a gingersnap and panko crust, Chinese 5 Spice apple butter, topped with whipped cream and candied orange.

The restaurant is also hosting its monthly Industry Brunch October 11 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. It is usually held on the first Monday but the repairs pushed it to the eleventh instead. The menu is always changing for the industry brunches but dishes like Octopus Terrine, Barbacoa Benedict and Frito Pie Chicken Fried Steak might be on offer along with Kimchi Bloody Marys and its Gravyback shot combo.
click to enlarge A new Thai restaurant is headed for Tomball Parkway. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
A new Thai restaurant is headed for Tomball Parkway.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Thai Curry, 21139 State Highway 249, will take over the spot which formerly housed The Pita Pit, which closed in 2020. We have reached out to see if this location is affiliated with the Thai Curry restaurant at 11930 Barker Cypress and are awaiting a response on an opening date.
click to enlarge Burnt bbq ends meet banh mi in a fusion flavor bomb. - PHOTO BY CUC LAM
Burnt bbq ends meet banh mi in a fusion flavor bomb.
Photo by Cuc Lam
Yelo, 23119 Colonial Parkway, is offering its Burnt Ends Banh Mi beginning October 9. The collaboration sandwich is made with barbecue pork belly burnt ends from Brett's BBQ Shop, also in Katy, paired with chef Cuc Lam's pickled papaya-carrot slaw, cucumber, locally-grown cilantro and garlic aioli. It then gets an added kick from the house-made ginger plum habanero salsa. Unfortunately, it is only available each Saturday while supplies last. Yelo is also offering its new Saucy Wings each Sunday for football fans and non-football fans alike.

The Red Hot Chickz is currently seeking franchisees for the Houston area. The Nashville hot chicken restaurant opened in Los Angeles, California in 2018 and is set to open a second store in Culver City, Nevada this fall. With the expectations of opening 25 restaurants in Texas, the brand will be competing against a number of new Nashville hot chicken franchises like the recently opened Dave's Hot Chicken and Tumble 22 as well as some local, homegrown favorites like Mico's Hot Chicken and food trucks like Main Bird and Rosalyn's Hot Chicken.
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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.