Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: In-N-Out Stafford and Katy Open Today, Black Bear Diner Soon

Bruschetta at Radunare Woodlands.
Bruschetta at Radunare Woodlands. Photo by Becca Wright

click to enlarge In-N-Out is now in Houston. - PHOTO BY @PAOLAMENA14
In-N-Out is now in Houston.
Photo by @paolamena14

In-N-Out Burger, 12611 S. Kirkwood and 1010 Katy Fort Bend Road opens November 22 per a press release, according to Community Impact. There have been rumblings for several years which set social media ablaze with sparring between rabid Whataburger fans and In-N-Out loyalists. Californians have happy memories of road trips made delicious by In-N-Out stops along the way for decades. Whataburger has been around nearly as long, since 1950, and has just as cult-ish a following. Texas and California are always trying to one-up each other and it isn't any different when it comes to each state's favorite hamburger joint. Texas is big enough for another hamburger chain. Wendy's, McDonald's and Burger King seem to fare pretty well in a state that has sentimental ties to Whataburger.

Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out in a Los Angeles suburb in 1948, along with his wife Esther. It was the first drive-thru hamburger stand in California and Snyder created a two way speaker box so that diners could order and receive their meals without leaving their cars. Because who needs to exercise when you're about to wolf down a Double-Double with fries and a shake?

What sets In-N-Out apart from some of its competitors is its use of high quality ingredients, including its 100 percent American beef which is carefully selected, ground and formed at its own patty-making facilities,including one in Dallas.

Its fans love the Not-So-Secret menu where diners can order the burgers Protein-style, which substitutes crispy lettuce leaves for the bun, perfect for Keto diets. The Animal Fries are another favorite; crispy shoestring fries topped with In-N-Out's proprietary spread, cheese and grilled onions. There's also a grilled cheese for vegetarians who haven't quite crossed over to the vegan side.

The burger joint also serves real ice cream shakes. Unlike most burger chains, there are no chicken sandwiches or nuggets.
click to enlarge The churro donuts are served with caramel sauce. - PHOTO BY BUBBLE UP
The churro donuts are served with caramel sauce.
Photo by Bubble Up

The Toasted Yolk, 4601 Washington, opens December 9 in the Heights. We wrote about the upcoming location last month, but now, we have a definite date. This is the 11th Houston area location (which includes Conroe and New Caney), but the first within the 610 Loop. The breakfast and lunch restaurant began in 2010 as a partnership between friends Chris Milton and Mathew DeMott. Both men had previous restaurant experience including lead positions at Carino's Italian Grill and Luby's.

The restaurant serves a variety of breakfast options including its version of eggs Benedict which it terms "Arnolds". There are hearty four-egg omelettes or lighter two-egg breakfasts. There are also typical morning foods such as waffles, pancakes and French toast plus doughnuts "churro-style" served with caramel dipping sauce. Hashbrown casserole, grits and buttermilk biscuits are some of the side dishes.

click to enlarge The Toasted Yolk serves lunch as well as breakfast. - PHOTO BY BUBBLE UP
The Toasted Yolk serves lunch as well as breakfast.
Photo by Bubble Up
For lunch there are diner sandwich favorites like French Dip, Rueben and homemade chicken salad served on toasted sourdough. Salads like Strawberry Field or Greek Chicken Salad are popular lunch choices.

There are coffee and espresso brews for caffeine wake-me-ups and a variety of juices. For a lingering brunch, there are cocktails such as the Bloody Maria with Patron Silver Tequila and mimosas with a choice of flavors. If you need both coffee and booze to start your day, the Almond Joy has Amaretto, Malibu Rum, coffee, chocolate and whipped cream.

On opening day, diners can enjoy free churros with purchase and $3 mimosas.On December 5 and 6, from 9 a.m. to noon, first responders and hospital staff are welcome to enjoy a complimentary meal.

click to enlarge The Holiday Red Snapper is calling your name. - PHOTO BY SHANNON O'HARA
The Holiday Red Snapper is calling your name.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara

The Rouxpour, 303 Memorial City Way, at Interstate 10 and Gessner will open December 11 at 11 a.m.  A grand opening is planned for December 14. This makes the fourth location for the New Orleans-inspired restaurant. Owner and Baton Rouge native, Mack McDonald, opened the first one in Sugar Land in 2010.

click to enlarge Light your fire with chargrilled oysters. - PHOTO BY SHANNON O'HARA
Light your fire with chargrilled oysters.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
Guests can expects some bayou favorites like its award-winning seafood gumbo, crawfish etoufee and chargrilled oysters. To add to the NOLA vibe, there are cocktails like The Slurricane, a traditional Hurricane on the rocks made with light and dark rum or the Louisiana Peach Tea. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. with special pricing on food and drink in the bar.

The weekend brunch service will begin in January 2020 and will include items like pain perdu, crawfish enchiladas and fried chicken.

Black Bear Diner, 13590 University Boulevard, opens December 2 in Sugar Land. The breakfast/lunch chain began in California in 1995. The Sugar Land store makes the 136th in the nation and the sixth in Texas. There are four Greater Houston locations in Humble, Katy, League City and North Houston. Two more are coming soon in Cypress and The Woodlands.

On the menu are some bear-sized portions for those with big appetites like the Bigfoot Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs ($13.49). The menu helpfully lists the calorie content (2,300), so you have no one to blame but yourself if your britches split. 

click to enlarge Black Bear Diner expands to Sugar Land. - PHOTO BY BIL GADBAW
Black Bear Diner expands to Sugar Land.
Photo by Bil Gadbaw
There are slightly less hefty options like the Classic Two Egg Combos with choices like Portuguese Linguica suasage or chicken apple sausage. Pancakes, French toast and waffles are also available. The Bear Claw French toast should please those who like a sweet morning wake-up.

There's also the Bear's Benedicts plus chorizo breakfast tacos and huevos rancheros for "South of the Cave" options. For those more aware of their daily nutritional needs, the Fit and Focused section has choices such as Veggie Hash and Avocado Toast. There's also the Little Less which features smaller portions of some of the menu items.

Unlike the current trend of boozy breakfast joints, Black Bear Diner sticks to typical morning beverages such as coffee, cold brew and orange juice.

Roti Modern Mediterranean, 6602 Fannin, opened November 13 in the Medical Center. The chain has over 40 locations with the majority in Chicago and D.C. This is the fourth in Texas and first in Houston. Until November 29, healthcare industry employees receive 20 percent off.

Diners can start with a build-your-own base of rice, wrap or pita. Then, choose a protein such as chicken roti, steak roti, chicken or salmon kabob, falafel or spicy lamb meatballs. Sides include hummus, tomato and cucumber, couscous, vegetable mix, red cabbage slaw, pickled onions, Greek olives, feta cheese. Pick a sauce to top it off from flavors like roasted red pepper, roti vinaigrette, tahini, garlic, dill, yogurt and cucumber. There's also a fiery Mediterranean condiment called s'hug which is made of crushed red pepper, garlic and cayenne. You know you want it.

click to enlarge Bruschetta at Radunare Woodlands. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
Bruschetta at Radunare Woodlands.
Photo by Becca Wright

Radunare, 2520 Research Forest, has switched to full service dining, expanded its menu, added waitstaff for table service and separate bar staff. Founder Dr. Frank Morello listened to his customers' wants and needs and made some major changes to the Italian restaurant which opened in The Woodlands this past July.

While counter service is becoming an ever-increasing trend, Morello has nixed that previous plan and gone to table service. This writer thinks that's a good thing. I visited Radunare for breakfast one day and was greeted by three people who then escorted me to the counter, all three smiling eagerly at me, awaiting my order. It was slightly uncomfortable. In a nice, welcoming restaurant such as Radunare, table service is a much better option.

However, the breakfast service has also been eliminated. Now, Radunare will be open for lunch and dinner with an expanded menu. New lunch items include the Meatball Calzone, made with Morello's Market meatballs and the Chicken Parm Calzone. There's also a Prosciutto and Cheese Panini and soup, sandwich and salad combos.
click to enlarge Radunare has a large, shaded patio for al fresco dining. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Radunare has a large, shaded patio for al fresco dining.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

On the dinner menu there's a new charcuterie board, the Capellini A Olio, with sage, sundried tomatoes, oil and vegetables and the Italian Herb Steak with chimichurri glaze.  The restaurant has also added gluten-free pastas and pizza crusts.

Morello has brought in a new chef, Teresa Palermo, a fellow Italian-American, to head the kitchen.

Radunare has a happy hour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and all day Sunday in the bar. New cocktails include the Pinky Ring, made with vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, Mathilde Frambois and champagne. There's also the Sicilian Kiss with gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, a nod to Morello's Sicilian heritage.

click to enlarge Vegan is beautiful at Chef Kenny's. - PHOTO BY KENNY CHYE
Vegan is beautiful at Chef Kenny's.
Photo by Kenny Chye
Chef Kenny's Asian Vegan, 6128 Wilcrest, opened November 12. This is the second outpost for the Asian vegan restaurant. The original is located in Las Vegas.

The menu has all the standards like Kung Pao, General Tso's, chow mein and ramen, but it's all vegan. It even has vegan sushi rolls. The crunchy roll looks tasty to us.

Alamo Tamale and Taco, 2310 Navigation, will close January 1, 2020, according to CultureMap Houston.  The Navigation location has been open since the 1980s, but the renovation and development of East Downtown has caused many smaller businesses to close or set up shop elsewhere.  Fortunately for its loyal patrons, Alamo Tamale and Taco will continue to operate at its original Houston location at 809 Berry Road, which is a bigger, nicer location with air conditioning, better parking and banquet facilities. It's been around since 1962.

Though many customers go for the tamales (it's swamped during the holidays), it does offer lunch plates and breakfast tacos.  The tamales can be ordered handmade in various flavors for $12.99 to $14.99 per dozen or machine-made starting at $7.50 per dozen. They can also be ordered singly.

click to enlarge Chef Ryan Hildebrand shifts gears with the casual new eatery FM Kitchen and Bar. - PHOTO BY TROY FIELDS
Chef Ryan Hildebrand shifts gears with the casual new eatery FM Kitchen and Bar.
Photo by Troy Fields

FM Kitchen and Bar
, 1112 Shepherd, has parted ways with co-founder/chef Ryan Hildebrand, according to Houston Food Finder.  Hildebrand announced his resignation on his Facebook page saying, "While I am excited for this next chapter for me, my family and career, I am saddened to leave the crew at FM that has become a family in it's(sic) own way..."

Hildebrand and partner Chong Yi opened the restaurant with its delicious burgers and casual cuisine in May 2017, after shuttering their fine dining concept, Triniti, several months prior in February. Triniti received critical acclaim and lasted five years, no easy feat in the increasingly competitive Houston restaurant scene.

As for the planned second location of FM Kitchen and Bar at 907 Westheimer in Montrose, it's still on track to open in early 2020. Without one of its stars.

Creamistry, 130 Vintage Park Boulevard, opened October 28. It has locations across the United States. The Vintage Park shop makes the third for Houston with two more planned for Greater Houston area, one at 8931 Fry for Cypress and another at 1201 Lake Woodlands.

The ice cream shop serves nitrogen ice cream and shakes with a variety of toppings and mix-ins, including the typical candies, sprinkles, cereals and fruits. For those who want a little savory with their sweet, there's candied bacon, Chamoy, Tajin and Takis Fuegos. I don't get it, but you do you.

There are different bases to choose from. The dairy base is made from organic milk and the vegan bases are either coconut or cashew. There are also fruit sorbets.

California Baja Fusion Cuisine, 24527 Gosling, opened in late October. The food truck serves breakfast tacos, tortas, the Cali Crispy Chicken Sandwich plus posole on the weekends.
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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.