Restaurant News

Openings & Closings: Taco USA Takes The Woodlands

There were lots of good scoops this week from around the city, so let's get straight to the action.

Eater Houston editor Eric Sandler reports that pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel -- who's worked in kitchens from El Bulli to Bouchon -- plans to open an "avant garde and modern approach to the cafe experience" at the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy, next door to Agora. The University of Houston graduate doesn't yet have a name for the cafe, but tells Sandler he'll be offering pastries (naturally) as well as gelato, sandwiches and fresh bread.

But don't expect just another corner bistro. Shvartzapel is swinging for the fences. He tells Sandler that his new cafe isn't "about wanting to be the best pastry offering in Houston," but rather "the best in America."

In other openings news, new Montrose Tex-Mex steakhouse La Casa de Caballo opened this past Monday after renovating the structure at 322 Westheimer which once housed La Strada. Owner Carlos Abedrop owns a popular steakhouse of the same name in Saltillo, Mexico, and this new Houston spot marks his second location.

Reginelli's Pizzeria is now open, reports Delicious Mischief host John DeMers. The West Houston pizzeria is located across Gessner from Memorial City Mall and has quite the pedigree: It's partly owned by Alex Brennan-Martin of Brennan's Houston and Ti Adelaide Martin of Commander's Palace in New Orleans.

Also open according to B4-U-Eat is Taco USA, which is something of a legend in East Texas. The Woodlands Events blog explains that the original Taco USA in Nacogdoches -- run by Ottis Byers -- was one of the most popular restaurants in town for 14 years, until Byers sold it. The new buyers weren't very good at running restaurants, it turns out, and Taco USA closed two years later in 1994.

Now, Ottis Byers' sons Chad and Jeff are opening a brand new Taco USA using the skills they learned working for their father in the original Nacogdoches restaurant (which also had a location in Lufkin). The new iteration of Taco USA opened yesterday in The Woodlands in the Grogan's Mill Village Center. Wrote Taco USA on its Facebook page:

WOW....What a first day. It was great to see so many new and also familiar faces yesterday. A special thanks to Mark VanDover. Not only was he down from Lufkin to be the first in line when we opened, after he finished his meal he hung our NOW OPEN sign out front for us.

B4-U-Eat also reports that the Palazzo's Trattoria in Upper Kirby has been sold. Tomorrow is its last day in business. "After extensive renovation, Chef Fritz Gitschner will be opening a new concept at 2300 Westheimer," read this week's B4-U-Eat newsletter. However, it reports, the other two Palazzo's locations "at 2620 Briar Ridge and 10455 Briar Forest will not change."

As reported earlier this week, the family-run Fratelli's Authentic Italian Cuisine Restaurant is closing after 13 years in business. Owners Bob Wittman and Teresa Tadeo Wittman lost their lease, and their last dinner will be served on Saturday, March 16.

Sad news from the Galleria, where Swamplot reports that the iconic two-story McDonald's on Post Oak has been demolished to make way for a "28-story luxury tower -- with 3-bedroom units going for $1.3 million." Is it odd to root for a fast food chain? In this case, I'll take what was the nicest McDonald's in town over another luxury high-rise any day.

Lastly, Washington Avenue sports bar Sawyer Park closed this week four years after nearly demolishing the famous Pig Stand which once occupied its corner space, as reported by our sister blog Rocks Off. Few tears were shed for the demise of the bar, which commenters called "outwardly racist," "Douchetopia," "Jackhole central," and "a club aimed at the nouveau riche where this new money tells the other new money that theirs isn't good enough."

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Katharine Shilcutt