Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Mastro's Ocean Club Woodlands Opens, Hattie B's is Coming

The seafood tower is simply stunning.
The seafood tower is simply stunning. Photo by Mastro's

Mastro's Ocean Club, 9595 Six Pines, opened December 8 in The Woodlands. This is the first Texas location for the decadent, upscale seafood restaurant which has locations in some of the top cities in the United States. The concept is part of Landry's Inc., a multinational hospitality, gaming and entertainment company owned by Tilman J. Fertitta, who also happens to own our own Houston Rockets basketball team. Landry's Inc. currently operates more than 500 high end and casual dining establishments around the world.
click to enlarge The Warm Butter Cake is a signature melt-in-your-mouth dessert at Mastro's. - PHOTO BY MASTRO'S
The Warm Butter Cake is a signature melt-in-your-mouth dessert at Mastro's.
Photo by Mastro's
Mastro's Ocean Club is more on the high end of the brand, serving only the finest quality seafood and steaks. Guests can expect New Zealand King Salmon, Alaskan King Crab, Chilean Seabass and USDA Prime steaks plus Japanese A5 Wagyu as well. The two-foot seafood tower is a sight to behold while the sushi selections are developed by chef Angel Carbajal of Cabo San Lucas's Nick-San. Executive chef Mario Valdez is in charge of the kitchen and culinary operations while Jetmir Aga takes on the role of general manager.

The new Houston location will feature a cosmopolitan dining space and an expansive outdoor patio complete with waterwall. There is also a Piano Lounge and semi-private dining options for special events.
click to enlarge Hattie B's is still a far off dream. - PHOTO BY JOSEPH WOODLEY
Hattie B's is still a far off dream.
Photo by Joseph Woodley
Hattie B's Hot Chicken, 1808 N. Shepherd, will open in mid-2023. That's a long way away for its rabid fans, unfortunately. A Dallas location will open in February 2022 so Houstonians will have to make the I-45 drive for their fix until it finally lands in the Bayou City.
click to enlarge This country has gone crazy for hot chicken sandwiches. - PHOTO BY JOSEPH WOODLEY
This country has gone crazy for hot chicken sandwiches.
Photo by Joseph Woodley
The Nashville-based hot chicken eatery was founded by a father and son team, Nick Bishop Sr. and Nick Bishop Jr. in 2012 and there are four locations in Nashville. In 2016, it expanded to Birmingham, Alabama then Atlanta and Las Vegas in 2018. Its popularity stems from its flavorful fried hot chicken, though there are varying levels of heat available from mild to the Daredevil's Dream. Those who can't handle a modicum of heat can order it Southern (no heat). Bless their hearts.

The restaurant also serves sides like pimento mac-and-cheese, collard greens, creamy coleslaw and black eyed-pea salad plus old-fashioned Southern desserts like banana pudding and peach cobbler. Besides soft drinks, there is a selection of craft beers to cool down your mouth.
click to enlarge Octopus never looked so pretty. - PHOTO BY LAUREN BEBEAU
Octopus never looked so pretty.
Photo by Lauren Bebeau
Amore Italian Restaurant, 3310 S. Shepherd, opened softly this week for dinner. It will offer lunch service and brunch in the coming weeks. The new restaurant is the culmination of two years of hard work for husband and wife, Alfredo and Christina Mojica. The couple has transformed the space on Shepherd into an intimate and romantic spot in which to indulge in handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and a variety of carpaccio. Its seafood is flown-in for freshness and truffles can be added to dishes for an additional charge.
click to enlarge We'll take one of each. - PHOTO BY LAUREN BEBEAU
We'll take one of each.
Photo by Lauren Bebeau
In fact, it has an entire section of the menu dedicated to truffles and diners can choose from dishes such as Adriatic Sea Bass, Foie Gras Tortellini and even sea scallops topped with truffles. For a real indulgence, there's a pizza with mozzarella di bufala, robiola, black label prosciutto and black truffles. The pizzas are cooked in the Italian-designed, gold-tiled wood-burning oven.
click to enlarge Amore stays true to its name with a romantic setting. - PHOTO BY CHRISTINA SULIEN
Amore stays true to its name with a romantic setting.
Photo by Christina Sulien
Alfred Mojica spent 20 years at Da Marco, heading its kitchen as executive chef. He left that position  in 2020. Prior to that, Chef Alfred served as executive chef of Grotto for 7 years. The decades of running upscale Italian kitchens is reflected in the authenticity and quality of the cuisine at Amore but the Mojicas are also aiming to keep the restaurant affordable and family-friendly. The 75-seat restaurant offers free valet parking at dinner.

click to enlarge The Margherita Pizza shines as an example of Local Table's commitment to fresh ingredients. - PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN
The Margherita Pizza shines as an example of Local Table's commitment to fresh ingredients.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
Local Table, 2003 W. 34th, opens December 15 in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area. It will be the fourth location for the restaurant which has locations in Fulshear, Katy and the Bridgeland community in Cypress.
The owners are a trio of brothers,  Ashkan Nowamooz,  Arash Nowamouz  and Alex Nowamooz in partnership with their cousins Shervin Sharifi and Neima Sharifi.  Ashkan Nowamooz is also the co-owner of Hungry‚Äôs Concepts. The family's goal with Local Table is to provide fresh fare for families at affordable prices. Sue Nowamooz serves as executive chef for Eat Local Concepts and Lindsey Martin is the beverage director.

"In our culture, family is everything." says co-owner Ashkan Nowamooz. "We have, collectively, capitalized on our individual successes, come together and built a brand that is sustainable for expansion with hopes to deliver our family values from our table to yours."
click to enlarge Fresh seafood choices include an Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl. - PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN
Fresh seafood choices include an Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
The hospitality group opened its first location in Katy in April 2016 followed by Cypress in 2018 and Fulshear in 2020. The GOOF launch will serve as a model for its further expansion including its sister concept Local Bar.  Each opening is unique to the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Garden Oaks restaurant will have 6,400 square feet of space and a large private dining room. The menu will offer fresh seafood such as Blue Crab Cakes and Green Chile Shrimp Ceviche plus vegetable options such as Texas Caviar Salad and Honey Ginger-Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad. Wood-stone pizzas, wraps and tacos are on offer plus a number of vegan and gluten-free choices as well.

A fifth Local Table is currently under construction in The Woodlands and is expected to open in the second half of 2022.
click to enlarge Kirthan and Kripa Shenoy will open their first restaurant this spring. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL ANTHONY
Kirthan and Kripa Shenoy will open their first restaurant this spring.
Photo by Michael Anthony

Auden, 911 S. Shepherd, will open spring 2022 at Autry Park, a luxury apartment community from Hanover Company in partnership with Lionstone Investments. The new restaurant is from Nitecap Hospitality and is the first concept for owners Kirthan and Kripa Shenoy. The husband and wife duo are not new to the restaurant industry, having previously worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City. Kirthan, a Houston native, is excited to be back in his hometown. He will serve as executive chef and is developing a menu of globally-inspired dishes influenced by Houston's diversity. Kirthan is also committed to sustainability, freshness and seasonality. Kripa Shenoy will take on the role of executive pastry chef.

Nitecap Hospitality has recruited Houston architect Rodrigo Tovar of rT3 (formerly PDR) to design the 2,800 square-foot interior and 800 square-foot patio. There will be floor-to-ceiling windows and lush greenery plus views of Buffalo Bayou Park. A living wall will blend the indoor and outdoor spaces.
click to enlarge The Egyptian Elote is a Mexican/Middle Eastern fusion of flavors. - PHOTO BY KRISTINA VALDEZ
The Egyptian Elote is a Mexican/Middle Eastern fusion of flavors.
Photo by Kristina Valdez
Aurelian Culinary Co., 32127 TX 249, has reopened after closing in August due to a tragic incident. Owner Joel "J.D."  Valdez was shot August 6 in a Kroger parking lot as he loaded catering supplies into his vehicle. Valdez was an innocent bystander who became the target of an armed man having an altercation with a woman outside the grocery store off West Sam Houston Tollway. Valdez received six bullet wounds and has endured multiple surgeries, hospital visits and physical therapy sessions. The suspect was eventually arrested and charged in the shooting but the crime left Valdez, who had recently become a father, with a legal mess and PTSD from the attack.
click to enlarge J.D. Valdez (right) is back in culinary action. - PHOTO BY KRISTINA VALDEZ
J.D. Valdez (right) is back in culinary action.
Photo by Kristina Valdez
He and his family are trying to move on from the devastating incident and focus on getting their business back on track. The grand reopening of the food truck, which first opened in July, will take place December 11 at Tres Carnales Food Truck Park and Outdoor Bar in Pinehurst. The event will last from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and there will be other vendors plus kids' activities and a family photo booth.

Aurelian offers health-conscious fusion fare with multi-cultural influences and a slight emphasis on Mexican cuisine. Dishes like the Basmati Bowl take healthy spices such as turmeric and peppercorns and combine them with rice topped with Mexican proteins like barbacoa or chicken tinga, then drizzle it with jalapenogurt, the company's creamy jalapeno sauce fortified with organic probiotic yogurt. The Fajita Linguine combines the base of an Italian alfredo sauce with south of the border flavors and the Egyptian Elote spikes creamed, toasted corn with dukkah, an Egyptian nut and spice mixture. The menu will rotate regularly in keeping with the food truck's commitment to seasonality.

Aurelian will also offer fresh fruit teas, coffee and specialties like Red Bean Matcha and Hoja Santa Horchata.

Grace Market, 9415 Broadway, opened in Pearland November 23. It comes from Grace Development, the company behind Grazia Italian Kitchen -The Original in Pearland and Grace Pizza and Shakes. The new concept is owned and operated by CJ Ramirez, a former employee at the pizza restaurant, who was given the opportunity to open his own restaurant by Grace Development owners, Adrian and Gina Hembree.

The Italian-style deli offers a large selection of hot and cold sandwiches plus salads and desserts. On the cold side are items such as the Dolce Vita with ham, turkey, bacon and avocados and the Guisto "Just Right" which piles on Italian meats like soppressata, hot capicola and Genoa salami. On the hot sandwich menu are choices like the Meat-A-Baller with meatballs made from pork and Wagyu beef, sourced from R-C Ranch in Bailey's Prairie, according to Visit Pearland. There's also the Chicken Parm and Boudin Heaven. The deli offers up Texas Toast sandwiches, too, such as Yo Adrian, which is beefy like Rocky Balboa.

The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill, 700 Baybrook Mall, opened November 22. The fast-casual restaurant celebrated its grand opening December 6 with its Opa-Palooza, giving away prizes and free gyros for a year. It also held a charity giveback day December 9 benefitting the Galveston Bay Foundation.

The Mediterranean concept was founded in 2011 and offers traditional gyros and souvlaki platters plus delicious starters and dips like hummus, tzatziki, melitzanosalata (eggplant dip) and tirokafteri (spicy roasted red pepper). The made-to-order Feta Fries are a popular snack and desserts include Baklava Ice Cream and rice pudding. Diners can also customize their orders with choices of gyro meat, chicken souvlaki, salmon and other proteins.

In addition to its seating for 60 inside, the restaurant offers a patio with room for 20 more.

Franchisee Alan Brown hopes to open five new locations in the future.

Mendocino Farms, 600 N. Shepherd, opens December 14  at M-K-T Heights. This is the fourth Houston-area location for the California-founded sandwich and salad concept. The new restaurant will be located in Building 4 of the dining and retail complex.

It offers a menu of sandwiches like the Mendos Fried Chicken, Chicken Pesto Caprese, Peruvian Steak  and Mendo's Original Pork Belly Banh Mi. The restaurant also offers plenty of vegetarain and vegan choices such as the Vegan Banh Mi, The Impossible Burger Queen and Mrs. Goldfarb's Unreal Reuben. There are a number of colorful and healthy entree salads and bowls. The Blue Plate Specials offer half sandwiches served with a cup of soup.

Ruggles Black, 2245 W. Alabama, opened December 2 in its new location. The restaurant first opened in 2014 with chef Bruce Molzan and his partner Neera Patidar, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The new location offers more space and a large patio on which to enjoy its Keto Chicken Enchiladas or Paleo Fish and Chips, which has almond flour for the crust. It even has a CBD menu which includes a Hemp Brownie and CBD-infused Filet Mignon. Even the cocktails are keto like the Keto Margarita and the Keto Royal, made with sparkling wine, Creme de Violette and Port wine.

The new space is filled with European charm from outdoor bistro tables to huge, sparkling chandeliers illuminating the chic interior

Salata, 5015 Westheimer, reopened at The Galleria December 7. The new makeover includes a refreshed look and layout with an updated color palette and lighting fixtures. The built-to-order salad kitchen is still serving guests customizable salads with five different bases of leafy greens and more than 50 toppings. The chain offers 11 house-made, gluten-free dressings plus there are wraps, soups and organic teas and lemonades.

Located on the same level as the skating rink, Salata offers busy shoppers at The Galleria a healthy alternative to fast food during a season of over-indulgence.

Le Macaron
, 130 Vintage Park Boulevard, is expected to open this December but a definite date has yet to be announced. The Vintage Park location will make the third in the Houston area with one on Fry Road in Cypress and another at The Galleria. The French pastry shop was founded in Sarasota, Florida by Ruth Guillem and daughter Audrey Guillem-Saba in 2009. It began franchising in 2012 and now has over 50 locations nationwide.

Its macarons are made with gluten-free ingredients and have no preservatives and come in flavors such as Mango Jam and Black Vanilla from Madagascar. The shop also sells waffles, cakes, chocolates and French gelato.
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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.