Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Restaurants Reopen, Take-Out Continues

Azul Seafood Tapas is rebranding.
Azul Seafood Tapas is rebranding. Photo by C&C Real Estate Photography

The past week has seen a number of restaurants reopen their dining rooms for business. It's been a learning curve for many, with some doing an outstanding job while others, not so much. The human element always gets in the way of doing things properly. Judge Lina Hidalgo's order to wear masks in public got the knickers of some of our citizens in a twist. Apparently, the suggestions regarding social distancing piss them off, too.

Sure, you're the architect of your own life, or death. However, when you flout the guidelines that most restaurants are trying to follow, you are the architect of another potential shutdown. In order to avoid that, we need to do this correctly and wisely. While we know most of our readers are intelligent people who want very much to be good customers and play by the rules, there are people out there who rebel for the sake of rebelling. Those are the folks who will make the whole class have to stay inside and miss recess. And frozen margaritas on the patio.

So, please abide by the guidelines in place. They may vary with each establishment, but common sense is what is called for right now along with some compassion. If you are one of those people who berates servers for wearing masks, do us all a favor and STF home. These businesses are trying to get back on their feet and feed us the food we have been longing to eat, in places other than our own homes.

And, if you are playing it safe and staying home, most Houston restaurants have gotten into their groove with take-out and delivery. Those dollars help, too.

Anonymous Artisan Bites and Coffee Bar

3701 Kirby

This bakery, coffee bar and cafe is owned and operated by Patricia and Tasos Pantazopoulos in the Kirby area. It reopened its interior dining area May 4 with a limited menu that still includes 60 percent of its usual fare. It also has daily specials with offerings like pastitsio or stuffed tomatoes and peppers. Much of the menu reflects the couple's Greek heritage with items like dolmades, tiropita and souvlaki. There are salads, soups and wraps plus bakery treats like fresh butter croissants, baklava and ekmeck kaitaifi, a Greek custard.

The cafe is closed on Sundays, but customers can pre-order one of the Mother's Day brunch packages for pick up on May 9. Package No. 1 includes four croissants, four scones, one quart of chicken salad, a wild greens salad with Greek dressing and ekmeck kaitaifi plus sides of strawberry butter and honey for $110.  Package No. 2 serves four to five people and contains a deep dish quiche, cold pasta salad, a Greek salad and a whole pound cake with a choice of flavors for $104. A pan of ekmeck kaitaifi is $60 and serves 12 to 16 persons.

click to enlarge Mingo's food truck is collaborating with Azul Katy. - PHOTO BY C&C REAL ESTATE PHOTOGRAPHY
Mingo's food truck is collaborating with Azul Katy.
Photo by C&C Real Estate Photography

Azul Seafood Tapas
21945 Katy Freeway

Business partners Chris Vasquez and Tomas Villareal recently took over operations at this Latin-Asian fusion seafood spot in January 2020. Villareal is the founder of Mingo's Latin Kitchen and Catering which has operated a successful food truck for the past six years. As restaurants continue to reopen and business gets back to some normalcy, the duo hope to begin the rebranding of the restaurant to Azul Katy. The menu will still include sushi and some appetizers from the original but will also feature Latin comfort food from the Mingo's food truck menu like the Cuban Sandwich with hand-cut fries and empanadas.

Since the March 17 shut down of dine-in service, the restaurant has focused on curbside pick-up and delivery. Now, it will open its dining room May 8 in compliance with Governor Abbott's guidelines for 25 percent capacity. There will be hand sanitizer at the entrance to the restaurant and the entrance and exit to the restrooms. Chairs and tables will be wiped down after each guest and servers will wear masks and continually change gloves. Ten guests will be allowed in at a time, so please call ahead.

Azul will continue its weekend brunch and Family Meals on Sundays. Take out deals will be available including 20 percent off for employees of Katy ISD. New brunch items include the Oso Bueno Fried Chicken over biscuits with sausage and chorizo, inspired by 11 Below Brewing Co.'s Oso Bueno beer.

Blue Onyx Bistro has an elegant and contemporary dining room. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Blue Onyx Bistro has an elegant and contemporary dining room.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Blue Onyx Bistro
4720 Richmond

Chef David Chang's second restaurant has been temporarily closed since the COVID-19 shutdown of restaurant dining rooms. Now, with the easing of dine-in restrictions, Chang and his wife, Rolita, have reopened Blue Onyx just in time for Mother's Day reservations.

The restaurant will comply with the social distancing measures and have hand sanitizer for guests. Staff will wear masks.

Blue Onyx offers lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. featuring dishes such as the Blue Onyx Pasta with seafood in a Champagne cream sauce and a Roasted Prime Rib that's a bargain at $15.95. There is also a sushi menu of rolls like the White Dragon ($16.95) with spicy tuna and tempura shrimp or the gluten-free Ya Ya roll ($15.95) made with soy paper.

Dinner delights like Chef Chang's Chilean Sea Bass ($29.95) and Chipotle Redfish ($19.95) give an idea of Chang's mastery with sauces and fresh seafood.

Broken Barrel is reopening its comfortable dining room. - PHOTO BY JAMIE ALVEAR
Broken Barrel is reopening its comfortable dining room.
Photo by Jamie Alvear

Broken Barrel
1950 Hughes Landing

This restaurant in The Woodlands offers lakeside dining and retractable windows to let in the fresh air. It reopened its dining room May 7 and will comply with government guidelines in regards to spacing out the tables. Staff will be required to wear masks and there will be a Cleanliness Concierge manning the front door and monitoring hygiene protocols. Guest will be greeted outside by a host who will take their temperature before entry. There will be disposable menus and pre-packaged silverware.

The restaurant's operating hours are 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant will open at 10 a.m. May 10 with a special Mother's Day menu from Chef Hilda Ysusi including items such as Nutella French Toast, Cinnamon-Apple Empanadas and Peruvian Ceviche.

click to enlarge Corner Bakery Cafe is reopening stores for dine-in service. - PHOTO BY BOB HARTMANN
Corner Bakery Cafe is reopening stores for dine-in service.
Photo by Bob Hartmann

Corner Bakery Cafe
19355 Katy Freeway
107 Yale

This Chicago-founded chain has locations in 25 states and is beginning to reopen them for dine-in service as restrictions are lifted. There are six locations in the Houston area, two of which reopened their dining rooms last week at 9311 Katy Freeway and 2615 Southwest Freeway. The Washington Heights and Greenhouse stores  will reopen May 11.

Employees will wear masks and gloves and several staff members will be employed as monitors. There will be a Beverage Monitor, Entry Monitor and Curb Monitor. We think that is an awesome idea that other restaurants would be well-advised to introduce, if possible. The patios are closed for now but the dining rooms offer tables spread out in keeping with the six foot guidelines and tape will mark social distancing between customers and cashiers.

Corner Bakery Cafe serves a variety of sandwiches, soups, wraps, salads and desserts. It has a breakfast menu and a kids menu, too. The Westheimer and Main locations are still temporarily closed.

For Mother's Day, May 10, participating Corner Bakery Cafes are offering 50 percent off orders. Just mention the promotion when ordering in store or use the discount code 586 when ordering online.

click to enlarge Pizza Zquare is one of  four businesses to reopen at Finn Hall. - PHOTO BY ERNESTO FAZ
Pizza Zquare is one of four businesses to reopen at Finn Hall.
Photo by Ernesto Faz

Finn Hall

712 Main

Finn Hall reopened its doors May 6th, on the ground floor of The Jones. Craft Burger, Lit Chicken, Oddball Eats and Pizza Zquare are the first tenants to return. Currently, the food hall is open Monday through Friday only. Some of its remaining tenants will reopen in the future including Amaya Coffee, Dish Society and Yong. Papalo Tacqueria from Stephanie Vasquez and Nicolas Vera was set to open right before the pandemic shutdown as was Pho Binh, an offshoot of Bellaire's Pho Binh by Night. Hopefully, they will make their anticipated debuts, soon.

Finn Hall has also launched an initiative called Finn Hall Feeds the Frontline. The kickoff began with Lionstone Investments (owners of Finn Hall) purchasing 1500 meals to be delivered to Ben Taub Hospital this past week. The campaign allows the public to donate $15 toward meals for frontline workers which will be matched by Finn Hall. Check out its website for more details.

click to enlarge Who is that masked man? - PHOTO BY DON JANTE
Who is that masked man?
Photo by Don Jante

Flip 'n  Patties
800 Capitol, 832-532-6178
1809 Eldridge, 832-243-5061

The Downtown location is now open at 25 percent capacity in its dining area, along with online ordering, take-out and delivery. The Eldridge spot is open for online ordering, curbside and delivery within a ten mile radius. It's not currently open for dine-in but guests are welcome to eat on the patio while following social distancing guidelines.

The Filipino-American menu includes a variety of burgers, made with Akaushi beef, and loaded fries. There are Filipino-inspired favorites like the Spamsilog, a plate of Spam, garlic rice and two fried eggs, plus lumpia (pork egg rolls) and the Chicken PuPu Plato. The Flip'n Burger features an Akaushi beef patty topped with a fried panko portabella mushroom stuffed with cheese, bacon, lettuce, spicy sauce and the restaurant's signature tang sauce.

click to enlarge Frank's Americana is opening its dining room but still has Take and Bake, too. - PHOTO BY ERIKA RUBALCAVA
Frank's Americana is opening its dining room but still has Take and Bake, too.
Photo by Erika Rubalcava

Frank's Americana Revival
3736 Westheimer

Frank's is opening its dining room May 8 at 11 a.m. It will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

It will also continue its curbside and delivery options such as the Lone Star Burger ($16), Chicken Fried Steak ($25) and Fried Green Tomatoes ($16).  Or try the new Take and Bake choices which include dishes such as King Ranch Chicken ($12), Meatloaf ($15) and Pasta Bolognese ($12).

click to enlarge Guard and Grace has an expansive space for social distancing. - PHOTO BY PETER MOLICK
Guard and Grace has an expansive space for social distancing.
Photo by Peter Molick

Guard and Grace
500 Dallas

Restaurateur and chef Troy Guard is reopening his Houston restaurant for dinner May 8 at 4:30 p.m. The 25 percent capacity of 135 will easily be accommodated in this two-story steakhouse with its 30 foot-high ceilings, allowing for 8 to 10 feet of distance between tables. There will be a special menu with many of the restaurant's signature items which are also available for curbside pick-up.

Staff will have protective masks and temperature checks. There will hand sanitizers available throughout the restaurant plus staff attendants at the front door and restrooms to ensure minimal contact with the door handles. There will also be paper menus and a number of other measures to ensure a safe and comfortable dining experience. Valet service is not available due to the Governor's orders so guests are encouraged to park ($10) at the garage at 1100 Smith.

click to enlarge George Malek and Steven Haug are new to the Guard and Grace team. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL ANTHONY
George Malek and Steven Haug are new to the Guard and Grace team.
Photo by Michael Anthony
Guard and Grace also announced two new additions to the management and culinary teams. George Malek, a native Houstonian, will take on the role of General Manager. Malek has over 23 years of experience in the hospitality industry including stints at restaurants such as Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Morton's. He will lead a team of over 100 employees at Guard and Grace Houston.

TAG Restaurant Group also announced that Steven Haug will serve as the new Executive Chef at the restaurant. As Chef Guard's right hand man, he brings experience from 20 years at Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse. Haug also has professional experience from Houston restaurants such as The Oceanaire, Vallone's and Grazia Italian Kitchen.

click to enlarge Local Foods owner Benjy Levit offers local with a smile. - PHOTO BY LISA GOCHMAN
Local Foods owner Benjy Levit offers local with a smile.
Photo by Lisa Gochman
Local Foods
2424 Dunstan, 713-521-7800
2555 Kirby, 713-255-4440
5740 San Felipe, 713-789-0642
714 Yale, 713-360-6133

This local group of restaurants uses Houston area vendors for much of its fresh produce and ingredients, some of which guests can now purchase at the pop-up grocery markets at each of the four locations, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Local Foods also reopened for patio dining May 1. Guests can order at the counter and then pick up their food. Disposable silverware and dishware will be used and guests are asked to please dispose of their own trash after dining.

Local Foods will also continue to offer carry-out and delivery of its menu items which includes sandwiches like the Banh Mi and Gulf Seafood, plus a variety of soups and fresh salads. There's a Grab and Go Crunchy Chicken Meal Deal ($48) which includes pretzel buns, roast chicken, provolone slices, romaine lettuce, pickles and Buttermilk Ranch for six people. It also includes a half pint of chip/nut crumble.

click to enlarge Relish's NOLA-style BBQ Shrimp is calling your name. - PHOTO BY CORINE MICHEL
Relish's NOLA-style BBQ Shrimp is calling your name.
Photo by Corine Michel

Relish Restaurant and Bar
2810 Westheimer

Chef Dustin Teague and wife Addie are opening the patio at Relish May 8 for dine-in service. It will open for lunch from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended for dinner.

Lunch items include a heat-friendly gazpacho ($7/9) and the Summer Tagliatelle ($17). The dinner menu has scrumptious fried chicken with bacon-braised collard greens ($18) and a Gulf Snapper Puttanesca ($30). The Lavender Sour cocktail is a classy gin cocktail to sip on the patio or add a little spice to your life with the Frozen Salty Dog.

Multiple locations across Houston

This Houston-based salad chain was founded in 2005 and now has over 90 locations across seven states with plans to expand across the country. Despite the pandemic affecting restaurant business, Salata has seen its sales increase nearly 90 percent and its delivery business more than doubled. It took early measures including reducing its corporate personnel by thirty percent, implementing a pantry model at select locations and selling its house-made dressings in 12 ounce carafes to-go.

Now, over 30 Houston-area stores have reopened for dine-in service with hygiene measures such as facial coverings and health checks for all employees, stickers on the floor to keep customers 6 feet apart, utensils and condiments kept behind counter (given on request) and additional COVID-19 specific training for staff.
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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.