Openings & Closings: Failed Concepts & A Mega Burger Bus Expansion

We're just a few days into the month of September, and several highly anticipated restaurants have finally opened for business and a multitude of future concepts have been announced.

But, among all of this exciting news, several restaurants have suddenly closed their doors this week. So, let's get the bad news out of the way first.

It seems like Scott Gertner and Alberto Alfonzo have both hit a rough patch when it comes to their restaurant concepts. Just a few months ago, Scott Gertner's at Houston Pavilions closed and now it appears that Scott Gertner's Sports Bar Live on 3100 Fountain View in the Galleria area has closed as well. B4-U-Eat reports that the restaurant's phone is disconnected and no one has responded via email regarding requests for info.

Alfonzo's newest concept, Pesca World Seafood, also has closed after being open for only eight months. CultureMap reminds us about Alfonzo's previous failed concept, Tintos, which closed in December. Several online reviews of Pesca say that overpriced small portions were a turn-off. But, Alfonzo announced that he isn't giving up; Pesca will open in a different location at a later date, according to B4-U-Eat.

The Town & Country location of Skeeter's Mesquite Grill also closed over the weekend. The Houston Chronicle reports that the restaurant closed due to a new commercial development being built at the restaurant's site. Skeeter's also plans to reopen in a different location.

After one of our commenters in last week's report informed us about a sign on the door of the Memorial Drive location of Candelari's Pizzeria saying, "Sorry," we did some digging to find out what the deal was. According to one of the employees at the Washington Avenue location, Candelari's on Memorial Drive closed about three weeks ago due to a lack of business.

Due to inaccessibility for parking and getting into the yogurt shop, as well as increases in rent, Sweet Lola Yogurt Bar will be closing at the end of the month. The Midtown yogurt shop plans to open in a different location some time next year.

Now, for the good news of the week!

Eater sat down with Bernie's Burger Bus owner, Justin Turner, who revealed plans to open three brick-and-mortar locations for the burger food truck over the next five years. The first permanent location should open next Spring somewhere on Bellaire west of 610. During the interview with Eater, Turner explained what the menu will be like at the brick-and-mortar locations.

"...We'll expand the menu and do a few more burgers, throw in some different types of proteins. So I might have some wild game burgers, a chicken burger as far as the patties, but the burger and theme will stay the same," Turner says.

Turner currently has three trucks working a total of 28 shifts throughout the week and the BBB pickles should hit grocery store shelves in October. The second permanent location is expected to open in fall 2014 in Katy.

In more coming soon news, the guys behind Hunky Dory have announced plans for another restaurant concept that will share the lot with the future restaurant. Foreign Correspondents will be a "farm-to-table Thai" restaurant that will seat nearly 200 people in the bar, main dining area and covered outdoor area, as well as a 40-seat private dining room that will be shared by Hunky Dory. Treadsack spoke with the owner, Chris Cusack, the culinary director, Benjy Mason, and the head chef, PJ Stoops, about Foreign Correspondents' concept.

When asked about the meaning of "farm-to-table Thai", PJ Stoops says, "Houston is not tropical, but it's not so far away from it either. Northern parts of Thailand are tropical, but really not that far from the Tropic of Cancer. Both areas are ridiculously hot (though we do have a winter that sometimes lasts a whole week). In other words, agricultural products, cooking methods, and preservation techniques from over there tend to be quite successful here... These gardeners and farmers grow everything there is to grow in our climate. We intend to utilize this network... While some items (like pla daek and soy sauce) will be imported, our goal is source 100 percent of fresh ingredients locally."

Foreign Correspondents and Hunky Dory will be located at 1819 N. Shepherd. Highly anticipated restaurant, Osteria Mazzantini opened at 2200 Post Oak Blvd on Labor Day, as well as Coppa Osteria.

In bar news, CultureMap reported that Worhals Midtown, an Andy Warhol tribute craft beer bar, opened Thursday, September 5. The bar offers more than 150 craft beer selections and typical bar food, like burgers and wings, as well as healthier options, like salads, grilled chicken and fish, and paninis.

Voodoo Queen also opened at 322 Milby this week. The owners of Moon Tower Inn bring this newest New Orleans-style bar where you can expect a large stock of premium liquor. Eater reports that the drinks will come big and small; expect shareable bowls or smaller (and quite strong) cocktails finished with a neon fleur-de-lis skewer. Co-owner Brandon Young tells Eater that the East End bar will offer a variety of things to do, like pinball machines, dart boards and a pool table. The bar will also serve its customers what they want to drink, even if it isn't on the menu.

Swamplot reports that the former Blockbuster location at 8001 S. Main St. will open as a Filipino fast food restaurant named Jollibee Chicken & Burgers. The next Trader Joe's will open in Cinco Ranch some time next year, according to Swamplot, making this the fourth Trader Joe's location in the Houston area.

In other coming soon news, Morton's Grille opens Tuesday, September 10 in The Woodlands as the first Morton's spin-off concept. The restaurant will be directly across the street from Hubbell & Hudson and will include menu items similar to the menu at Morton's, like the steaks and chops, oysters on the half shell, prime rib French dip sandwich and the Morton's prime burger, according to the Chronicle. What will set this spin-off restaurant apart from Morton's will be the shareable appetizers, such as buffalo chicken meatballs, and several dishes incorporating Texas flavors, like blackened Texas redfish with dirty rice and bacon fat braised baby back ribs with matchstick fries. Menu items should also be lower in price than the offerings from Morton's. Upon opening, Morton's Grille will only serve dinner and will offer lunch at a later date.

B4-U-Eat's weekly newsletter noted that Coltivare Pizza & Garden appears to be gearing up for an opening due to the progress in the garden outside. The soon-to-be 3200 White Oak restaurant appears to have fruit trees and tomato plants growing outside.

Did we miss any openings or closings? Let us know in the comments section so we can include them in next week's report.

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