Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Local Foods Market Opens Next Week, Messina Hof Lands in Richmond

LF Market is a foodie dream.
LF Market is a foodie dream. Photo by Julie Soefer

Local Foods Market, 2424 Dunstan, opens February 16 in the former benjy's restaurant. Benjy's closed in March 2020 to make way for the new concept. It was the last remaining location for owner Benjy Levit's namesake restaurant. Now, Levit's focus has turned to his Local Foods empire which currently has five locations in Houston and an upcoming store in Austin.

The new Local Foods Market will have two floors of expanded grocery offerings and counter service plus a second floor wine shop offering natural, organic, hard-to-find wines at prices below retail. Its Market will have products exclusive to the shop.

click to enlarge The attractive patio offers a tree-top view. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
The attractive patio offers a tree-top view.
Photo by Julie Soefer
The 4,500 square foot space was redesigned by Austin-based architect Michael Hsu. The redesign includes  a covered outdoor patio with seating for 50. Built-in booths with whitewash wood blend seamlessly with the earth tones throughout the space with vibrant pops of color in the open and comfortable atmosphere. The space will also feature 1940s-inspired light fixtures and additional heritage pieces from Levit’s grandfather’s grocery store in Florida.

Former benjy's chefs Maria Gonzalez and Mike Potowski have designed the counter service menu of fresh, chef-prepared dishes highlighting locally sourced proteins, vegetables and grains. Starters include Cheese and Charcuterie plates created with local Houston Dairymaids cheese and Dozier’s meats. The Chicken Matzo Ramen fuses two cuisines and two comfort soups together with house-made shio ramen broth and matzo balls. Hot Smoked Salmon, Texas Wagyu, Beef Pastrami, Tofu Pastrami and Roasted Free-Range Heritage Chicken can be served on their own or atop salads for a healthy lunch or dinner.

click to enlarge That's our kind of grocery shopping. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
That's our kind of grocery shopping.
Photo by Julie Soefer
In keeping with its "local" mission, LFM sources ingredients and products from vendors such as Blue Horizon, Provisions Charter School, C&H Farms and Thanh Tam Tofu in Bellaire. The counter service offers diners  options of enjoying their meal in the dining room, on the expanded second floor patio or for take-away. “Grab and Go” servings such as Vegan Sushi, Japanese-style Egg Salad 3-Way Sando, Beef Stroganoff and Texas Buffalo Meatloaf are quick and convenient for workers needing a fast lunch or families needing a quick meal amid busy schedules.

For coffee lovers, the La Marzocco Strada espresso machine will provide the perfect cup using custom blended Katz’s Coffee. Levit was one of Katz's original customers.

click to enlarge Local Foods uses Katz's Coffee for a tasty brew. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Local Foods uses Katz's Coffee for a tasty brew.
Photo by Julie Soefer

LFM will host purveyor pop-ups on a regular basis, beginning with Chef Sasha Grumman. The first pop-up, Focaccia Friday, will take place February 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. or until it sells out.

Levit said in a press release, “We are thrilled to continue the pop-up success with the conversion of benjy’s into a larger Local Foods Market. Our Chefs have created an amazing menu featuring upscale ingredients for diners to enjoy in a casual atmosphere. We wanted to create a fun wine-centric space with a laid-back vibe, a new way to highlight our great purveyors.”

The market side showcases artisanal foodie staples sourced from all over the country. Specialty spices, sauces and grocery staples like local eggs, milk, Texas beef  and Houston Dairymaids cheeses will offer guests a one-stop shopping experience. Exclusive, hard-to-find products such as Rancho Gordo heirloom beans from Napa, SQIRL Jams from Los Angeles, Woon sauces from San Francisco and La Boîte biscuits & spices out of New York will please Houstonians looking for new foods to try.

click to enlarge Heaven is a room full of wine. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Heaven is a room full of wine.
Photo by Julie Soefer

The second floor restaurant will house its selection of natural, organic wines so guests can enjoy retail wines by the bottle with no corkage fee. There will also be eight wines on tap plus craft beer and artisanal ciders to enjoy with a meal.

Local Foods Market will be open for lunch and dinner, adding breakfast and brunch soon. Beginning February 15th, the Local Foods in Rice Village will be pick-up and delivery only while its gets a refresh. It will reopen for dine in the following month.
click to enlarge Messina Hof has expanded to Richmond. - PHOTO BY MESSINA HOF WINERY
Messina Hof has expanded to Richmond.
Photo by Messina Hof Winery

Messina Hof Harvest Green Winery and Kitchen
, 8921 Harlem, began its soft opening in mid-February in Richmond. A grand opening is planned for late February. Currently, the winery is also hosting a number of exclusive events for its VIP members, Wine Club members and the Harvest Green community.

Located in the Harvest Green farming community, a developed by Houston-based Johnson Development,
this is the fourth winery location for Messina Hof which also operates wineries in Bryan, Fredricksburg and Grapevine, Texas. This will be the largest winery in Houston.

click to enlarge The Bonarrigo  family proves Texas is a wine state. - THE BONARRIGO FAMILY BY MESSINA HOF WINERY
The Bonarrigo family proves Texas is a wine state.
The Bonarrigo Family by Messina Hof Winery
The winery's first location began in 1977 with Paul Vincent Bonarrigo and wife Merrill being on the forefront of the wine and viticulture industry in Texas. While the couple are still involved in the operations, the mantle has been passed to son, Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo and wife Karen Bonarrigo. The current project at Harvest Green is the most expansive in the winery's history. It will house the wine production barrel room, a warehouse and all Direct to Customer shipping operations.

It will also feature a large tasting room, an 83-foot-long bar, a covered patio, two private tasting rooms plus a full service restaurant. Featuring Messina Hof's trademarked Vineyard Cuisine, the restaurant, helmed by executive chef Corey Bowers, will offer dishes that blend the wines of Messina Hof with the fresh herbs and vegetables grown on the Harvest Green grounds.

click to enlarge Three Messina Hof bottles feature AR labels. - PHOTO BY MESSINA HOF WINERY
Three Messina Hof bottles feature AR labels.
Photo by Messina Hof Winery
Starters include Bruschetta, Gulf Fritto Misto and Mama Rosa's Meatballs made with Merlot marinara. MH's wines show up in other dishes like the Grilled Sirloin with Sauvignon Blanc chimichurri, the Petit Filet with Merlot demi-glace and even desserts such as the Apple Galette with Gewurztraminer-brined apples. Seasonal salads and a rotating Vineyard Garden Soup reflect the community in which the restaurant operates. Neapolitan-style pizzas emerge from an over-sized Mugnaini wood-fired pizza oven, enhancing the rustic Italian feel.

Due to the current pandemic, reservations are recommended in advance.

click to enlarge The Ion will be a walkable mix of indoor and outdoor spaces. - RENDERING BY SHOP ARCHITECTS
The Ion will be a walkable mix of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Rendering by SHoP Architects

The Ion, 4201 Main, is set to open in Spring 2021 with three new restaurants announced for the multi-use Midtown development. The 288,000 square foot building will contain offices, shared workspaces, classrooms, event spaces and food and beverage offerings. There will be 50,000 square feet of public space.

Chef Chris Williams, owner of Lucille's restaurant and the newly formed Lucille's Hospitality Group, will be opening Late August, a collaboration with James Beard Semifinalist 2020 Best Chef:Texas, Dawn Burrell, as we recently reported here in the Houston Press.

click to enlarge The former SEARS store gets a complete renovation. - RENDERING BY SHOP ARCHITECTS
The former SEARS store gets a complete renovation.
Rendering by SHoP Architects
The new restaurant will occupy the space in the historic SEARS building which first opened in 1939. The name Late August is a tribute to the famous annual end-of-summer catalog put out by SEARS before the holidays. Chef Burrell's whimsical menu will feature Afro-Asian flavors, reflecting her recent experience as executive chef at Kulture and an earlier stint as sous chef at Uchi.

Williams said in a press release, "I’m really excited for the opportunity to introduce this original concept in such a historic space... Our goal with Late August is to honor the origins of the property, while also tapping into its future. Under Chef Dawn’s leadership, I’m confident that the food will not only match the ethos of its surroundings, but also bring a fresh take to Houston’s immensely talented culinary scene. It’s been a pleasure to see Chef Dawn breathe life into this development with her flavors of global comfort."

Chef Burrell will also be competing in Bravo's Top Chef Season 18 along with fellow Houstonian Sasha Grumman. The first episode airs April 1, 2021.

click to enlarge Ion brings multi-concepts to Midtown. - RENDERING BY SHOP ARCHITECTS
Ion brings multi-concepts to Midtown.
Rendering by SHoP Architects
Also joining The Ion will be STUFF'd Wings from Jarrod Rector, owner of the STUFF'd Wings food truck. This will be Rector's first brick and mortar restaurant, co-owned with wife Prisoria. It will feature some of the food truck dishes such as bone-in chicken wings stuffed with boudain options like seafood, chicken or pork plus choices like mac-n- cheese or dirty rice. Rector will debut new items at the restaurant including smoked STUFF'd Wings, milkshakes and loaded fries. The 2,400 square foot space will also offer an outdoor patio.

Inside The Ion, Common Bond will open its fourth location of Common Bond On-The-Go selling its popular pastries, cookies, croissants and grab and go options like cold sandwiches, salads, breakfast and picnic items.

click to enlarge Fulshear has had Dozier's BBQ for more than 60 years. - PHOTO BY KATHRYN HINNANT
Fulshear has had Dozier's BBQ for more than 60 years.
Photo by Kathryn Hinnant
Dozier's BBQ and Meat Market, 8222 FM 359, is launching its newly built-out patio with a pop-up collaboration with Michael Wyont from Flores Tortillas February 20, beginning at 11 a.m. In addition to breaking in the new patio with its mural by artist Wiley Robertson, the market at Dozier's will roll out Flores Tortillas' much craved smoked beef fat tortillas, with Dozier's as its first retail location.

click to enlarge Pitmaster Jim Buchanan prepares the brisket with dry rub. - PHOTO BY ROBERT JACOB LERMA
Pitmaster Jim Buchanan prepares the brisket with dry rub.
Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
The new deck, designed by Jared Jackson of Context3, will allow seating for 140 guests, three times what the indoor restaurant currently accommodates. The expanded space means more room for families to enjoy its famous barbecue which has been around since 1957 when it was first founded by Ed Dozier. There will be a giant checkerboard and cornhole plus a stage for live music. Sun sails will provide shade. Owners Jim Cummins and Steve Baur, who acquired Dozier's in 2019, have preserved the mid-century smokers originally used at the restaurant as landscape features which will be used for growing cilantro, chives and jalapenos for the restaurant.

click to enlarge Pitmaster Buchanan, artist Wiley Robertson and graphic designer Kathryn Hinnant stand in front of the new mural. - PHOTO BY KATHRYN HINNANT
Pitmaster Buchanan, artist Wiley Robertson and graphic designer Kathryn Hinnant stand in front of the new mural.
Photo by Kathryn Hinnant
For the launch, Wyont will make tacos with carnitas while Dozier's pitmasters Jim Buchanan, who joined the barbecue joint in 2020, and Anthony Dixon will serve up brisket, smoked chicken tacos, borracho beans and Mexican rice along with Dozier's full menu. Guests can also enjoy buckets of beer from Dozier's market while Dan and Kev, a local cover band, take the stage at noon for live music.

Dozier's will begin selling crawfish in partnership with Jim Burdette, of Jimbo's To-Geaux, March 14.

click to enlarge For a spicy Fat Tuesday, try the Mardi Gras platter at Bonfire. - PHOTO BY ARNALDO LARIOS
For a spicy Fat Tuesday, try the Mardi Gras platter at Bonfire.
Photo by Arnaldo Larios

Bonfire Wings, 2616 Blodgett and 5832 Fairdale, began offering its Cajun and Creole menu from two "ghost kitchens" February 5. Wing lovers can order online for pick-up or doorstep delivery within a five mile radius of each location, one in the Galleria area, the other in the Museum District.

click to enlarge Give me sauce, lots of sauce. - PHOTO BY ARNALDO LARIOS
Give me sauce, lots of sauce.
Photo by Arnaldo Larios
The spicy wings restaurant first opened in 2001 at 13030 Woodforest. It has another spot at 10701 North Freeway. Its known for its larger-than-normal chicken wings that are marinated 12 hours before being fried. Though some fans like the naked wings, for many others it's the 12 secret sauces that keep them coming back for more, like Cajun Mojo, Jamaican Jerk, Garlic Parm, Lemon Pepper and the over-the-top Insanely Hot. For dry rub types, there's the Spicy Creole.

Bonfire's menu also includes fried catfish, shrimp, Cajun-seasoned French fries, boudain balls and for those who like to keep their fingers clean, chicken strips. Bonfire will also offer its Voodoo Daiquiris and Crazy Cajun Coladas to-go.

The Rock Burger Truck
, 15914 Telge, will close permanently February 28. Owner Melinda Mayes made the decision after an investor reached out with an opportunity to open a restaurant in Springdale, Washington, according to Community Impact. Mayes and business partner Tiffany Richie are planning a farewell event March 27 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to thank loyal customers and say goodbye before they leave for their Northwest Pacific adventure, according to a Facebook post. Righteous Cause Band will be playing live music at Brew:30 Taphouse for the event.

The food truck set up shop outside Brew:30 Taphouse in December 2018. Previously Mayes owned Rockwell Grill, a popular pub and restaurant in Cypress that closed in 2016.

click to enlarge The Tuna Tower is a visual masterpiece. - PHOTO BY FLAGSHIP RESTAURANT GROUP
The Tuna Tower is a visual masterpiece.
Photo by Flagship Restaurant Group
Blue Sushi Sake Grill, 600 N. Shepherd, has announced that it will joining the M-K-T development in The Heights with plans to open in August 2021. It will be located in Building 5 of the multi-use project along with Rakkan Ramen and Da Gama Canteen from Rishi Hospitality.

The eco-centric sushi restaurant prides itself on its responsibly caught seafood and humanely-raised animal products along with other earth-friendly ingredients. Its parent company, Flagship Restaurant Group, is the largest sushi group to pair with the Monterey Bay Aquarium: Seafood Watch program.

click to enlarge Blue Sushi has signature cocktails - PHOTO BY FLAGSHIP RESTAURANT GROUP
Blue Sushi has signature cocktails
Photo by Flagship Restaurant Group
It will offer maki, sashimi and nigiri along with grilled specialties and Asian-inspired starters and entrees. It will also have a cold sake program, signature cocktails, an expansive beer menu and carefully selected hot teas.

There are currently fifteen locations in the United States with an upcoming debut location at The Dominion in Austin very soon.

Raising Cane's, 4055 Little York, will open in June. The trademarked ONE LOVE chicken finger restaurant just keeps on trucking across Texas with the new location making the 173rd in the Lone Star State. It has 555 stores system-wide with the Little York restaurant making number forty in the Greater Houston area.

Smoosh Cookies has leased 1,000 square feet of space at the Westchase Shopping Center with plans to open in the first quarter of 2021. The gourmet ice cream sandwich shop opened as a food truck in 2015, selling its customizable Smoosh ice cream cookie sandwiches with an array of ice cream flavors and toppings. It has a shop at 718 W. 18th in The Heights and a location in College Station plus another in Alabama.
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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.