Food Trucks

Openings and Closings: Bonjour La Villa Saint Tropez, Cheerio Queen Vic

Pork ribs- a la francais.
Pork ribs- a la francais. Photo courtesy of La Villa Saint-Tropez

La Villa Saint-Tropez
, 4315 Montrose, softly opened July 4 and has been serving dinner for the past week. It officially opens July 15 for Sunday Brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Co-owner Vincent Sinard is also part of the team behind Victor, the swanky French cocktail lounge that opened in March in the former space of Zimm's. La Villa Saint-Tropez took over the building next door, which previously housed Cafe Azur. ( Don't fret. Former owners Sidney and Maria Degaine have a new spot, too).

click to enlarge La Vila Saint-Tropez's interior will be a relaxing blue and white. - ARTIST'S RENDERING COURTESY OF LA VILLA SAINT-TROPEZ
La Vila Saint-Tropez's interior will be a relaxing blue and white.
Artist's rendering courtesy of La Villa Saint-Tropez
Executive chef Bruno Gallou was raised in Brittany and worked with famed French chef, Christian Constant, at the Hotel Crillon in Paris. Gallou has more than 17 years of experience in the restaurant industry in France. Inspired by travels in Asia and to Haiti, Gallou wanted to expand his culinary adventures by opening up the French/Mediterranean restaurant in our fair city.

With a seasonally rotating menu influenced by the cuisine of south-eastern France, the dishes will revolve around locally sourced meat and produce, with a primary focus on fresh fish. Look for Gallou's signature Riviera Bouillabaisse to be a highlight. Arnaud Acaries, also from France, will serve as executive pastry chef.

The restaurant will feature two resort-style patios, perfect for sipping an Aperol spritz with your cher ami.

For World Cup fans, the finals will be broadcast during the grand opening on July 15. There will also be a DJ straight outta Paris, Dr. Fazz, spinning la musique. Allez Les Bleus!

The Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen, 2712 Richmond, will close its doors on July 15, as reported by Eater Houston. The Indo/British gastropub was opened in 2010 by husband and wife owners Rick Di Virgilio and Shiva Patel who met while working at Di Virgilio's first restaurant Oporto Cafe.Unfortunately, leasing terms with the landlord led to the decision to close at the current location. Di Virgilio is not ruling out a possible reopening in another spot or a new venture instead. Hopefully, with more parking spaces.

The last day of service will coincide with the World Cup finals, so if you are nursing a heartache from England's stunning loss to Croatia, you can drink a farewell pint at the Queen Vic while cheering on whichever team you can summon up the goodwill for. Munch on the popular samosas or enjoy a goodbye fish and chips.

click to enlarge Barbecue heaven in Magnolia. - PHOTO COURTESY OF REVEILLE
Barbecue heaven in Magnolia.
Photo courtesy of Reveille
Reveille Barbecue Co., 37421 FM 1774, started serving  barbecue in the Magnolia area in late May. The two pitmasters, James McFarland and Marine Michael Michna (how's that for alliteration?) are good friends who decided to open up their own barbecue truck after participating at local cook-offs for the past five years.

McFarland, he of the boss beard, left a career in the oil and gas industry and worked in cattle ranching to learn the ins and outs of the bovine world. After landing a spot running pits at The Pit Room in Montrose, he then made his way to Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue in Tomball. Both barbecue restaurants were listed in Texas Monthly's "Top 50 BBQ Joints" in 2017.

Michna served in Aviation Ordnance in the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom and is currently a firefighter with the Houston Fire Department. Odds are, he probably knows smoke.

click to enlarge James McFarland and Michael Michna are ready to pump you up with smoked meats. - PHOTO COURTESY OF REVEILLE
James McFarland and Michael Michna are ready to pump you up with smoked meats.
Photo courtesy of Reveille
As of now, the barbecue truck is smoking only on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until sell-out, which seems to run, on average, around 1 p.m. to 1: 45 p.m., so if you're driving in from Houston, get an early start. A brick and mortar joint is planned for the future, but for now it's picnic tables under the tent. Sort of like a barbecue.

In addition to brisket, ribs and BBQ sandwiches, the duo have daily specials. You might luck out and get pork steaks one day, pastrami another. Or for peppa pigs, there might even be blistered shishito peppers to accompany your meat.

Bread pudding and key lime pie could be on the day's menu as well. But not from the smoker.

click to enlarge The Larissa Plate at Harry's is a favorite. - PHOTO BY TROY FIELDS
The Larissa Plate at Harry's is a favorite.
Photo by Troy Fields
Harry's Restaurant and Cafe, 318 Tuam, closed temporarily for renovations on July 9, according to CultureMap Houston. The midtown breakfast and lunch spot has been in the Platsas family since 1993, when Johnny and Patricia bought it from its previous owner and then constructed its current building in 2003.

The renovations will include new floors, a new waiting area and upgraded restrooms (always a good thing). According to daughter Zoi Platsas, the family is scouting for a second location to open next year.

Harry's will reopen August 14, with renovations being completed by October. You'll have to get your baklava French toast elsewhere for a while, but we have no idea where that elsewhere would be.

Present Company, 1318 Westheimer, has a target opening date for July 25. Shawn Bermudez, Matt Pak, Michael Leitner and Rex Nielsen will all be bringing their various expertise and talents to the new bar and restaurant that will open in the former Royal Oak space. More to come on this anticipated opening next week.

Hokey Poke: That's what it's all about. - PHOTO COURTESY OF POKEWORKS
Hokey Poke: That's what it's all about.
Photo courtesy of Pokeworks

Pokeworks, 21788 Katy Freeway, opened the third week of June. This is the third location in the Houston area of the ever-expanding " poke your way" brand. The first Houston outpost of the New York based company opened in the Heights in October 2017, with a second store at 2055 Westheimer in March of this year.

Pokeworks offers its signature poke dishes, including collaborations with Sheldon Simeon, a former Bravo's Top Chef contestant and the owner/executive chef of Tin Roof in Maui. His creations are inspired by his Hawaiian upbringing.

For those who like to design their own flavor combinations,  the "poke your way" option allows diners to pick their base (bowl, sushi burrito or salad) and various proteins, toppings, veggies, fruits and sauces. For non- raw fish eaters, there is cooked chicken, tofu and vegetarian choices.

QJD Peking Duck, 5901 Westheimer, will have its grand opening July 20 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to Eater. This will be the second North American location of the Beijing restaurant, Quan Ju De Roast Duck, which was founded in 1864. The Toronto, Canada location opened in September 2017.

The restaurant is famed for its Peking Duck, which can be served in two different sets. The more expensive option features the duck carved into a peony shape and served with steamed pancakes, sesame seed buns, cucumber strips, sweetened soybean dipping sauce, scallion strips and white sugar. In Toronto the full-on Peking Duck experience costs $118, but that's Canadian dollars. Maybe it will run a little less stateside.

click to enlarge Step away from the Chef Boyardee and run to MONA. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MONA
Step away from the Chef Boyardee and run to MONA.
Photo courtesy of MONA

MONA Fresh Italian Food, 19355 Katy Freeway, softly opened July 9, but will have an open house grand opening on July 26. Chef Sidney Degaine and his wife Maria, the former owners of Cafe Azur, have brought a new concept to Katy.

Their fast casual restaurant is family-friendly and offers design-your-own pasta, piadina (an Italian flatbread sandwich) or salad starting at $8.50, without upgrades.

And you will want to upgrade with all the tasty and tempting options. The restaurant will also have an in-house garden from which some of the vegetables and herbs will be sourced. Just picked herbs with house-made pasta? Where do we line up?

click to enlarge MONA has it's own garden, but don't eat the ferns. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MONA
MONA has it's own garden, but don't eat the ferns.
Photo courtesy of MONA
If you don't trust your own palate and prefer an expert touch, Chef Degaine has signature combos to choose from as well, ranging from $7.85 to $13.85.

There will also be to-go service and the restaurant's selection of dried pastas for the home cook.

If you've missed the pistachio mousse, it will be on the dessert menu along with Nutella panacotta. Beer and wine will be available, soon.

America Gardens, 2400 Caroline, has a projected opening date for January 2019. This will be the second location of the beer garden and restaurant. The original location opened in Fort Worth in 2017. The outdoor play spot for beer drinking, dart playing and socializing will be part of the Midtown Common Entertainment District which will occupy the 2400 block of Caroline. According to its Facebook page, the hospitality company behind the development, The Syn Group, will also open a Tex-Mex restaurant; Don Chignon, The Social House and Wishful Drinking. Owners Shawn Rao and Jonathan Serrano are Dallas restaurateurs with a number of concepts under their belts. Plans for the midtown development have been in the works for a couple of years.

America Gardens is seeking investors with the crowd-funding platform NextSeed, according to Eater.

click to enlarge The Szechuan chicken. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
The Szechuan chicken.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Hunan's, 19724 Texas 249, opened the first week of June. This is the second location of Hunan's in Houston. The original restaurant at 3835 Bellaire Boulevard has been around for decades.

The menu is typical Chinese-American cuisine, with a small Vietnamese menu as well. There are some seafood specials like soft-shell crab and fresh lobster plus a lunch menu that is available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

click to enlarge Hunan's has renovated an old Burger King. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Hunan's has renovated an old Burger King.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The new location has been transformed from a shuttered Burger King to a clean and modern space inside, though the food screens clutter up what is an otherwise attractively decorated dining room.

There is also some news in the world of Houston chefs. Not exactly Openings and Closings, but we thought you'd want to know.

click to enlarge Executive chef Steve Haug - PHOTO COURTESY OF LANDRY'S INC.
Executive chef Steve Haug
Photo courtesy of Landry's Inc.
Steve Haug is now at the helm at The Oceanaire Seafood Room in the Galleria. With 18 years at Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse, plus his stints as executive chef with Jade Hospitality and Killen's Steakhouse, he brings quite a bit of experience. The Oceanaire, located at 5061 Westheimer, is part of the Landry's empire.

Harold's Restaurant and Tap Room, 350 West 18th, recently lost its executive chef, Richard Knight, who is focusing on family and a potential television series, "Show Us Your Goods". Owner Alli Jarrett has promoted former sous chef, Kathy Elkins, to take over the executive chef role at Harold's, according to Houston Food Finder. Joining Elkins in the upward move is Sergio Rosas, who will now be the executive sous chef.

click to enlarge Chef Mike Lim  at Tobiuo. - PHOTO BY KIMBERLY PARK
Chef Mike Lim at Tobiuo.
Photo by Kimberly Park

Tobiuo Sushi and Bar, 23501 Cinco Ranch, opened in May and the executive chef, Mike Lim, comes with some major credentials. Born in South Korea, Lim comes from a restaurant family. He trained in his uncle's sushi bar in San Francisco, apprenticed under chef Masaharu Morimoto ( yes, the Iron Chef) before becoming the head chef at Roka Akor in San Francisco and helping to open locations here in Houston and Chicago.

Now, all that talent is joined with his former Roka Akor colleagues, Le Chau and Michael Ly at Tobiuo, offering diners with adventurous palates unique items like an uni flight or the Bluefin Tuna Sashimi Experience.

click to enlarge The Bluefin Tuna Sashimi Experience. - PHOTO BY DRAGANA HARRIS
The Bluefin Tuna Sashimi Experience.
Photo by Dragana Harris
There is also chef's sushi omakase, which can be tailored to a diner's preference and budget, but requires advanced notice of 24 hours.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.