Openings & Closings: Bye-Bye Mockingbird, Hello to The Branch [UPDATED]

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The twitter-sphere was all a buzz today with news about Justin Yu’s announcement of Oxheart’s closure in March 2017. A tweet from @alisoncook of the Houston Chronicle announced that the James Beard award-winning chef plans to reopen the restaurant in May with an a la carte menu.

In a post on his Facebook page, Yu says that while he's loved what he's done and reached his initial goals, "I want to make an even better restaurant." And:

Most importantly, I’d like to finally get over myself and trust someone else to run the kitchen.

Jason White has been with our kitchen on and off for about four of the almost five years we’ve been open. He’s talented, hilarious, a great leader, a great cook, and will be the Chef de Cuisine of the new restaurant. While you’ll still see me over at Nance Street on a regular basis, I’m very excited to see how he’ll direct our staff to new and higher heights.

I’ll be sad to close this chapter of our lives, but I’m excited to share with you another experience. It’ll be filled with fun, with excitement.

And with heart.

After 15 years, Mockingbird Bistro helmed by John Sheely is saying good-bye. The Houston Chronicle reported that Chef John Sheely was unable to negotiate lease terms (which expire on January 2) with the building’s landlord. The classic French restaurant at 1985 Welch in Montrose will close by December’s end. Sheely announced that he is committed to finding new positions for the staff.

In early spring 2017, Spring Branch will see a new gastropub. A Facebook post announced the opening of The Branch Craft Beer & Foodery in the space of former Otilia’s Mexican Restaurant at 7710 Long Point. Kyle Pierson (bar manager at The Hay Merchant), Madeline Cabezut (owner of Mexican Girl Foods, former Head of catering for Hay Merchant/Underbelly) and Amanda Mixon have partnered to open the craft beer café and are working with local Collaborative Projects on architectural and design elements to redesign and ready the classic Mexican restaurant. Co-owner Mixon told the Houston Press that there’s a need for a café in West Houston and they “hope to become a neighborhood favorite for many years to come.”

A reader reported that The Republic Smokehouse & Saloon at 1910 Bagby closed. A message on its website reads, “The Republic is currently closed for construction. Stay tuned for what's next!” Calls to the business reached an automated answering service.

A third Tacos a Go-Go opened at 3401 W TC Jester in Garden Oaks on November 8. A representative told the Press that the most popular items on the menu are the homemade chips and queso blanco, breakfast tacos and the pollo guisado street taco which is made with shredded chicken simmered in a garlic, tomato and serrano pepper sauce.

Yokushi Robata soft opened the weekend of November 19 at 3837 Richmond in the Greenway/Upper Kirby area. The menu includes robatayaki, some ramen and poke. According to its Facebook, the restaurant uses a Robata grill with infrared technology along with “Binchotan” charcoal, which burns at a lower temperature than ordinary charcoal, thus lasting longer without releasing unpleasant smoke smells.

Swamplot Houston reported that a car garage and detail shop in Fourth Ward has added hookah to the deal. A representative told the Press that The Garage Car Detail & Hookah Lounge at 1818 West Dallas started offering premium hookah for customers in a newly designed outdoor patio in mid-November and plans to change the business name by early December.

A new Golden Corral opened at 27940 Southwest Freeway in Rosenberg on November 28. The Chronicle reported that the restaurant chain has franchises that operate close to 500 locations across the United States in 40 states.

A reader’s tip reported that Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub, 2416 Bay Area, suite D in Clear Lake closed on November 17. Calls to the location were unanswered.

A Facebook and Twitter post announced the temporary closure of Black & White at 1001 Studewood in the Heights. The restaurant closed on November 28 for re-branding and has plans to reopen in 2017. The upscale dual-concept from co-owners Herna?n Garci?a and Sven Hossfeldand has never really found a good balance between upscale European-Mediterranean fare at Black and a more casual Latin-inspired seafood-heavy tapas menu at White.

According to CultureMap Houston, BLU, 2248 Texas Drive in Sugar Land closed on November 26. The Asian-inspired restaurant and lounge had operated for nearly five years. Anticipated to open in its place in Sugar Land Town Square in January is The Sugar Refinery, Grub & Grogs.

The Sugar Refinery is a product of a locally-gone-nationally crowd funding platform, NextSeed that urges potential investors to invest locally. The restaurant is designed as a Prohibition era-speakeasy with a façade created to capture the working-class roots of the community’s historic ties to sugar processing and Imperial Sugar. According to the NextSeed site, behind the doors, the space will look like a “1920’s bar and lounge with bartenders and servers dressed in period attire.” The menu will feature items created by Songkran Thai’s Chef Jett Hurapan and his wife, pastry chef Jira Hurapan.

A devastating late night fire on the eve of Thanksgiving destroyed the El Tiempo Cantina at 21810 Kingsland in Katy. Reports from multiple news outlets said a massive two-alarm fire engulfed the restaurant and brought the roof down. One of the few items left intact was a portrait of Mama Ninfa Laurenzo on the wall surrounded by the rubble from the fire. The restaurant posted a message of gratitude on its Facebook page to the first responders and all of the firefighters who helped to contain the fire and added, “please continue to keep all of our staff and the Laurenzos family in your prayers as we work to rebuild.”

After six short months, Midtown upscale taco shop at 2416 Brazos, Stoked Tacos & Tequila is closing its doors. Owner Alex Puskorius told CultureMap Houston that they had planned to wait until January 1 to close, but in light of all the closures during the holidays, “we felt it was better to go ahead and close now.” Along with the closing of neighbor, Red Door, back in June, the building’s landlord has plans to completely renovate the space, which has been home to now four restaurants that have opened and closed over the past five years.

Moody Ice opened at 1919 North Shepherd in the Heights in early November. The dessert shop serves up Hawaiian-style shaved ice using fresh fruit, natural house-made syrups and juices. Early Yelp reviews are positive. Yelper Jenai H. said that the syrup “was sweet but fresh; not the same type of sweetness like the regular syrup most places use.”

An Instagram post announced that Tiny’s Milk & Cookies, the newest iteration of Tiny Boxwoods opened on November 14 at 3636 Rice in West University. The bakery and coffee shop is a small walk-up stand and will also serve homemade ice cream and made from scratch waffle cones along with baked sweets and artisan bread.

Ritual opened on November 29 after being re-branded by Delicious Concepts. The space at 602 Studewood, formerly The El, is described as a craft beer tap room serving smoked meats and southern fare. The menu features a variety of dry-aged beef and interesting items like smoked chicken lollipops, boudin corn dogs and Black Hill pork pie.

The newest addition to the Washington bar scene is Atlas Pub at 5102 Washington. The gastropub rooftop bar soft opened in October and has been fine tuning details for an expected December grand opening. Owner Jonathan Shih told the Press that its “quickly becoming the place to catch the big game for many college and pro sports fans.” The bar has a great double decked-out covered patio area, 40 beers on draft, 30 televisions and features an international menu. Grand Opening details will be announced on its Facebook page.

Now, here’s a review of the Openings and Closings that were reported in November:

Reported Opened or Plans to Open:

AGU, 1809 Eldridge Parkway South (November 11, 2016)
AGU, 7340 Washington (December 15, 2016)
AGU, 9310 Westheimer (November 15, 2016)
Amar Indian-European Cuisine, 1855 Barker Cypress, Suite 100 (mid-September 2016)
Atlas Pub, 5102 Washington (soft-opened in October 2016)
Beaver's, 6025 Westheimer (early December 2016)
Big City Wings, 9721 Broadway, Pearland (early November)
Blaze Pizza, 1507 West Bay Area, Webster (November 18, 2016)
Cape Cod Café, 19640 Kuykendahl, Spring (November 3, 2016)
Carl's Jr., 9599 South Main (November 18, 2016)
Churrascos, 21 Waterway Avenue, The Woodlands (November 18, 2016)
Cleburne Cafeteria, 3606 Bissonnet (reopening March 2017)
Craft Beer Cellar, 907 Franklin (unknown date at this time)
El Pollo Loco, 2760 Gulf Freeway South, League City (November 10, 2016)
Ellis Brothers BBQ (no additional information at this time)
Fajita Pete's, 11022 Spring Cypress Road, Cypress (November 20, 2016)
Golden Corral, 27940 Southwest Freeway, Rosenberg (November 28, 2016)
Harlem Road Texas BBQ, 9823 Harlem Road (first week of December 2016)
Holler Brewing Co., 2206 Edwards, suite A (mid-November 2016)
Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Vintage Park (spring 2017)
Hot toppings, 919 Milam, Tunnels (early 2017)
Hubcap Grill, Terminal A at IAH Airport (November 17, 2016)
Jenni's Noodle House, 3773 Richmond (November 4, 2016)
Killen's STQ, 2231 South Voss (November 28, 2016)
Lucky's Pub, 17754 Katy Freeway (no additional information at this time)
Mellow Mushroom, 1919 North Shepherd (November 21, 2016)
Mockingbird Bistro, 1985 Welch (end of December 2016)
Moody Ice, 1919 North Shepherd (early November 2016)
Nekter Juice Bar, 2800 Southwest Freeway (early 2017)
Raising Cane's, 5236 South Rice (November 1, 2016)
Raising Cane's, 4509 Kingwood Drive (November 15, 2016)
Ramen Tatsu-Ya, 1722 California (Winter 2016)
Rich's, 2401 San Jacinto (re-opened on November 14, 2016)
Ritual, 602 Studewood (November 29, 2016)
Rodeo Goat Ice House, East Downtown (Spring 2017)
Ruggles Green, Vintage Marketplace (2017)
Salata, Baybrook Mall at the Lawn in Friendswood (November 11, 2016)
Shake Shack, 5015 Westheimer, Galleria I (November 4, 2016)
Ship & Shield, 403 West Gray (December 1, 2016)
Stacked Ice Cream, 2211 North Fry (November 8, 2016)
Sub Zero Ice Cream, 528 West Bay Area, suite 600 (November 14, 2016)
Tacos a Go-Go, 3401 W TC Jester, Garden Oaks (November 8, 2016)
The Branch Craft Beer & Foodery, 7710 Long Point (early spring 2017)
The Brit, 911 Franklin (unknown date at this time)
The Garage Car Detail & Hookah Lounge, 1818 West Dallas (mid-November 2016)
The Halal Guys, 10111 Louetta in Vintage Marketplace (November 19, 2016)
The Melt, The Lawn at Baybrook Mall (November 21, 2016)
The Sugar Refinery, Grub & Grogs, 2248 Texas Drive (January 2017)
The Union Kitchen, 920 Westcott, Elan Memorial Park (Late summer or early fall 2017)
Tiny’s Milk & Cookies, 3636 Rice (November 14, 2016)
Toro Japanese Steakhouse, 10694 Westheimer (early 2017)
Vinology, 2314 Bissonnet (December 1, 2016)
Yokushi Robata, 3837 Richmond (November 19, 2016)
Zen Japanese Izakaya, 2015 South Shepherd (October 28, 2016)

Reported Closed or Plans to Close:

Black & White, 1001 Studewood (November 28, 2016)
BLU, 2248 Texas Drive (November 26, 2016)
El Tiempo Cantina, 21810 Kingsland (closed temporarily November 23, 2016)
Lance's Turtle Club, 2613 Nasa Road 1, Seabrook (December 31, 2016)
Nit Noi, 6395 Woodway (early November 2016)
Rockwell Tavern & Grill, 12640 Telge, Cypress (October 30, 2016)
Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub, 2416 Bay Area, suite D, Clear Lake (November 17, 2016)
Stoked Tacos & Tequila, 2416 Brazos (November 22, 2016)
The Republic Smokehouse & Saloon, 1910 Bagby (late November 2016)
Tony’s Seafood Shack, at 17099 Walden, suite 110 (November 20, 2016)

That's it for this week's restaurant openings and closings! Leave us a comment or send us an email to let us know if we missed something.

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