Openings & Closings: Japanese Tapas Trend, The Woodlands Restaurant Expansion & More

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It was an exciting week in terms of openings for Houston restaurants. We heard about two closings only, but a ton of restaurants announced plans concerning openings (many came forward with dates, too!).

Let's get the closings out of the way before we get to this week's openings and news about soon-to-open establishments.

B4-U-Eat's weekly newsletter announced that El Corral Mexican Restaurant in Cypress shut its doors. No news on why the restaurant will no longer serve customers off of Highway 249. The restaurant's Facebook page hasn't been updated since June 30, so maybe things have been going downhill for a while.

Swamplot reports that the Harrisburg Sonic Drive-In has quietly closed; the once bright and vibrantly colored Sonic is covered with gray-painted plywood. Swamplot's report explains that chains, franchises, bus terminals and a golf course surrounded the drive-in -- possible reasons for its demise.

Thankfully that's it for closings. On to the openings!

The strip center along Heights Blvd off of I-10 welcomed Salata on Wednesday, October 16. Eater reports that the upscale salad bar -- which also offers wraps and soups -- is the 13th Salata franchise in the Houston area. Salata also announced that it is now a gluten free-certified establishment.

CultureMap Houston reports that Izakaya-Wa opened on Wednesday, October 16. Unlike many other Japanese and noodle house restaurants, Izakaya-Wa features Japanese tapas, or small bites (like the name implies). Carl Rosa, president of the Sushi Club of Houston and founder of Ramen In Common, sampled the food before the opening and says the laid-back restaurant emphasizes "small portions with corresponding drinks."

Another Japanese and noodle restaurant is set to open in October as well. Tiger Den will be located on Bellaire Boulevard in Chinatown. Owner Mike Tran (from Aka Sushi House) tells CultureMap that the restaurant will have five types of ramen, Hong Kong-style "cart noodles," Japanese tapas (izakaya) and grilled items.

Kona Grill is heading to The Woodlands to open its second Houston location. The Galleria restaurant is set to open along the Waterway Square in November and will occupy more than 8,500 square feet of space, according to a press release. Kona's opening contributes to the recent restaurant expansion in The Woodlands. With Fielding's Wood Grill, Morton's Grille and Atsumi recently opening, as well as Ragin Cajun arriving in January and Whiskey Cake in 2015, The Woodlands seems to be on a roll in the restaurant scene.

Sugar Land also seems to be attracting new culinary venues. Eater reports that Preview will open in Sugar Land in November. Chef Jason Liao, previously of Austin's Umi Sushi Bar and Nanami Sushi Bar, tells Eater that Preview won't be a one-cuisine restaurant. Liao says he will serve fresh seafood, including some exotic items. The menu will change weekly, depending on the availability of seafood and other produce. Preview will not open until the middle of November, but Liao hopes to have a few soft openings before to give people a taste, or "preview," of the restaurant.

Urban Deal's Adam Brackman is working on a new place for you to grab a beer and hang out with friends in Midtown. Swamplot reports Victory Beer Garden will be a 12,000-square-foot space serving 24 taps of craft beer (no Bud Lite or Miller Light). The garden will have an area for food trucks and will also neighbor Luigi's, which will stay open late to serve the venue's customers. The opening date hasn't been announced, but this promises to be a nice change of pace from the typical bar scene.

Thanks to fellow commenter Cheap Eats In Houston in last week's report, we now know that a new wine bar opened in Cypress. The Hidden Cellar began serving on October 10 - it's a tasting room and gift boutique featuring products from D'vine Styles Decor. Chic Chick Chic Eats posted on Twitter that Yashoda Chat Express, an Indian food truck, recently opened. The truck serves Indian street foods, or chat, such as dahi puri, kulfi, and lassi. Grab a snack after work at 11248 Wilcrest Drive; the truck is open from 5 p.m. until 12 a.m.

Brick House Tavern + Tap opened its third Houston location on October 13. The sports tavern is located on Tomball Parkway. Now folks in that area have a new spot to watch the game and enjoy crispy, hot duck wings and drunken pork meatball heroes.

Eater mentioned this week that Vallone's should be open later this month. The highly anticipated steakhouse from Tony's chef Grant Gordon and general manager Scott Sulma will feature a "technique-driven approach to steak, fish, chops and house made pastas," as stated on the restaurant's website. Eater released a photo of the restaurant's awning, so we can only hope that it will open before the month is over.

Last week we reported that Menchie's Frozen Yogurt took over the Swirll Frozen Yogurt in River Oaks. However, the "friendliest place on earth" has also taken over the Swirll Frozen Yogurt in the Galleria area. Both Menchie's locations will go live on November 2 at 11 a.m. During the grand openings, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., ten customers at each location will win free frozen yogurt for the next year. Everyone has the chance to receive a dollar off of their yogurt that day if they bring Halloween costumes and/or leftover candy to either of the froyo locations. Menchie's will donate the items to DePelchine Children's Center in Houston.

MAM's House of Ice Snoballs will open its brick-and-mortar in November. While it is known for serving cold items, the food truck's permanent location will include a few warmer items, such as hot chocolate, coffee and an opening-day surprise, according to Eater.

Muscle Maker Grill opened its first Houston location on San Felipe this week, according to B4-U-Eat's weekly newsletter. The chain restaurant serves "fit salads" like the Muscle Maker Caesar Salad and Turkey Taco Salad, along with lighter entrees. The franchise has one other Texas location in Austin, but it is temporarily closed.

B4-U-Eat also reports that Big & Juicy Juice Bar opened inside Big Yoga on Allen Parkway. So, if you'd rather drink your fruits and vegetables, or have a smoothie after a yoga class, Big & Juicy Juice Bar is for you.

Did we miss any openings and closings? Let us know in the comments section and we will be sure to include them in next week's report.

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