Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Fegen's Debuts, Acme Oyster House Opens

The chicken saltimbocca will "jump in your mouth".
The chicken saltimbocca will "jump in your mouth". Photo by Carla Gomez

Fegen's, 1050 Studewood, opened April 6. The new restaurant comes from F.E.E.D. TX Restaurant Group and will focus on classic American fare and cocktails. It takes over the space formerly occupied by Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar. The group (Lance Fegen, Carl Eaves, Will Davis and Jiim Jard) sold the Liberty Kitchen brand in the summer of 2020.

Fegen will serve as chef-owner and managing partner. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Fegen has worked at some of Houston's best known dining establishments such as Brennan's of Houston, The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa as well as founding his own "glass wall-the restaurant" in 2005. In 2010, Fegen and others began F.E.E.D. TX which was the parent company of Liberty Kitchen.

click to enlarge Carl Eaves and Lance Fegen have a laugh. - PHOTO BY CARLA GOMEZ
Carl Eaves and Lance Fegen have a laugh.
Photo by Carla Gomez
The cuisine at the restaurant bearing his name will be refined American food with seafood, salads and simple well-cooked meats balanced with pizza and pastas like Rago's Sunday Meatball with veal and pork tomato gravy, a nod to Fegen's Southern Italian-American roots. Italian comfort food like Sunday gravy is not the only familiar favorite. American fare like Clam Chowder, and Grilled Hand-Cut Bacon start off the menu while homey dishes like Calves Liver and Onions and Chicken Schnitzel sate comfort food cravings. Steaks and seafood dishes are also featured on the dinner menu with sides like Sauteed Tiny Green Beans (sauteed in Topo Chico and butter), Hand-Cut French Fried Potatoes and Josette's Tomato Macaroni. There are a handful of Neapolitan-style pizzas and this writer is looking forward to trying the Purple Rain with fried eggplant, fresh ricotta and Calabrese pesto. Fried eggplant on pizza is rare in Houston and a must-have when available.

click to enlarge Rago's Sunday Meatball will please carnivores, Italian or not. - PHOTO BY CARLA GOMEZ
Rago's Sunday Meatball will please carnivores, Italian or not.
Photo by Carla Gomez
Matt Hart, a Certified Sommelier and Cicerone, takes on the role of general manager while Nicole Meza leads the bar program at Fegen's. Together, they've created a tightly curated beverage menu with cocktails that lean classic and are reasonably priced considering some joints around town. The Bitter Blossom made with Ketel Grapefruit Rose, hibicus Campari, lime juice and orgeat ($10) shows what a ten-spot can get you, though big spenders may opt for The Upper Manhattan with Whistlepig Rye 10 yr., sweet vermouth and bitters for $18. The wine list, while not extensive, has one or two selections each for a number of varietals. It too is priced well. The beer list offers plenty of choices, too.


For now, Fegen's is only open for dinner with to-go and online ordering available. In a few weeks, the restaurant will launch its lunch and brunch services.

click to enlarge The wait is over, Houston. - PHOTO BY ROMNEY CARUSO/ACME OYSTER HOUSE
The wait is over, Houston.
Photo by Romney Caruso/Acme Oyster House

Acme Oyster House, 1201 Westheimer, opens April 10 and will finally satisfy the masses who have been anticipating the day. We first reported about its plans to open a Houston location in May 2020 here in the Houston Press. We have been keeping an eye on it for nearly a year. Now, its Houston fans can content themselves with the Cajun and Creole cuisines that have made it a Gulf Coast favorite.

It began as the Acme Cafe in 1910 in the French Quarter. After a fire in 1924, the restaurant reopened at a new French Quarter location and changed its name to Acme Oyster House. That original location still operates at 724 Iberville. The restaurant also has a location inside the NOLA Harrah's Casino plus restaurants in Baton Rouge, Metarie, Gulf Shores, Alabama and Destin, Florida.

click to enlarge Acme Oyster House rises at the old Tower Theatre. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Acme Oyster House rises at the old Tower Theatre.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The new Montrose location takes over the space at the Tower Theatre that most recently housed El Real, which closed in 2019. There will be a ribbon cutting April 10 at 11 a.m. to open the restaurant. To celebrate the grand opening, Acme is offering daily gift card and merchandise giveaways on social media plus hourly in-house giveaways on opening day.

Mike Rodrigue, Acme owner and CEO, said in a press release, “This is Texas, so we’ll be doing it up big for our grand opening. We are proud to make the historic Tower Theatre our home. We look forward to serving Houstonians authentic Louisiana seafood and Creole cuisine favorites, just like we’ve done for decades in the French Quarter of New Orleans.”

Acme claims to have shucked more than 10 million oysters since opening its famous oyster bar in 1910. That's a lot of mollusks.

Max's Restaurant North America
, 8011 S. Main, opened at the end of March.  The Filipino restaurant is known for its fried chicken with "sarap to the bones." Sarap is a Tagalog word meaning yummy or delicious. The company has been around since 1945 and its North America branch operates fourteen other locations in the United States and six in Canada.

With Houston's diverse population, a restaurant that has been a beloved institution in the Philippines has definitely gotten a lot of buzz from the Filipino community. And it's been a long time coming. Originally slated to open last year, franchisee Marie de Guzman told Cheryl Piccio, a correspondent for Balitang America, that the pandemic had thwarted the 2020 opening. Guzman wanted to wait until things were safer. With vaccinations making their way into arms, the restaurant has opened its doors with great enthusiasm but also safety protocols in place.

Max's Fried Chicken is meant to be enjoyed with banana ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, two condiments that are often used or served with Filipino dishes. The traditional starters like lumpiang (egg rolls) are familiar to Houston foodies but the chicharon bulaklak, described as crispy ruffle fat, may be a new one for most. It's a snack usually enjoyed with beer, though alcohol is not served at this location. Pancit noodle dishes are on the menu along with the traditional daing na bangus,  boneless marinated milkfish. There are several soup options such as Max's Bulalo (beef shank broth) and sinigang (tamarind soup). No Filipino restaurant menu would be complete without Halo Halo for dessert and Max's has its own version.

Inversion Coffee and Art, 1953 Montrose, has closed, according to Eater Houston. It opened in 2007 in the space that was formerly The Inversion House, a temporary art installation made out of two dilapidated houses. Once the buildings were razed, Inversion Coffee House opened, sharing the space with the Art League of Houston. It served as a cozy spot for wannabe writers, stressed-out students and art lovers to hang out and enjoy a cup of coffee.

click to enlarge Create your own dish at Bimbimbox. - PHOTO BY MARCO CAMACHO/BIMBIMBOX
Create your own dish at Bimbimbox.
Photo by Marco Camacho/Bimbimbox
Bimbimbox, 10111 Louetta, began its soft opening March 31. The Asian grill and tea bar offers Korean-inspired cuisine plus a variety of boba tea. Customers can make their own bimbimbox, inspired by the Korean dish bibimbap. Guests first choose a base from purple wild rice, fluffy white rice, stir-fried glass noodles or romaine/spring mix.  Then, there are protein choices like beef bulgogi, chicken, spicy chicken and tofu. Vegetable toppings include corn, kimchi, daikon, cucumber and more. For hot additions, there are sauteed potatoes, sauteed onions, fish cake and black beans. Sauce options include its house Yum Yum, gochujang, honey teriyaki and roast garlic jalapeno.

There are snacks like edamame, chicken dumplings and the Bibi Fries with a choice of chicken or bulgogi and three sauces. The BB-Box for kids offers bulgogi or chicken with rice or noodles.

The signature beverages include Taro Coconut, Matcha Green Tea, Banana  Milk, Thai Tea and Tiger Milk. The frappes are made with organic milk and come in flavors like caramel, vanilla and hazelnut. Milk substitutions include soy, oat or almond.

Milk teas like rose, lavender, jasmine and Earl Grey are available along with fruit teas such as lychee, mango and watermelon. Toppings such as boba, egg pudding, aloe and rainbow jellies can be added as well.

Gatsby's Prime Steakhouse, 4319 Montrose, opened March 12 in the space which formerly housed Berg Hospitality's B.B. Lemon. The decadent restaurant offers an ambiance befitting its name with chandeliers and dim lighting.  For giants of industry, robber barons and financial wizards, a $13 baked potato accompanying a $60 Porterhouse steak might not cause a flinch but it makes my heart lurch. To be fair, a photo online of the potato showed it to be rather massive.

Houstonians are used to steakhouses being over-the-top pricewise and for those who can splurge, it's worth it. At Gatsby's, couples can fulfill fantasies of being Zelda and Scott, sipping champagne and dining on $39 crab cakes. Seafood and steaks are the main items at the restaurant with classic preps like a Delmonico ($50) and a "Tomahawk" Ribeye (Market price-if you have to ask...).

While the prices reflect its glamour and style, the wine list itself seems reasonable. The list online shows a number of bottles under $55. The cocktails on offer call up early Hollywood glamour with the Mary Pickford ( Bacardi, Pineapple and maraschino) and of course, The Great Gatsby, made with Wheatley Vodka, Lillet and grapefruit.

click to enlarge David Chang has brought Fuku's Sandos to Houston. - PHOTO BY CLAY WILLIAMS
David Chang has brought Fuku's Sandos to Houston.
Photo by Clay Williams
Fuku, 401 W. Dallas and 2575 Dairy Ashford, opened two Houston ghost kitchens this week, offering celebrity chef David Chang's chicken "Sandos" through GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats and Postmates. A look at the website showed that the address listed is for the Westheimer store but the online menu showed that the food was being created at Chow Wok Chinese restaurant on Dairy Ashford.

The pandemic created fertile ground for ghost kitchens and delivery hubs. Whether people will continue to support this trend in the future remains to be seen. Currently, people are treating themselves to restaurant food since they cannot go out. However, Houston restaurants are starting to fill up once again and the thought of paying for food, delivery fees and tip to eat at home may start to lose its novelty and its appeal.

click to enlarge The Spicy Fried Chicken Sando overflows with flavor. - PHOTO BY CLAY WILLIAMS
The Spicy Fried Chicken Sando overflows with flavor.
Photo by Clay Williams
Still, for Houstonians wanting to indulge in Chang's raved- about Sandos, delivery apps are currently the only way to do so. The menu is pretty straight forward with a handful of fried chicken sandwiches to choose from and one ground chicken burger. There are also two versions of Chang's Fuku Fingers as well which includes four chicken fingers which can be ordered as the original crispy habanero brined chicken or covered in a sweet and spicy sauce.

The Spicy Fried Chicken Sando is a habanero-brined breast with pickles and Fuku mayo served on a Martin's potato roll, as are the other Sandos. The Knockout is served with shredded cabbage and Knockout sauce while the CBR is topped with crispy smoked bacon and buttermilk ranch. The sandwiches range from $9.50 to $10.50 while the waffle fries (jalapeno-seasoned) are $4.50 and that's pretty much it for sides. Additional sauces are fifty cents. Wise customers will stick to drinking whatever is in the fridge unless they want to chuck out another $2.49 for a can of soda or bottled water.

Guy Fieri's Flavortown is bringing it to H-Town. The Food Network television star, known as much for his yo-bro flamboyancy and spiked blonde hair as his cooking, Fieri is opening ghost kitchens across the country. While he has his detractors, Fieri also has a legion of fans who enjoy his television dives into some of the most over-the-top dishes our great nation seems to create.

His Flavortown delivery kitchen operates three in the Houston area. According to EaterHouston, the CityCentre location operates out of Brio Italian Grille while the Buffalo Speedway kitchen operates out of Buca de Beppo. Flavortown has its own delivery app through iTunes and Google Play but also offers delivery through UberEats, DoorDash and Postmates.

The offerings include Bourbon Brown Sugar Wings ($13.99), S-M-Cheeseteak Eggrolls ($14.99) and Jalapeno Pig Poppers ($12.99), all snacks meant to be shared. There's also a selection of burgers including the Bacon Mac and Cheese and Moran's Veggie Burger plus sandwiches like the Crazy Cuban ($ 9.99) and That Chicken Guy Classic ($11.99).

click to enlarge For those who like their chicken a little crazy, the Pollo Loco at Uncle's BBQ will tick the boxes. - PHOTO BY SAMUEL BUENROSTRO
For those who like their chicken a little crazy, the Pollo Loco at Uncle's BBQ will tick the boxes.
Photo by Samuel Buenrostro
Uncle's BBQ, 23211 Kuykendahl, opened March 17 in the Tomball area. Owner Samuel Buenrostro has worked in the industry for fifteen years and remembers helping his father, who was a waiter at a Mexican restaurant, when he was a child. Buenrostro now owns two Mexican restaurants of his own, Natalita's 2 and Natalita's 3.

However, his love of smoked meats began with the Boy Scouts of America, learning as much as he could at the young age of 12. That experience made him realize that he had a passion for smoking meats.

click to enlarge Uncle's BBQ can feed a crowd but they sell out quickly-so hurry! - PHOTO BY SAMUEL BUENROSTRO
Uncle's BBQ can feed a crowd but they sell out quickly-so hurry!
Photo by Samuel Buenrostro
Now, with his new barbecue joint, Buenrostro is smoking Black Angus beef brisket for twelve hours and the quality is reflected in the often sold-out menu. With five-hour smoked ribs, Belleville sausage, and smoked carnitas, Buenrostro describes his recipes as having roots in Texas and Chicano-style BBQ. The Brisket Tacos blend the best of both worlds with smoked Black Angus brisket, pico de gallo, and sliced avocado.

There's also the Pollo Loco with a half chicken, pulled pork and burgers. There is a shrimp fried rice plate for non-que diners. Guests are welcome to BYOB.


click to enlarge Springwoods Village gets another tenant. - PHOTO BY ALEX MONTOYA
Springwoods Village gets another tenant.
Photo by Alex Montoya
Beard Papa's, 2174 Stuebner Airline, will open at Springwoods Village April 17. The cream puff chain was founded in Osaka, Japan in 1999 and currently has over 400 locations in fifteen countries. The North Houston store makes the third for the Houston area and joins a number of dining spots at The Market including Jinya Ramen Bar, Tarka Indian Kitchen, Torchy's Tacos and MOD Pizza.

The 1,200 square foot shop is the first for franchisee May Hsiao. It will open at 11 a.m. April 17 and there will be a Dragon and Lion Dance at 11:30 p.m. Customers will receive a free original cream puff for every five puffs ordered while supplies last that day. The first 100 customers who order five dozen or more will receive a special Beard Papa's coffee mug.

The chain offers shells made of puff choux pastry in flavors such as original, chocolate, green tea, honey butter, crispy almond, Oreo cookie crumble, strawberry and s'mores. Then, they are filled with a choice of vanilla, green tea or chocolate custard cream. Beard Papa's also has rotating seasonal fillings. Besides cream puffs, it also has a selection of bite-sized desserts like cheesecake, fondant au chocolate and creme brulee.

click to enlarge The Tuscany Pizza at Crust piles on the veg. - PHOTO BY DILLAN JUUL
The Tuscany Pizza at Crust piles on the veg.
Photo by Dillan Juul
Crust Pizza Co., 30129 Rock Creek, will open at Kingwood Place June 2021. The family-friendly restaurant serves Chicago-style thin crust pizza. With fresh dough made every four hours, the pizza has an airy crust and the brand has been expanding that recipe for success since 2011 when two Katy friends, Mark Raspberry and Clint Price, opened the first location in the Woodlands. Now, there are nine restaurants in Texas and one in Lake Charles, Louisiana with more already in the works.

click to enlarge Crust Pizza Co. has sandwiches, too. - PHOTO BY DILLAN JUUL
Crust Pizza Co. has sandwiches, too.
Photo by Dillan Juul
Guests can build their own pizzas or try one of the signature pies. There are also calzones, garlic knots, Buffalo wings and pepperoni rolls. Being a bit more upscale than some pizza joints, Crust Pizza also offers starters like Baked Goat Cheese and Marinara and Tomato-Basil Soup. There's a good-sized selection of salads including Greek, Hawaiian, Caesar and Spinach-Artichoke versions.

Pasta lovers can choose from a number of dishes including Spaghetti, Lasagna and Blackened Chicken Capri. There are inexpensive wines by the bottle and the $3 beer selection means diners can enjoy a cold brew with a hot pie for not-a-lotta dough.

Crust Pizza Co., 5211 FM 2920, will open in September 2021 at Gosling Pines making it number eleven.

Furozun Kakigori, 20129 Misty Cove, is hoping to open in April. The Katy shop will offer over-the-top Japanese shaved ice in delicious options such as Matcha, Chocolate Volcano, Sticky Toffee (say whaaa?), Halo Halo, Bananas Foster and S'mores. Toppings include milk foam, jellies, strawberries and mochi. The shop will also serve coffee drinks like Vietnamese Iced, Dalgona, Matcha Latte with hot tea choices as well. For snacking, there will be Japanese street foods including onigiri and musubi.

Shin Jin, 5567 Highway 6 N., opened March 22. It serves a variety of teriyaki dishes and ramen plus Chinese and Japanese dishes with a couple of Thai dishes as well. Delivery is available through a number of third party apps. It serves lunch combos daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

click to enlarge Brandi Key and Aaron Lyons join forces for farm to table excellence. - PHOTO BY KIMBERLY PARK
Brandi Key and Aaron Lyons join forces for farm to table excellence.
Photo by Kimberly Park
Chef Brandi Key has been chosen as Director of Culinary Operations for Five 12 Restaurant Concepts which operates the local farm-to-table eatery Dish Society.  Owner Aaron Lyons says Key was first in his mind when he was planning the expansion of his leadership team. Chef Key is well known in the restaurant scene after 12years spent with Pappas Restaurants and years working with Clark Cooper Concepts to open restaurants like Coppa Osteria and Punk's Simple Southern Food. She also served as executive chef at Claire Smith's Heights restaurant Alice Blue, a position she left last year. It is that experience and knowledge that Lyons feels will be a plus for the company. In a press release Lyons said about Key's new role, " We want to utilize her experiences to help us innovate, keep ahead of trends and take what we're already doing well and make them even better." The restaurant group is also working on a couple of new concepts launching later this year.

click to enlarge Dish Society has an all day breakfast. - PHOTO BY KIMBERLY PARK
Dish Society has an all day breakfast.
Photo by Kimberly Park
Dish Society currently has six locations, all in the Houston area. Most recently, its Katy location opened in a much larger space to accommodate more guests and allow for a roomier dining area. The restaurants also employ 200 people, a point of pride with Lyons, especially during the pandemic.

Key's strong focus on food, quality and service seems a perfect fit for the farm-to-table philosophy at Five 12 Restaurant Concepts. She says of Dish Society, " Their aggressive efforts to source locally was a huge draw for me. Dish Society has taken the farm-to-table model and made it incredibly approachable with quick all-day service, accessible on-line ordering and customizable menu options to accommodate everyone."
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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.