The tapioca dumplings at Aqui.EXPAND
The tapioca dumplings at Aqui.
photo by Mai Pham

Openings and Closings: Aqui Opens in Montrose

Aqui, 520 Westheimer, the new Montrose restaurant from Paul Qui, the Austin-based Top Chef champion and James Beard award winner, who last year was arrested for domestic violence, started its dinner service without fanfare on August 14 at 5 p.m. According to CultureMap, Qui himself was not in attendance on opening day, as the kitchen is helmed by chef de cuisine Gabriel Medina. Qui is due in Travis County court for a pre-trial hearing on August 18, according to court records, for allegedly attacking and restraining his girlfriend in front of her small child in March 2016. He is charged with assault/family violence and unlawful restraint.

The Filipino chef’s restaurant in Austin, Qui, shuttered in the summer of 2016 after his arrest and a subsequent stint in rehab. It was reopened as Kuneho and some of the same elements seemed to have made their way into the new Southeast Asian menu at Aqui, including a ‘Perfect Bites’ section, meaning dishes that can be eaten in one bite. It remains to be seen how Houston will react to the talented chef, once the legal system runs its course. For now, the restaurant is open for dinner service starting at 5 p.m daily.

Michelin starred chef Shimao Ishikawa offers omotenashi at Kukuri.
Michelin starred chef Shimao Ishikawa offers omotenashi at Kukuri.
photo by Gwendolyn Knapp

Shimao Ishikawa, a longtime sushi chef of Michelin-starred Jewel Bako in New York, has opened a new Japanese restaurant, Kukuri, at 1902 Washington. The restaurant serves an ever-changing seasonal omakase menu and the experience of the unique Japanese form of hospitality known as omotenashi according to its website. As reported in the Houston Press, the chef’s omakase is $150, and Houstonia reports that a sushi and sashimi combo is also available for $120, featuring rarities flown in from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Market.

What's around the bend for Tila's?
What's around the bend for Tila's?
Photo courtesy of the Houston Press

Longtime Mexican hub Tila’s Restaurante and Bar shuttered in River Oaks on Sunday, August 13, according to Swamplot . The eatery had been in the location on the Shepherd curve, 1111 S. Shepherd, for 20 years, but owner Tila Hidalgo told Facebook followers that she lost her lease and will seek a new location. Hidalgo will also continue to operate the Tila’s Tacos food truck.

Fielding’s Rooster, 4223 Research Forest, the third concept from the Fielding’s Culinary Group, opened August 13, down the street from Fielding’s Wood Grill. The casual restaurant will have a wide selection of reinterpreted chicken recipes including fried, rotisserie and wood-grilled options.

The Fielding chicken is a free-range Rock Cornish chicken sourced by D’Artagnan from small Amish farms in Indiana and is 100 percent natural. There will be an open kitchen and a wood-fired grill. As of now, the restaurant is open for dinner, 5 to 10 p.m., but there are plans to open for brunch and lunch at a later date.

Have a brandy milk punch at Fielding's Rooster.
Have a brandy milk punch at Fielding's Rooster.
courtesy of Fielding's Rooster

Red Circle Ice Cream opened at 6838 Ranchester, August 14, in Asiatown as reported by Eater Houston. An official grand opening is in the works. Besides bubble waffle cones, macarons and “sugar buns”, the shop sells freshly-fried, heart-shaped churros with various toppings available.

Relish Restaurant and Bar, 2810 Westheimer, will debut its new counter service breakfast on August 29 with $1 Taco and Topo Chico Tuesday from 7 to 11 a.m., limit four per customer, dine-in only. The breakfast tacos with options such as zucchini,avocado and cheese or bacon, egg, and cheese will be $3.25 each afterward. Chef Dustin Teague says that the daily breakfast service will evolve into a weekend brunch.

$1 Taco and Topo Chico Tuesday is August 29 at Relish.EXPAND
$1 Taco and Topo Chico Tuesday is August 29 at Relish.
courtesy Of Relish Restaurant and Bar

Tejas Chocolate Craftory, 200 N. Elm in Tomball, will be closed August 21 to 29 for a summer break and will reopen with plans to expand cooking capacity to handle its booming business since being ranked No. 6 in the Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Barbecue restaurants in late May.

The business started out with owners Scott Moore Jr. and Michelle Holland making handcrafted chocolates at home and expanded to a popular barbecue café. According to its website, the business has stopped taking call-in to go orders, catering, or pre-orders and will serve on a first come-first served basis until further notice.

Stomp’s Burger Joint, known for serving tasty burgers just south of the Kemah Boardwalk at its original location, 3107 Texas 146, is opening a second location in Pearland in the middle of September, according to Pearland.com. The restaurant will be open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. serving 100 percent Angus beef patties and Frito pie with homemade chili.

The popularity of the Kemah Boardwalk and surrounding area has led to a need for a complete reconstruction of Texas 146, causing a number of restaurants and businesses to either relocate or close down, according to ABC13. One of those unfortunate restaurants is Ichibon, 406 Texas, which closed its doors July 30. The Seabrook community is hoping that Neptune’s Subs, a neighborhood favorite since 1978 is not going to follow suit.

Former Oilers wide receiver Mac Haik’s franchise group, Mac Haik Enterprises, has opened its fourth First Watch restaurant at 2560 Pearland Parkway. It is open daily, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., serving breakfast, brunch and lunch with a menu that includes traditional breakfast items, BLTs, and even quinoa power bowls. The restaurant had its grand opening on July 24.

Nacho Nachos, a popular Pearland food truck opened a brick and mortar restaurant at 1330 Broadway, Suite 104 on July 17. They have limited hours as of now, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., but plan to add evening service. They have daily specials including fried tacos covered in queso. That’s three of our favorite words: fried, tacos, queso.

If Tex-Mex chain restaurants are more your thing, Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen opened a new store on August 22 in The Woodlands at 30420 FM 2978, according to Community Impact.

Louisiana-based chicken finger chain Raising Cane’s broke ground on its second Spring area and is expected to open early November 2017 at 21017 Kuykendahl, according to Spring Happenings.

Eden Cafe, a family-owned dining establishment, closed its Spring location, 16000 Stuebner Airline, in early July due to “financial realities.” However, loyal customers can still enjoy their food and family-friendly ambience at the Magnolia location, 33418 Egypt Lane. They serve breakfast from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and also lunch and dinner.

2920 Tailgators has reopened under new ownership as 242 Pub and Grill, at 6062 FM 2920, also according to Spring Happenings. The sports-themed restaurant caters to sports fans and families.

Domino’s Pizza is opening a new Domino’s pizza theater restaurant in Katy, 3820 N. Freeway, with a weeklong grand opening celebration planned for August 21 through August 26. The new pizza shop will have indoor seating, booths with charging stations, Wi-Fi, and drive-thru service. Customers can watch the pizzas being made, hence the theater element.

Healthy Taco Love Muffins are $2 in September at Merry Muffins Bakery.EXPAND
Healthy Taco Love Muffins are $2 in September at Merry Muffins Bakery.
courtesy of Merry Muffins

For those in search of healthy muffins, Merry Muffin Bakery is opening its first retail location at 560 Chimney Rock in the Tanglewood/Memorial neighborhood. The grand opening on September 16 will offer $2 turkey taco “Love Muffins” with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Houston Food Bank. The $2 “Love Muffin” special will continue until the end of the month. The bakery serves more than 20 varieties of signature muffins, protein balls, and a homemade peanut butter spread.

Chick-fil-A had a ribbon cutting ceremony on August 10 to open its new store at 14335 East Sam Houston Pkwy N. in the Summerwood area.

Chris Shepherd’s The Hay Merchant launched its new cocktail menu August 16. Shepherd’s critically acclaimed restaurant, Underbelly, will roll out its cocktail program September 4. Both menus were developed with spirits director, Westin Galleymore, previously of Anvil and One-Fifth Steak. The creative and balanced drinks have fun names such as the Ric Flair and H-Town Slammer.

The H-Town Slammer at The Hay Merchant.EXPAND
The H-Town Slammer at The Hay Merchant.
by Julie Soefer Photography

After a successful opening in February 2017, the team behind Bosscat Kitchen and Libations, 4310 Westheimer, will open BCK: Kitchen and Cocktail Adventures, in the former Glass Wall space this fall. As reported in the Press, Glass Wall shuttered in the Heights in June to rebrand into a new casual restaurant. Instead, Bosscat owners, John Reed, Leslie Nguyen and Vinnie Capizzi have leased the space at 933 Studewood and will create a menu of “nostalgic American fare” inspired by the ‘80s and ‘90s, when they themselves were growing up.

SNAP Kitchen, the Austin based company behind grab and go healthy meals is planning on a “ reorganization” and will be laying off 101 employees in Houston and 65 in Austin. According to the Houston Chronicle, no stores will close, but the kitchen operations, two in Houston and two in Austin, will shift to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in a new 30,000-square-foot facility. The new locale will employ 200 people. SNAP Kitchen has expanded into Whole Foods Market stores in Texas and other states since April.

The Dallas-based Milk and Cream will bring its “milky buns,” doughnut style pastries stuffed with ice cream, to Houston at 9630 Clarewoodm, according to Eater Houston. No opening date is planned as of yet.

Also coming to town, as reported by Eater Houston, is East Hampton Sandwich Company, a Dallas-based, upscale sandwich shop expected to open two Houston locations. The restaurant offers burgers, salads, sandwiches and soups, along with more unique items like lobster grilled cheese and Toasted Fluffernutter for dessert. That should make the Northern transplants to Houston very happy. And unlike most sandwich places, they serve beer and wine.

Vitality Bowls, will open its first Houston area store August 16 at 1520 West Bay Area Boulevard. in Friendswood, the Chronicle reports. The Northern California- based chain was founded by Roy and Tara Gilad who wanted healthy and safe alternatives for people with food allergies, like their daughter. The menu is comprised of superfood bowls, primarily acai berries with a variety of fruit, seed, and nut toppings, along with smoothies, juice, a coffee bar and organic kombucha on tap.

That’s it for this week’s Openings & Closings. Leave a comment and let us know if we missed something in your neighborhood.

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