Restaurant News

Openings & Closings: Good-bye to Museum Park Cafe

It was somewhat predictable that after losing high-profile chef Justin Basye, Museum Park Cafe at 1801 Binz might have a rocky road. However, it was apparently even rockier than expected, even with well-regarded Jason White (formerly of Voice and Oxheart) in the kitchen. Its last day of service is April 11. According to a a press release from by Balcor Commercial, the existing lease is being taken over by a Barnaby's.

Christopher Balat, who operates both Balcor Commercial and Balcor Hospitality, said via a press release, "We are very excited about the opportunity to bring Barnaby's to the Museum District. We have always felt that Barnaby's would be the perfect fit for this neighborhood."

Museum Park Cafe was No. 13 on our list of the 25 Top New Restaurants of 2014, but earned a middling review from Houston Press freelance restaurant reviewer Mai Pham shortly before Justin Basye's departure.

Pitmaster Greg Gatlin hasn't had a restaurant to cook in since his lease on Gatlin's BBQ expired in mid-February. Well, that's about to change. The Houston Chronicle reported that the grand opening party for Jackson Street BBQ, a joint venture between Gatlin, chef Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd at 209 Jackson, is around the corner: April 6, to be exact. They'll also have a concession stand inside Minute Maid Park. (A shout-out goes to reader "justthefacts" for making sure we saw this.)

One of our other top 25 new restaurant choices in 2014, Songkran Thai Kitchen, is doing the opposite of Museum Park Cafe: it's expanding. Eater Houston reports that chef-owner Jurrajet "Jett" Hurapan and his business partners Amy and Jiten Karnani have shuttered Blu at 2268 Texas Drive in Sugar Land Town Square in favor of opening a second Songkran Thai Kitchen there. It sounds like a great idea to us. There's no word yet as to when the grand opening (reopening?) will be.

Peli Peli opened its second location in the Galleria on March 30. Until April 15, reservations are required, but after that walk-ins are welcome. The restaurant moved into the space formerly occupied by Gigi's Asian Bistro at 5085 Westheimer. It's one of the very few in the United States that specialize in South African cuisine.

We reported in February that the restaurant portion of Asia Market, the popular combination Thai cafe and grocery store, is getting a standalone restaurant at 4822 Fulton later this year. An emailed update from the owners says that they closed the existing restaurant at 1010 West Cavalcade on March 29. The grocery store part will continue to operate under new management. They hope to have the restaurant open by the end of June, but in the meantime, we're bereft of their ultra-spicy curries.

As reported earlier this week, Wunsche Bros. Cafe & Saloon in Old Town Spring at 103 Midway is going to be closed for a while because of a fire that thankfully destroyed only a newer addition that was built in the 1980s. The original building, which is more than 100 years old, was saved by firefighters. However, it did suffer smoke damage and the historical photographs on the walls were destroyed. The restaurant has started a Go Fund Me campaign to help support employees who are unemployed during the reconstruction.

Wunsche Bros. is not the only restaurant that's temporarily closed due to fire. Culturemap Houston reported that Mediterranean restaurant Aladdin at 912 Westheimer in the Montrose is also shut down because of a kitchen fire. Aladdin will likely reopen fairly soon, possibly by press time. It's just a matter of waiting for the city to approve the reopening.

Downtown retail center and entertainment venue GreenStreet (formerly known as Houston Pavilions) announced that South Korean coffee-shop chain Caffé Bene will open a location there this summer at 1201 Fannin. The cafe's European-style space is designed to emulate a living room to encourage people to stay for a while rather than just grab their coffee and go. There will also be an eclectic dining menu that includes everything from Belgian waffles to a traditional Korean dessert called misugaru, a drink made with rice and barley.

SMOOSH Cookies, a custom ice cream cookie sandwich shop, is having its grand opening on Saturday, April 11 at the River Oaks Event Studio on 2814 South Shepherd from 1 to 6 pm. Customers who attend will get a free cookie with the purchase of an ice cream sandwich.

Houstonia Gastronaut says that Grafitti's is open at 2003 Union after months of extensive renovations. It's serving a menu of steaks, burgers and chops.

Taquerias Arandas has opened its 28th store at 8111 South Gessner, but this one is different from the rest. The Houston Chronicle reports that unlike the others, which are franchises, this one is a corporate store. It will serve as a training ground to facilitate the chain's expansion plans.

Eater Houston reports that BuffBurger has opened in the Memorial area at 1014 Wirt. It's a quality-focused burger place that uses meat from 44 Farms and local produce.

Here's a new service of Openings & Closings: dispelling rumors. Here are some places that are not closed, despite word going around to the contrary. One is Winston's on Washington, and the other is Triniti. Neither is closed or has any plans to close. We confirmed Triniti's status with its public relations firm, and owner Cesar Rocha of Winston's on Washington sent this note: "I'm not sure where these rumors started, but we are still open. We currently are open Thursday through Sunday."

Now that we've done our good deed for the day, it's time to look at all the Openings & Closings we reported on over the past month.

Closings 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, 2300 Westheimer Asia Market, 1010 West Cavalcade Blu, 2268 Texas Drive, Sugar Land Preview Modern Seafood, 4645 Highway 6 Ruggles Café Bakery, 2365-A Rice Tony's Barbecue & Steak House, 1225 Travis

Openings VII Kitchen & Craft Cocktails, 2207 Richmond Añejo, 1180 Uptown Park BuffBurger, 1014 Wirt Café Japon, 5900 Memorial Ding Ding, 9398 Bellaire Dish Society, 23501 Cinco Ranch EQ Heights, 1030 Heights Graffiti's on Union Street, 2003 Union Grindhouse, 5403 North Shepherd Jackson Street Barbecue, 209 Jackson JINYA Ramen, 3201 Louisiana Johnny's Gold Brick, 2518 Yale Local Pour, The Woodlands, 1900 Hughes Landing, #350 Peli Peli Galleria, 5085 Westheimer Pollo Tropical, 13347 Westheimer Potbelly, 14215 FM 2920 The Republic Smokehouse & Saloon, 1910 Bagby SE7EN Ultra Lounge, 2207 Richmond SMOOSH Cookies, 2814 South Shepherd Sprouts Farmers Market, 195 Yale Taquerias Arandas, 8111 South Gessner The Egg & I, 10603 West Sam Houston Parkway North.

Temporary Closings Aladdin, 912 Westheimer Wunsche Bros. Café & Saloon, 103 Midway, Old Town Spring

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Phaedra Cook
Contact: Phaedra Cook