Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: King's Biergarten Pearland Makes Way for Good Vibes

This Kracken is more interesting than Sidney Powell's version.
This Kracken is more interesting than Sidney Powell's version. Photo by Fajar Hassan

Good Vibes Burgers and Brews, 1329 E. Broadway, is shooting to open by the end of 2020. In what came as a total shock to many of its loyal patrons,  Hans and Philipp Sitter are passing the King's Biergarten space onto Eric Nelson, chef and owner of the new concept. King's had recently reopened in July with renovations to the decor and a few changes to its menu, as we reported here in the Houston Press. Some of the changes to the outdoors seem almost to hint at the new concept's design.

click to enlarge Fresh yellowfin tuna is part of the Tuna Poke Bowl at Good Vibes. - PHOTO BY FAJAR HASSAN
Fresh yellowfin tuna is part of the Tuna Poke Bowl at Good Vibes.
Photo by Fajar Hassan
King's Biergarten was the original restaurant and bar for the Sitters who expanded the concept to include King's BierHaus in the Heights and League City. It began in 2011 and became a popular hotspot for the Pearland community with its German cuisine and family-friendly atmosphere. And many in the community are none too happy about its transformation, according to its Facebook page. Despite Texas having a large German immigrant population in the 1800s, the Greater Houston area does not have many German or Austrian restaurants. For those in love with the brats and the massive pork shank, King's Biergarten's last day of service will be November 29. Then, the Sitters pass the baton onto Nelson whose Good Vibes concept will be a blend of burgers, seafood and tiki cocktails with a beachy theme.

click to enlarge The Cajun Hot Chicken  uses chicken thighs for extra juiciness. - PHOTO BY FAJAR HASSAN
The Cajun Hot Chicken uses chicken thighs for extra juiciness.
Photo by Fajar Hassan
Nelson met the Sitters while executive chef at Number 13 Prime Steak and Seafood in Galveston. That friendship has now led to Nelson taking over the biergarten and transforming it into a tiki joint and restaurant. The menu will include the Good Vibes Signature burger with a half pound RC Ranch burger topped with smoked gouda, pepper bacon and Vibin' sauce on a cheesy garlic bun. In keeping with the beach theme, there will be a raw oyster bar and dishes such as Fresh Tuna Poke Bowl made with yellowfin tuna and ginger yuzu sauce. There will also be Tobiko Caviar with wonton chips and Texas fried quail. With all the new taps recently installed by Hans Sitter, guests can expect plenty of beers to choose from.

Nelson also has created a delicious kids menu and plans for the new restaurant to continue as a welcoming space for families.


click to enlarge A historic building loses a valued tenant. - PHOTO BY DAVID ROZYCKI
A historic building loses a valued tenant.
Photo by David Rozycki
Public Services Wine and Whisky, 202 Travis, has closed permanently, according to Houston Food Finder. The elegant wine and whiskey/whisky bar, located in the historic Cotton Exchange building in downtown Houston, opened in 2014 from Justin Vann and Justin Yu, both experts in the fields of drinking and dining. Yu, who burst onto the Houston dining scene with his tasting restaurant Oxheart was named James Beard Award Best Chef Southwest 2016. He also owns Theodore Rex and is a partner with Bobby Heugel at Better Luck Tomorrow. Vann is a wine sommelier and certified beer cicerone who buys wine and does consulting for local restaurants and bars like Better Luck Tomorrow and Theodore Rex. Vann has now taken a wine position at Nancy's Hustle and writes a booze column for Houstonia magazine.

Justin Vann owning the bar at Public Services. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Justin Vann owning the bar at Public Services.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Vann made the announcement on Instagram, and apologized for those who who weren't able to visit for one last round. In the post he said, " But the way I see it, a bar is made up of the people that run it and visit it, more so than the physical space. PSA lives on in the memories we made together there ".

And oh what a space it was. With painted ceilings and plush furnishings, its decor could make a 30-year-old hipster or budding whiskey expert feel like a person of means and good taste. No news yet on what will happen to the space but we pray to the gods of common sense that the gorgeous wood paneling and ornate fixtures remain unharmed by the evil forces of modernity.

click to enlarge Surf's up, so cowboy up. - PHOTO BY CARLA GOMEZ
Surf's up, so cowboy up.
Photo by Carla Gomez

Cowboy Surfer, 827 Frostwood, opened November 24 in Memorial City. The bar and live music venue takes its inspiration from the brief cowboy surfer culture of the 1960s which saw its heyday in places like the Texas Gulf Coast, Southern California, Oregon and the Florida Panhandle. The mixture of ranch life and coastal life are reflected in the ocean blues that splash against the bar's main room with accents of desert yellow as a nod to the cowboy element. The artwork that lines the walls includes photos, posters, vinyl records and memorabilia that compliment the cowboy surfer theme.


The new concept comes from Jim Jard, lawyer, businessman and music aficionado, Carl Eaves of F.E.E.D TX Restaurant Group and Jack Massing, one half of The Art Guys. The longtime friends have tossed around the idea of opening a cowboy surfer-themed bar for the past seven years. Now, it has come to fruition after Jard secured the space at Memorial City Mall in 2019. The pandemic caused a delay in development but not the friends' enthusiasm and determination.

click to enlarge There's a little stage in the corner awaiting music's return. - PHOTO BY CARLA GOMEZ
There's a little stage in the corner awaiting music's return.
Photo by Carla Gomez
Though live music will play a central role, it has been put on hold for a while due to the coronavirus. When live music does return, it will be on the Cowboy Surfer Small Stage with weekly shows. During the opening phase, the bar will be capped at 50 percent capacity meaning only 50 people at a time. There are safety precautions in place such as sanitization of common surfaces and masked employees.

There is a beverage menu of classic cocktails along with cowboy surfer-inspired beverages like the Cowboy Pura Vida Almeda Margarita with Pura Vida tequila, triple sec and Big Red soda, served frozen. There's also the Campfire Coffee with mezcal, coffee liquor and chocolate bitters. There's a small wine list and a beer menu of local and imported brews including Love Street, El Hefe, Art Car IPA and Kona Longboard Island Lager. On tap, there are drafts like Infamous Cowboy Dark and Infamous Surfer Lager, the latter of which can be mixed with Bloody Mary mix to make The Great Joe Bob.

click to enlarge Cocktails and fun at Cowboy Surfer. - PHOTO BY CARLA GOMEZ
Cocktails and fun at Cowboy Surfer.
Photo by Carla Gomez
There's also a food menu of bar bites such as queso and chips, Texas Chili and the Dorito Chili Pie. Other choices include a cheeseburger, a griddled beef hot dog and for the health-conscious, the Kale Brussel Crunch Salad.

Deen's Cheesesteak and Pizza, is slated to open in December 2020 at the Shoppes at Memorial Village, according to a press release from Weingarten Realty.  Its cheesesteaks, pizzas, burgers and rice platters are 100 percent halal. Besides the usual Philly-style cheese steak and cheese pizzas, it offers options like tikka and gyro pizzas, sandwiches and rice dishes. It also has calzones and burgers. Double dog dare one of your pals to eat The Monster, a towering burger with two beef patties, a chicken breast, two beef bacon strips, two eggs and loads of cheese.

Fatburger, 2616 Blodgett, opened its "ghost kitchen" at Blodgett Food Hall November 23, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The hamburger concept comes from Fat Brands which operates other franchises such as Johnny Rockets, Elevation Burgers and Yalla Mediterranean under its umbrella.

The burger chain was founded by Texas-born Lovie Yancey, who created a burger empire in a time when being Black and female in the business world was no easy feat. She started with a small three-stool hamburger stand, Mr. Fatburger, in 1947. She eventually split with her partner and opened Fatburger in 1952. She sold the concept to investors in 1990.

The Fatburger ghost kitchen will offer its famous beef burgers along with turkey, veggie and vegan versions. In collaboration with its sister concepts, Buffalo's and Hurricane Grill and Wings, there will also be wings, bone-in or boneless.

click to enlarge Krystal Spencer is infusing wine with fun and flavor. - PHOTO BY KEITRICK LEWIS
Krystal Spencer is infusing wine with fun and flavor.
Photo by Keitrick Lewis
Infuse Wine Bar is planning to launch February 14, 2021. Owner Krystal Spencer has already applied for the winery permit and plans to bring the party to wine lovers who want something a little different than the usual wine tasting. Spencer's plan is to create events where guests can infuse their wines with fruity flavors such as strawberry, orange and watermelon or unique tastes such as lavender and prickly pear.

Each event will have an event assistant who will help attendees create their custom wine and name to be labeled and taken home. Guests will be walked through the wine tasting, event interactions and flavor selection process as the Infusionists take care of the wine creations, preparations and set up.

There will also be an online ordering option called Overnight Wines. Customers can choose their flavor which will be infused overnight and then shipped or available for pick up at an Infuse pick up point.

White Elm Cafe Bakery, 14079 Memorial, is bringing its pastry program in-house with Executive Pastry Chef Jamie Orlacchio. Taso Katsaounis, who was part of the initial concept, is departing to focus on the expansion of his Bread Man Baking Co. In a press release Katsaounis said, "I'm humbled to have been an inspiration behind the White Elm concept and I wish the restaurant nothing but success".

Owners Chico Ramirez and Scott and Stacy Simonson say they look forward to Orlacchio putting her stamp on the pastry and bread program at the restaurant. Orlacchio is a 2012 graduate of Culinary Institute Le Notre and has pastry chef experience from local restaurants such as Brasserie 19, Etoile and La Table.

Velvet  Tacos is always creating something new in taco form. - PHOTO BY KATHY TRAN
Velvet Tacos is always creating something new in taco form.
Photo by Kathy Tran
Velvet Taco, 2001 N. Shepherd, is expected to open December 14. This will be the third Houston location for the taco chain. A fourth may be in the works as the concept has reportedly leased the space at 2525 Rice Boulevard, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The fast casual concept posits itself as "liberating" tacos from just the Tex-Mex variety by using global flavors in its taco creations. Options include Buffalo Chicken, Spicy Tikka Chicken, Korean Pork and Angus Brisket. For vegetarians, there are several choices including Nashville Hot Tofu, Falafel and Fried Paneer.

Its Queso Blanco and Elote are popular items along with its potent margaritas.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROBERT Z. EASLEY
Photo by Robert Z. Easley
Jersey Mike's Subs, 30129 Rock Creek, opened Friday the 13th in Kingwood for take-out and delivery. There's nothing spooky though about their subs. There are a couple dozen stores in the Greater Houston area so they must be doing something right. They have cold subs such as the Club Supreme with roast beef (cooked in house), turkey, Swiss cheese, applewood-smoked bacon and mayo and Jersey Shore's Favorite a simple sandwich of provolone, ham and cappacuolo.  Hot sub choices include the Big Kahuna Cheese Steak and Mike's Chicken Philly. Repeat customers know to add The Juice, a mix of red wine vinegar and an olive oil blend that truly makes the Jersey sub.

The bread is baked fresh daily and is available in traditional white or whole wheat.

Shake Shack has expanded to the 'burbs. - PHOTO BY EVAN SUNG
Shake Shack has expanded to the 'burbs.
Photo by Evan Sung
Shake Shack, 1201 Lake Robbins, opened November 19 in the new courtyard at The Woodlands Mall. This makes the fifth location for the fast casual burger chain known for its 100 percent Angus beef burgers and griddled flat-top Vienna beef hot dogs. Though shakes are a big seller, some grown-ups like that beer and wine are available, too.

Bye Bye, Wholesome Elote Pie. - PHOTO BY MIKE CHARLTON PHOTOGRAPHY
Bye Bye, Wholesome Elote Pie.
Photo by Mike Charlton Photography
Wholesome Kitchen and Wholesome Pies, 250 Assay, closed this month and are transitioning to new concepts under management and operations from McCord's newly formed restaurant and hospitality group, Gastropub Productions (GP Productions). A statement from McCord read: "We are happy to have had Wholesome Restaurant Group be a part of our inaugural Redemption Square restaurant concepts...In the coming year, GP Productions looks forward to opening unique dining experiences in Redemption Square and plans to transition as many current employees as possible to the new management.

Justin Turner, owner of the now-closed Bernie's Burger Bus restaurants, was recently named Director of Culinary Hospitality for Gastropub Productions, as we reported here in the Press.
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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.