Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: The Local Edition

Crave has Thank You cupcakes for the front line healthcare workers.
Crave has Thank You cupcakes for the front line healthcare workers. Photo by Elizabeth Harrison Cooper

We are all getting a little cranky and stir crazy as the weeks turn into possible months of quarantine and social distancing. And some of us are still not getting the idea. We are trying to support Houston's restaurants and businesses but we would like to reiterate that in doing so, you must still practice social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing.  Some folks are still bringing grandma and all their toddlers to the grocery store or other businesses. Grandma is in the danger zone, people, and toddlers touch everything and then, their mouths. The entire family does not need to go out in public right now. One healthy individual should be the hunter, armed with hand sanitizer and wipes. And it wouldn't hurt to drop your clothes in the wash and take a shower after returning home. You have probably skipped a few days anyway.

Underbelly Hospitality is partnering with H-E-B. - PHOTO BY CHRIS SHEPHERD
Underbelly Hospitality is partnering with H-E-B.
Photo by Chris Shepherd

The hospitality industry is suffering immensely right now and it is one of the few businesses wherein we can vote with our dollars. It's not to say that you shouldn't grab a Wendy's burger or a Taco Bell burrito right now. Many of the chains are owned by local franchisees so they need support, too. Still, it is primarily the smaller, locally-owned businesses, who already operate on slim margins, that really need the financial support. We have tried to include a variety of businesses as a template. However, if you have a favorite restaurant that you would be broken-hearted to see close, now is the time to give them your patronage. Alcohol purchases require a food purchase at restaurants, by law.

click to enlarge Candente adapts to the current climate. - PHOTO BY STEVE BREAKER
Candente adapts to the current climate.
Photo by Steve Breaker

Candente at The Pit Room
1201 Richmond

Sambrooks Management has temporarily closed Candente and 1751 Sea and Bar during the restaurant dining restrictions and is offering some of the menu items from both at its barbecue restaurant, The Pit Room. A few of the Tex-Mex items at Candente are available for pickup near the Patio at The Pit Room including one pound of Mix Fajitas with all the fixings ($35) and chips and queso ($9). Customers can also choose one of the Taco Dinners with options like beef or chicken fajita, ground beef, birria de res and carnitas. Desserts from 1751 are also available for take-out.

The Pit Room itself is offering bulk orders such as brisket, pulled pork, chicken, pork ribs and three different types of sausage by the pound. Orders include barbecue sauce, sliced bread, pickles, onions, and jalapenos. Sides can be ordered by the quart ($11.25) or gallon ($40) and include charro beans, potato salad, coleslaw and green beans. Pick up a six back of domestic beer ($9), import ($11) or a bottle of wine ($20) to wash it all down.

Clay's Restaurant
17717 Clay Road

This locally-owned restaurant has been around since 1985 serving burgers and sandwiches to the surrounding community. Let's keep it around another 35 years by ordering some grub for take-out and pick-up. Customers can order online then use the drive-thru service or "no contact service" by just honking when you arrive.

Besides a variety of burgers and sandwiches there are appetizers like potato skins, desserts, kids meals and daily specials. Monday is Chicken Fried Steak with two sides for $9.99. The restaurant also has half-price beer during the crisis and single serve wines.  They offer a small general store right now for items like eggs, toilet paper, paper towels and bags of ice.

click to enlarge Get your spring cupcakes at Crave. - PHOTO BY AILEE PETROVIC
Get your spring cupcakes at Crave.
Photo by Ailee Petrovic

Crave Cupcakes
5600 Kirby
2501 Research Forest
1151-06 Uptown Park Boulevard

We Houstonians aren't going to let the coronavirus spoil our upcoming holidays. Crave Cupcakes has a variety of cupcake and cookie options to make your quarantine a little brighter. There are spring cupcakes like carrot, confetti and lemon coconut, each adorably decorated with springtime themes, perfect for Easter. Passover begins April 8 at sundown, so get your flourless chocolate cupcakes at Crave from April 4 to April 8.

The treats are available for take-out, curbside delivery and local delivery on advanced orders. The boxes of cupcakes and cookies can also be shipped nationally, so you can share some holiday love with family that you cannot be with during this crisis. And the Thank You cupcakes would be a wonderful way to thank a nurse, doctor or healthcare worker in your life. Or even ones you don't know.

click to enlarge Order some salads with your pizza and make it a real meal. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Order some salads with your pizza and make it a real meal.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

11730 Grant

This little, family-owned pizza take-out and delivery spot is hidden in a corner of a suburban strip center, but locals know it well. It has some of the best pizza pies in the area. The online ordering is simple and if you order a large, one-topping pizza, you'll get a discount for picking up. It also has specialty pizzas, a gluten-free option and a few dinner choices. I recommend the Eggplant Parmesan. It is pretty darn good for a pizza joint and it comes with four delicious breadsticks. There are also wings and a couple of desserts. Sodas are sold by the two liter, six-pack or individual cans.

It is enforcing a one customer-at-a-time rule inside, so make sure you wait your turn and keep your distance.

click to enlarge The Doris Metropolitan meat locker is a thing of beauty. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
The Doris Metropolitan meat locker is a thing of beauty.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Doris Metropolitan
2815 S. Shepherd

This high-end Israeli steakhouse is offering a Passover menu for pre-order until 5 p.m., April 5 to be picked up on April 8  from noon to 5 p.m. The menu of salads and appetizers includes beetroot salad, cuscus salad, and baba ganush. There are traditional Passover dishes like haroset, made with apples, cinnamon, honey and sweet wine, plus Passover buns and flourless cake and cookies. Other items include leek patties and aruk patties.

The steakhouse has also opened its butcher shop for those who want to take home a couple of steaks to grill. Its full menu is available for curbside service and there are a couple of meal packages, too.

The Hobbit Cafe
2243 Richmond

This whimsical "Lord of the Rings" inspired cafe has been around since 1972 when it first opened as a vegetarian restaurant on Shepherd called The Hobbit Hole. It recently celebrated its 48th anniversary, but without the party originally planned at the restaurant. Still, it is serving its Sunday brunch pancakes and mimosas for take-out plus patrons can order from its menu online of enchiladas, tacos, burgers, sandwiches and more. Frozen bellinis to-go are only $3 as are some beers and sangria. There is a limited delivery area within range and there is a ten percent surcharge.

click to enlarge The basil eggplant at Mala Sichuan is a stunning in its simplicity. - PHOTO BY HENG CHEN
The basil eggplant at Mala Sichuan is a stunning in its simplicity.
Photo by Heng Chen
Mala Sichuan Bistro
9348 Bellaire, 713-995-1889
231119 Colonial Parkway, 281-665-3300
1201 Westheimer, 832-767-0911

This Sichuan restaurant currently has three locations from which to order. The name Mala is a combination of two words which means spicy so if you like the heat, this is your place. Dishes like Crispy Mala Beef, Chengdu Mung Bean Jelly and the popular Red Oil Dumplings are available for take-out by phone order or walk-in. Customers can request curbside pick-up ahead of time. There is also delivery through Favor and UberEats. For bulk orders in certain areas, try WeChat.

click to enlarge Molina's Cantina has your Tex-Mex faves. - PHOTO BY JENN DUNCAN
Molina's Cantina has your Tex-Mex faves.
Photo by Jenn Duncan

Molina's Cantina
3801 Bellaire, 713-432-1626
7901 Westheimer, 713-782-0861

The Molina family has been serving Houstonians Tex-Mex since 1941 and now is a good time to return the love. It has streamlined its to-go menu, but most of the favorites are available like the Tex-Mex combos, fajitas, quesadillas, nachos and of course, Jose's Dip. In addition, there are Home Fiesta Kits like the Enchilada six pack ($39.95) which serves 2 to 3 people. Choose beef, chicken or cheese. Double up the enchies for $69.95 to have some for later. It comes with rice and beans, chips and salsa. There are also pork tamales, $12.95 per dozen. Beer and wine are also available to go, with food purchase.

Nancy's Hustle
2704 Polk

This critically-acclaimed restaurant from chef/co-owner Jason Vaughan and Sean Jensen is known for its famous Nancy Cakes and seasonal cooking. Vaughan is a Best Chef:Texas semi-finalist for this year's James Beard Awards. However, its normally packed dining room has had to close in compliance with the current coronavirus restrictions, leaving the owners taking creative measures to keep the business operating. Starting April 2, it will offer three different concepts. The first is Thicc Nancy's. Guests can pull up on Nagel and place their order, which will be brought out to them. Right now, the menu consists of a Cheeseburger on a brioche English muffin ($11) fries with Nancy fry sauce ($3), MSG fries ($3.50) and a side of cheesy drip dip ($3). Soda, wine and beer are available, too.

Then, there's the Apocalyptic Bodega with items like bagels, sourdough loaves, cultured butter, chocolate cashew cookies, coffee beans, wine and olive oil. Finally, there's the option of Nancy's Hustle Dinner at Home, a changing menu of dinner kits for 2. Dinners must be pre-ordered beginning at noon and picked up in the evening at a set hour. Check its website for the day's menu and wine pairings.

click to enlarge Breakfast tacos from The Original Ninfa's are an easy pick-up order. - PHOTO BY ALEX PADILLA
Breakfast tacos from The Original Ninfa's are an easy pick-up order.
Photo by Alex Padilla

The Original Ninfa's on Navigation
2704 Navigation, 713-228-1175
1700 Post Oak Boulevard, 346-335-2404

Both locations of Ninfa's are offering its full menu for take-out plus executive chef Alex Padilla has added breakfast tacos to the weekend menu. On Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be three breakfast taco choices: potato, egg and cheese, bacon, egg and cheese and chorizo, egg and cheese for $3 each.

click to enlarge There are poboys and tasty sides at Paulie's Poboys. - PHOTO BY SERENA ANSARI
There are poboys and tasty sides at Paulie's Poboys.
Photo by Serena Ansari

Paulie's Poboys
3823 Bellaire Boulevard

This poboy shop has been around for 35 years and its Lebanese owners offer a variety of sandwiches but also  side dishes which reflect their culinary heritage. Poboy choices include meatball, roast beef, Cuban, muffaletta and gyro among others. For starters and sides, there is baba ghanoush, tabouli and salads. Guests can order for take-out or use delivery services Favor, UberEats and GrubHub. Get some baklava for dessert.

click to enlarge Pena's Donuts and Diner is open for breakfast and lunch. - PHOTO BY ALDO SALAZAR
Pena's Donuts and Diner is open for breakfast and lunch.
Photo by Aldo Salazar

Pena's Donuts and Diner

10555 Pearland Parkway

Raymond Pena began his life in the doughnut business in 1978 working in his mother's shop. He opened his first restaurant in 1996 after 20 years as a Houston firefighter. Now, he and business partner Aldo Salazar offer more than just doughnuts at their Pearland diner. There are breakfast plates, sandwiches, tacos, burgers, even coffee drinks like cappuccino, frappes and lattes. Patrons can order online, use DoorDash, or just go through its drive-thru. It is open Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Pepper Twins
5161 San Felipe

The seventh location of this Sichuan restaurant just opened a couple of days before the pandemic restrictions banning restaurant dine-in. However, all seven locations have take-out and curbside pick-up, plus delivery through UberEats, DoorDash,Postmates and GrubHub.

The newest location is also offering crawfish with flavorings such as Spicy Sichuan, Lychee Sweet and Sour and Garlic Butter. The crawfish are $7 for a small order and $10.99 for the large.

click to enlarge Slow Dough is hitting the grocery shelves. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Slow Dough is hitting the grocery shelves.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Slow Dough Bread Co.
9330 W. Airport Boulevard

This is one of Houston's most popular purveyor of artisanal breads, providing loaves to some of Houston's best restaurants, hotels and retailers since it was started in 2009 by Heath and Marlo Wendell. Since the crisis began, we have started to see the company's breads and buns at H-E-B and Kroger. We aren't sure if this is a permanent gig, but we have grabbed packages of its Challah Buns, Whole Wheat Loaf and Texas Toast to keep us in carbohydrate comfort while we quarantine. Classic Rock Bob is particularly fond of the Texas Toast, so be like Bob and grab some on your next grocery excursion.

click to enlarge The Curbside Queens serve take-out with a side of smiles. - PHOTO BY SUSAN GLASS
The Curbside Queens serve take-out with a side of smiles.
Photo by Susan Glass

Tea for Two Tearoom and Gift Shop
8475 Highway 6 N.

Owner Linda Becker has operated this tearoom and small business since 1998. It's only open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so you will need to get an early start to get out and pick up a sandwich or one of its salads to-go.  They also have frozen casseroles which are made fresh. The variety varies from day to day, so call ahead to see what's cooking. When you arrive, just give the shop a call and the Curbside Queens will bring your order to your vehicle. It's also a gift shop, so you can add in one of their puzzles to keep your wee ones occupied. Cakes and specialty desserts can be ordered ahead as well.

Like Savoir-Faire, he's everywhere! Except he's bringing food instead of stealing it. - PHOTO BY CHRIS SHEPHERD
Like Savoir-Faire, he's everywhere! Except he's bringing food instead of stealing it.
Photo by Chris Shepherd

Underbelly Hospitality and H-E-B
1100 Westheimer

Chris Shepherd's Underbelly Hospitality and H-E-B grocery in Houston have teamed up to sell take and bake dishes from Underbelly at a number of H-E-B stores in the city, plus one in Pearland and another in Sugar Land. Items include King Ranch Chicken, Wagyu Helper with fusilli pasta, Tater Tot and Bacon Sausage Casserole, plus Korean Braised Beef and Dumplings with gochujang sauce.

In a press release, Shepherd expressed his gratitude. " This is one more revenue stream for us to pay rent, support our farmers and hire our furloughed staff back faster. H-E-B is a company that truly supports its communities and we are so grateful for this opportunity."

This is a natural fit because what Shepherd is to the Houston restaurant community, so is Scott McClelland to the Texas grocery community, primarily Houston. McClelland is the President of H-E-B Food/Drug stores. He is the commercial face of the Texas-based grocery and also a former board chair at the Houston Food Bank. I was in H-E-B one day at Vintage Park, standing at the seafood counter when McClelland came up and greeted the employees all by name. He asked another how school was going. He has thousands of people working for him so that kind of attention to human detail was impressive. Both Shepherd and McClelland know you're only as good as the team you build.

Fans of Shepherd's food, which is everyone, can also order take and bake dishes, uncooked steaks, sweets and wine for curbside pick up at Georgia James. For now, the wines are available for 20 percent off.

click to enlarge Pick up a couple of bottles of wine with your vegan meal at Verdine. - PHOTO BY STEPHANIE RICH
Pick up a couple of bottles of wine with your vegan meal at Verdine.
Photo by Stephanie Rich

449 W. 19th

This vegan bistro has some par-cooked Family Meals that can be picked up and taken home to finish in the oven. Options include the Frijoles Y Queso  Tamales ( 6/$19), Jackfruit Enchiladas (8/$28) and the Florentine Pizza with cauliflower crust (12"/ $20). The tamales and enchiladas include a choice of salsas. There's also the White Cheddar Mac ($40) which will serve six to eight people. For dessert, pick up some of its vegan, gluten-free doughnuts.

Verdine is also offering bottles from its wine list for 20 percent off. If you buy six, you'll get an extra 5 percent off.
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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.