Restaurant News

Openings & Closings in Houston: Trading Spaces, Restaurant-Style

The big news in this week's Openings and Closings are the various Montrose restaurants opening, closing and taking each other's spaces.

Eric Sandler of Culturemap Houston reports that Eatsie Boys is closing on May 1 and the news is being received by Houston diners with mixed emotions. The little café, which opened in 2013, has been met with success and critical acclaim.

However, the partners of Eatsie Boys are also the owners of 8th Wonder Brewing Company, which is growing by leaps and bounds. The brewery just signed an agreement with Silver Eagle distributing company, which will put their beers—including Intellectuale, Hopston and Dome Faux'm—into even more bars and restaurants around town. Also in the works are plans to start packaging the beers in bottles and a new brewery and tasting room is under consideration, too.

Here's some good news about the change: the new tenant taking over the space is Sean Carroll of Melange Creperie. A few months ago, Carroll had a successful Kickstarter to raise seed money to get a brick-and-mortar operation up and running. For years, Carroll did most of his business from the parking lot of Mango's at the intersection of Westheimer and Taft. Mango's has since closed and is set to be sold. Moving into the Eatsie Boys space will allow Carroll to have a place to work and expand his operation.

Chef Matt Marcus of Eatsie Boys had this to say about the transition:

The tap room has been a huge success during the nice weather we've been having. Between the food tuck catering and the brewery growth, we've been stretched thin. Our lease was up and Sean popped into all three of our minds as someone who deserves to be in Montrose. He is Montrose. We knew he was having a tough time finding a place that would fit his budget and be a good starter restaurant for him. We did a lot of soul-searching, approached Sean about the idea and it all happened really fast. As much as we love the café, it's time to move on and focus on our roots—the food truck and our ever-expanding brewery. Sean has been a beacon of entrepreneurship in Houston and for him to come in and take over our legacy is very exciting.

Since 8th Wonder is a brewery and not a restaurant, it does leave Marcus—the only chef in the group— in a bit of a void. He's actively looking for other projects to put his considerable restaurant experience to work.

In other news, it looks like La Casa de Caballo—or something like it—will rise again. The Mexican steakhouse (coincidentally, just across the street from Mango's) shuttered after El Tiempo took over the space on 322 Westheimer. Culturemap Houston's Eric Sandler checked in with La Casa de Caballo's former owner, Carlos Abedrop, who says the build-out for new concept Saltillo is underway. The new place is in the Bellaire Triangle area at 5427 Bissonnet. Considering that it joins recently-opened restaurants like Bernie's Burger Bus and Genesis Steakhouse, the area is rapidly becoming a new dining hotspot. Abedrop hopes for a May opening.

As for El Tiempo, the impetus for taking over the old La Casa del Caballo space was because they are ultimately losing their original Montrose location, El Tiempo 1308 Cantina, located at 1308 Montrose. New condominiums are slated to be built on the property.

Well, it looks like they've received an extended reprieve. Their PR firm, The Epicurean Publicist, emailed us this note in response to our question about when it's closing:

"The landlord has told Roland [Laurenzo] that he can expect to keep El Tiempo 1308 Cantina open through at least December 31, 2015. What happens after that depends on the economy.".

Bartender Chris Frankel contacted us last week to say that his new place Spare Key is out of its soft-opening phase. It is up and running on the second floor above Cook & Collins at 2416 Brazos in Midtown.

Frankel first gained recognition in Houston as one of Anvil Bar & Refuge's first bartenders. Later, he did a well-received stint as bar director at RDG + Bar Annie. Frankel says Spare Key focuses on getting back to cocktail basics. Frankel says, "Our drink menu and drinks are simple, classically-inspired and tasty. Also, we encourage customers to order off-menu and ask for the "Bartender's Choice" option, so they can tell the bartenders their preference and end up with a drink tailored to what they're looking for at that moment.

Not an opening, but a move of sorts: Pi Pizza Truck has a new regular parking location which will make it easier than ever for customers to keep up with it. It will be parked at Johnny's Gold Brick at 2518 Yale Thursdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Delivery is also available to the Heights and surrounding areas during these hours.

There's an update on the proposed barbecue place, Pinkerton's Barbecue. According to Marlene Gustin for Eater Houston, they are no longer looking at the lease in the River Oaks area. They are, however, still seeking a spot inside the 610 Loop.

Gustin also has a report on Harwood Grill, the steakhouse that took over 60 Degrees Mastercrafted's former spot at 2300 Westheimer. The place is open for dinner but is not yet offering lunch. The early report indicates that the menu is very similar to that of its predecessor.

Florida-based breaded chicken chain PDQ is working on opening its first Houston location in early June at 9447 Katy Freeway. (The name stands for "People Dedicated to Quality.") Eater Houston also reports the chain is planning a second location in Cypress.

Plans have finally been cemented on what is replacing Sorrel Urban Bistro at 2202 West Alabama, which closed on January 1 of this year. Eater Houston reports that owner Ray Salti is opening Bollo Wood Fired Pizza on May 5. Salti also owns Pepperoni's Pizza, but says that Bollo is a higher-end concept.

Menchie's Frozen Yogurt is on an expansion track. We just reported on their new location at 2903 Woodridge. Next up is a Pearland location at 2680 Pearland Parkway. Their seven-day grand opening celebration runs from Saturday, May 2 to Friday, May 8. On May 2, visitors can enjoy a free, eight-ounce cup of frozen yogurt from noon to 6 p.m. and 10 percent of proceeds from sales goes to the Pearland ISD Education Foundation. Other events during the week include branded merchandise giveaways and family-friendly activities, such as free face painting.

They're not the only ones expanding. Grocery store Trader Joe's has announced they are opening a new store in the Briar Forest area at 11683 Westheimer. It's slated to be ready either late this year or early next year.

Taco Cabana just opened a new Kingwood location on April 23 at 25657 Highway 59 North. On Saturday, May 9, a fiesta-style grand opening party is scheduled that includes giveaways, a face painter, balloon artist, photo booth, radio remote and DJ.

The day before Taco Cabana's party, sister restaurant chain Pollo Tropical is opening its fifth Houston-area location right next door at 25635 Highway 59 North. Since making its Texas debut in Addison last March, the fast-casual concept has launched more than 15 restaurants statewide. Both companies are owned by parent corporation Fiesta Restaurant Group, Inc. Pollo Tropical's grand opening festivities will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 8 and includes calypso music and various prizes. One lucky guess will win free chicken for a year.

Our own Abrahan Garza noticed that Not Jus' Donuts at 2020 Dowling will start opening at 6 a.m. and offering breakfast. The bakery was the recipient of a makeover from TLC's reality show Bakery Boss last year.

A reader called to let us know that Yapa Kitchen Fresh Take Away at 3173 West Holcombe is closed. Based on the most recent consumer comment on Yelp, it looks like that happened sometime last fall.

A press release from Dallas-based Just Fork It Over concepts says they're opening the first Velvet Taco in Houston at 4819 Washington. It continues the rapid conversion of Washington Avenue from hot drinking scene to hot dining scene, as several new restaurants have opened along that street in the past year. Velvet Taco specializes in internationally-influenced taco fillings but still strives to use local ingredients. Variations include Chicken Tikka Masala, fish and chips and a take on banh mi. Houston will get its own special taco: a cornmeal fried soft shell crawfish taco with spicy jambalaya and tangy remoulade. Velvet Taco is set to open on June 22.

That's it for this (rather long) edition of Openings & Closings. Houston's restaurant scene is never boring. Did we miss anything? As always, leave a comment below or email us at [email protected].

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Phaedra Cook
Contact: Phaedra Cook