Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Guard and Grace Opens, Black Lab Closes in December

Let your steak dreams take flight at Guard and Grace.
Let your steak dreams take flight at Guard and Grace. Photo by Guard and Grace

Guard and Grace, 500 Dallas, opens November 19. This is the second location of the steakhouse from TAG Restaurant Group and chef/owner Troy Guard, which opened in the central Denver business district in 2014. The Houston location is also the first restaurant foray outside of Colorado for the Hawaiian-born chef. TAG Restaurant Group operates eight other concepts in Colorado.

The modern steakhouse, named for Guard's daughter Grace, will occupy the ground floor of One Allen Center, with exposed concrete and 30 foot high glass walls giving exceptional views. The design was done by BOSS.architecture out of Denver. The 4,600 hanging bronze ceiling rods add to the conservatory feel of the natural-light filled space. There is also a mural painted by Houston artist, Jessica Rice, from Mini Murals.

click to enlarge The Fire-Roasted Grand Seafood Tower is meant to awe. - PHOTO BY MARK PISCOTTY
The Fire-Roasted Grand Seafood Tower is meant to awe.
Photo by Mark Piscotty
Executive Chef Daniel Virola and his team will be serving popular items from the Colorado location such as the Filet Mignon Flight which includes four ounces of Wagyu, prime, and certified Angus beef. Some of the meat will be sourced from Texas vendors, including Rosewood Ranches, out of Ennis, and Halpern's Steak and Seafood which operates a plant in Arlington. Virola's past executive chef experience includes True Food Kitchen Houston and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Bonita Springs, Florida.

In addition to the numerous cuts of beef, the menu includes dishes inspired by Guard's Hawaiian heritage, extensive travels and stints with famous chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi. Unique dishes like Hamachi Crudo with grapefruit, juniper and Pop Rocks candy step out of the steakhouse box.

The restaurant will feature a custom-built Hesta Kitchen Suite with two wood-burning grills, a charcuterie station and a raw bar. The Texas influence will be seen in dishes like Texas Buttermilk Fried Quail. For Houston business tycoons, the Millionaire Fajitas can be had for a mere $400 and includes fajita-style Wagyu with caviar and gold-sprinkled tortillas. So, bling it on.

There is a 300 square foot boardroom upstairs for private events. In fact, there's a whole private dining wing for large or intimate gatherings with its own designated bar, kitchen and lounge.

click to enlarge Troy Guard is bringing his Denver steakhouse to Houston. - PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN
Troy Guard is bringing his Denver steakhouse to Houston.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
Beverage director, Nikki Guard, and Sommelier Lexey Davis Johnson have curated the whiskey, bourbon and wine menus. The temperature-controlled wine cellar holds upward of six thousand bottles. Signature cocktails include the Colfax and Holly, a dirty martini named for a Denver intersection and the Down South, made with mezcal, jalapeno and grapefruit.

Guard and Grace will be open for dinner currently, until it debuts its lunch service and social hour December 2. Valet parking will be free until 4 p.m. and $10 afterward.

click to enlarge The Double Bone-In Pork Chop at Merus Grill is for American appetites. - PHOTO BY BERT WHITE/J. ALEXANDER'S
The Double Bone-In Pork Chop at Merus Grill is for American appetites.
Photo by Bert White/J. Alexander's
Merus Grill, 1180 Uptown Park Boulevard, will open November 18. The restaurant comes from J. Alexander's Holdings Inc. which has been operated by The Company since 1991 and is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. It operates a number of restaurant concepts across the United States.

The Uptown Park restaurant will have seating for 200 guests in a space of approximately 8,000 square feet and will serve classic American cuisine including prime rib on the bone and fresh seafood. All the Certified Angus steaks are cut in-house and grilled in a 1,600-degree Montague broiler, according to President and CEO of J. Alexander's, Mark A. Parkey. Seafood entrees will include dishes such as Block Island Swordfish with mango-papaya salsa. All of the chicken served at the restaurant comes from Red Bird Farms which has been serving fresh, natural chicken to restaurants and grocery stores since the 1940s.

click to enlarge A prime New York strip and mac n' cheese go together like peas and carrots, but tastier. - PHOTO BY BERT WHITE/J. ALEXANDER'S
A prime New York strip and mac n' cheese go together like peas and carrots, but tastier.
Photo by Bert White/J. Alexander's
Wines by the glass and bottle will be available as well as crafted cocktails, including its signature Sidecar.

Ulises Chavez will serve as executive chef and Will Reiser will be the general manager.

Say cheerio to the old dog while you still can. - PHOTO BY HP STAFF
Say cheerio to the old dog while you still can.
Photo by HP Staff
The Black Labrador, 4100 Montrose, will close December 15. The English-style pub, with its wood-heavy interior and snug fireplace has given Anglophiles and British ex-pats a reliable local for a pint and a serving of fish and chips or shepherd's pie for over three decades. Okay, actually cottage pie, but who cares now? It's going away, just as the much-mourned Ale House did in 2001. That historic structure was demolished in the name of progress (greed), because Houston needed more parking lots and strip centers. To quote the great Pete Seeger, "When will we ever learn?"

Last call for The Black Lab's comfy pub atmosphere. - PHOTO BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT
Last call for The Black Lab's comfy pub atmosphere.
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
What will be the fate of the structure at 4100 Montrose that sits upon the land owned by The University of  St.Thomas? Jeff Olsen, vice-president of marketing, communications and university relations told CultureMap Houston, " This is a time of great growth and change at the University of St. Thomas. Although the Black Lab will be missed, the vacancy presents us with an opportunity to engage with our students and the community in new and exciting ways."

Let's hope that doesn't mean demolishing that beautiful, vine-covered building. If so, I am going to cry my bleeding eyes out.

click to enlarge Partying on the patio at Pinstripes is classy. - PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER MANN
Partying on the patio at Pinstripes is classy.
Photo by Christopher Mann
Pinstripes Houston, 3300 Kirby, had its grand opening October 24. The venue offers bowling lanes and bocce courts for rental and also features an Italian bistro and full service bar.

The company has nearly a dozen locations with more on the way. The new spot in the Kirby Collection is the second in Texas, with one in Fort Worth.

Pinstripes elevates the bowling alley concept with stunning decor and a modern take on food and drink. Forget hours-old hot dogs and greasy wings, at Pinstripes bowlers can indulge in stuffed mushrooms, fried calamari and tenderloin sliders as snacks. For lunch and dinner, there are sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes, along with dinner entrees such as espresso-encrusted filet mignon and blackened Ahi tuna. There are also pizzas and flatbreads cooked in a wood-burning oven. Odds are, you won't see Ralph Kramden and his pal Ed Norton here.

click to enlarge Bocce and bowling at Pinstripes. - PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER MANN
Bocce and bowling at Pinstripes.
Photo by Christopher Mann
It also has a ballroom, private reception rooms and an outdoor fireplace. There are outdoor patios on both floors. It is family-friendly, but for adults who want some late night entertainment and bowling, it is open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. On Thursday, cocktails are 50 percent off.

click to enlarge Whatever could GFY mean? - PHOTO BY CIARAN SIMON
Whatever could GFY mean?
Photo by Ciaran Simon

Westchase Tavern, 10630 Westheimer, closed October 31 with a Halloween blowout.  The proprietors are moving the business to 1452 Wilcrest. Due to construction delays and permitting issues, there is no definitive opening date. Mr. "C" told the Houston Press that he would like to open the new establishment by December 7 to mark his 39th year in the hospitality industry but admits that date is a bit ambitious. However, the owners suggest that those who are missing their favorite haunt visit the other bar, Mr. C's Irish Pub, in the meantime. It's located at 1570 Dairy Ashford.

The new tavern will be a comfortable place for friends to gather for drinks without gimmicky promotions. Sort of like the old tavern.

click to enlarge Enjoy a hot cup of coffee in a Scandinavian-inspired setting. - PHOTO BY YNGVIL SCHIAGER
Enjoy a hot cup of coffee in a Scandinavian-inspired setting.
Photo by Yngvil Schiager
Verbena Coffee, 14029 Memorial, softly opened October 29. Husband and wife Ignacio Navarro and Yngvil Schiager saw an opportunity to indulge their passion for coffee and community when a space became available at the Memorial Shopping Center, a retail and dining complex that they frequent in their neighborhood. Both are economists in the oil and gas industry.

Working with KM Realty, the couple signed a lease and have now opened their coffee shop serving espresso-based drinks, lattes, and other coffees, some of which are sourced from local suppliers such as Cleo Roasting Co. and SpindleTap Coffee Co. They also serve specialty teas including Masala Chai and Pinhead Powder Green. Pastries such as homemade banana bread may be on the menu as well. For youngsters who may not be into coffee or tea, there's hot chocolate and cream soda.

The decor is inspired by Schiager's native Norway with wood paneling from a Scandinavian supplier. Navarro handcrafted the geometric chandeliers that hang overhead.

The coffee cafe is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a .m. to 3 p.m.

Big Z's Pizza House and Brew
, 2004 S. Mason Road, opened softly October 19, but it will be having a grand, grand opening November 23. Brothers Bob Zincoris and Tony Perry opened the restaurant to bring a taste of their Chicago hometown to Katy. Diners can choose the classic Chicago deep dish pizza or the thin crust Chicago neighborhood square-cut pie. For something a little more Gulf Coast, there's the Swamp Pizza topped with crawfish tails and Andouille sausage. For non-gluten folks, there is a broccoli or cauliflower crust available on certain sized pizzas.

Besides pizza, there are snacks such as whole smoked chicken wings and Italian queso, made with Italian sausage.  There is a full bar and craft brews on tap such as Buffalo Bayou Brewing's Wake 'N Bake and Austin Eastciders.

Napoli's Wine Cafe, 4601 Washington, had its grand opening October 24. The Italian restaurant and bar serves pizza, soups, salads and panini along with steaks and seafood. There are classic Italian dishes like lasagna, veal Parmigiana and various pastas. The wine wall offers a large selection at reasonable prices.

Happy hour runs Sunday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with special pricing on beer and wine plus a $5 one-topping pizza or $9 Brochette Board.

click to enlarge Derek P. Brown is bringing some of the Big Apple to the Big H. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Derek P. Brown is bringing some of the Big Apple to the Big H.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Riel, 1927 Fawnview, has a new bar manager. Derek P. Brown, formerly a bartender and captain for two years at Pass and Provisions, will take on the role. Brown brings an extensive resume with him from a decade spent in New York hot spots such as Cafe Boulud and Momofuku Ssam Bar. Riel owner Ryan Lachaine says, " His drinks are refined, he's very smart and he's great with the guests. We are very excited to have him as part of the team."

According to a press release, Brown is already creating cocktails fit for the Houston scene like the Beyonce-inspired " Say My Name" which is made with vodka, raspberries, lemon and cava. There's also the White Claw Paloma made with tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, simple syrup, pink peppercorn tincture and grapefruit White Claw.

click to enlarge EggHaus has a limited edition ramen. - PHOTO BY PHILIPP SITTER
EggHaus has a limited edition ramen.
Photo by Philipp Sitter
EggHaus Gourmet, 2042 E. TC Jester, introduced it EggHaus Ramen November 12. Through the end of the year, guests can enjoy a steaming bowl of 48 hour-roasted chicken bone broth with thick-cut steak bacon, portobello mushrooms and a poached egg, garnished with cilantro, green onions and sesame seeds for $12.

Black Bear Diner, 13590 University Boulevard, will open December 2. The California-based chain opened in 1995 and now has over 130 locations in the United States. The Sugar Land store will be the sixth in Texas with four others in the Greater Houston area and one in Beaumont. There are two more planned for Cypress and The Woodlands.

The diner serves big, hearty breakfasts and grizzly-sized portions of comfort food, though the menu also includes sections like Fit and Focused and Little Less for those watching calories or who just have smaller appetites.

Check back here next week for more info on the upcoming Black Bear Diner locations.
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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.