Food Nation

Openings and Closings: Eunice Debuts, Gorgeous Gael Says Slan

Put Eunice's gumbo on your fall weather bucket list.
Put Eunice's gumbo on your fall weather bucket list. Photo by Randy Schmidt

Eunice, 3737 Buffalo Speedway, opened October 1. The modern Cajun-Creole brasserie comes from New Orleans-based BRG Hospitality. Formerly known as Besh Restaurant Group, CEO and celebrity chef John Besh stepped down in October 2017 amid sexual harassment allegations, as reported by The New York Times. BRG Hospitality has a new CEO, Shannon White.

The highly-anticipated Houston restaurant will be led by executive chef and operating partner, Drake Leonards, whose culinary portfolio includes acclaimed restaurants such as August, Domenica and Luke, where he previously served as executive chef. Leonards started in the restaurant business at the age of 15 working as a dishwasher in his hometown of Eunice, Louisiana. He worked his way up to the line at Restaurant August in New Orleans while attending Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana as a culinary student. After graduation he apprenticed with famous chefs Daniel Boulud and Gavin Kaysen.

click to enlarge Chefs Daniel Blue and Drake Leonards combine  Texas and Louisiana flavors. - PHOTO BY RANDY SCHMIDT
Chefs Daniel Blue and Drake Leonards combine Texas and Louisiana flavors.
Photo by Randy Schmidt
His culinary training extended to a number of countries in Europe before his return to New Orleans in 2012 where he he focused on Gulf Coast cuisine at La Provence and Restaurant August.

Luke Smith, formerly of Pigeon & Prince, will serve as general manager, while Houston's own Daniel Blue, formerly of Hunky Dory, will take on the role of chef de cuisine.

The restaurant's name comes from Leonards' hometown of Eunice. The menu will reflect the bounty of Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast seafood, fowl, meat and produce, with European influences from the executive chef's travels.

click to enlarge Gulf oyster season is upon us. - PHOTO BY RANDY SCHMIDT
Gulf oyster season is upon us.
Photo by Randy Schmidt

The restaurant will have a raw bar featuring Gulf oysters, fish crudos, ceviches and tartares. The lush, tree-shaded outdoor terrace will serve as a comfortable spot for lounging and sipping cocktails. A daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. sweetens the deal with 75-cent oysters and drink specials.

click to enlarge Goodbye, Gorgeous Gael. - PHOTO BY DAVID ROZYCKI
Goodbye, Gorgeous Gael.
Photo by David Rozycki

Gorgeous Gael, 5555 Morningside, delivered its last call September 30. According to its Facebook post, the Irish pub and restaurant is closing due to "unforeseen circumstances that are not within our influence or control."

The pub was formerly Brian O'Neill's but was remodeled and opened in 2014 as the Gorgeous Gael, named for Jack Doyle, an Irish immigrant who was a British heavyweight boxer, Hollywood actor and tenor, as reported here in the Houston Press.

According to the Facebook post, all is not lost as there are plans to open another Irish pub called Hugh O' Connor's at the Marq' E, 7620 Katy Freeway, in late October.

click to enlarge The Lost Cajun has found Cypress. - PHOTO BY BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The Lost Cajun has found Cypress.
Photo by by Lorretta Ruggiero
The Lost Cajun, 24110 Northwest Freeway, opened October 1, according to a young lady who put a menu in my hand as I was walking through H-E-B. She said, "Tell all your friends", so that's what I am doing.

The Cajun chain was founded by a Louisiana couple, Raymond "Griff" Griffin and his wife, Belinda, in 2010 in Frisco,Colorado. Belinda was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the couple wanted to spend her last days in the Colorado town that she had loved to visit. The couple named it The Lost Cajun in reference to themselves being Cajuns far from home. In 2012, Belinda passed away, but Griffin has expanded the restaurant into a franchise which now has 21 locations with six more on the way.

Wannabe franchisees have to fit the business and Aaron and Renee Duhon are the franchisees for the new Cypress location. The couple hails originally from South Louisiana.

The Cajun chain serves favorites like fried catfish, shrimp and alligator as well as dishes such as crawfish etouffee and different gumbos. Lunch specials run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Lost Cajun also sells its own brand of hot sauce, if you want to take home a kick for later.

Sticky Rice Lao Cafe, 8220 Louetta, began its soft opening September 8. Unfortunately, problems with the air conditioning unit caused a temporary shut down, but the Laotian restaurant reopened its doors September 14.

The Sticky Rice food truck had been on our radar since it opened less than a year ago, but its weekend only hours made it difficult to get to. Now, with its brick and mortar restaurant, diners looking for South Asian comfort food have a better opportunity to try its Laotian and Thai cuisine. Street foods like tapioca dumplings are available with other easy to munch on specialties like different satays and curry puffs. For more substantial dishes, look for kaffir lime fish, basil curry shrimp and crab and various fried rice and noodle dishes. There are also pandan desserts.

click to enlarge Feeling hot, hot, hot. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Feeling hot, hot, hot.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Spicy Chen Asian Bistro, 12343 Barker Cypress, began its soft opening September 15. This is the second location for the family-owned business which already has a successful restaurant in Pasadena.

Diners can expect the usual Chinese restaurant dishes like Szechuan Chicken, Lo Mein, eggrolls, etc., but the extensive menu also offers items like whole red snapper in hot bean paste.There are also unique offerings like clay pot dishes, including one that sounds tempting to us, the spicy jumbo shrimp with eggplant. We already are big fans of the spicy Japanese eggplant at Flower Child. We'll check this place out and let you know how it compares.

The interior is low-lit and elegant with dark wood floors and brown leather chairs and booths. The chandeliers made of antlers add a little rustic charm to this Asian restaurant's dining room. It also offers delivery and take-out service.

Songkran Thai Grill, 2258 Texas Drive, closed in June, but its Facebook page hints at a new concept opening soon. We have reached out to the owners and hope to get some more info about the upcoming business.

Jus Grill, 5927 Almeda Road, opened September 22 in the Museum District. It's not always easy to find a restaurant in that area and this fast-casual concept offers quick and simple fare like burgers, hot dogs, tacos and flatbread pizzas. There are a few Halal choices like tabouli, hummus, and grilled chicken with basmati rice. For those wanting something a little different, there is the falafel burger and cauliflower wings. Who knew cauliflower had wings?

The restaurant also offers online ordering.

The Halal Guys, 6609 Main, had its grand opening for the fourth Houston location September 24. What began as a New York hot dog cart started by three friends in 1990 has now expanded as a franchise from the northeastern United States, across the country and even to the Phillipines and South Korea.

The Mediterranean fare is halal and includes standard dishes like gyros and hummus plus falafel and chicken platters. Folks go crazy for the creamy white sauce and the hot red sauce.

Falafel Ala Kaifak, 8999 Richmond, opened September 12. It serves Mediterranean dishes like spicy cheese pie, kababs and shawarma. The sweets on offer include milk pudding, baklava and kunafa, a stringy cheese-based dessert. I had to Google kunafa to see what it was and now, I really, really want to try it.

Ostioneria La Reyna, 6031 Highway 6 North, opened September 17. This is the second location. The original is at 6249 Bissonnet. The Mexican seafood restaurant offers a variety of ceviches and seafood cocktails plus dishes like camarones cucaracha. While cockroach shrimp might be an odd name choice, the dish is sure to please diners who like the added flavor that comes from head-on shrimp.

There are beef and chicken fajitas for landlubbers, but for those who can't get enough of the fruits of the sea, there are caldos (soups) like the Caldo La Reyna with a treasure trove of shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, fish and octopus in a tasty broth. That'll cure what ails you.

click to enlarge Enjoy a flick and a view at Rooftop Cinema Club. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROOFTOP CINEMA CLUB
Enjoy a flick and a view at Rooftop Cinema Club.
Photo courtesy of Rooftop Cinema Club
Rooftop Cinema Club, 1700 Post Oak, opened October 3 with a sold-out screening of "Dirty Dancing". The outdoor rooftop movie theater began in London in 2011 as Rooftop Film Club. There are now locations in Los Angeles,New York and San Diego, as well as four in the U.K. The Houston spot makes number four in the United States and offers a full bar with craft cocktails and beers, plus food from Good Dog.

Good Dog will serve some of its most popular hot dogs, plus a signature Roof Top Dog for the new venue. It will also sell snacks, sides and non-dog entrees.

click to enlarge Good Dog owner Daniel Caballero dishes out  Houston's best hot dogs. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROOFTOP CINEMA CLUB
Good Dog owner Daniel Caballero dishes out Houston's best hot dogs.
Photo courtesy of Rooftop Cinema Club
Because Houston is so awesome, Rooftop Cinema Club will have its first-ever kid-friendly program. While its usual screenings are 18 and over, every Thursday in November (excluding Thanksgiving), it will host the Rooftop Cinema Kids Club for ages 3 to 17 at $12 a ticket. The standard adult ticket applies to 18 and up.

Another new feature unique to Houston will be the addition of double screenings from Thursday to Saturday.

For movie listings, check out its Facebook page. Unfortunately, most of the films for October have already sold out, including Back to the Future and Selena. If you're a Grease fan however, November 16 will be your opportunity to take the one that you want to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the film. Yes, it's been 40 years since John Travolta first squeaked out "Sandy".

click to enlarge Grab a cocktail and a deck chair and settle in for a movie. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROOFTOP CINEMA CLUB
Grab a cocktail and a deck chair and settle in for a movie.
Photo courtesy of Rooftop Cinema Club
For all you Rocky Horror veterans, November 30th will feature a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Expect a lot of fishnet stockings and glitter eye shadow. And unlike when you first lost your Rocky Horror virginity, you can enjoy the naughtiness with a nice adult beverage. Just don't throw out a hip while doing the Time Warp.

click to enlarge Chilosos has a variety of breakfast tacos. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHILOSOS TACO HOUSE
Chilosos has a variety of breakfast tacos.
Photo courtesy of Chilosos Taco House

Chilosos Taco House
, 10615 Fry, opened September 7 in Lakeland Village Center. The original location opened in 2007 at 701 E. 20th in the Heights and has been a hugely popular spot for breakfast tacos for more than a decade. That success has resulted in an expansion up north. The new Cypress outpost will offer the same Monterrey-inspired Mexican fare with fajitas, tortas, tacos and enchiladas, plus dishes like migas and chilaquiles.

click to enlarge Enchiladas with gravy are a Houstonian comfort food. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHILOSOS TACO HOUSE
Enchiladas with gravy are a Houstonian comfort food.
Photo courtesy of Chilosos Taco House
The restaurant offers drinks such as Mexican Coke,Topo Chico, cold cervezas and margaritas.


We just received a press release about the new restaurant concept that will replace The Original Beaver's at 2310 Decatur. Vinegar Hill Houston will be a collaboration from chef Monica Pope, formerly of t'afia and Sparrow, and Adam Brackman of Axelrad Beer Garden. The new business will open in early November. The concept will feature rotating chefs-in-residency with an average of three months per chef, with some leeway on extensions. There will also be pop-ups ranging from one night to several weeks. Shawn Busch, formerly of Underbelly Hospitality, will serve as general manager.

The restaurant will open at 10 a.m. as an alternative co-working space with pop-up coffee and snacks and a biscuit program from Pope. The team is currently seeking a creative bar manager for its cocktail program.  More on this latest development next week, so stay tuned.
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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.