Openings and Closings

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As not only Houston but the entire nation heard earlier this week, Midtown favorite and one of the first Vietnamese restaurants in Houston, Mai's Restaurant (3403 Milam), burned down on February 15 after a cooking fire started by a wok. We posted photo and video coverage of the fire itself, as the city watched in disbelief. The restaurant, which had been in business since 1978, was the site of many peoples' first introduction to dishes like pho or bun. Anna Pham, general manager and part of the Mai's family, issued a statement on the restaurant's website the next day:

Because of your love and encouragement, our family is making every effort to bring Mai's Restaurant back as quickly as we can. Though we have suffered greatly in this event, we are optimistic about the future and are prepared to renew, reinvent, and rebuild. Thank you, again, for your continued support during this difficult time for our family.

Quite ironically, the day after Mai's burned to the ground, another Houston treasure which had been destroyed by fire 17 months earlier reopened its doors after a long renovation process. Brennan's (3300 Smith) caught fire during Hurricane Ike, badly injuring three people, but triumphantly opened for dinner service once again on February 16. We took a sneak peek at the restaurant before it opened to the public. And although the restaurant looks entirely different inside, all the changes are for the best (including the addition of the snazzy new Courtyard Bar). Brennan's once again looks like one of Houston's crown jewels.

Meanwhile, in less dramatic news, the Dessert Shoppe (512 W. 19th) quietly opened in the heart of the Heights this week, in the same center as Penzey's Spices and Collina's. Owners Sara and RaeMarie Villar are -- according to Fred Eats Houston -- sisters and fourth-generation Heights residents whose childhood dream was to open a bakery. Sara was trained the Culinary Institute LeNotre and paid her dues at the wonderful Rao's Bakery, so you know their goodies will be just that -- good.

And as we reported last week, Philippe Schmit has signed a deal to move his new restauarnt -- the eponymous PHILIPPE Restaurant & Lounge -- into the BLVD development on Post Oak Boulevard, with RDG + Bar Annie as his next door neighbor (it seems a prerequisite of leasing space at BLVD is judiciously avoiding any actual use of the word "and" in your restaurant name). We commented that it wasn't inside the Loop, as Schmit had previously indicated it would be, but close enough. Whereby his publicist, Jeremy Little, was quick to respond to us via email:

Although Philippe did say that the restaurant would not be outside the Loop, that's because he -- like most of us -- doesn't really consider The Galleria "outside the Loop," even though, geographically, it is. He now understands the difference.

Fair enough. And who would have thought that our food blog would be enlightening the world as to geographic boundaries? It would appear that our lamented degree in geographic information systems is finally paying off.

One final note from Little: "Please note that in spite of its location, the price point will be extremely competitive." We're looking forward to testing that out for ourselves later this year.

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