Restaurant News

Openings & Closings

Relish Fine Foods had its grand opening this past Monday and Tuesday, and was already off to a fast start when I dropped by at 2 p.m. on Monday afternoon. The store was already sold out of all of their salads, and other prepared items were going just as fast.

Owner Addie d'Agostino said with a bemused grin that she'd expected it to be busy, but not quite that busy. But it's busy with good reason: The prepared foods are wonderful, especially the baked goods from pastry chef Julie Hewitt. I'll have more about the foods and the store itself next week, as well as a slide show, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we played a game of "Where in the World is Alex Padilla?" this week as the Twitter rumor mill purported that the Ninfa's on Navigation chef had packed up and moved to Beverly Hills. The Huffington Post showed Padilla as the new executive chef at Taberna, but Bobby Heugel quickly cleared up the confusion about Padilla's whereabouts before I'd even had a chance to call the restaurant: Padilla is the corporate chef for Legacy Restaurant Group -- the same company that owns Ninfa's on Navigation and Antone's -- and is currently in Beverly Hills developing the menu for this, the second Taberna.

Speaking of Bobby Heugel, it looks like Hay Merchant -- his beer bar with Kevin Floyd -- as well as Underbelly are on schedule to be completed later this year. Underbelly already has a website up, although it doesn't tell more than what we revealed earlier this week in our cafe review of Thanh Phuong: that executive chef Chris Shepherd intends for the restaurant to tell the story of Houston's food. It looks like the restaurant is scheduled to be completed in October; demolition of the old Chances space began earlier this week.

Also nearing completion is Sorrel Urban Bistro, which should be open next week if all goes well. Chef Soren Pedersen -- who is also still with Ray's Grill in Fulshear -- plans to have a daily farm-to-table "blackboard menu" as well as a la carte and prix fixe offerings for lunch and dinner: three courses at lunch, five at dinner. Even better, Sorrel will be stocking craft beer and wine, the latter of which will be on tap. And while the kitchen will close earlier on in the night, the bar area will stay open until midnight during the week and 1 a.m. on the weekends.

Already open downtown is Soup Cowboy, which had its grand opening this past Wednesday in the tunnels under the Pennzoil Building. To paraphrase our friend Chris Frankel, it's a surprise that it's taken this long for a higher-end soup-centric restaurant concept to catch on in Houston. The restaurant lists its chef as Jake Ellis, who is offering 16 daily soups as well as three daily sandwiches and take-home meals for the evening. It's a smart idea, even further enhanced by the attractive-looking menu, which features an assortment of dairy-free and vegetarian soups in addition to classics like chicken and dumplings and Texas chili.

And in other downtown food news, CultureMap reports that Byrd's Market bit the dust this past week. No surprise there, as the grocery aspect of the store was always poorly-stocked and the restaurant portion turned out some horribly mediocre food.

Does this bode well for Phoenicia? I think that it does, as the Tcholakians have already set the example of how to successfully combine the two concepts, which Byrd's never quite figured out -- and it means that much less competition in an area that really only needs one or two grocery stores at this time. Unfortunately, the store has pushed back its opening to the end of August, so we'll just have to wait until then to see...

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Katharine Shilcutt