Bar Beat

Openings and Closings: Killen's Set for Heights, Les Ba'get Reopens

Ronnie Killen has a lot to smile about.
Ronnie Killen has a lot to smile about. Photo by Kimberly Park

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Texans find comfort in Killen's chicken fried steak.
Photo by Kimberly Park

Killen's, 101 Heights Boulevard, will open late summer 2019 in the spot that formerly housed longtime Houston barbecue joint, Hickory Hollow, which closed this past January. The Fallbrook location of Hickory Hollow remains open.

Ronnie Killen, a James Beard nominee and restaurant king of Pearland, is already set to open his second Killen's Steakhouse any day now, which will be north of Houston in The Woodlands. Killen's will be the seventh restaurant for the chef and restaurateur and the first within the 610 Loop.

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Ronnie Killen has a lot to smile about.
Photo by Kimberly Park
While each previous restaurant bears his name, they each have a qualifier as to the kind of cuisine to expect. BBQ, Burgers, Steakhouse, well maybe not the TMX and STQ so much, but you get the idea. Killen's however will take favorites from each of the different concepts and according to Killen will be, "the best of what we do."

Loyal patrons of the former Hickory Hollow may see a few of their familiar favorites with the added flare of Killen's culinary expertise. Comfort food will be a definite part of the menu, with Killen's chicken fried steak, beef ribs, creamed corn and bread pudding just a part of the stick to your ribs fare, along with some Tex Mex dishes like smoked brisket enchiladas and nostalgic additions such as a smoked meatloaf based on his mother's recipe.

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The former Hickory Hollow Heights will be the home of Killen's.
Photo by Ronnie Killen

Beer and wine will be available, with the possible addition of a mixed drinks bar, if it will fit the space. Killen's renovations will be sensitive to the history of the building, but the floors, paint and restrooms will be updated while the kitchen will be opened up with a new barbecue pit and a wood burning grill, both by J&R Manufacturing.

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Here's poke-ing at you, kid.
Photo by Marissa Bullock
Pokeworks, 1609 S. Post Oak, is celebrating its grand opening April 6 with Buy One, Get One Free bowls, special treats and giveaways. The first 50 customers will receive Pokeworks coconuts and everyone will get lei'd. There will be raffles every hour for gift cards and Pokeworks grab bags.

This will be the fourth Houston area location and the first in the Galleria. This franchise comes from brothers Christopher and Henry Lav whose family immigrated from Cambodia in 1988 to escape the genocide. Inspired by their parents, they went on to operate six Hartz Chicken Buffets, beginning in 2009, and are now jumping into the Pokeworks franchise, planning further expansions to Katy and Sugar Land.

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Spam musubi and coconut pudding at Pokeworks.
Photo by Marissa Bullock
The Hawaiian poke restaurant was founded in 2015 and has quickly grown with the popularity of the Hawaiian traditional dish that centers around raw fish, tasty sauces and fresh vegetables and fruit. Pokeworks offers raw and sous vide proteins. Newbies can try one of their signature bowls and veterans can Poke Your Way, which lets you be the architect of your poke creation.

For spring 2019, Top Chef alumnus Sheldon Simeon has drawn on his Hawaiian heritage to create The Lava Bowl. With ghost peppers, sriracha and a choice of spicy sauces, this poke may make you erupt.

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A seafood tower is a thing of beauty at 1751 Sea and Bar.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara Photography
1751 Sea and Bar, 191 Heights Boulevard, will have its grand opening April 2. The new seafood and gin centric restaurant from Sambrooks Management Company, will have a superstar team including Culinary Director Lyle Bento, Executive Chef J.D. Woodward and Chef Michael Nutt leading the mission to bring Houston some of the freshest seafood, boasting an ice bar with seafood towers, oysters, poke and caviar service. There will also be a stunning charcuterie board showcasing smoked, cured and preserved seafood. Salami and cheese, it ain't.

There will be small diverse plates ranging from chicken karrage to crawfish souffle. The entree menu will have a strong focus on simply grilled seafood, but also offer dishes like tom yum hot pot and dark roux gumbo. For non-seafood lovers, a Niman Ranch prime ribeye is on the menu.

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Caviar service stuns at 1751 Sea and Bar.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara Photography
The name 1751 comes from the Gin Act of 1751 and the bar, under Beverage Director David Maness will showcase over 100 varieties of gin. Whether it be a mule, martini or a simple G&T, there will be a gin for everyone's taste.

General Manager Adrian Cuneo has curated a competitively priced wine list, though there are plenty of reserve wines for special moments and deep pockets.

1/2 the Guilt, 2721 Chimney Rock, began its soft opening March 15 with a friends and family event and the restaurant is shooting for an April 15 grand opening, though details are still in the works.

The meat burgers are made with grass-fed beef and cafe-free chicken from a farm in Waller and the meat is Halal. The restaurant also offers burgers for vegetarians and vegans including the vegetarian eggplant, falafel and Beyond Vegan burgers. The grass-fed burger starts at $5.99 for the original with the L.A. Burger at the other end of the list at $7.99 and the vegetarian burgers in between. That leaves plenty of wiggle room to add on french fries for $2.99. To wash it down with half the guilt, there is organic milk, Honest Tea and IBC Root Beer. There are also homemade pickle relishes available for purchase.

Bombshells, 24628 Texas 249, opened March 27. This makes the sixth Houston area location for the military-themed sports bar and restaurant. It's in a prime spot next to the Regal Lone Star Cinemas 19, so you might want to grab a burger, pizza or cheese steak at Bombshells before or after the movie rather than spend $15 on popcorn and a drink. There's an extensive menu of entrees, barbecue, sandwiches and appetizers including the Uncle Spam, a triple-decker Spam and cheese sandwich.

In keeping with its mission to honor military service, veterans and active service members of the U.S. Armed Forces get 20 percent off meals and soft drinks every day. They also eat free on Veteran's Day.

There are plans to open two additional locations, one at Katy Freeway and another at US-59 later this spring.

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Houston's favorite Easter Bunny.
Photo by Kylie Boaz
Spec's Wines, Spirits and Finer Foods, 9733 Buffalo Speedway, will celebrate its grand opening March 30 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with free goodie bags, door prizes and specials.  It will also be a celebration of Spec's 57th anniversary. The company was founded in 1962 by Carrol B. "Spec" Jackson and his wife Carolynn Jackson, primarily as a liquor store in the Greater Houston area. It eventually began selling snack and deli items, then expanded across Texas. There are now more than 100 locations in the Lone Star State. The Jacksons both passed away in 1996, according to Wikipedia, and their daughter Lindy Rydman and husband John Rydman then took ownership of the company.

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Spec's Spring Stuebner will satisfy your grape cravings.
Photo by Kylie Boaz
Spec's Wines, Spirits, and Finer Foods, 6603 Spring Stuebner, will also celebrate its grand opening March 30 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the same goodies, giveaways and specials as the Buffalo Speedway location.  The good people of Spring won't miss out on all the fun.

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Executive chef Daniel Berg and brother Benjamin Berg have grande plans for spring.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
B.B. Italia Kitchen and Bar and B.B. Pizza, 14795 Memorial Drive, will open at the end of April in the former Carmelo's Cucina Italiana building. Berg Hospitality Group took over the longtime Houston Italian restaurant from Carmelo Mauro after its final Christmas service in 2017 and reopened January 2018. The company announced it was closing as Carmelo's in January of this year to re-brand and renovate, as reported here in the Press. The new concepts will open with an updated facade, a remodeled dining room, renovated private event spaces and new restrooms. There will also be a large horseshoe bar and an outdoor patio.

B.B. Italia will offer a fresh take on Italian cuisine and there are plans to offer brunch service within a month of opening. Inside the restaurant will be B.B. Pizza. serving New York-style pizza, subs and calzones for pick-up and delivery.

Magical Dessert Bar
, 907 Westheimer, opened March 4 in the spot that was originally Chills360. It is pink and filled with unicorns. There are cake pops, milkshakes, rainbow cake slices and unicorn cookies all in colors that prove you don't need drugs to hallucinate. However, you will need that sugar high when you see the prices. Resist the urge to tell little Betsy and Billy that unicorns aren't real and that money isn't magical. Just suck it up, Buttercup. Pretend you're at Disney World.

Les Ba'get has returned with delicious baguette sandwiches.
Photo by Jeff Balke
Les Ba'get, 1717 W. 34th, began its soft opening March 17. The Vietnamese home cooking of Chef Cat Huynh was popular with the Montrose crowd, but eventually Huynh and wife Angie Dang decided to turn Les Ba'get into a pho bar, Les Noo'dle, last year. They promised to reopen Les Ba'get at a different location and that day has come.

The freshly baked baguettes that make up the banh mi sandwiches are back, as well as the duck pate, house aioli and fresh vegetables that make Les Ba'get's sandwiches a favorite in a city spoiled for choice when it comes to Vietnamese restaurants. Besides the baguette sandwiches, there is a variety of pho including the popular lemongrass tofu and vermicelli and zucchini noodles.

The decor is contemporary, with the somewhat industrial furnishings tempered by rustic wood accents and Mason-style jars filled with drink toppings. Besides the comfortable and sleek interior, there is an attractive patio for enjoying the pleasant spring weather and a glass of wine or beer. There is cafe sua da (Vietnamese coffee) as well as shakes and slushes. With the full bar, Les Ba'get is also offering creative cocktails. We would like to know what's in the Pho'loody Mary, so hit us up in the comments if you've got the scoop.

The new location of Les Ba'get already has a fan here at the Houston Press and he's particularly fond of the Hoisin Butter Chicken Baguette.You can read Jeff Balke's review here in the Press.

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There's plenty of room for family and friends at Monica's.
Photo by Jose Luis Cano
Monica's Mexican Restaurant, 17350 Northwest Freeway, celebrated its grand opening February 9. The family operated restaurant serves fajitas, tacos, burritos and enchiladas, along with good margaritas and two different salsas. The enchiladas Lagunillas is named after the region of Mexico from where the family hails originally and is a dish of six mini corn tortillas, refried beans, potatoes, carrots, chorizo,lettuce and cheese with a choice of beef or chicken. There is a small lunch menu Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. plus weekend specials like menudo and huevos con machacado, a dish of eggs and shredded dry beef, Friday though Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Raymundo's Mexican Restaurant, 2836 Fulton, opened March 1. There's an extensive menu running from breakfast to dinner sure to please all appetites. For breakfast try the huevos divorciados, eggs that are divorced because one is topped with salsa verde and the other with salsa roja, each alone on its fried tortilla island. They can reconcile in your belly. For $4.75, it's a bargain. Plus, there are a la carte breakfast tacos for $1.50. With lunch specials starting at $6.99, you could spend the day at Raymundo's and not break the bank.

There are the usual tortas and tacos and enchiladas, but for the member of your group who doesn't feel up to Mexican food, there is chicken fried steak, burgers and Cajun catfish dishes.

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Comfy bar stools invite you to stay a while at Taste.
Photo by Sonya Cuellar
Taste Bar + Kitchen, 3015 Bagby, opens March 29 at 5 p.m. with a grand opening celebration running until 8 p.m. featuring DJ Shante and a photo booth for shots of your cute self. The sleek, but casual new drinks and waffles hot spot offers creative flavors to amp up the standard chicken and waffles dish. With choices like General Tso's, Cajun, Jerk and gravy smothered waffles, you'll be begging your friends to order one of each for the table. And for the vegans and vegetarians, there's a vegan choice made with fried cauliflower and vegan waffles. Comfort foods are given a fresh touch by chef Don Bowie who, along with Kevin Kelley, is bringing a global approach to the humblest of foods such as mac and cheese and collard greens.

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Dessert in a glass.
Photo by Sonya Cuellar
The craft cocktail selection is termed The Dessert Bar, so for all the foofy boozies out there (like Big-Haired Kim), these mixed drinks will tempt the kid in you with the added bonus of liquor. Vodka Peach Cobbler and Vodka Cotton Candy cocktails give a glimpse of what to expect. Paired with the red velvet or spiced butter pecan waffles, your sweet tooth will be satisfied for a long time. Or at least until the next day.

There's also a cute patio for welcoming spring with a Bourbon Pecan Flip in hand while flipping winter off.

Big City Wings, 3555 Rayford Road, will open pretty, pretty soon. The press release did not give an official date and no one is answering the phones at that location, but it should be any day now. We will keep you posted.

The local wings joint has been on a roll, having just opened a new restaurant in Kingwood in January of this year. The Spring location will make the eighth location. Director of Operations Sam Elsaadi has big plans to expand Big City Wings across our sprawling metropolis so that no wing eating, beer drinking, sports enthusiast will be left behind. And there are plenty of other tasty options on the large menu for dainty eaters who prefer utensils.

Lucky Pot, 9888 Bellaire Boulevard, has been reported closed by Yelp and the phone has been disconnected. Lucky Pot was a Chinatown favorite for its authentic Northern Chinese cuisine.

Openings Reported for March:

Adriatic Cafe, 19380 Interstate 45, opened March 9
Asia Market Thai Lao Food, 3620 N.Main, opened January 27
Astral Brewing, 4816 N. Shepherd, opened March 3
Bernie's Burger Bus, 6324 Highway 6, opened March 15
Boiling Pho, 2705 Broadway, opened February 20
The Blonde Pantry, 2800 Kirby, opened March 2
The Broken Yolk Cafe, 16803 Stuebner Airline, opened February 11
Burgerim, 5623 Garth Road, opened January 31
Cafe Bustelo, 3615 Montrose, opened March 12
Common Bond Cafe and Bakery, 2276 W. Holcombe, opened March 13
Creed Italian Restaurant and Bar, 12126 Westheimer, opened March 1
Crawfish and Beignets, 9600 Bellaire, opened early March
Eight Turn Crepe, 23119 Colonial Parkway, grand opening March 23
Jinya Ramen, 11930 Barker Cypress, opened February 18
KENZ Mediterranean, 5000 Westheimer, opened February 8
Komeya Ramen and Sushi, 1849 El Dorado, opened March 15
Legends Coffee and Cafe, 25707 Westheimer Parkway, opened March 1
Pop Top Burgers, 3122 FM 528, opened early February
The Red Oak Cafe, 1200 Bypass 35 North, grand opening March 1
77 Degrees, 2416 Brazos, grand opening March 7
Sweet Paris Creperie and cafe, 9595 Six Pines, opened February 26
Texadelphia, 126 Vintage Park, opened March 11
Tiger Noodle House, 2424 Rice Boulevard, opened March 10
Tropical's Colombian Restaurant, 212 Westheimer, opened March 1
True Anomaly Brewing Company, 2012 Dallas, opened February 20
Uptown Sushi, 1131 Uptown Park Boulevard, reopened early March
Veegos, 11191 Westheimer, soft opening February 5
Wow, What a Taco, 3005 S. Dairy Ashford, opened January 12
Wula Buhuan, 13346 Briar Forest, grand opening February 20

Closings Reported for March:

Freebirds World Burrito,11770 Westheimer, closed late February
Rhotey Rotisserie, 9296 Westheimer, closed February 16
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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.