Openings & Closings: Downtown Derring-Do

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Restaurants and bars are betting on downtown in increasing numbers, as more business owners perform daring feats like -- gasp! -- moving into vacant spaces on Main Street or taking over failed locations with zest and zeal.

Now that I've gotten all of the Errol Flynn language out of my system for the day, onto the news -- starting with the announcement from The Burger Guys that they'll be opening their new downtown location at 706 Main next week. Jake Mazzu and Brandon Fisch have transformed the old Korma Sutra space -- which was also once home to Randy Rucker's laidback manor -- in record time and plan to serve their first burgers on Halloween (Wednesday, October 31).

Bragged Mazzu to the Chronicle's Greg Morago last week of the new space: "We're not like anyone else. We can't be compared. There's not one place in Houston or anywhere in the country that's comparable."

Elsewhere downtown, Latin tapas joint Batanga is moving into the old Wasabi space underneath the Market Square clock tower at 908 Congress. Food blogger Maya Fasthoff of Restaurant Traveler is behind Batanga, along with brother-in-law Brian Fasthoff and husband Hank Fasthoff, and plans to open the restaurant in late 2012 or early 2013.

"Batanga is a Latin American tapas restaurant featuring dishes from various regions in Latin America, such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia, as well as dishes from Spain and Portugal," Fasthoff wrote on her blog. "We'll be open for lunch and dinner seven days per week, and brunch on Sunday, with take away and catering service available." In addition, Batanga will have a 3,600-square-foot patio that's shaded by tall trees and provides a beautiful view onto Market Square Park.

And this week I've got two more downtown blind items for you to pick apart, coming on the heels of news that a popular food truck will soon be moving into a brick-and-mortar space at 306 Main. Two equally popular bars/bartenders will be setting up shop in two more locations right along Main Street -- which means we'll soon have OKRA's Charity Saloon (right next door to Batanga) in addition to these new watering holes. Both bars are backed by longtime bar owners with spaces in Montrose, and one is a project set up solely for a well-known local bartender to flex his creative muscles.

Speaking of second projects from existing bars: Cottonwood, from the owners of Liberty Station, is now open in Garden Oaks. Eater Houston has a first look at the craft beer-oriented pub, which is serving everything from burgers and wings to "surprises such as stuffed quail and barbecued oysters."

Plans for the long-awaited Midtown superblock are finally moving forward now that one last piece of property has been purchased, reports the Houston Business Journal. Sad news, however: That hold-out was the strip center which contains banh mi shop Thien An. No word yet on what will happen to the sandwich shop, but at least we still have Cali across the street.

Last but not least, The Woodlands is getting a new LongHorn Steakhouse at 26805 I-45 North. The Woodlands restaurant will be the third location in the Houston market and plans to play it big: The 6,270-square foot restaurant will seat more than 240 guests. It opens this Monday, October 29.

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