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Openings & Closings: Cuchara Slices Up a Soft Opening and the Gift Horse Lounge Opens Its Mouth

It's been a busy week, so straight to the dish: Cuchara, the Montrose restaurant at the corner of Taft and Fairview that's been under construction since February, is set to have its soft opening this coming Sunday. I peeked in one afternoon this week and saw an open, semi-industrial dining room with a fantastic street art-style mural on one wall, as well as a big sign out front letting passersby know that Cuchara will be serving "Mexico City food." You know what that means, guys: Don't get all pissy if the place doesn't automatically serve chips and salsa.

Nearby, the two-story building at 607 West Gray that recently housed both Bibas and Kitbar in short succession is undergoing a serious facelift. A renovation appears to be gutting the entire space, while a sign draped across the construction zone indicates that a new restaurant will be coming soon.

Also coming soon: Not one, but two new ventures from the Moon Tower Inn guys -- who are finally reopening Moon Tower itself next month.

Along with the reopening of the hot-dogs-and-beer joint -- which should happen in September, if all goes well -- owners Evan Shannon and Brandon Young are seriously investing in their East End neighborhood. The first of the new spots from the guys to open will be The Gift Horse Lounge, of which Young excitedly said on his Facebook page: "WE'VE GOT A PROPER BAR COMING TO EASTWOOD SOON MOFO'S!!!!"

"The lounge will be a small neighborhood bar with good drinks and great prices," says Young of The Gift Horse, "as well as the best jukebox in H-town." Young and Shannon will also be opening a pizza place nearby -- The Slice and Foam Co. -- where the pies will come in two sizes only.

"The Slice and Foam Co. will be big New York-style slices as well as extra large pies only," says Young. "Carry out or dine in (for now). We'll also have some taps and a shit pile of cans -- all, of course, good beer -- as well as a stage for some local shows and maybe even some surprise guests passing through."

With new restaurants and bars alongside adventurous live music venues such as Walter's, Super Happy Fun Land, The White Swan and, hell, even House of Creeps already in the area, the East End is shaping up to be Houston's new Montrose within a few years, now that Montrose is getting all fresh and fancy.

Speaking of Montrose, Dolce Vita reopened today after being closed since May 23. A fire set in the Dumpster behind Marco Wiles's beloved pizza place heavily damaged the restaurant; Jacob Colby Garvin was eventually arrested in connection with the fire and charged with felony criminal mischief and felony arson.

Down the street, Korean-Japanese fusion joint Nabi has now closed for good. Owner/chef Ji Kang verified that he'd sold Nabi to another party, but couldn't disclose who. That isn't the end of Kang's run here in Houston, however. The chef has another project in the works that's absolutely unlike anything else we have in the city -- and one of the things we're sorely missing, which other cities have in spades. Anyone want to hazard a guess?

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In other semi-blind news, I keep hearing rumors from solid sources who've indicated that New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh will soon be opening a restaurant in Houston. My last source even said that Besh had already chosen the spot -- in River Oaks. Which would make complete sense were it true. I spoke with Besh's representatives this week, who said that the chef has no plans to open a place in Houston. Is that anything like In-N-Out Burger "not" coming to Houston any time soon?

Last but not least, the restaurant that replaced Cabo's has been open for a couple of weeks. But it hasn't had its sign up until now: Pepper Jack's left the fiberglass marlin component of Cabo's old sign intact, which is now lighting up the downtown sky at Travis and Prairie once again.

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