Restaurant News

Openings & Closings

The biggest news of the week seems to be the revolving doors at some of Houston's more popular restaurants: BRC Gastropub, Caffe Bello and the Inn at Dos Brisas (which, okay, is up the road in Independence, but we still claim it as our own). There have been serious chef shuffles at all three in the past seven days.

At BRC Gastropub, chef Jeff Axline has resigned effective today and will be departing for greener pastures at his previous employer, the Redstone Group. Axline told the Chron's Greg Morago that he'd be the new executive chef at Austin's Lakeway Resort and Spa. Until BRC finds a new chef, owner Lance Fegen will be filling in while revamping the menu at the same time to include lighter and less kitschy fare.

Over in Montrose, chef Michael Dei Maggi left the executive chef position after months of rumors that had prematurely placed him out on the street. It was his second job with the Vallone Group after his previous restaurant, The Rockwood Room, closed in June. Dei Maggi had worked as the executive chef at Ciao Bello before moving to the Vallones' newest restaurant, Caffe Bello. It is not known who will replace him or what Dei Maggi's plans are at this time.

And up the road a ways in Independence, Texas's only Mobil five-star restaurant has a new chef after the departure of chef Jason Robinson: chef Craig Shelton, who comes to the Inn at Dos Brisas with a James Beard "Best Chef" award and many other accolades under his belt. His culinary direction for the restaurant is said to be "New-American with French rigor and Asian minimalism."

In actual opening and closings, the much anticipated Kraftsmen Cafe (611 West 22nd) from Scott Tycer opened this past Tuesday in the previous location of Textile, the restaurant that offered extraordinary tasting menus and put people like pastry chef Plinio Sandalio on the map. With this Heights incarnation of his Museum District favorite, Tycer has put together a cozy cafe that's much more fitting for the neighborhood. It's open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will soon be offering European-style breads and pastries alongside the menu of soups, salads and sandwiches.

Former neighbors on Memorial Drive Bibas Greek Pizza and Otto's Barbecue and Hamburgers both have new incarnations this week. Bibas Greek Pizza is now closed, with Haritos Bibas's newest joint -- Bibas Diner (607 West Gray) -- set to open any day now. Bibas took us through the restaurant back in May when it was still heavily under construction, and it already looked great then; I can only imagine how spiffy the new place will finally be.

Meanwhile, Otto's Deluxe Grille (23501 Cinco Ranch Boulevard, Suite D100) opened this past week in Katy's vast La Centerra development. The reincarnation of Otto's past will be serving gourmet salads and sandwiches along with comfort food classics such as certified Angus burgers, chicken fried steak and Otto's famous barbecue.

This Saturday and Sunday, the Montrose Niko Niko's is rolling out a first for the original restaurant location: Greek breakfast. The downtown Niko Niko's (310 Milam) in Market Square has already been serving the breakfast daily, and its popularity has led to its big sister testing it out on the weekends.

Next week, look for a blog post and slideshow about the new developments over at Mai's (3403 Milam), which famously burned nearly to the ground nearly a year ago, on February 15. Anna Pham, Mai's daughter, is taking us on a tour of the new build-out next Wednesday and we can hardly wait to see how the [new] old girl is looking now.

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Katharine Shilcutt