Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: The Blind Goat Planned for Spring Branch, Willie's for Pearland

The Blind Goat will get a bigger home in Spring Branch.
The Blind Goat will get a bigger home in Spring Branch. Photo by Mai Pham

The Blind Goat, 8141 Long Point, is planned for Spring Branch in fall 2022. The new restaurant will be an expansion of Christine Ha's popular food hall spot at Bravery Chef Hall. The Blind Goat originally opened in 2019. Described on its website as a modern, Vietnamese gastropub, it serves dishes like Ma's Eggrolls, Grilled Lemongrass Beef Skewers and Crab and Garlic Noodles. The Blind Goat was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2020 as Best New Restaurant in America. Ha, a native Californian born to Vietnamese parents, was the Season 3 winner of Master Chef in 2012, stunning audiences and judges with the revelation that she was blind.

Ha and her partner, husband John Suh, expanded beyond The Blind Goat venture to partner with Tony Nguyen to open the highly acclaimed Xin Chao in September 2020. The restaurant is hosting a first-year anniversary celebration, Sunday November 7, which is open to the public.

Ha and Suh recently moved to the Spring Branch area and like another restaurateur couple, Patrick Feges and Erin Smith, decided to open the kind of restaurant that would cater to the residents of their new neighborhood. While the Feges focused on making their Spring Branch Feges BBQ family friendly, inspired by a recent addition to their own family, Ha and Suh are looking to bring Vietnamese cuisine to Spring Branch in a hangout-friendly pub atmosphere. The Blind Goat will join Feges BBQ and another newly opened concept, Shoot the Moon in the Spring Branch Village shopping center.
click to enlarge Christine Ha is riding high. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY
Christine Ha is riding high.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
While Ha plans to bring many of the menu items from the Bravery Chef Hall location to the Spring Branch restaurant, the larger space will allow her to expand the culinary offerings with dishes similar to tapas plus seafood and a larger selection of skewers, according to CultureMap.

The bar program at the new location will also be expanded. In an email to the Houston Press, Ha said, " I want The Blind Goat in Spring Branch to have the feel of an open air street food market with the vibe of a Vietnamese beach bungalow." Ha envisions beers and wines that will compliment the food menu along with tropical cocktails that utilize Asian ingredients.

When asked about a possible tasting menu, Ha admitted that she has been thinking about it due to the many requests she has received over the years. " I'm certainly open to it, but if we do, it will be a casual one that's approachable for all."

Ha told the Press that the Spring Branch location will be a brand new buildout of a first generation restaurant and keeping in mind construction delays that may be caused by the pandemic, she hopes to open in the third quarter of 2022.  That length of time will allow Ha to decide what the future is for the stand at Bravery Chef Hall. The chef is tossing about a few ideas such as transitioning it into The Sighted Pig, a Korean ghost kitchen that already operates at The Blind Goat, serving bibimbap bowls. Or, Ha may close it down completely to focus on the Spring Branch location. The next year will be a busy one for The Blind Chef.
click to enlarge Willie's offers a Texas-sized menu of Lone Star favorites. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
Willie's offers a Texas-sized menu of Lone Star favorites.
Photo by Becca Wright
Willie's Grill and Ice House, 2600 Smith Ranch Road, is slated to open in mid-January 2022. It will be the 19th location in Texas for the brand but the first for Pearland. It first opened in 1993 serving Texas comfort food in an ice house atmosphere, but with a family friendly approach. Its retractable garage door-walls allow for an al fresco experience inside or out and the children's play area keeps wee ones entertained while parents enjoy a frozen margarita or a juicy burger.

The new Pearland location will be the second store to have a large full bar with a more comprehensive menu of spirits and cocktails plus an extended patio space.
click to enlarge A Texas-sized patty melt is new at Willie's. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT
A Texas-sized patty melt is new at Willie's.
Photo by Becca Wright
For those who have a Willie's nearby already, the restaurant launched two new sandwiches on national Sandwich Day November 3. The first is the Texas Patty Melt made with a half-pound beef patty, two slices of Monterrey Jack cheese, grilled onions and its homemade creamy Melt sauce sandwiched between two thick slices of Texas toast. The second is the Cajun Fire Chicken Sandwich, also served on Texas toast. It's a spicy sammie with two crispy fried chicken tenders topped with Cajun slaw and sweet pickles. It gets its kicks, not from Route 66, but from a drizzle of Willie's signature Cajun Fire sauce.

Elder Son Brewing Company, 946 N. Shepherd, softly opened October 23, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. It was followed by a grand opening weekend October 29 and October 30.

The family-owned brewery produces beers like Grizzly Bolt, an American brown ale and Punts Kitney, a milk porter. There's also a pale ale called Elder Bob and Old Man Brad, a black IPA . There is a taproom plus curbside service. Most of the beers are available for filling 32 ounce growlers and the brewery will be offering 16-ounce beers in four-packs soon.

There is no kitchen onsite but the brewery usually brings in a food truck for nosh.

Highline Park, 600 N. Shepherd, softly opened October 28. The cocktail and patio bar sits conveniently off the Heights Hike and Bike Trail and offers a comfortable place to relax with friends and a contemporary decor that features black, brown and white accents. It serves beer, wine and cocktails, with classics like Mojito, Old Fashioned and a Violette G&T but also signature drinks like the Easy Tiger made with jalapeno-infused Lunazul tequila, lime juice, salt, agave and Squirt soda.  Currently, there is a selection of light bites like Loaded Queso, Spinach & Artichoke Dip, wings and Chicharrones.

Burgers and more substantial dishes are planned for the future. Check back in the next few weeks for more information when the Heights hangout officially opens.
click to enlarge Tres Amigos has ridden into the sunset. - PHOTO BY KEN BRIDGE
Tres Amigos has ridden into the sunset.
Photo by Ken Bridge

Tres Amigos, 3402 N. Shepherd, closed October 9, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The announcement was made via Facebook. Owned By Delicious Concepts, the Tex-Mex restaurant showcased memorabilia from rock band ZZ Top with many of Billy Gibbons' favorite pieces on display.

The restaurant was founded by CEO Ken Bridge who approached his friend Gibbons and another pal, Stewart Skloss with the idea for the concept. Though Skloss and Gibbons were not owners, Skloss' Pura Vida Tequila was used in the drinks at Tres Amigos while Gibbons' souvenirs from ZZ Top's decades of music lined the walls. The premise of the restaurant was a charitable one with 75 percent of proceeds going to the St. Jude Foundation.

Mellow Mushroom, 1919 N. Shepherd, closed in October. A photo posted on Yelp showed a delinquent rent notice for October 1 on the door stating that the locks had been changed. Things move quickly in the restaurant world as Crust Pizza Co. has already listed the space as the future home of one of its upcoming locations.
click to enlarge The crust is our favorite part. - PHOTO BY DILLAN JUUL
The crust is our favorite part.
Photo by Dillan Juul
Crust Pizza Co., 5211 FM 2920, will open soon. While the new Heights location is a bit further in the future, the Gosling Pines location will be serving Spring residents by the end of November or the beginning of December. A Kingwood location at 30129 Rock Creek is slated for late December or early January and there are even more restaurants planned for Cypress and Willis. Besides its locations in the Greater Houston area and Montgomery, Texas, the locally-owned pizza company has two locations in Louisiana with several more in the works.

The fast casual concept serves high quality Chicago-style pizza which diners can top with their favorite ingredients or opt for one of the signature pies like the carnivore's dream, Big Don's Meat & Cheese or the veg-friendly Tuscany. Starters include Baked Buffalo Wings, Garlic Knots and meatballs. There is a variety of salads, pastas and hot subs as well.

In addition to soft drinks, Crust Pizza Co. also serves beer and wine with half-off all wine on Wednesday. Kids eat free on Tuesday.
click to enlarge Dip it. Dip it good. - PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN PENA/CAPTIVE CREATIVE
Dip it. Dip it good.
Photo by Christian Pena/Captive Creative
Clutch City Cluckers, 9598 S. Main, will open November 19. This is the third location for owner Ahmad Kilani and the second in Houston. The other food truck is in San Antonio. It serves Nashville-inspired hot chicken sandwiches, chicken tenders, its popular loaded fries and more. The new truck will also offer a novelty brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Kilani came to the United States from Irbid, Jordan to get his Masters Degree. While continuing his education, Kilani worked at Abu Omar Halal, a decision that influenced his vision of a career in the food industry. He eventually invested in the brand and currently co-owns six locations of Abu Omar Halal in Texas and Louisiana.
click to enlarge Clutch City Cluckers is on a roll. - PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN PENA
Clutch City Cluckers is on a roll.
Photo by Christian Pena
For its grand opening, the food truck will give the first 25 customers in line a free meal, limited to one per person. For those that miss out on the freebies, Clutch City Cluckers is offering 50 percent off entire orders for November 19.
click to enlarge The Pasta alla Bellissimo gets a hit of Mexican flavors. - PHOTO BY TROY FIELDS
The Pasta alla Bellissimo gets a hit of Mexican flavors.
Photo by Troy Fields
Bellissimo, 902 E. 33rd, opened October 15. This is a relocation for the Italian restaurant which closed its 1848 Airline spot May 30, 2021. Its Oaxacan-born chef, Javier Machuca opened the restaurant in 2012 with his uncle Pedro Espinoza after working for owner/chef Youssef Nafaa at his Mia Bella Trattoria for over 13 years.

Diners will find their Italian favorites here such as calamari fritti and spaghetti with meatballs but also dishes that offer a taste of Machuca's Mexican heritage like the Pasta alla Bellissimo made with jalapeno fettucine, black beans, grilled chicken and cilantro. Entrees include Tonno al Pepe Nero, grilled Ahi tuna with black pepper, and a dish that piques this writer's interest, Gamberi Parmigiano. It's a plate of breaded shrimp stuffed with crab over breaded eggplant. Other classic Italian options include Vitello (veal) Marsala and Ossobuco.

The Chocolate Bar, 2521 University Boulevard, has a new executive pastry chef. Grace Lapsys has joined the team and brings over a decade of experience to the job. Besides her training from Ecole Chocolat in France, Lapsys, the Filipino native also owned her own chocolate shop, Joliesse, in Albuquerque, New Mexico which closed in 2019. Lapsys recently competed on the Food Network's Season 8 Holiday Baking Championship. The episode aired November 1.
click to enlarge The Fab Fete's souffles are a favorite with Oprah. - PHOTO BY TERRY VINE
The Fab Fete's souffles are a favorite with Oprah.
Photo by Terry Vine
The Fab Fete launched a new autumnal flavor of its "ready to bake" souffles October 25. The Fontina and Butternut Squash Souffle is a limited edition, seasonal flavor with buttery fontina cheese, sweet butternut squash and sauteed onions. Like the company's other souffle offerings, the Fontina and Butternut Squash is delivered frozen and can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator then baked in the oven for one hour and 20 minutes. The Fab Fete is offering free two-day shipping across the United States with purchase. The cost is $112 for the souffle which is shipped in a pre-filled 32 ounce ceramic baking dish. Customers may also order the souffles in two packs of 32 ounce refill freezer-safe bags.

The Fab Fete was founded by Elizabeth Swift-Copeland of Swift + Company. The souffle brand recently made Oprah Winfrey's "Favorite Things 2021" list and is featured in Winfrey's magazine O Quarterly which hits newsstands November 9. Winfrey's favorite flavor is The Fab Fete's White Corn & Truffle.
click to enlarge Armadillo Palace has crispy fried chicken tenders for lunch again. - PHOTO BY PAULA MURPHY
Armadillo Palace has crispy fried chicken tenders for lunch again.
Photo by Paula Murphy
Goode Co. Armadillo Palace, 5015 Kirby, relaunched its lunch service last week. The locally-owned restaurant and live music venue suspended its lunch service at the beginning of the pandemic, so the return of its weekday lunch is a pretty big deal.

Guests can start with campechana, queso or its Blue Ribbon Deviled Eggs or opt for a healthy-ish salad like the Bartlett with roasted chicken, strawberries, goat cheese and candied pecans. There are crowd pleasers like chicken tenders with fries and you-know-you're-in-Texas items such as Deer Camp Quail Runners served over bacon cheddar grits. There's a variety of desserts but the popular fave is the Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie.

For those who don't have to return to the office, or the office is your dining room table now, perk up your mid-day meal with a Damn Goode Margarita or a Feisty Sandia, a refreshing cocktail made with gin, Ancho Reyes Verde, watermelon, jalapeno and sparkling wine.
click to enlarge Move over French toast, Italian Milk Toast has the floor. - PHOTO BY DUC HOANG
Move over French toast, Italian Milk Toast has the floor.
Photo by Duc Hoang
Rosalie Italian Soul, 400 Dallas, launched its brunch menu October 29. The weekend service runs Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Located in the C. Baldwin Hotel, the restaurant from chef Chris Cosentino and Oliver Wharton draws in destination diners as well.

The brunch menu offers wood-fired pizzas, including a new Nutella and Roasted Strawberry pizza. For breakfast fans, there are dishes like Italian Milk Toast, the Breakfast Sandwich and a Hanger Steak with Eggs that is served with Tuscan potatoes and two salsas; verde and picante. For those missing their nonna's Sunday dinners, Rosalie Sunday Gravy with poached eggs and grilled bread will satisfy the cravings. Great Grandma's Meatballs and Blue Crab Manicotti are also on the brunch menu along with Breakfast Polenta that can be served savory or sweet. Speaking of sweet, guests can order a shareable portion of its Dough Boys that the restaurant claims puts "beignets to shame".

Bigotes Street Tacos, 2000 Willowbrook is planned for the mall's food court in December, according to Community Impact.. The Mexican taco restaurant recently opened another food court location at The Woodlands Mall, as we reported last week here in the Houston Press.
click to enlarge The early bird gets the Surf N Turf. - PHOTO BY SEAFOOD CONNECTION
The early bird gets the Surf N Turf.
Photo by Seafood Connection
Seafood Connection, 507 Westheimer, will host PepsiCo's Corey Alexander as he presents a $15,000 check from Pepsi  to local rap artist and philanthropist Trae Tha Truth November 6. Part of the cola giant's Dig In Day, the money will help Trae's community initiatives like The Relief Gang. Dig In Day was created by Pepsi to help support Black-owned restaurants and drive up sales for business owners.

In honor of the day, Seafood Connection's founder, chef Jamie Walker, will offer the first 300 guests a choice of a free menu item. Attendees can choose between its Signature Shrimp Platter or the new Surf N Turf Potato Chips. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the check presentation begins at 11:15 a.m.

Restaurants Reported Open October 2021:

Alba, 1080 Uptown Park, opened October 2
Aloha Poke Co., 29040 Highway 290, opened October 6
Angry Crab, 2575 Dairy Ashford, opened October 10
Arabella Mediterranean, 6377 Westheimer, grand opening October 31
Bigotes Street Tacos, 1201 Lake Woodlands Parkway, opened September 22
BOH Slice, 8200 Washington, opened October 6
Chicking Out, 23227 Gosling, opened September 23
Chivos, 222 W. 11th, opened October 28
Click Click Chew, 11910 Grant, opened late September
Common Bond Brasserie, 800 Capitol, opened September 28
Dakar Street Food, 2923 Walnut Bend, opened August 19
D'alba, 3715 Alba, opened September 18
El Mariachi, 610 Rayford, opened September 17
The Halal Guys, 23703 Cinco Ranch, opened October 2
Jersey Mike's Subs, 12661 W, lake Houston Parkway, opened November 3
Knockouts Sports Bar, 6225 Washington, opened September 16
La Fondita, 1520, N. Loop E. Freeway, opened October 4
La Viva Cantina, 29040 Northwest Freeway, opened mid-September
Live Oak Grill, 10444 Hempstead, opened October 15
Lulu's, 2518 Kirby, opened October 4
Mozambiq, 5085 Westheimer, opened October 8
New York Eatery, 5422 Bellaire Boulevard, opened October 14
96 Cafe, 20026 Highway 59 N., opened September 10
Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom, 24515 Katy Freeway, reopened October 11
OMG Burger, 8854 Spring Cypress, opened September 17
Original ChopShop, 5018 San Felipe, opened October 15
The Palm, 1201 Fannin, opened October 1
Prey Acadian Cuisine, 1700 Post Oak, opened October 15
Sekai Night and Day,1505 Saint Emanuel, opened October 29
Southern Yankee Crafthouse, 1312 W. Alabama, opened late September
Sushi Rebel, 1700 City Plaza, opened September 30
Sunday Press, 3315 Ella, opened early October
Teaspresso, 2929 Navigation, opened mid-September
3 Fibs, 104 Main, softly opened August 29
Toro Toro, 1300 Lamar, opened October 30

Restaurants Reported Closed October 2021:

The Pastry War, 310 Main, closed October 6
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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.