Two long-awaited Houston restaurants are finally ready for their close-ups. El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, which will open for dinner service tonight, and Mai's, which will open next month after a 14-month closure due to a devastating fire.
All week long, the parking lot has been undergoing final renovations and the waiters have been working training shifts at El Real (1201 Westheimer). Chef and co-owner Bryan Caswell was overheard joking at last night's Star Chefs gala that it would have been open last night if he weren't at the gala itself. I chatted with Culture Map's food writer Sarah Rufca about her experience at one of the training services, and her response was overwhelmingly positive. She also couldn't believe how many seats they'd fit into the space. Anticipating some hefty crowds, boys?
Mai's (3403 Milam), too, is expecting the crowds to hit once it reopens in mid-April. It's one of the reasons they've expanded the restaurant to include the building's second story: The restaurant will now have twice its old capacity, with 211 total seats. And, as promised, there has been very little change to the menu prices even though the menu itself has been updated. You can check out the entire menu here.
Out in Sugar Land, there's a new kind of Chinese food in town: Hakka food, which melds Indian and Chinese together. And it's available at Aling's Hakka Chinese Cuisine (15425 Southwest Freeway). Swamplot has a great little interview with owner Irfan Motiwala; read on if you're interested in finding out more about this fascinating and historical fusion cuisine.
And in important closures, say good-bye to the 6th Street Bar & Grill (2701 White Oak). In addition to its own Tacos a Go-Go, Hubcap Grill, D'Amico's, Revival Market and many other restaurants that are coming soon, the Heights is also getting its own BB's Cajun Café in the old 6th Street spot.
What's all this talk about restaurant row on Westheimer, again?
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.