Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Costa Fina Opens, Alice Blue and Urban Eats Will Depart

Cabrito is marinated in guajillo at Costa Fina.
Cabrito is marinated in guajillo at Costa Fina. Photo by Sherri Verret Segari

Costa Fina Latin Coastal Kitchen, 26543 Kuykendahl, opened January 16 in The Woodlands area. It's the fifth restaurant from Enrique Orioli and his family-owned Orioli Restaurant Group. The family also owns and operates four other Woodlands dining establishmenst beginning with Via Emilia in 2000, followed by Terra Vino, Marcoza Trattoria and the recently opened Azzurro Italian Coastal Cuisine in Hughes Landing.
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The modern design is softened by live plants.
Photo by Sherri Verret Segari
The Orioli family's journey to the culinary scene of The Woodlands begins with matriarch Elda and patriarch Domenico Orioli. The couple were both raised in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy but met and married in South America after World War II. After 30 years of owning and operating a hotel and restaurants in a northern coastal town in Venezuela, the family relocated to Houston in 2000, opening Via Emilia soon after.
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The Chile Relleno is stuffed with wild mushrooms and Oaxaca cheese.
Photo by Sherri Verret Segari
The mix of Italian and Latin cultures has influenced the various concepts that the family operates. Enrique Orioli said in a press release, "Our Italian restaurant concepts are successfully operating with the recipes my Nonna Elda brought with her from Italy. Now, we are excited to share our Latin roots with the vibrant flavors of the Pan American stretch with the same level of quality and excellence you've come to expect from us."

The menu offers appetizers such as Lomo Saltado Arepita, Carpaccio de Monte and a roasted bone marrow dish called Tuetano. There are salads and soups plus a selection of ceviches and crudos. Anticuchos, or skewers, include beef, chicken or tuna. There are meat entrees such as braised lamb, pork belly and beef tenderloin churrasco plus seafood dishes like Ecuadorian tuna stew, red snapper, whole pampano and whole rainbow trout.

This patio will be missed.
Photo by Urban Eats
Urban Eats, 3414 Washington, will have its last day of service January 28, according to its Facebook post. The restaurant, which first opened in December 2014, had recently seen a surge in support from customers after co-owner Levi Rollins posted a plea on Instagram regarding some of the financial issues that were plaguing the business, as reported by Houston Food Finder. Local fans of the eatery responded with their custom, giving a much needed flow of cash to the business which had been suffering since the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough.

Rollins told Houston Food Finder that Urban Eats owed a total of nearly $150,000 including back rent and taxes. The situation has become untenable for the landlord whom Rollins does not fault. In his Facebook post he said, "We want to emphasize that this isn't a reflection of our landlord, but rather a result of the challenging financial circumstances we've faced post-pandemic."
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Houston Press contributing writer Jeff Balke was impressed with the grab-n-go turkey sandwich.
Photo by Jeff Balke
When it opened, Urban Eats was on the forefront, along with Benjy Levit's Local Foods, of incorporating multi-concept additions to full service restaurants. Urban Eats was not only a bistro and bar, but also a market and fast-casual eatery for coffee and baked goods. Its 3 Pig Truffled Mac & Cheese and shareable Monkey Bread were popular favorites as were its menu of various sliders. And many Houstonians will miss its weekday happy hour deals.
Claire Smith, seen here at Alice Blue in 2017, is closing her final restaurant.
Photo by Troy Fields
Alice Blue, 250 W. 19th, will have its last day of service February 25. It's another sad shuttering for Houston as Claire Smith and her crew bow out of the Heights restaurant scene. Smith, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy , opened her first restaurant, Daily Review Cafe, in 1994 on West Lamar. She closed it when she made the move to Chicago with her soon-to-be husband Russell. They returned to Houston in 2003 and Smith soon opened her popular eatery Shade in the Heights on W. 19th, earning a number of awards and accolades including making Texas Monthly's list of Best New Restaurants in Texas. It would be transformed into Alice Blue in 2017.

Smith was also known for her New American restaurant, Canopy, which she debuted in Montrose in 2009, eventually opening the adjacent coffeehouse, Wood Bar. She closed both businesses in May 2019 to spend more time with her son.

Smith hopes to stay connected to the staff and clientele who have supported her culinary ventures through her thirty years and she encourages her longtime customers and restaurant family to visit Alice Blue for visits with the team and farewell meals before it closes its doors.
Picnik is leaving. Will they be back?
Photo by Picnik
Picnik, 888 Westheimer, closed January 21, as first reported by the Houston Chronicle. The announcement via Instagram thanked Houston, its team and guests for "spending time with us."

The Austin import opened in Houston in April 2023 at the Montrose Collective. The brand was founded by Naomi Seifter in 2013 as a food trailer before opening two full service brick and mortar spots in Austin. It serves food that leans healthy with a focus on seasonal and sustainable ingredients, avoiding refined sugar, seed oils, gluten and peanuts.

The departure is leaving a lot of its clientele very sad indeed, especially those who could rely on certain dietary needs being met with the menu. However, it may not be a permanent exit. Its Instagram post also said, "We are saying farewell for now, but we hope to return in the future and see some familiar faces at our other restaurants if your road ever takes you to Austin."

Grace Pizza and Shakes, 801 Studewood, opened last week in the Heights. It's the fourth location for the brand which has three other spots in Pearland and Alvin, Texas plus one in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

There are starters such as Wagyu Beef & Pork Meatballs, Whipped Honey Ricotta and Illegal Cheese Bread plus several salads. The Brick Deck Pizza comes in a 12-inch size cut into 6 slices. Its signature pies include Patton's Pepperoni, BBQ Yard Bird, The R-C- Ranch Meat Wagon and The Garcia, a marinated chicken pizza that gets a kick of heat from a jalapeno ranch base and sliced jalapenos. Guests can also create their own pizzas.

Its shakes start at $9 for classics with the over-the-top versions running toward the $16 mark. Gia's Cake explosion, complete with fiery sparkler, is $18.
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We are hoping Kitsune has staying power.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Kitsune Sushi and Hibachi, 13251 Jones, is coming to Cy Fair Plaza shopping center. It is currently undergoing renovation in a spot that has seen a Chinese restaurant, a Japanese restaurant and a barbecue joint open and shutter over the past few years. Here's hoping it has better luck.
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Get your sweetie some sweeties.
Photo by Andrew Hemingway
El Bolillo Bakery, with four locations around Houston, has launched its Valentine's Day goodies. Ordering online is available February 1 through February 12 with pick-up options from February 1 through February 14.  Nationwide shopping orders can be placed through Goldbelly.

Everyone loves the conchas from El Bolillo but the heart-shaped, red or pink conchas covered in crunchy sugar will make your sweetheart smile over morning coffee. There are also Valentine's cake pops, chocolate covered strawberries and St. Valentine's cookies, in assorted designs by the dozen.

The 8-inch Heart Tres Leches Cake puts a twist on the traditional tres leches by fillling it with strawberry mousse and topping it with whipped cream flowers, a dripping of pink and Valentine's sprinkles. It's also in the shape of a heart, perfect for "Dia del Amor y la Amistad" (Day of Love and Friendship).
Kriti Kitchen joins Eat Drink HTX this year.
Photo by Ajna Jai
Eat Drink HTX begins February 15 and runs through February 29. The sister event to Houston Restaurant Weeks, produced by the Cleverley Stone Foundation, will benefit Houston Food Bank and DePelchin Children's Center.

Houston Restaurant Weeks is the largest fundraiser for Houston Food Bank and runs through the month of August giving foodies the opportunity to " dine out and do good". While many of the restaurants that participate in HRW offer multi-course meals and fine dining, EatDrinkHTX was developed for the more casual dining establishments with a lower prix fixe price point.

The partial list of participating eateries and their menus will go online February 1. Returning restaurants include Adair Kitchen, Craft Burger, Cowboys and Indians, Dak & Bop, KP's Kitchen, Mala Sichuan Bistro, Roost and Xin Chao and many others. Some of the new participants are Kriti Kitchen, Fainmous BBQ, Maine-ly Sandwiches, Mi Tierra, Mean Grille and other newbies.

The Grove Wine & Whiskey, 3921 Woodson's Reserve Parkway, opened the first week of January in Spring. Besides wine and whiskey, it offers craft cocktails and a small food menu of croissant sandwiches plus small plates such as Hummus Cucumber Bites, Bread Dippers and Tomato Bruschetta. 
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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.