Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Hamsa and Cafe Louie Open Soon, Fresco Has Closed

These are the most dramatic skewers we've ever seen.
These are the most dramatic skewers we've ever seen. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
click to enlarge These are the most dramatic skewers we've ever seen. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
These are the most dramatic skewers we've ever seen.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Hamsa, 5555 Morningside, is set to open May 11 in Rice Village. The modern Middle Eastern concept will offer unique flavors with vegetable-rich dishes, spices and one-of-a-kind flavor profiles from Chef Sash Kurgan and Chef Yotam Dolev who have both worked together to create the innovative menu.

With an aim to encourage family and friends to gather together, shared plates will be a focal point. Guests can begin the meal with a variety of salatim dishes and continue on to small plates.  Dishes such as  Eggplant Balady and a variety of hummuses are great for dipping. For a healthy lunch, there are items like Cauliflower Couscous Salad, Shakshuka and Grilled Branzino.
click to enlarge Salatim is meant to be a communal experience. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Salatim is meant to be a communal experience.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
The Israeli restaurant will feature a six-seat chef’s table for its “Yalla Yalla” experience with a selection of chef-curated dishes. Diners who score the chef's table will get a prime view of the brick oven which rolls out fresh pita all day. The kitchen also has a charcoal grill used exclusively to cook skewers.

The project comes from Itai Ben Eli, Sash Kurgan and Itamar Levy. The Israeli-born trio  formed Sof Hospitality last year after debuting their much-lauded bakery, Badolina. The group is known for their upscale Israeli steakhouse, Doris Metropolitan, which first opened in Israel in 2008. It expanded to Houston in 2017. The Hamsa concept has been in the works for almost two years.

Now, the wait is over and the creators expect that Houston is more than ready for the concept. Itai Ben Eli said in a press release, "The Houston community truly embraces our culture so what better place to really capitalize on our skills and take things to the next level. We’re just out here doing what we love and having fun doing it."
click to enlarge The delicious chickpea hummus is accompanied by brick oven-baked pita. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
The delicious chickpea hummus is accompanied by brick oven-baked pita.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
With Sof Hospitality's acclaimed reputation for its breads and pastries, guests can expect some amazing desserts from Sof’s executive pastry chef Michal Michaeli.  Treats like like Grilled Pears, Basboosa Malabi Cake and Nemesis Halvah are just some of the Middle Eastern favorites that will be on the menu.

General manager and sommelier Melissa Rogers is in charge of the wine list of 100 to 150 well-curated, worldly wines including the Middle Eastern section which showcases Israeli and Lebanese varietals.

The bustling city of Tel Aviv was one of the main inspirations behind Hamsa and it is reflected in the colorful and sleek design from Lindsay Madrigal of LM Designs. Modern furnishings, intricate designs and Moroccan flair complete the buzzing ambiance in the 4,600-square foot space. There's also a champagne wall that will share the expansive patio with its sister concept, Badolina Bakery.

Hamsa will offer lunch and dinner services. Valet parking is complimentary.
click to enlarge Global influences inspire the menu at Cafe Louie. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
Global influences inspire the menu at Cafe Louie.
Photo by Becca Wright
Cafe Louie, 3401 Harrisburg, is set to open May 11 in the East End. The new all day cafe will have chefs Angelo Emiliani and Lucianna "Louie" Emiliani, a brother and sister duo, leading the kitchen. With seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, the menu will be inspired by Mediterranean, French and Italian cuisines with a distinctive Texas stamp.

Native Houstonians Chef Angelo and Chef Louie grew up in the kitchen, learning from their mother who was a private chef. In his early days, Angelo worked at Uchi Houston which prepared him for later stints in in San Francisco, Austin and Los Angeles working with culinary greats like Thomas Keller and Chris Bianco.
click to enlarge Louie and Angelo Emiliani area a dynamic sister and brother duo. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
Louie and Angelo Emiliani area a dynamic sister and brother duo.
Photo by Becca Wright
Louie did most of her baking for family and friends until Angelo recruited her during a busy holiday season to help in the restaurant kitchen. That experience led to working at Tiny’s Milk & Cookies, before joining Angelo in California where she honed her pastry skills at Tartine and Lodge Bread.

Eventually, Angelo headed back to Houston, towing a 3,500 pound pizza oven behind his 2003 Toyota Sequoia. He landed in Houston's East End and began his pop-up Angie’s Pizza, right at the start of the pandemic. He and sister Louie soon began discussing and dreaming of opening their cafe.

"It’s kind of like we’re pinching ourselves the whole day, to make sure this is really happening - and it is." said Chef Louie Emiliani. "Because of the pandemic, we’ve been waiting and talking and planning for over a year. We are just so happy to be here."
click to enlarge A variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available at Cafe Louie. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
A variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available at Cafe Louie.
Photo by Becca Wright
The new cafe is the anchor tenant for The Plant, a converted warehouse which will also feature tenants that include Popston, a soon-to-open popsicle cart, and How to Survive, a natural wine bar. Cafe Louie itself houses pioneering nonprofit grocer Little Red Box Grocery. 

The restaurant will have 2,300 square feet of space and a 750 square-foot patio is currently in the works. For now, the restaurant will be open Wednesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with breakfast from 7 a.m. to noon, followed by lunch and early dinner. There are plans to expand hours to 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the coming months. There are also plans for a walk-up window that will be open 7 a.m. to noon daily.

The warm space was designed and built by rootlab with playful colors and ample natural light. A hand-painted mural from artist Daniel Cardoza is meant to evoke the 55 layers of a croissant.
click to enlarge Who knew there were 55 layers in a croissant? - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
Who knew there were 55 layers in a croissant?
Photo by Becca Wright
In addition to its sandwiches, salads and extensive menu of pastries, Cafe Louie will have breakfast dishes such as the McLouie made with gougeres using Redneck Cheddar from Dublin, Texas. The Adventure Bread is a gluten-free option made up of sliced nut & seed bread, salted butter, comte cheese and soft-boiled egg.

The All Day Menu includes the Veg Sammich, made with griddled yuba, and the Ham Sammich, with French ham, mustard, Duke’s mayonnaise, cornichon, and fried shallot. The Dinner Menu features plates designed to be enjoyed family-style like Suppli "Carbonara" with guanciale and pecorino and Chicken Liver Parfait with crispy chicken skin, fried capers, and toast.

Louie's Pastry Menu is a list of globally-inspired delicacies prepared fresh daily like the Butter Croissant, the Date & Sesame Sugar Morning Bun and Cinni Rolls with cream cheese frosting. There's also the Sausage Kolache with Cheese and Caramelized Onions and the Pecan Crackle Cookie, a nutty, chocolate cookie made with Texas pecan butter.

Local roaster Amaya will provide the coffee and the beer and wine lists will feature mostly natural wines and locally-crafted brews.

click to enlarge The San Luis Pass Deluxe Fish Fry has all the Gulf Coast favorites. - PHOTO BY PAULA MURPHY
The San Luis Pass Deluxe Fish Fry has all the Gulf Coast favorites.
Photo by Paula Murphy
Goode Co. Fish Camp, 8865 Six Pines, opened May 3. Located in The Woodlands/Shenandoah, the new restaurant is a personal one for owner/chef Levi Goode, reflecting his family's heritage and traditions as Texans and restaurateurs. It joins the family of Goode Company concepts which includes Armadillo Palace, Goode Co. Barbeque and Goode Co. Seafood. The new restaurant is also adjacent to Goode Co. Kitchen and Cantina, replacing an outpost of Goode Co. Barbeque that was previously housed in the building.

The new concept is meant to bring to mind a coastal fish camp with whitewashed walls and blue-green colors. It gets a more upscale bump from marble-topped tables and upholstered bar stools but the fishing gear and photos of the Gulf Coast remind guests that this is a casual gathering place for friends and family.
click to enlarge The Fried Oyster salad gives diners greens with plump fried oysters. - PHOTO BY PAULA MURPHY
The Fried Oyster salad gives diners greens with plump fried oysters.
Photo by Paula Murphy
Diners can linger over a plate of Fresh Gulf Oysters, raw or roasted, while sipping on a rum-soaked Fish Camp Punch. For a splurge, the Seafood Tower offers a bounty from the sea including Gulf oysters, jumbo Gulf shrimp, smoked Gulf fish dip, Campechana extra and crab fingers.

For diners who are not seafood eaters, there are familiar favorites such as the Damn Goode Burger, SOTX Hot Chicken Sandwich and the Wood-grilled Fish Camp Steak, a chef's selection cut grilled over mesquite and served with bearnaise and steak butter. However, there are a multitude of fish entrees such as the oven-roasted Texas Striped Bass with salsa verde and the hearth-roasted Yellowfin Tuna topped with Gulf shrimp in a piquant Veracruzana sauce.
click to enlarge The outdoor patio at Fish Camp is a casual escape from the workaday world. - PHOTO BY PAULA MURPHY
The outdoor patio at Fish Camp is a casual escape from the workaday world.
Photo by Paula Murphy
A true fish camp means beer and cocktails like Draft Ranch Water and a tropical Hand-shaken Pina Colada. The full bar is backlit by a wall of glass windows and neon lights with comfortable bar sttols on which to while away a summer afternoon.

For desserts, there's the famous and award-winning Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie from Goode's grandmother's recipe, Texas Sheet Cake and Margarita Pie, Fish Camp's take on the key lime pie.

Readers can check out our sneak peek at Fish Camp here in the Houston Press.
click to enlarge La Calle brings authentic Mexico City street food to Oak Forest. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
La Calle brings authentic Mexico City street food to Oak Forest.
Photo by Becca Wright
La Calle Tacos, 3321 Ella Boulevard, opened this week on the Oak Forest neighborhood. It's the third location for the brand from co-owners Ramon Soriano and Fernando Villegas which serves authentic Mexican street food and drinks in a fast casual atmosphere. The first opened downtown on Franklin in 2016, followed by a second restaurant in Midtown in 2021.

The new spot has1,600 square feet and can accommodate 46 guests. La Calle means "the street" in Spanish and the restaurant is devoted to the Mexican tradition of street food with a neighborhood vibe. And the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area is certainly vibrant with new restaurants and bars making their homes in the vicinity left and right.
click to enlarge The Ella location has a full bar and a colorful dining room. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
The Ella location has a full bar and a colorful dining room.
Photo by Becca Wright
To oblige the residents, La Calle will be open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, giving hungry diners the opportunity to go in early for breakfast tacos, chilaquiles, and even the “morning cure” of a traditional michelada. For lunch and dinner, there are tortas, street tacos, cevichito and other Mexico City favorites  along with a full bar with a menu created by Villegas featuring margaritas, pina coladas, mojitos, a variety of mezcals, tequila and beer.

The La Calle Ella is inspired by Central de Abasto, the largest food market in CDMX. The market energy will be carried through with vintage TVs playing telenovelas, soccer matches, and movies from Mexican wrestling icon El Santo.
click to enlarge Quesabirria makes everyone drool. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
Quesabirria makes everyone drool.
Photo by Becca Wright
Co-owner Soriano created La Calle’s menu from his favorite street stands in Mexico City, aiming to transport guests to his hometown. Birria lovers have options like quesabirria, cheesy tacos filled with 18-hour-braised beef and served with consomme for dipping or a birria torta, made with telera bread drenched in spicy broth, then toasted, similar to the hard-to-find torta ahogada. For fans of elote, there's a version served on-the-cob as well as esquites, served in a cup.

Varieties of street tacos include carnitas, pork al pastor, chorizo, chicken, ceviche, and carne asada.  There are also meatless tacos like guacamole or avocado. Taco orders include two salsas, with a choice of green habanero, avocado, roasted red, and pico de gallo.
click to enlarge Chef Roberto's fresh pastas will no longer be available to Houstonians. - PHOTO BY KATE MCLEAN
Chef Roberto's fresh pastas will no longer be available to Houstonians.
Photo by Kate McLean
Fresco Cafe Italiano, 3277 Southwest Freeway, closed May 2. The announcement was made in an email to the Houston Press and also in a post on the restaurant's Facebook page. The Italian restaurant opened in a strip center in August 2017 with Chef Roberto Crescini bringing his 40 years of experience to a small BYOB restaurant that quickly garnered praise for its fresh, handmade pastas and delicious sauces. Last year, Crescini was featured on an episode of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, showing celebrity chef Guy Fieri his pasta-making techniques and his version of Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

In the announcement, owners Steve and Ruby Gonzales said that the restaurant had experienced tremendous success over the past five years and "we are grateful to you, our customers, for your loyal support. We have enjoyed serving you and socializing with you."

According to the announcement, Chef Crescini "needs a sabbatical to recharge his batteries". The Italian chef will return to his native country for rest and relaxation with his wife and son.

The couple went on to say, "We hope Chef Roberto will return soon. We will miss him dearly when he is gone."

So will the rest of Houston.

Andy's Bar & Grill, 27200 Highway 290, opened April 12, as reported by Community Impact. It comes from Andy Correa, owner of Andy's Kitchen in Cypress and We Wagon Catering. The new restaurant takes over the space that was vacated by Rio Lindo Mexican Grill in August.

The new bar and restaurant has cocktails, beer and wine plus  a lunch and dinner menu of items like chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, chicken fried steak and Cajun pasta. There's a late night menu from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. of snacks like taquitos, nachos, quesadillas and fries, loaded or crazy. If you are either one of those at the end of the night, call a rideshare or a friend.

Andy's also has different events during the week including Thursday Karaoke from 8 p.m. to midnight and DJs on Friday and Saturday evenings and live musical performances on certain nights. Houston's party band Texas TNT will be taking the stage at the new Andy's Bar & Grill May 6 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
click to enlarge The prime rib burrito is a hearty handful. - PHOTO BY FREEBIRDS WORLD BURRITO
The prime rib burrito is a hearty handful.
Photo by Freebirds World Burrito
Freebirds World Burrito, 3112 W Lake Houston Parkway, is celebrated its much awaited opening May 9. The fast-casual restaurant has been delayed for nine months and it is celebrating the opening with free burritos for a year for the first 25 guests in line beginning at 10:30 a.m., though those vying for the free burritos prize will want to get in line earlier. However, it's an all day, family-friendly event with food samples, swag giveaways and yard games.
click to enlarge Customers can stick to their regimens with the Keto Burrito Bowl. - PHOTO BY FREEBIRDS WORLD BURRITO
Customers can stick to their regimens with the Keto Burrito Bowl.
Photo by Freebirds World Burrito
What its fans love about Freebirds is the option to choose a size from Freebird, Monster, Super Monster and Half Bird. There are also different size chips with choices of queso, guacamole, salsa, corn and creamy jalapeno. Protein options include steak, seasoned chicken, white meat chicken, slow-roasted pork and vegan chorizo. A number of toppings are included in the burrito or bowl orders but queso, guac, potatoes, extra cheese and cauliflower rice are add-ons.

The restaurant also offers low-carb bowls like the Keto Burrito, Paleo Burrito, Vegan and Vegetarian. There are also chocolate chip, brownie and lemon cooler cookies.

For a limited time only, select locations are offering Texas Brisket as a protein choice.
click to enlarge Everyone can enjoy vegan sweets at Cinnaholic. - PHOTO BY CINNAHOLIC
Everyone can enjoy vegan sweets at Cinnaholic.
Photo by Cinnaholic
Cinnaholic, 6535 N. Grand Parkway, opens May 6 in Spring. The desserts and coffee shop offers plant-based cinnamon rolls in flavors like Old Skool, a traditional cinnamon roll with vanilla frosting, and Campfire S'mores made with marshmallow frosting, graham cookies, marshmallows and chocolate sauce. for those of us who can never get enough cookie dough, the Cookie Monster will sate those cravings with cream cheese frosting, cookie dough, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce.
click to enlarge Me like cookie dough. - PHOTO BY CINNAHOLIC
Me like cookie dough.
Photo by Cinnaholic
The sweet shop also has treats such as brownies, cookies, Baby Buns (smaller cinnamon rolls) and Cinnacakes. All of the products are 100 percent vegan, dairy and lactose-free, egg-free, cholesterol-free and allergen-friendly.

Cinnaholic has party trays, gift boxes and catering available as well.

Deen's Cheesesteaks and Pizza, 12740 Grant, opened the first week of May in the former Jade Garden spot. It serves a variety of cheesesteaks including its American Philly and Chicken Tikka. There are gyros, wings, onion rings, fried mozzarella and burgers, including the Monster Burger ($14.99), made with a hamburger patty, beef bacon, cheese, eggs and a grilled chicken breast. Defibrillator not included.

There are also loaded fries with options like gyro meat, tikka chicken and buffalo chicken.

The Caboose Bar & Grill, 13300 FM 1960, has reopened under new ownership with a revamped look. We have reached out for more information and will update when we have more details.

Night Moves Hospitality is bringing brunch with three of its concepts adding the Sunday service:
click to enlarge Chilaquiles get the Chivos treatment for brunch. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
Chilaquiles get the Chivos treatment for brunch.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Chivos, 222 W. 11th, will have Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu from Executive chef Thomas Bille will include Masa Hoe Cakes, Huevas en Mole, a Pork Belly BLT and Chilaquiles. There will also be a vegan, gluten-free Chia Seed Pudding. There will be brunch cocktails like the Bloody Maria, Rosa Spritz and the vampiro with freshly squeezed beet, celery, orange and carrot with lime mezcal.
click to enlarge At Space Cowboy, burgers are what's for breakfast. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
At Space Cowboy, burgers are what's for breakfast.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Space Cowboy, 100 W. Cavalcade, will offer brunch from noon to 4 p.m. with dishes from Executive Chef Adriana Maldonado, beginning this Mother's Day. Located at the Heights House Hotel, the funky bar and restaurant will offer items like Chicken Fried steak and eggs, Bananas Foster French Toast, Chilaquiles, a Breakfast Burger and breakfast tacos including migas.
click to enlarge The Tomato Bowl is served with sunnyside up eggs and sourdough toast points. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
The Tomato Bowl is served with sunnyside up eggs and sourdough toast points.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Trash Panda Drinking Club, 4203 Edison, will have its Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with Chef Jonathan Lindauer's menu presenting dishes such as Abuelita Cinnamon Rolls, avocado toast, breakfast tacos and the Breakfast Sandie, a house-made cheddar biscuit topped with a scrambled egg, bacon, queso and avocado with a drizzle of Guajillo aioli. There will be mimosas, micheladas and its B100dy Mary, a wake-you-up cocktail made with vodka, tomato, barley miso, celery salt, Sriracha and lime. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.