Restaurant News

Openings & Closings: Ava Becomes Alto, Il Mulino Becomes 024 and Death Becomes Nga

Rumors had been swirling for the past few weeks that Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar -- one of the restaurants in the two-joint Schiller-Del Grande concept at West Ave -- would be closing soon. But instead of closing completely, the restaurant is moving in with its sister restaurant -- Alto Pizzeria -- upstairs. The news is unsurprising, as Ava itself never quite took off despite its pedigree; the Schiller-Del Grande group also run RDG + Bar Annie, The Grove, Taco Milagro, Rio Ranch and several Cafe Express locations.

In a press release, Lonnie Schiller said that they are "taking the best items at Ava and merging them with Alto," although it's unclear exactly which items will remain on the merged menu. Guests will continue to access the second-story Alto through its staircase entrance, while a smaller space downstairs will serve as a curbside pick-up area. West Ave plans to revamp the now-vacant Ava space, and further rumors indicate that a Fleming's may be its next occupant.

In other transformations, Trattoria Il Mulino has closed and quickly reopened as 024 Grille (a nod to its ZIP code). The ground floor level of a Westin facing Memorial City Mall was an odd spot for the little sister location of NYC's famed Il Mulino, and the spot always seemed to suffer as a result. The new 024 promises to blend "the atmosphere of a local bistro and the classic tradition of a Texas steakhouse."

In case you missed it, Solea opened last week in the increasingly popular Shepherd/Durham restaurant corridor south of I-10. The wine bar-cum-live music joint is near both old favorites such as Pizzitola's and new favorites like La Fisheria.

Speaking of La Fisheria, the coastal Mexican restaurant is now open for brunch. In keeping with Chef Aquiles Chavez's almost compulsive need to trademark everything in the restaurant with his name, the brunch offerings will include his twist on chilaquiles -- Red Chile-"Aquiles," which includes a red sauce with spicy and smoky red chiles along with shredded chicken breast, fried corn tortilla strips and fried eggs topped with cotija cheese. The menu will also feature dishes such as Mexican paella and adult pick-me-ups like Bloody Marias. Sunday brunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

Coastal Crossing Grill in Alvin is now open after The Barbed Rose Steakhouse saw its last day of service on June 30.

Also closed this week were Korma Sutra -- a bit of a surprise considering the restaurant's nicely prepared entry into last week's Curry Crawl at Straits -- and Nga Restaurant, which was an excellent Midtown alternative to the much busier Mai's and Van Loc. Midtown is becoming less Vietnamese with every passing day...

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Katharine Shilcutt