Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: One Fifth Gulf Coast Debut, Understory Grand Opening

First the Baller Board, now the Baller Boat.
First the Baller Board, now the Baller Boat. Photo by Julie Soefer

One Fifth Gulf Coast, 1658 Westheimer, will open August 12. This is the fourth iteration in Chris Shepherd's Five Years/Five Concepts restaurant. One Fifth Mediterranean closed out its run with a "family dinner" July 31.

The James beard Award-winning chef almost didn't want to let go of the Mediterranean concept and the Gulf Coast concept  has come about rather quickly with the restaurant opening up sooner than anticipated. The new concept will feature a menu inspired by the seafood of the Gulf from Texas to Florida and also the regional cuisines of the Gulf states such as the Creole and Cajun dishes of Louisiana. Yes, there will be jamabalaya. Now word yet on a crawfish pie or file gumbo, ma cher amio.

click to enlarge
Jambalaya is on de menu at One-Fifth Gulf Coast. True, dat!
Photo by Julie Soefer
Press photos show a bounty of crab offerings like Texas stone crab claws and blue crab fingers. The slow roasted pork belly with Steen's Cane Syrup returns and there's a slow roasted laquered duck for fowl fans. Pastry director Victoria Dearmond will be creating sweet endings like a roasted pineapple upside down sesame cake served with a luxardo cherry sorbet and bringing the black lime as an ingredient from One Fifth Mediterranean to create the Black Lime Pie.

click to enlarge
Victoria Dearmond's Black Lime Pie is stunning.
Photo by Julie Soefer
One Fifth Gulf Coast will also debut its Sunday brunch service September 1, a first for the concept. In addition to opening the new concept, Shepherd has announced the line-up of star chefs for the Southern Smoke Fall Festival. Tickets for the charity event can be purchased at Tickets to a separate event, Chris Shepherd's Houstonian Hoot'Nanny, a Southern Smoke benefit dinner October 4, are also available for purchase.

The omnipresent chef also helped to break ground August 6 for the humongous Houston Farmers Market, 2520 Airline, Shepherd will serve as culinary consultant on the project and has plans to open a concept at the market as well, according to . MLB Capital Partners, the local investment firm which purchased the nearly 18 acre tract in 2017 is shooting for the market's completion by the end of 2020. Until then, the market itself will remain open during the renovations.
Seaside Poke is one of the seven food concepts at Understory.
Photo by Penny Nguyen

Understory, 800 Capitol, will begin its grand opening week August 12 with food and drink specials all week long, plus tastings and even some yoga on Saturday, August 17 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. The 35,000 square-foot space at the Bank of America Tower will be an open air-blending of street and tunnel levels with a huge, 30-foot wide staircase leading to the main hub, which offers seven chef-driven concepts and a cocktail bar, Silver Lining.

Seaside Poke, Flip 'N Patties, MONA Fresh Italian Food, East Hampton Sandwich Co. and Boomtown Coffee began their soft openings the first week of August, along with Silver Lining, the stand alone bar from Roveen "Ro" Abante and Florenico "Diko"  Jopio III.The duo are best known for their Lincoln Bar on Washington.

click to enlarge
Mama Ninfa's Tortas Y Tacos will open at Understory.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Mama Ninfa's Tacos Y Tortas from Legacy Restaurants, will also make its debut at Understory August 12.. Executive chef, Alex Padilla has  created a menu with a variety of street-style tacos and tortas plus adapted versions of some of the favorites at The Original Ninfa's, including, the red and green salsas, chile con queso and the fajita tacos.

There will be six a la carte tacos from which to choose such as Pescado ( grilled redfish), Camorones a la Diablo ( bacon-wrapped Gulf shrimp) and Tinga de Pollo (shredded chicken in chipotle salsa). Torta fans will have five options like Barbacoa, Carnitas and  the Cubano with pulled pork. The tortas are made with locally baked El Bollilo rolls.

Ibiza Food & Wine Bar
, 2450 Louisiana, will close February 15, 2020. Clark Cooper Concepts, founded by Grant Cooper and Chef Charles Clark, began making its stamp on the Houston restaurant scene with the Mediterranean and Louisiana-inspired hot spot in 2001. Since then, the company's portfolio has expanded with other concepts including Brasserie 19, Coppa Osteria, Punk's Simple Southern Food and The Dunlavy.

The duo have decided not to renew the lease for Ibiza and instead are turning the focus on the remaining restaurants and the upcoming transition to dinner service at The Dunlavy. There also may be some new projects in the future.

There are still six months left for patrons to relish all of their favorite dishes and enjoy its generous patio.

click to enlarge
Khao Soi at Traveler's Table
Photo by Debora Smail

Traveler's Table, 520 Westheimer, is slated for October 2019. Owner Matthew Mitchell is combining his past as a writer and journalist living abroad with his global culinary discoveries to create a menu, along with executive chef, Jordan Economy, which will offer their creative twists on regional cuisines ranging from Thai to Indian to Italian and beyond.

Set in a Bohemian space, the restaurant will offer diners travel by table starting with the colorful vegetable board which will feature rotating seasonal vegetables prepared with inspiration from different cuisines. For example, diners might be offered crispy Indian-spiced okra, North African cauliflower, charred broccolini and miso-glazed eggplant.

Vegans can enjoy the Middle Eastern Vegan Flatbread with vegetables, nuts and seeds, and vegan cheese, drizzled with tahini. There will also be salads like the Farmers Market with fresh peaches, root vegetables, mixed greens and an almond ricotta cheese.

Entrees will include such global fare as Chinese Five Spice Duck, Jamaican Jerk Pork Shank, Tangy Butter Chicken and a creamy seafood risotto. There's even a burger inspired by American roadside stands. The Traveler's Table Burger is topped with aged cheddar and candied bacon.

Mango Lassi Panna Cotta and New Orleans-style Bread Pudding are a couple of the desserts on offer while the cocktail menu continues the global theme with a Boba Tea Cocktail or a Japanese Old-Fashioned. The restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner with brunch and happy hour in the future.

click to enlarge
Greek treats and tasty sweets are served in a bright, welcoming space at Anonymous Cafe.
Photo by Patricia and Tasos Pantazopoulos

Anonymous Cafe, 3701 Kirby, began its soft opening August 5. The Greek bakery was originally located in Sugar Land, but closed in in order to scout out a new spot.. Owners Patricia and Tasos Pantazopoulos felt that the Montrose area was a perfect fit for their European-style cafe and coffee bar. It's sad for the Sugar Land folks, but exciting for the Montrose residents and nearby workers who can stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner and grab a hot espresso or nitro cold brew. Patricia also has a cooking show, " Go Greek with Patricia Vasos" that is televised in countries around the world. Vasos is her maiden name.

The menu right now features breakfast favorites like Belgian waffles and sandwiches like the Hungry Hoagie with scrambled eggs, bell peppers, onions, cheddar and feta. The chicken and waffles were a popular item at the Sugar Land location and are sure to be a hit at the Kirby store as well.

The lunch menu offers quiches, souvlaki and pita wraps with a daily Greek lunch special. As it progresses to its grand opening, the cafe will expand its menu to include spanakopita, tyropita, and more bakery choices like pound cakes and tarts. Right now, the cafe serves illy coffee and has a special illy machine for its cold nitro brew and a new massive espresso machine as well.

There are plenty of outlets and USB hook-ups for those wishing to work while sipping a cup of coffee and eating a tasty croissant.

Beer and wine will be available soon.

Chris Hensman, Huey-German Wilson and Keith Downey are happy about the Northeast Community Farmers Market.
Photo by Urban Harvest staff

Urban Harvest's Northeast Community Farmers Market, 4901 Lockwood, will debut August 17 at Kashmere Gardens Elementary. The new market will provide fresh produce in an area considered a "food desert". The term is used to describe an area, oftentimes urban or rural, that does not have easily accessed grocery stores with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat. The area the market will serve is still continuing to recover from Hurricane Harvey. SNAP benefits will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $20 per day.

The market will run 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month. Visitors to the opening day will be welcomed with live music, family activities and of course, fresh food.available for purchase.

click to enlarge
Photo by Julia Weber

Vinny's, 1201 St. Emanuel, is launching a New York-style pizza perfect for those who go for the fold. The pizza joint from Agricole Hospitality opened October 2018 selling pizza al taglio, in rectangular slices and whole square pies. In response to customers' requests, the late night spot is adding a thinner New York-style pizza option. Be it circular, triangular or square, the good thing about Vinny's is, you can grab a slice until 3 a.m. Check out Kate McLean's late night review here in the Houston Press for more details.

Bellaire Food Street, 9393 Bellaire, is on a roll with a number of its restaurants and dessert shops opening at the new Chinatown retail development. Beard Papa's, the Japanese chain known for its creative cream puffs opened June 22, followed by Migo Saigon Food Street, which sells Vietnamese noodle bowls, July 12. The Taiwanese chain, Meet Fresh, with its taro desserts and boba tea, opened July 22. Chongquin Chicken Pot softly opened July 25, according to Eater Houston. Soho Chicken House and the Korean coffee chain, Tom N Toms are planned for September. Popfancy Pops is set to open any day now. A culinary road trip to Bellaire's Chinatown might be on my summer bucket list.
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.