The restaurant community in Houston is reopening and the June 12 guidelines set out by Governor Greg Abbott will now allow restaurants to go to 75 percent capacity. Some opened May 1 with 25 percent capacity while others waited till the May 22 allowance of 50 percent. While many of our favorites have weathered the storm, others have not. We don't want to be prophets of doom and gloom but there have also been cases where restaurant staff have contracted the COVID-19 virus, necessitating two week closures for the restaurants themselves. These voluntary temporary closures have occurred due to an over abundance of caution by restaurant owners and operators rather than state orders. These are wise choices, but expensive ones.
So, if you want to support local restaurants, you can dine-in or continue to order take-out and delivery. We have seen some creative solutions from Houston's restaurateurs and their teams in order to keep afloat during this crisis. However, it's the customers that keep them sailing.
The cuisine is a blend of Mediterranean and American fare served in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. Its founders, Faysal Haddad and Maria immigrated from Syria in 1981 and many of the dishes at Island Grill are created from family recipes. The fare on offer runs from items such as falafel balls and tabbouleh to Angus burgers, pasta and pizza. There's a variety of different pitas including a gyro, turkey or grilled vegetable version. Island Grill serves breakfast until 11 a.m. with choices such as egg plates, pancakes, breakfast pitas and tacos. There's a smoothie and juice menu plus a number of coffee drinks. There's a kids menu as well.
The restaurant offers 3,584 square feet of space along with an outdoor patio.
Jax Grill, 9910 Gaston, opened in Katy June 8. This is the third location for the brand which has not opened a new location in more than 25 years. Its first location opened in Bellaire in 1993 followed by a second spot on Shepherd in 1994.
The new restaurant offers seating for 250 in a 4,600-square-foot space, including seating for 50 in the bar area. There are sliding garage doors opening from the bar to an 80-seat covered patio facing a green space. It will be shared with the upcoming seventh location of The Union Kitchen, also operated by Gr8 Plate Hospitality. The opening will be announced soon.
The menu has been updated from the current Jax menu and will be implemented at the other two locations eventually. New dishes include Bang!Bang! Shrimp, Southwestern Chicken Egg Rolls, a Tex-Mex Burger, and a Buffalo Chicken Club Sandwich. Familiar favorites such as the mesquite-grilled Jax Burger will stay on the menu.
Americas, 2040 W. Gray, will not reopen, according to CultureMap Houston. It was the second location for the concept from Michael Cordua and son David and opened in 2010. The original Americas opened on Post Oak in 1993, then closed in 2011. The third Americas opened in The Woodlands but rebranded to Churrascos in 2017. The Corduas parted ways with Cordua Restaurants in 2018 and subsequently it became Churrascos Restaurant Group.
The official statement from Churrascos Restaurant Group's COO Fred Espinoza read: "Due to the business effects of the coronavirus and the high-cost structure of the operations, we decided not to reopen Americas. We are extremely grateful to all our loyal fans for all the support throughout the years, and we hope to see you at one of our Churrascos' locations."
Churrascos also offers cocktail kits to-go like the Mimosa Kit ($19.95), the Mojito Kit ($31.95) and the Margarita Kit ($34.95)
Tropicales, 2132 Bissonnet, will not reopen, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The Latin-inspired cafe closed March 17 due to dining restrictions laid out by Texas Governor Greg Abbott at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. It opened in May 2019 as a partnership between Greenway Coffee's David Buehrer and Steve and Hilary Ibarra. Jillian Bartolome, formerly pastry chef at Aqui and Common Bond, was brought in as was Morningstar's Carlos Ballon.
The restaurant offered creative cocktails like the Avocolada or Coconut Grove plus craft beers. The food menu was on the petite side with breakfast tacos, enchiladas, a Cuban sandwich, ceviche and empanadas served in a clean, modern space designed by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture.
as reported here in the Houston Press. Unfortunately, it closed May 30 for two weeks after a team member contracted COVID-19, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. Due to already rigorous safety measures, the employee was quickly identified. The owners, Mithu and Shammi Malik, decided to close the restaurant for two weeks, though it was not required.
In a press release, Mithu Malik said, "It was certainly difficult to close our doors for two weeks following our opening, however, we understand this situation is greater than a business decision — these choices directly impact the well-being of others." The restaurant brought in professional sanitization teams and are continuing to check the temperatures of staff and will also do that of guests, though it is not mandatory for guests. There will also be contactless dining and social distancing measures along with extra hand sanitizing stations throughout the restaurant.
Millie's Kitchen and Cocktails, 3542 Oak Forest, has closed temporarily for a minimum of two weeks. The closure was first reported by EaterHouston. According to its Facebook post, an employee of Millie's called in sick. Due to the symptoms, owner Ken Bridge had the employee get tested immediately. Unfortunately, the team member tested positive for COVID-19. The employee in question has been ordered to quarantine. Though none of the other employees have shown symptoms, all are scheduled for testing and have been told to quarantine until the results are known.
In the meantime, Bridge told the Press that he will spend the next few days finishing the interior buildout and prepare the dining room and patio for the reopening which is planned toward the end of the month.
Currently, the owners have put the food truck up for sale as they prepare to open the restaurant for dining in. The owners told the Houston Press that they are planning a grand opening very soon.
For those looking for a job, they are currently interviewing potential staff. Ask for Kat.
Campioni Restaurant, 13850 Cutten, reopened May 1 and is continuing to open in phases according to the guidelines set out by the State of Texas and the Texas Restaurant Association. Campioni has been around since 1991 when it originally opened on FM 1960. It now has a much more elegant location in Champions that offers a view of trees and a garden area. Owner Ric Mausser was recognized as Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year in 2011, the first time the honor had been bestowed on a restaurant outside the 610 Loop.
The restaurant offers Italian favorites such as lasagne, pizza, and eggplant parmigiana plus entrees of veal, chicken, seafood and steak. The Chicken Pamela, a chicken breast with toasted breadcrumbs, apples, gorgonzola cheese and walnut butter atop a bed of spinach, is a popular dish. This writer likes Campioni's canneloni because it's made with tender homemade spinach pasta. And the complimentary bread is a delicious bonus.
The restaurant is adhering strictly to safety protocols and has converted the banquet rooms into regular dining areas to allow for more space between guests. A portion of the bar has also been dedicated to customers picking up to-go orders.
House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, reopens June 12 with live music. There will be nightly entertainment like the L.O.U.D. Muzik showcase with Khody Blake, Chelsea Cymone and DJ Hillo June 13, beginning at 9 p.m.Other upcoming shows include a 40th Anniversary of the Blues Brothers with The Texas Bluesmen, June 20, American Idol contestant Kate Watson, June 26, and the return of Drag Diva Brunch, June 27.
House of Blues has also launched a "Get Some, Give Some" meal-matching campaign in which it provides one meal to Kids' Meals for every entree ordered for dine-in, take-out and delivery. Kids' Meals delivers free healthy meals to preschool-aged children at their homes and helps to provide resources to their families to combat the cycle of poverty.
Sticky's Chicken, 2311 Edwards, reopens its dining room May 12 to 75 percent capacity. It will limit parties to four persons or less and guests will be spaced out (literally, not figuratively) at the counter and dining tables. It will also continue its take-out service along with delivery through UberEats.
In celebration of its reopening, it will introduce a new wing flavor, Sticky's Sweet and Spicy.
Sweet Paris Creperie and Cafe, 700 Baybrook Mall, softly opened March 13 then had to close its dining room four days later when Governor Greg Abbott ordered restaurant dining restrictions. Now, the newest location is back open for dine-in, including its lovely patio facing The Lawn, a turfed area situated between the restaurants and shops that doubles as an event space for outdoor movies and live music. It's also a space where children can play as their parents sip a mimosa or glass of wine within eyesight. In fact, all six of the Houston area locations are now open for dining. During the restrictions, they continued to successfully do take-out.
UB Preserv, 1609 Westheimer, will reopen its dining room June 12 at 5 p.m. Chris Shepherd has not been quick to rush the opening of his Houston restaurants. While many owners took advantage of the 25 percent capacity on May 1, when restrictions were eased, Shepherd didn't open the doors on his restaurants until weeks later, though they continued to do take-out. One Fifth opened its dining room and returned to its former Mediterranean concept May 22 as did Shepherd's steakhouse, Georgia James. Now UB Preserv, a more intimate venue, is reopening with a few changes in place.
While known for his focused and meticulous approach to new menu items, Wong sees this as an opportunity. He said in a press release, " I can finally run limited specials like soft shell crabs and other super seasonal dishes. If we run out during service, that's ok! We'll add a new dish tomorrow. " Those new dishes will be loaded to the website by 5 p.m. each day of service.
Underbelly Hospitality will also be installing Fulbright Isolate Mobile glass screens in all of its restaurants' dining rooms. It will obstruct airflow but will still allow guests to get a peek-a-loo at the tasty dishes (food and human) making their way to the tables.