Openings and Closings

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November has been a good month for Houston restaurants so far, with notably few closings. Among them in the past week were two casualties of Spanish cuisine: Tio Pepe (5213 Cedar) in Bellaire and the adjoining Garnaxas Tapas Bar.

In better news, a spate of openings around the city -- and especially at the increasingly busy CityCentre -- is offering more places for Houstonians to spend their dining dollars. Branch Water Tavern has finally opened its doors at 510 Shepherd. Although it's only open for dinner at the moment, initial reports indicate that the classic menu, with items like venison medallions with sweet potato and Brussels sprouts and chicken-fried oysters in a Buffalo sauce, is very good. Even better: It serves a late-night menu until 2 a.m on Friday and Saturday nights.

Stella Sola (1001 Studewood) is finally out of its soft-opening phase and in full swing. The website is also up and running, but doesn't yet have the revamped menu posted. You can view the menu here, however, which has new items like a bone marrow service and brown butter gnocchi.

Bistro Alex and Cafe Rose (800 W. Sam Houston Parkway; both restaurants are in Hotel Sorella) -- the newest restaurants from the Brennan's family -- have opened at CityCentre. Under the guidance of Juan Carlos Gonzalez, the menu at Bistro Alex will feature Louisana-influenced dishes like boudin blanc-crusted black grouper and Brennan's famous turtle soup. Cafe Rose will have lighter fare and gourmet wines and coffee. Both are open daily, but Cafe Rose has longer hours for now: 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Planned for next spring is a brand-new location for CRAVE Cupcakes. You'll no longer have to drive outside the Loop (no matter that it's mere feet outside the Loop at Uptown Park) to get your cupcake fix -- the new location at 5600 Kirby will serve customers in Bellaire, River Oaks, downtown and the Medical Center. The store also plans to offer special gift-delivery service to the Medical Center. Hope their drivers are preparing for that cluster-cupcake early...

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