Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Loro Houston Soon, Wild Oats to Sow Now

The Smoked Brisket Sandwich delivers a smoky Thai kick.
The Smoked Brisket Sandwich delivers a smoky Thai kick. Photo by Anastacia Uriegas

Loro, 1001 W. 11th, opens February 23 in the Heights. This is the third location for the Asian smokehouse and bar, a culinary partnership between James Beard Award-winning chef and pitmaster Aaron Franklin and James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole. Its other two locations are in Austin and Dallas. Loro is part of Hai Hospitality which includes the brands Uchi, Uchiba and Uchiko in its portfolio.

On board at the new Heights location will be chef de cuisine, Marcos Leal. A native of Monterey, Mexico, Leal has worked at restaurants such as Wolfgang Puck Express, as executive sous chef at Hotel Galvez in Galveston and also at Ken Rathburn's upscale steakhouse, Jasper's. He has experience in corporate recipe development and the menu at Loro Heights will balance Southeast Asian flavors  with traditional Texas BBQ with help from Franklin, Cole, Vice President of Culinary for Hai Hospitality, Jack Yoss, and Loro Regional Chef Mike Perez.
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Franklin and Cole are ready to roll.
Photo by Logan Crable
Though meat will be the star at Loro, just as much thought has been put into the starters, sides and desserts. The Pale Battered Cod ($7) will make Anglophiles happy with the beer batter of pale ale, curry and turmeric. Instead of the ubiquitous tartar sauce or malt vinegar, it's served with yuzu Thousand Island and charred lemon for acidity. A starter of Candied Kettle Corn ($5.25) gets a savory punch of burnt brisket ends on top while on the Snacks and Veggies menu, there are Crunchy Sweet Corn Fritters ($8) with Thai herbs, Thai chili and fish sauce. Even its version of peach cobbler gets hit with some yuzu and is accompanied by five spice mascarpone.

The Sandwich menu offers reasonably priced options like the Oak Smoked Beef Brisket ($14) with a papaya salad, peanuts, chili aioli and Thai herbs. The daytime menu, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., has choices such as Crispy Smoked Chicken ($12) and the much-raved-about Loro Cheeseburger with its famous red onion-brisket jam and Meunster cheese. There will also be a variety of Rice Bowl selections like Crispy Szechuan Tofu and Char Siew Pork Belly.
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Does Houston need another burger? Yes, yes it does.
Photo by Hai Hospitality
And then, there's the Meat menu. Devotees of smoke can delight in Smoked Prime Bavette with shishito salsa verde, Oak Smoked Salmon with cucumber-yuzu broth, Smoked Turkey Breast with apricot chutney and of course, Smoked Beef Brisket with chili gastrique and Thai herbs.

Loro Heights will have plenty of bottled and draft beer plus wine and sake on tap. There will be a rotating menu of batch cocktails along with boozy slushees like Mango Sake and Frozen Mojito.

Loro's happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with drink specials plus menu items like Brisket Tostadas ($8), Thai Sausage Hand Pie ($6.50) and Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs ($6). You can expect that this happy hour is going to be packed for a while after the restaurant opens.
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Wild Oats aims to break down Texas stereotypes.
Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Wild Oats, 2520 Airline, is set to open February 11. The new restaurant is set in the Houston Farmers market complex and comes from Underbelly Hospitality. Chef/owner Chris Shepherd has teamed with chef/partner Nick Fine to open the Texas-themed restaurant. Fine, who is also Underbelly's culinary director, is taking the reins. A native Texan, Fine plans to reject the stereotypes about the cuisine of the Lone Star State by showcasing its diversity, a result of immigration, abundant native foods and a blending of various cultures.

Fine will highlight Texas fare from Gulf Coast shrimp to quail from the Panhandle. Locally grown seasonal vegetables will be flash fried and tossed in mole from Los Cavazos, a vendor at the Houston Farmers Market. The mole style will depend on the vegetables and for the opening menu, there's Atkinson Farms Brussels sprouts with a mole almendrado.
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Texas quail gets wrapped in bacon and crisped over fire.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
Live fire is a central element at Wild oats and the grill, designed by Aaron Franklin and the team at Franklin Barbecue Pits, will offer plenty of flexibility for cooking at different temperatures and stages of wood burning. The team will be able to quickly grill steaks, crisp bacon or slow roast vegetables and meat with the modular system.

Menu items include a chicken fried steak made with Wagyu beef from R-C Ranch, which operates a butcher shop at the market. It's topped with a bacon poblano gravy as a nod to Texas cowboys and it will put a slight dent in the wallet at $42. Other meat offerings include a starter, Medina County Steak Tartare, served with serrano chili vinaigrette, Redneck cheddar and fried saltines. There's also Short Rib Fajitas, Crispy Pork Shank, and Wood Grilled Chicken served as a King Ranch casserole.
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Nick Fine does Texas proud.
Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Seafood selections like Redfish on the Half Shell  and Shrimp and Grits Diablo make the most of coastal seafood while Southern favorites like Banana Pudding, Peach Cobbler and Texas Sheet cake share the dessert menu with Abuelita's Tres Leches.

Matthew Pridgen, wine director at Underbelly Hospitality, has created a wine list of Texas wines that will pair well with Fine's Texas-inspired menu. The cocktails will be divided into three sections: Texas Staples, Frozens and Seasonal Fancy Cocktails. The spirits list will be heavily focused on agave spirits, much of it from Texas producers.
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Charles Clark is sticking with Brasserie 19.
Photo by Shannon Waiter
Clark Cooper Concepts announced that owners and business partners, Charles Clark and Grant Cooper, have parted ways after 20 years. One of the preeminent restaurant groups in Houston, Clark Cooper Concepts has opened various dining and drinking establishments over the past two decades beginning with the now shuttered Ibiza, which first opened in 2001.

The duo have no bad blood between them, according to a press release. Clark stated that they just wanted different things. "Grant wants to expand and do different concepts and I want to grow in a different way," Clark says.  "I value the partnership and success Grant and I have both seen over the years. This separation gives us the opportunity to do what we want."

For Clark, that means continuing the legacy of Brasserie 19 for which he plans to boost the wine program  and continue the updates to the interior. He also has Executive Chef Michael Hoffman, former sous chef at Ibiza, creating a new menu which will debut next month.
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Grant Cooper walks toward a new venture.
Photo by Brooke Shwab
Cooper, however, is expanding his hospitality footprint by launching Good Vibe Hospitality which will continue with Coppa Osteria and Gratify Neighborhood Bistro, two restaurants that opened under the Clark Cooper Concepts umbrella. He will also be adding Flora, which is expected to open in March.

Flora, 3422 Allen Parkway, will open in the space which previously housed The Dunlavy. The stunning multitude of chandeliers will stay but there will be an even more luxe interior to complement the beautiful park views. The cuisine will be inspired by the small towns of Mexico with an added touch of Texas, along with cocktails and a selection of tequilas and mezcal served at the brass and marble bar.

The new restaurant will feature a pretty outdoor terrace perfect for the venue's treehouse feel. There are plans for a weekend brunch as well as lunch and dinner service.
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Cozy booths and banquettes welcome guests to stay a while.
Rendering by Raydon Creative
The Warwick, 5888 Westheimer, is slated to open in early spring 2022 in the former Houston's Restaurant space. Taking its name from one of Houston's first luxury hotels, it will serve New American cuisine with Southern touches. In homage to the Warwick Hotel, which first opened in 1926, and to Houston's, a longtime favorite of four decades that closed in 2019, the new restaurant will have some favorites, reimagined by consulting chef Antoine Ware.

Some of the most-loved and most-ordered dishes like its famous spinach artichoke dip will appear on the menu as well as Ware's version of the Houston Hawaiian Ribeye, and Thai Noodle Salad.
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That's a serious chop.
Photo by Raydon Creative
Ware is a New Orleans native who came to Houston after the devastating destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Since then, he has worked alongside Houston chefs such as Chris Shepherd and done stints at local restaurants including Brennan’s and Harold’s. The chef wants The Warwick to appeal to both business guests and diners seeking a celebratory night out.

The menu will include a variety of fresh American and Southern shareables including seasonal raw and signature chargrilled oysters and a fontina fondue. Entrees like butter-poached lobster tails, choice filets, Mediterranean-inspired lamb chops and vegan pastas offer something for everyone.

Variety Pack LLC is behind the new project and the company has more than 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry in the Houston and Arizona areas including dining venues ranging from steakhouses to sports bars and coffee shops.
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Chef Antoine Ware is reimagining some Houston's favorites.
Photo by Raydon Creative
The concept has beverage director Andrew Grala creating a combination of traditional and modern cocktail selections which will complement The Warwick’s dining menu. Guests can expect drinks such as The Warwick’s signature Sidecar Royale, Pardon My French, and Pushing Daisies.

The former Houston's space is being transformed by Interior Designer, Nicki Dooms of NHI Design. Modern finishes like luxurious black and white tilework and custom banquettes combine with a massive bar designed for gathering and a private dining room with marble patterned tile inlay in the center. There are also two spacious outdoor patios shade by large oak trees.

Flight Club, 3515 Dallas, opened February 10. The social darts concept is located in the newly developed Regent Square, a multi-use complex of retail, dining, office and residential spaces. Flight Club is a London-based brand from State of Play, an innovative creator and operator of technology-enabled leisure concepts.  The Houston location is the third Flight Club in the United States.

The restaurant and bar concept is immersive and offers guests high-tech Social Darts with semi-private game areas, specialty cocktails and a tasty food menu. The technology allows for each group of guests to match, score and connect across any number of dartboards in the venue. There are twists on traditional gameplay with modern versions like Demolition, Donkey Derby and Snakes and Ladders.

There are ten oches, or game areas, plus two private event spaces. Each oche can accommodate up to 12 people playing at the same time. Flight Club also offers packages for playing and dining.

For a limited time, Flight Club is partnering with ALTO, a new rideshare company in Houston, to give discounted rides to and from the Houston venue.


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The breakfast baguette comes with a choice of smoked salmon or beef bacon on top of scrambled eggs.
Photo by Tina Zulu
Le Cafe Josephine, 201 E. 20th, opened in January with a grand opening February 3. The new concept is a rebranding of Neo Baguette which first opened in September 2018. Customers can still expect artisan baguette sandwiches such as its Poulet Classique which was named Best Sandwich by the Houston Press in 2019. There will also be new baguettes dropping February 14 including the Maine Lobster, Italian Capri, the Moroccan Burger, Moroccan Meatball and the French Fig and Brie. The restaurant is halal and for vegetarians, the burger and meatball baguettes can be substituted with plant-based Impossible protein substitute.
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The Sirloin Steak Salad mixes sweet with spicy.
Photo by Tina Zulu
The new concept will also have all-day brunch dishes such as Smoked Salmon Benedict, Pain Perdu and Avocado Toast. Other new menu items include Italian Saffron Fettucine, Salade Nicoise, Quinoa Salad and Falafel Salad.
The charming patio is now closed.
Photo by Claire Coggins

Eighteen36, 2221 W. Alabama, closed its doors after its last service February 7, two years to the date from when it first opened. The space will still be available to rent for private events over the next few months in order to provide supplemental income for its staff.

In a Facebook video post, co-owner Jason Scheinthal said that he originally opened the bar and restaurant "to pay homage to the city that I love and to create a place that was comfortable and inviting, warm and welcoming to everyone." He goes on to mention that the business struggled, as many small businesses have, with issues due to the pandemic and encouraged Houstonians to get out and support small businesses because "they are the backbone of our American economy."

The Telegram Tea Room, 2601 Baylor will open later this year, according to CultureMap Houston. The new concept will be part coffee and pastry shop, part general store and part dinner restaurant with a menu from Chef Monica Pope. It's a partnership between Pope and Veronica and John Avila. The Avilas are the owners of Henderson & Kane in the Sixth Ward and Burro and Bull, a barbecue restaurant in Cypress.

The new restaurant will allow Pope to showcase her favorite local culinary artisans, farmers and ranchers. The James Beard Award-nominated chef has been busy operating cooking classes and dinners from her home after closing her restaurant, Sparrow, in 2016.

Pane e Vino, 7109 Katy-Gaston Road, opened February 8. This is a relocation for the Italian restaurant which was originally at 8945 S. Fry. Owned by Lucy and Fabrizio Paletta, the restaurant has a menu of Italian standards such as spaghetti alla carbonara, penne all' arrabiata, gnocchi al gorgonzola and lasagna alla Bolognese. There are several risotto dishes, a variety of antipasti, pizza and entrees as well.

The Italian wine list is reasonably priced and listed by regions, with a smaller selection of American, Spanish and Argentinian varietals. The to-go menu offers Family Bundle Specials which should be ordered an hour in advance.

Clark's, 3807 Montrose, is expected to open in the last quarter of this year, as reported by The Houston Chronicle. It's the third outpost of the seafood and oyster bar from Austin-based MML Hospitality, which operates Clark's in Austin, Texas and Aspen, Colorado.

Marmo, 888 Westheimer, began construction in early February at the Montrose Collective. The Italian chophouse concept comes from Atlas Restaurant Group which operates restaurants and bars in Maryland, Florida, Washington D.C. and Texas, including Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar here in Houston.

Inspired by its Italian chophouse in Baltimore, Tagliata, the new Marmo, which means marble in Italian, will offer hand-rolled pastas, house-made charcuterie and hand-cut prime steaks. Guests can expect a wine list heavy with Italian varietals.

Currently, the restaurant is running an open house job fair at Ouzo Bay, 4444 Westheimer. Dates include February 16, February 22 and March 1, beginning at 11:30 a.m.
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Backstreet Cafe has a lush, shaded patio.
Photo by Paula Murphy
Backstreet Cafe, 1103 S. Shepherd, reopened February 6 after closing for foundation repairs January 3. The work has been completed and so has a new menu. While Chef Hugo Ortega is bringing back some favorites like the Grilled Eggplant Sandwich and Chicken Milanesa, he and his team have also added Roasted Duck with fig red wine sauce and crispy confit potatoes and a Mushroom Flatbread.
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Backstreet Cafe has a Whole Roasted Cauliflower that will make everyone love vegetables.
Photo by Paula Murphy
Spicy Puttanesca with charred shrimp, Tagliatelle Bolognese, Whole Roasted Cauliflower and a WAGYU Hanger steak with chimichurri have all been added to the menu. There's also Roasted Oysters with parsley, garlic, anchovy butter and French bread to get your Valentine in the mood. If you both have garlic-anchovy breath, who cares?

Caluma Tacos, 3831 Golf, will open permanently at Old Tom Bar at Avonak Distilllery February 23. The former pop up from Chef Adriana Maldonado will have a rotating menu that includes birria ramen, tortas, Korean tacos and two types of fried chicken tacos.

Space Cowboy, 100 W. Cavalcade, will also debut a taco-inspired menu from Chef Maldonado February 11 with a half-off special on all food items like Baja fish tacos, jerk chicken tacos, San Antonio puffy tacos and a vegan option.
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Fresh juices and healthy eats are available at Pressed.
Photo by Pressed

Pressed, 15850 Southwest Freeway, opened its fourth location in the Houston area January 22. The shop offers cold-pressed juices, grab and go smoothies, functional shots and protein-packed smoothie bowls. For a refreshing treat, there's plant-based soft serve. 
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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.