Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Kriti Kitchen Open, Spanish Village Closes Soon

A traditional Greek salad is loaded with healthy and delicious ingredients.
A traditional Greek salad is loaded with healthy and delicious ingredients. Photo by Ajna Jai

Kriti Kitchen
, 4010 Bissonnet, opened January 17 in West University. The new Greek eatery comes from chef/owner Mary Cuclis and Scott Gilliland. Cuclis, who runs her own catering business, also has experience working in far flung places such as Michelin-starred Bo Innovation in Hong Kong as well as local restaurants like Anita Jaisinghani's Pondicheri.
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A loaded omelet is perfect for brunch and the mezze board makes a perfect snack for sharing.
Photo By Ajna Jai
With her Greek roots and experience in Indian cuisine, Kriti has created her version of tzatziki using an Indian technique called tadka, in which whole spices are heated with oil before the infused oil is added to the sauce. Much of her inspiration comes from the island of Crete. Guests will find selections of shareable mezze boards with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, a traditional Greek salad, wraps and protein bowls. The restaurant also features a separate take-out menu in which guests can pre-order "Heat and Eat" meals for pick-up. There will be a refrigerated section stocked with homemade dressings, sauces, dips, sweets and breads. There will also be larger family-style platters to-go such as Chicken Souvlaki, Pomegranate Pork Ribs and Moussaka. 
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Mary Cuclis has opened a brick and mortar restaurant.
Photo by Ajna Jai
The cafe is counter service with plans for a display case offering a rotating selection of Greek-inspired baked goods. For now, the shelves are lined with Greek olive oils, wines, homemade spiced nuts and other dry goods. Greek beer and wine are available as well as non-alcoholic beverages such as mint lemonade, diktamos (Cretan herbal tea) and soumada, an almond and cinnamon drink.

The modern space was designed by Allie Wood Design Studio and pops with vibrant blues, clean white tiles and bronze pendant lighting. A mural from local artist Julie Kesselman is a series of vignettes that depict some of Crete's most famous Minoan frescos. The interior is bright and window-lit with an outdoor patio for additional dining.
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A Houston landmark will be no more.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Spanish Village, 4720 Almeda, will shut its doors at its original location March 31, 2023. Owner Steve Rogers has plans for the space and one of those plans is to tear down the old building which has housed the iconic Mexican restaurant since 1953, making it the second oldest restaurant in Houston. Molina's is the oldest, having opened in 1941.

In the past seven decades, Spanish Village has seen some changes for better and for worse. It was founded by the Medina family and its enchiladas and signature margaritas made it a fixture in the Third Ward neighborhood as well as a destination for other Houstonians. The recipe for its margaritas calls for the fresh lime juice mix, used for both on the rocks and frozen preparations, to be made a week ahead of time to allow the flavors to meld. Its old school decor and ambiance was both a draw and a drawback over the years in a city that revered its Tex-Mex standards but also began to host more upscale Mexican restaurants.
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Spanish Village was on the forefront of Houston's Tex-Mex scene.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
In 2018, Abhi Sreerama and his wife Chef Ishita Chakravarty bought the restaurant from John Medina. The duo downsized the extensive offerings and added a popular vegan menu. In July 2021, the restaurant announced its closure but Rogers saved the restaurant by buying it. He also announced plans to develop the nearby space. He turned to the locals for some ideas of what was needed and desired.

He recruited a company called Localist to help bridge the gap between himself as a local business owner and area residents. The campaign included black and yellow signs along the fence reading "What Should Go Here?" along with a QR code that allowed the community to submit responses.

For a neighborhood that is still somewhat of a food desert, the suggestions included a diner, co-working spaces and a mixed-use project. Rogers plans to honor the legacy of Spanish Village in an upcoming project as well.

"There’s absolutely no arguing the impact Spanish Village has had on the Third Ward. The Medina family built something incredible, and I have been honored to be able to continue that," says Rogers.

He added, "It’s been really special to read the responses and see how invested this community is in the character of the neighborhood. The Third Ward has its own personality that’s hard to understand unless you’re in it, and with the help of my neighbors, I’m excited to begin this new chapter with a project that will benefit them."
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Bayou Heights Bier Garten has four separate buildings including a silo.
Photo by Dustyn Zenner
Bayou Heights Bier Garten, 3905 Washington, opened January 17. The expansive beer garden comes from The Kirby Group and is inspired by its original location, Heights Bier Garten. The new space is made up of four separate buildings with a large courtyard in the middle. A sizeable covered patio allows for year-round lounging and socializing while the interior takes its cue from the industrial chic vibe of other Kirby Group concepts such as Wooster's, Holman Draft House and Heights Bier Garten. Its cocktail bar features a 36-foot-long bar and lounge seating.

The four different buildings will host a different beverage program but will share the commonality of being equipped with fully-opening windows to give an outdoor feel. The silo-shaped building will be the nucleus of the wine and beer program with offerings by bottle or on tap. There will be 74 craft beers and 16 wines available.
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The interior bar has plenty of comfortable seating for lingering.
Photo by Dustyn Zenner

Beverage Director Joel Ramirez leads the cocktail program along with General Manager Dave Minda. The duo have created  a menu that will offer specialty libations and coffees plus cocktails made with house-made syrups and special ice shapes that are cut on-site. The cocktail menu is broken down into seven groups.

The Refreshing and Balanced list contains drinks like the colorful Funny Car made with bourbon, lemon, rhubarb and raspberry syrup and Melletti. The Refreshing and Spicy section includes the Thunderclap, a concoction of dark rum, grapefruit, lime, honey and Arbol Tincture.
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The Harvey Colada is made with rum, orange juice, coconut, Galliano and pineapple.
Photo by Dustyn Zenner
Corporate Chef Teddy Lopez is in charge of the culinary menu. Lopez has designed a new food program for Heights Bier Garten and the same dishes will be available at the new Bayou Heights location. There are smoked meats such as brisket and pulled pork plus bier garten nosh like house-made pretzels. On the weekends, there will be a brunch menu with items such as breakfast tacos, the Brisket Egg Muffin Sandwich and Croque Ma'am, made with sliced pork belly.

Bayou Heights Bier Garten is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Griff's Irish Pub, 3416 Roseland, is closed indefinitely due to a fire January 13, 2023. Unfortunately, the closure may be a rather long one. The fire began around 4 a.m., according to Houston Public Media. The cause of the fire is under investigation but thankfully, there were no injuries reported.

Considered by many to be the oldest sports bar in Houston and one of the most popular hangouts for St. Patrick's Day celebrations, the structure, which was built in 1955, appears to be a total loss.

Griff's first opened in 1965 with owner Michael Griffin opening the bar in an area that could service the nearby college students at St. Thomas. Griffin sold the bar in 1996, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The current owners have posted on the bar's website and Facebook page that they plan to rebuild. In the meantime, a GoFundMe account has been set up to raise funds for employees while the business is closed.

Oh My Gogi BBQ, 2504 Amherst, is relocating February 1 to the Upper Kirby Car Wash, 3835 Farnham, February 1. The owners were informed in late December that Rice Management Company was terminating its lease, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The Korean-Mexican fusion food truck is popular for its sandwiches such as the Goji Melt, Ramen Burger and Gogi Burger plus Korean beef tacos. Its OMG! Fries are a fan favorite.

Oh My Gogi BBQ also operates a truck in Pearland and has a storefront location at 5901 Westheimer in the Galleria area. It will remain open at the Amherst location until it rolls on over to the Upper Kirby Car Wash.
Danny "Yoyo" Kim masters the art of hot dog prep.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
Yoyo's Hotdog, 2504 Amherst, will also lose its lease at the Rice Village location at the end of January. That is sad news to the legions of Rice Village weenie lovers who wait in long lines for a late night dog to soak up the evening's indulgences.

We reached out to owner Danny "Yoyo" Kim about his plans for the Rice Village stand at the end of the month and were told that there were no definite plans yet for a new food cart location. As for the Yoyo's Hotdog that is slated to open soon at 4620 Washington, Kim said that the business is just waiting on permits.

Outback Steakhouse, 6805 N. Grand Parkway, had a ribbon cutting January 17 to introduce a new prototype of the popular Australian-inspired steak chain. The brand plans to open 75 to 100 additional Next Gen restaurants in the United States.

Part of its forward-thinking goal is to reduce the footprint of the new restaurants. The average Outback Steakhouse is 6,000 square feet but the Spring restaurant at 5,005 square feet optimizes back-of-house space while featuring a spacious dining room and a large bar area that will accommodate approximately 133 guests.

Chris Baldwin, proprietor of the Spring restaurant, said in a press release, "This restaurant is not your average Outback Steakhouse. The new design streamlines off-premises services and maximizes space while the reimagined interior-vibrant, fun and inviting-reflects the Outback spirit in an exciting, new way."

Part of the new exciting way is the use of edgy art pieces adorning the restaurant's walls and a chandelier that mimics the Southern Cross constellation. A mural of a cowboy kangaroo by artist Lindsey Jenneman adds some whimsy.

Outback Steakhouse pledged to donate up to $5,000 of proceeds from opening day sales to benefit Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the spouses and children of military members who have fallen or been disabled while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
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The experienced staff at VinSanto can help both wine connoisseurs and newbies find a unique varietal.
Photo by Isham Khan
VinSanto, 12525 Memorial, opened January 14 at Memorial Green, a village concept from Houston-based Midway which is a privately-owned real estate investment and development firm. The 2,172-square-foot wine bar is located adjacent to Lam Bespoke and Dish Society at Memorial Green. Inspired by the European lust for life, the new wine bar aims to make wine exploration fun and easy by combining a premier wine bar with a shop and bistro.

The exclusively-curated beverage selection at VinSanto includes fortified wines, vermouth, sake, beers, ciders, wine-based cocktails and mock-tails. The global wine list is particularly focused on wine regions in Italy, France and Spain that are considered hidden gems. The food menu is globally-inspired as well with  small bites, artisan charcuterie boards and gourmet sandwiches.  Guests can enjoy their food and beverage pairings in the bar, lounge or patio.
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Enjoy a glass of something new at VinSanto's bar.
Photo by Isham Khan
The staff are experienced and eager to guide guests through the wine tasting and buying process. Certified Sommelier and President of Vin Santo Riccardo Guerrieri says, "We are thrilled to present VinSanto to the Memorial area with a style that makes enjoying and learning about wine approachable and fun. Because VinSanto offers unique wines from 'off the beaten path,' it allows for even the most experienced connoisseurs to try something new."
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A newly built structure will house Gloria's Latin Cuisine.
Rendering by MSC Design, LLC
Gloria's Latin Cuisine, 18484 Interstate 45 S., is shooting to open Winter 2023. The Salvadoran and Tex-Mex restaurant has 22 locations throughout Houston, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio. The newly constructed fourth location in The Woodlands/Shenandoah area will make the fourth for Greater Houston and the 23rd for Texas. It was founded in 1986 by Gloria and Jose Fuentes.

The free-standing restaurant will be 8,500 square feet with an interior design that includes a vibrant Latin- inspired decor, colorful booths and an upscale bar area. There will also be an outdoor patio.

For more than 36 years, Gloria’s authentic Salvadoran and Tex-Mex menu has offered diners signature menu options, its famous black bean dip and award-winning margaritas. Guests can also enjoy its late-night Saturday music and dancing at several of its locations including Houston's midtown spot on Louisiana.
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Turner's has glamorous bungalows for intimate al fresco dining.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Turner's, 1800 Post Oak Boulevard, has debuted two luxurious outdoor dining bungalows that will be available for both lunch and dinner service Tuesday through Saturday. The covered bungalows seat up to five guests each and offer a Bluetooth speaker to control the music and also the temperature with a fan and a heater. The bungalows were designed by Benjamin Berg, owner of Berg Hospitality, and VP of Design & Experience Sam Governale.

The bungalows may be reserved through OpenTable.

Freebirds World Burrito, 9662 Highway 242, opened January 17 in Conroe Harper's Preserve. It's the second Conroe location for the fast-casual burrito brand.

Pichurro's Grill, 12215 Grant, will possibly open within the next month, according to its Facebook page. It will be the second location for the Mexican restaurant which opened its first spot at 24026 Kuykendahl in June 2022. It does a brisk business in both sit-down dining and takeaway. 
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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.