Openings and Closings: Killen's TMX is Coming, Del Frisco's Grille Kirby Departs

Brisket and queso screams Tex-Mex.
Brisket and queso screams Tex-Mex. Photo by Kimberly Park

Killen's TMX, 9330 Broadway, is slated to open in Pearland's Silverlake Plaza this November. Social media and various online publications have been floating the rumors for months of chef and restaurateur Ronnie Killen's plans for venturing beyond his steakhouse and barbecue empire and into the already dense Tex-Mex landscape of the Houston area.

Expect smoke to be an integral part of the menu, with a wood-burning grill already fitted into the kitchen. Some of the dishes have been previewed at Killen's Barbecue such as smoked chicken enchiladas and the brisket queso. Housemade moles, salsas and tortillas will round out the authentic Tex-Mex cuisine. There will also be dishes utilizing Gulf Coast seafood.

Killen was a top graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in London and a James Beard nominee for Best Chef: Southwest in 2017. With a number of awards and accolades for his steaks, barbecue and smoked turkey, Tex-Mex aficionados will be lining up for Killen's stamp on the cuisine.

click to enlarge
Izakaya offers a variety of nosh.
Photo courtesy of Izakaya WA

click to enlarge
Snack Japanese-style at Izakaya WA.
Photo courtesy of Izakaya WA
Izakaya WA, will open a second location in River Oaks Shopping Center in the second quarter of 2019. It claims to be Houston's first and only Japanese-owned izakaya. WA means Japanese style or harmony. Izakaya is the term used to describe Japanese pubs which serve small dishes, a concept similar to Spanish tapas or Italian cicchetti. The shareable plates add to the social vibe of good drinks and pleasant conversation.

The menu will feature meat skewers, fried and grilled, for easy eating. Sushi and sashimi will also be available, along with rice dishes and udon and soba noodles. Japanese shochu, sake and whiskeys complete the izakaya experience.

The first location of Izakaya WA opened in 2013 in Memorial City. Since then, the izakaya trend has started to take hold in Houston with a couple of other izakaya concepts having opened since then.

Del Frisco's Grille
, 2800 Kirby, will close September 16, according to the Houston Chronicle. Until then, the restaurant will offer 1/2 off beer, wine and liquor. The upscale casual brand opened in 2013 as a spin-off of its more glamorous steakhouse, Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse. Del Frisco's Restaurant group also operates the Sullivan's Steakhouse chain, which closed its Houston Galleria location in May 2017.

The Woodlands location of Del Frisco's Grille is still open. A new Del Frisco's Grille will be built in the space at 300 Colorado in downtown Austin, according to Community Impact Austin. That space was formerly a Sullivan's Steakhouse, which shuttered in January.

click to enlarge
Photo courtesy of Rhotey Rotisserie
Rhotey Rotisserie, 9296 Westheimer, began its soft opening August 6. The European inspired fast-casual sandwich and rotisserie shop comes from Vincent Taylor, whose visit to Paris instigated a love affair with the street rotisserie ovens in its food markets. An accountant by trade, Taylor is being kept very busy with a hungry clientele that has been wiping out his inventory with glee.

click to enlarge
The Rotisol oven is working overtime.
Photo courtesy of Rhotey Rotisserie
That inventory includes chicken from Georgia's Wayne Farms, pork from Compart Farms' Duroc breed and Angus beef from Creekstone Farms. All these rotisserie-cooked meats end up in sandwiches that have folks mighty happy. The chicken is served on pretzel bread, the beef on brioche buns, while the porchetta is served on ciabatta. How often do you see porchetta on a Houston menu? If you like a little lean pork with decadent pork belly crispness, this is the sandwich for you.

Among all this lovely meat, there is also cauliflower. It seems as if we are writing about cauliflower all the time. At Rhotey's, they offer a roasted cauliflower sandwich that will satisfy vegetarians and carnivores alike.

The sandwiches range in price from $7 to $11 and can be made into a salad if you want to forego the bun. You can add on a side of house-made Kennebec potato chips or roasted lemon feta cauliflower for $1.50. There are Boylan sodas and Moonshine Tea on offer, as well as a BYOB policy for adult beverages.  Memorial Fine Wine and Spirits is two doors down.

click to enlarge
Batanga's patio is ripe for fall weather.
Photo courtesy of Batanga
Batanga, 908 Congress, is rolling out a new menu.and half of it is gluten-free. There are new tapas like the grilled quail with ras el hanout spice, steamed mussels and lumpia (Filipino spring rolls).

Batanga's is introducing a new cocktail menu as well. For party people, there is the Adios Pantalones (we will let you translate that one yourself). It's made with calamansi lime syrup, pineapple, Frangelico and Deep Eddy vodka. Try and keep your pants on in public, please.

click to enlarge
Grilled quail over haystack potatoes.
Photo courtesy of Batanga
Batanga's happy hour runs Tuesday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. That's plenty of time to try its $5 mojitos or sangria and munch on a $2 taco or $6 Latin flatbread.

Urban Harvest Saturday Farmers Market, 3000 Richmond, is relocating to the St. John's School parking lot at 3401 Westheimer at the corner of Buffalo Speedway and Westheimer on Saturday, September 22. Many patrons know it as the Eastside Farmers Market and it draws not only Houstonians searching for sustainably grown produce and humanely-raised meats to serve to their families, but also chefs like Hugo Ortega and Chris Shepherd.

The new location will allow more space for parking and also increase the market's footprint by 50 percent. Many of the vendors are local farmers and ranchers from within a 180 mile radius of Houston. The market also features small businesses like Oddball Eats and Juice Girl. Augusta Vega's nut-based milk company, MALK, got its start there.

Check out its website for a list of vendors, upcoming programs and events. There will be a fall festival October 27 from 8 a.m. to noon and Citrus Fest on December 15.

Kanaloa, 311 Travis, opened September 5 for its soft opening, as reported by Houston Food Finder. The new tiki bar takes over what was The Market Square Bar and Grill for many years. Gone is the Victorian bar, replaced by tiki heads with glowing eyes and blue-green lighting.

Patrons can expect the usual tiki drinks like mai tais and Blue Hawaiians in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. Grab one of the large booths with your pals and drink some rum. Oh My Gogi is in the house, or at least in the kitchen, churning out its Korean fusion dishes plus items like tiki tots, covered in jerk chicken.

Bacon on an ice cream sandwich? Oh, baby.
Photo by Joanna O'Leary
SMOOSH, 718 W.18th, will celebrate its grand opening September 15 with free ice cream sandwiches, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., one per customer. This is the first brick and mortar for the Rice Village food truck. Or ice cream truck. Cookie monsters can customize their sandwiches with their choice of cookies and ice cream. If a oatmeal raisin cookie one one side and a peanut butter on the other, with butter pecan ice cream inside makes you happy, go for it. Add some candy sprinkles or even bits of bacon. You are the ice cream sandwich master.

Mallrats rejoice! Edible cookie dough is coming to a mall near you..
Photo courtesy of Dough Life

Dough Life, Baybrook Mall,  opened September 7, according to Eater Houston. The shop offers edible cookie dough, as opposed to the stuff we have all been eating for years, disregarding the warnings of salmonella

It's a cookie dough rainbow.
Photo courtesy of Dough Life
The difference between Dough Life's cookie dough and the stuff we have munched on from the big plastic log is its use of heat treated, low microbial flour. There are also no eggs in the dough, which makes it safe to eat.

There are 12 different flavors to tempt your inner child. Choose from mint, caramel, s'mores, or stick to the classic chocolate chip. Or be naughty and order the Peanut Mother Butter.

There are plans to open two more Houston mall locations at Deerbrook and The Woodlands. We bet there will be even more. Cookie dough soothes a broken heart, menstrual cramps and scraped knees. Everyone knows that.

click to enlarge
Whatchou want? Baby, they got it.
Photo by Destiny Villazana

Marq'e Coffee and Donuts, 7613 Katy Freeway, began its soft opening September 1, according to Eater Houston. Co-owner Sam Phan, also known as Pou Sam (Uncle Sam) has helped to open over twenty Cambodian-owned donut shops. This newest sweet venture is in partnership with Allison Ballon. Phan also co-owns Morningstar Coffee and Donuts with Greenway Coffee founder, David Buehrer.

Buehrer cut his sweet tooth early on working in a doughnut shop owned by Phan's family while in high school. That education came full circle when he and Phan opened Morningstar in 2016. While the doughnut and pastry offerings at Morningstar tend to be more on the trendy side to satisfy hip foodies, Marq'e will feature more traditional doughnuts typically found in Houston's Cambodian-owned stores. They will also have kolaches with sausage and even boudin fillings.

click to enlarge
Allison Ballon, Sam Phan, Carlos Ballon and David Buehrer are the magic coffee and doughnut team.
Photo by Destiny Villazana

You learn something new everyday, or at least you should. So here's a something new for you: Approximately 95 percent of doughnut shops in Houston are owned by Cambodian immigrants and their families, some of whom escaped the bloody regime of the Khmer Rouge. The doughnut shop world requires early hours and lots of hard work. If you want to learn even more about this subject, check out Robb Walsh's short video featuring Phan and Buehrer.

click to enlarge
Salade Nicoise is a healthy, refreshing dish.
Photo courtesy of Neo Baguette

Neo Baguette, 201 E. 20th, opened this week, as reported by CultureMap Houston. Owner Karim Kasri is a native of Morocco. The cuisine at his new restaurant combines some of his native heritage with his French culinary school experience. There are salads such as the salade de quinoa and salade Nicoise and baguette sandwiches like the merguez sausage and Moroccan meatball. Dinner plates include Moroccan-style dishes like Cornish game hen cooked in a tagine with preserved lemon.

click to enlarge
BYOB or grab a beverage up front.
Photo courtesy of Neo Baguette
The restaurant offers grab and go drinks from the cooler and a BYOB policy for wine and beer. The baguettes for the sandwiches come from Kraftsmen Baking. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and there are plans for a breakfast service in the future.

Island Flavorz, 11051 Fuqua, celebrated its grand opening June 29. Sometimes the smaller dining establishments open under our radar, and we miss them for a couple of months, but we like to rectify that by adding them when we spot them.

The restaurant's owner hails from St. Lucia and the menu offers Caribbean favorites like jerk wings, curry stew and oxtails. It is open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. Diners can opt for an American style breakfast or go for the Caribbean breakfast which includes items like a saltfish cookup, served with cabbage, ground provision ( a side dish of root vegetables), dumpling and fried plantains.

There are also interesting beverage choices like mauby, which is made from the bark of the mauby tree, and peanut punch, which is made from, well, peanuts.

The $5 mini lunch plate specials run Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Chicago's Famous Fried Chicken and Fish, 12303 Westheimer, opened September 3, as seen on Fox 26's The Cleverley Show. Owner Chris Smith came to Houston originally from Chicago to attend Texas Southern University. Now, he's bringing Chicago-style fried chicken tenders and whole wings to his adopted city.

One of the main elements of Chicago-style fried chicken is the accompanying mild sauce which is a barbecue sauce blend, often with ketchup and a very little bit of hot sauce.

The restaurant also offers fried catfish and shrimp, fried okra and dessert bars.

Shabu Squared, 5840 Sam Houston Parkway, is still under construction. A spokesperson told the Houston Press that it is expected to open in November or December 2018. We reported last week that Shabu Zone, 11202 Bellaire, opened September 1. The Japanese hot pot trend is expanding in Houston.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.