Openings and Closings: Local Hits the Heights, Pokeworks Meets Montrose

Photo courtesy of Pokeworks

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Local Foods opens in Heights Mercantile.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Local Foods, 714 Yale, joined with a number of other restaurants and businesses making the Heights Mercantile a destination for food and shopping. The fifth outpost of duo Benji Levit and Dylan Murray's popular from scratch sandwich restaurant opened February 16.

The restaurant uses local purveyors and farms to source many of their ingredients, including the Urban Harvest Farmers Market. The menu offers options for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores with soups like Vegan Lemongrass or Chicken Posole. The roast beef sandwich is made with beef from 44 Farms and bread is sourced from Slow Dough Bread Co.

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Maria Gonzales will head the kitchen at Local Foods in the Heights.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Maria Gonzales, former chef at benji's on Washington, is Executive Chef at the new Heights location. Look for the dinner menu to include house-smoked salmon and Spiced Red Bird Chicken, and a number of other offerings with the new JOSPER charcoal oven adding a smoky-sweet flavor to meats and fish.

There will be a craft cocktails program in the next few weeks, with local beers and Texas distilled spirits. In the meantime, the restaurant will have a BYOB policy and will also offer two complimentary glasses of wine or beer per customer, of drinking age, of course. Local Foods will also be the first restaurant in Texas to serve Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit, and cocktails created with it.

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The Crunchy Chicken is a Houston favorite.
Photo by Julie Soefer
The Crunchy Chicken at Local Foods was voted as the "Best Sandwich" by the Houston Press in 2017, a pecan panko crusted fried chicken breast on a pretzel bun, with crushed chips.

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Have it your way with Poke Your Way.
Photo courtesy of Pokeworks

Pokeworks, 2055 Westheimer, opened its second Houston eatery February 8. The poke chain was founded in 2015 and has quickly expanded to 18 locations with nearly 30 more on the way. It offers sustainably sourced fish, along with tofu and cooked chicken.

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Photo courtesy of Pokeworks
There are the signature works such as the Hawaiian Classic or Poke Your Way, which allows patrons to create their own bowl, salad, noodles, or burrito with different choices of protein, toppings, and sauces. The noodles are kale-infused and the burritos are sushi rice and roast seaweed wraps.

Les Ba'get, 1717 Montrose, closed February 2 for renovations, according to Eater Houston. Owners Cat Huynh and Angie Dang will reopen the space as Les Noo'dle, a pho bar that will serve beef, chicken and vegetarian pho. There will also be wine-based cocktails on tap. There are plans to open a new Les Ba'get at 34th and Ella in the spring.

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Check out the chandeliers!
Photo courtesy of Dickinson Bar B Que and Steakhouse

Dickinson Bar B Que and Steakhouse, 2111 FM 517 E., reopened January 26. The popular barbecue restaurant received over four feet of water during Hurricane Harvey, due to its proximity to Dickinson Bayou. After months of repairs and renovations, it is back to business supplying the Galveston County folks with brisket and pork ribs. During the closure, owners continued to serve some of the barbecue items at their fine dining restaurant, Marais, next door. Because of the reopening of their barbecue place, lunch service at Marais, Monday through Friday, has been discontinued. There is still a Sunday Jazz Brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

What's Cooking, 926 FM Road 518 East, reopened November 5 after damage from Hurricane Harvey as well. The longtime local German restaurant in Kemah was started in 1989 by owner Kristine Garbo. Besides German favorites such as schnitzel and rouladen, there are offerings like grilled seafood, pasta, and chicken entrees. The restaurant is BYOB and offers setups.

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Cypress has a new Texas favorite.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Taco Casa, 8808 Barker Cypress, opened February 6. The fast-casual Tex-Mex was founded in 1972 by Shelda and Roy Upshaw in Fort Worth. After 40 years of success all over Texas and even Oklahoma, it has finally made its way to Houston. Actually, Cypress, if you want to get technical. The buzz building up to the opening was from Dallas/ Fort Worth transplants who have been anticipating its arrival with near fanaticism. With nearly ninety stores, it's a wonder it hasn't made its way closer to the Bayou City before now.

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If you like your tacos cheap and crispy, here you go.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The menu is similar to that other fast food Mexican chain, Taco Bell, but fans of Taco Casa will enlighten you on why the food is better at the Casa. The majority of the menu items are ground beef or bean based. There is no chicken served. There are burritos, soft and crispy tacos, along with super-sized nachos and taco salads.

The restaurant has flyers with the nutrition facts of each menu items listed. We suggest you read it.

Street Food Thai Market, 1010 Cavalcade, had its soft opening February 5. It offers typical Thai cuisine like Tom Yum Goong, a spicy shrimp soup, and Khao Soi Gai, a curry soup with chicken. Large photos of Thailand and fresh orchids decorate the space.

Eddie Jackson is a busy man.
Photo courtesy of The Food Network
Rosehill Beer Garden, 14540 Cypress Rosehill, had its grand opening February 17. Eddie Jackson, a Food Network personality with BBQ Blitz and a host of other shows to his credit, not counting his win in season 11 of The Next Food Network Star, has created a food truck and beer mecca on 2.5 acres north of Houston, in Cypress.

The beer hall has 22 taps and a large selection of bottled and canned brews, many of them local and from small breweries. The food trucks will rotate every ninety days.

Jackson has his own food truck, Caribbean Grill and is the owner of Fit Chef Eddie. He also played professional football with the NFL until injuries led him to a career in food and fitness.

Blend Bar with Davidoff Cigars, 1701 Lake Robbins, opened February 8 in the Woodlands Town Center. The wood-paneled walls and leather sofas give it a clubby feel, along with more than 125 bourbons, whiskies, and ryes. There are also over 60 scotches available. There is a small food menu, plus plenty of outdoor seating. There are three previous locations in Indianapolis, Nashville, and Pittsburgh.

The Ginger Man, 160 West Gray, had its soft opening, according to the Houston Chronicle. This is the second location in Houston. The original location, 5607 Morningside, has been a Rice Village fixture since 1985, hosting many Houstonians in their college years, whether they attended Rice, St. Thomas, or just drove in from the 'burbs on the weekends. Odds are, if your parents drank beer, they drank it here at one point in the backyard beer garden.

The Ginger Man's beer garden is staying.
Photo by Houston Press

The Rice Village location has been sold to the Houston-based developer, Braun Enterprises, but The Ginger Man is sticking around as a tenant.

The success of the original Ginger Man led to its expansion to Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Southlake, New York, Boston, and even Greenwich, Connecticut.

Shake Shack, 6205 Kirby, is rumored to be opening very soon, possibly February 28 or March 1, as reported by Paper City. This will be the second Houston location of the worldwide burger joint that started in Madison Square Garden in 2001 as a hot dog cart. Its proprietary hamburger beef blend and its Shack Sauce can even be had in Japan.

The vintage style burger restaurant does not do drive-thrus and goes above the fast food experience. Like many up and coming burger places, diners are given a more upscale experience. Shake Shack has collaborated with Brooklyn Brewery for its ShakeMeister Ale and also teamed with Frog's Leap to create their house wines which are organic and biodynamic.

A third Houston location is planned at 1002 Westheimer, according to Eater Houston. It will take over the shuttered Burger King that many of us remember from our " cruising Westheimer" days.

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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.