Openings and Closings: Fig and Olive Galleria Debuts Soon, Velvet Taco Houston Adds #2

Crostini goes uptown.
Crostini goes uptown. Photo courtesy of Fig and Olive
Editor's Note 10:23 a.m. March 2, 2018: See the correction below. Fig and Olive has not yet opened.

Fig and Olive,
the upscale Mediterranean hotspot, is opening March 2 sometime in early March in the Galleria space once occupied by Saks Fifth Avenue. The restaurant was founded in 2006 and has eight locations from New York to Los Angeles. This is the first Texas outpost. With its coastal Mediterranean cuisine and a gourmet collection of olive oils, expect this to be the place where well-heeled shoppers take a lunch break and business people entertain clients.

Executive chef, Thomas Laczynski, formerly of True Food Kitchen in Austin, will lead the culinary team in collaboration with the brand's Corporate Executive Chef, Timothy Hughes. Expect a seasonally evolving menu with olive oil as a major component.

click to enlarge A taste of Southern France awaits at Fig and Olive. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FIG AND OLIVE
A taste of Southern France awaits at Fig and Olive.
Photo courtesy of Fig and Olive
The menu and the wine list are representative of the flavors of Spain, Italy, and the South of France.
Fig and Olive is the first of four globally-inspired fine dining restaurants that will anchor the former Saks building, including Nobu, Spice Route, and Blanco Tacos + Tequila.

If the French Riviera vacation you have been dreaming of is out of your reach this year, you can indulge in the seafood bouillabaisse while sipping rose on Fig and Olive's large outdoor terrace for slightly less money. Slightly.

click to enlarge Waffles are in da' house! - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Waffles are in da' house!
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

And on a completely different culinary level, Waffle House, 13861 Cypress North Houston, opened the first week of February. It's the smallest model that they do and, like many other Waffle House restaurants, it looks as if a tornado just plopped it down in the middle of a parking lot in an odd spot.

In case you didn't know, it serves waffles.

Photo by Troy Fields
Maine-ly Sandwiches opened its third location February 15 at 8190 Barker Cypress. Owner Buddy Charity is a native of Maine and a former educator at Cy-Falls High School. He and his family opened the first sandwich restaurant in 2013. The New England cuisine (lobster rolls and fried clams, Y'all) has been so popular, diners have been requesting locations near them.

You asked, Charity listened. A Maine-ly Sandwiches is opening March 5 at the MarqE Entertainment Center, at I-10 and Silber. Following as closely as a tailgater in the left lane of I-45, will be a fifth location in The Woodlands at Grogan's Mill by the end of March. Buddy Charity is also keeping Katy and Sugar Land on his radar.

Besides lobster rolls and clam chowda, Maine-ly Sandwiches offers Italian sandwiches and hot dogs. There are also salads and daily soup specials. And to tempt those of you still sticking to your New Year's resolutions, the shop also sells homemade whoopie pies in flavors such as Girl Scout thin mint and rocky road. Sorry, but if I'm going down, I'm taking everyone else with me.

East Hampton Sandwich Co. is set to open two new Houston stores this spring, as reported here in the Houston Press. The shop at 4444 Westheimer is slated for late April, while the Montrose location at 907 Westheimer opens in May. Despite its New England moniker, the sandwich concept was founded in Dallas in 2012 by owner and CEO, Hunter Pond. There are now seven Texas locations, not including the upcoming Houston stores.

The menu offers three styles: sandwich, low carb wrap or salad. There is a vegetarian option, but this is first and foremost a meat lover's sandwich spot. Especially if you like fried chicken on bread. The Food Network gave some love to East Hampton's Fried Chicken and Jack Sandwich by declaring it one of the top 12 fried chicken sandwiches in America. With a juicy fried chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, pepper jack cheese, avocado mash and jalapeno cream sauce, what's not to love? Plus, avocados are healthy.

click to enlarge Fried chicken is a sandwich's best friend. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EAST HAMPTON SANDWICH CO.
Fried chicken is a sandwich's best friend.
Photo courtesy of East Hampton Sandwich Co.

Houston got a sneak peek at what to expect with East Hampton's pop-up sampling of mini lobster rolls, chicken jack sandwiches and whoopie pies. The pop-up was held February 27 at Kirby Ice House, 3333 Eastside. Half the proceeds from the event will go to Houston's Children's Charities.

East Hampton is also open for breakfast and serves beer and wine. That's way more fun than the usual sandwich chains.

The Melt, 10111 Louetta, has closed, according to Community Impact. The California- based eatery served grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers. It had only recently opened in March 2017. A lock-out notice was posted on January 31 from the leasing company, Read King. A spokesperson for Melt says there are no plans to reopen.

Candelari's Pizza, 25680 Highway 290 closed January 13 after ten years in business at that location. The other two pizza restaurants at 2617 W. Holcombe and 6002 Washington are still open. Candelari's plans to open a new location for catering, to-go and delivery, as reported by Community Impact.

click to enlarge Three pretty tacos, all in a row. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VELVET TACO
Three pretty tacos, all in a row.
Photo courtesy of Velvet Taco
Velvet Taco, 907 Westheimer, was slated to open March 5, but the Houston Press was told that it may be more like early-ish March. The "Tacos Without Borders" chain, founded in Dallas, has six stores in Texas and one in Chicago. It offers more than 20 varieties of tacos for veg-heads and meat monsters.

Unlike some restaurants' bland concessions for vegetarians, Velvet Taco offers options like the Fried Paneer with tikka sauce and the Falafel with tahini creme, avocado and veggies.

Still, Houston is a city that loves its meaty tacos and the Cuban Pig, with slow-roasted pulled pork, ham and peppered bacon hits the mark for pork lovers. Or try the Texas Akaushi bacon burger taco to quell serious carnivorous cravings.

For pescetarians, there are choices like the shrimp and grits taco or Ahi Poke.

Photo courtesy of Velvet Taco
For boozetarians, there are margaritas. In a cup, not a taco.

Photo courtesy Of Verna Mae's
Verna Mae's, 16010 West Road, opened January 15 in the space formerly housing Husky's. The new restaurant offers New Orlean's style poboys, gumbo and South Louisiana comfort food.

Named for the family matriarch, Verna Mae Ippolito, the Cajun-style menu features fried and grilled seafood plus a variety of poboys like roast beef and Muffaletta. If you visit at the right time, you might find fried soft shell crab.

click to enlarge Fried catfish is true Louisiana comfort food. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VERNA MAE'S
Fried catfish is true Louisiana comfort food.
Photo courtesy of Verna Mae's
The French bread for the poboys is from Gambino's in New Orleans. Verna Mae's also sells Gambino's King Cakes around Mardi Gras, so keep that in mind for next year. We missed out on the king cake bread pudding, but Verna Mae's is still rolling out the traditional kind, along with daily specials.

King Crawfish and Noodle House, 7014 Fry opened in December 2017.

Chicken Station, 7001 Harrisburg, will open February 28. Chef Roberto Castre will offer traditional Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken cooked over a charcoal grill, after marinating for twenty-four hours.

Owner Bobby Harl in the brewhouse. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BACK PEW BREWING
Owner Bobby Harl in the brewhouse.
Photo courtesy of Back Pew Brewing
Back Pew Brewing, 26452 Sorters Mclellan Road, is celebrating the opening of its taproom with a small ribbon-cutting on April 6 at 4 p.m. The grand opening festivities will continue with Houston's very own Beatles tribute band, The Fab 5, performing from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be a $10 cover charge. The taproom will open April 7 at 11 a.m. for more grand opening fun. Back Pew now has its transitional brewpub license and will be able to sell six-packs and growlers to go.

Klaus Brewing Company
, 10142 Jones, is busy setting up its brewing equipment despite the miserable and seemingly constant rain. The brewery will focus on German-style brews and include an indoor taproom and an outdoor beer garden, according to Community Impact. Owner Thomas Lemke hopes to be open by May 19, but as most brewery and restaurant owners know, that depends greatly on the permitting powers that be. We'll keep you posted.

Photo courtesy of Freddy's

Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, 2795 Gulf Freeway, opened February 27. Franchise owner Padden Nelson says, " We look forward to joining League City and bringing Freddy's closer to guests in the area."

The first Freddy's opened in Wichita, Kansas in 2002.Co-founder, decorated WWII veteran and namesake, Freddy Simon just celebrated his 93rd birthday this month. In honor, Freddy's offered patrons 93 cent single scoops of frozen custard. Unfortunately, the offer ended February 25. There's always next year for 94 cent scoops.

For those of us that enjoy a cold beverage other than a soda or shake with our burgers, Hopdoddy is bringing another location to Houston, this time at CityCentre. The Austin-based burger restaurant joined the Houston market in the spring of 2016. The new location at Sorella, with its large corner space and patio, will open in the fall of this year.

Another transplant, this time from Tennessee, will also open in the fall. Corky's BBQ is planning to open three Houston locations, according to the Houston Chronicle. The chain was founded in Memphis in 1984 and has eight restaurants throughout Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. The Memphis-style barbecue focuses heavily on pork.

click to enlarge Will Gruy is bringing Roman-style pizza to West U. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
Will Gruy is bringing Roman-style pizza to West U.
Photo by Becca Wright
Pizza Motus, 6119 Edloe, is slated to open in early summer 2018. Owner Will Gruy is bringing the Roman-style street pizza that he grew up with in his early years in Italy. It differs from the Neopolitan and New York style pizzas, because it is baked in steel pans and cut into rectangles.

The fast-casual concept will include sandwiches and salads, fusion grain bowls with farro and orzo, plus Italian ices and other sweets. The restaurant will occupy the space which formerly housed Edloe Street Cafe. It will also offer a walk-up window and outdoor patio.

Gruy, who was formerly an Italian-based professional motorcycle racer, chose the name Motus because it means inspiration and movement in Latin.

The restaurant is BYOB with no corkage fee. Chianti and Roman-style pizza? Early summer cannot come fast enough.

That's all for this week. If we've missed a new restaurant, bar, brewery, or hotspot, let us know in the comments!

Openings Reported for February 2018:
a gogo KTV Lounge Restaurant, 9889 Bellaire, opened December 2017
BCK: Kitchen and Cocktail Adventures, 933 Studewood, soft opening February 7
Blend Bar, 1701 Lake Robbins, opened February 8
Blue Bayou Cafe, 12008 I-10 East Freeway, grand opening January 25
Cafe Poetes, 122 west Gray, soft opening February 9
Coral Sword Game Cafe, 1318 Telephone, opened February 2
Delices de Maurice, 22764 Westheimer, opened December 11, 2017
Dickinson Bar B Que and Steakhouse, FM 517 E., reopened January 26
The Eggroll Factory, 12155 Jones, opened December 1, 2017
Frank’s Backyard, 413 Travis, grand opening January 30
Fulbrook Ale Works, 1125 FM 359, opened February 9
The Ginger Man, 160 West Gray, soft opening February
Green Ceviche, 12555 Westheimer, opened January 12
High and Dry, 306 Main, soft opening February 17
Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, 13513 University, grand opening January 12
LA Crawfish,3331 Telephone, opened January 30
Leeland House, 2119 Leeland, opened January
Local Foods, 714 Yale, opened February 16
Pho Bolsa, 4505 FM 1960, soft opening December 30, 2017
Pokeworks, 2055 Westheimer, opened February 8
Rosehill Beer Garden, 14540 Cypress Rosehill, grand opening February 17
Saints, 13455 Cutten, grand opening January 18
Snooze-An A.M. Eatery, 718 W. 18th, grand opening January 24
Street Food Thai Market, 1010 Cavalcade, soft opening February 5
Taco Casa, 8808 Barker Cypress, opened February 6
Von’s Chicken, 10026 Long Point, opened February 1
What’s Cooking, 926 FM Road 518 East, reopened November 5, 2017

Closings Reported for February 2018:

Arcodoro, 5000 Westheimer, closed February 8
Bacon Bros., 2110 Town Square Plaza, closed the first week of January
Doc’s Motorworks Bar and grill, 1303 Westheimer, closed December 22
Ethel Mae Bourbon and Bacon, 10750 Barker Cypress, closed in January
Les Ba’get, 1717 Montrose, closed February 2, temporarily

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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.