Openings & Closings: Tequila Bar, French Food and How Many Dunkin' Donuts?

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So many awesome openings, so little time to try all the new places!

Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta of Anvil opened a new bar, The Pastry War, downtown on August 13 to major crowds interested to see what the Anvil boys had up their sleeves. The Pastry War is a tequila bar or "mezcaleria" with an emphasis on Mexican cocktails and beer. This week is still technically the soft opening, so recipes are still being tweaked. The bar, which is next door to Bad News Bar and Goro & Gun, is part of the ongoing revitalization of the Market Square Park area. With places like these opening, we're excited to see what comes next!

French Bistro La Balance opened Thursday, but we were able to get in early for a sneak peek of the restaurant and the impeccable food. Chef Jose Hernandez chose to open the restaurant in Katy because rent is less expensive there, and he isn't working with any investors. The menu "offers classic French standards that include beautifully plated salads, seared foie gras, buttery-garlic escargots de Bourgogne, the ever-popular steak frites made of grass-fed beef, magret de canard (duck breast), and most importantly, [Hernandez's] famed desserts." Check out our first look post for some major French food porn.

Eater reported that Maine-ly Sandwiches' second location had its soft opening on August 15, but today (August 16) is the grand opening, and that means a lobster roll bonanza! The new location, on Shepherd between Alabama and Richmond, has more kitchen space and a deep fryer, so the owners, Buddy and Angela Charity, can now serve fried clams and french fries in addition to the crazy-popular lobster rolls and clam chowder.

Greenz Restaurant opened its first Houston franchise in The Shops at Houston Center on August 8. The salad restaurant focuses on bringing "fine dining salads" to the masses at an affordable price. The salad joint also offers soups, sandwiches and smoothies, and every Wednesday from 2 to 3 p.m. during the month of August, Greenz is giving away smoothies for free. There's really no excuse not to eat healthy now.

Culturemap reports that Bite Macarons opened next to Paciugo Gelato on Buffalo Speedway earlier this month. Sandia Horng and her business partner Gabo Lo hope that the bakery will be "a little bit of Europe in Houston," but they don't want to make only macarons. Eventually, they hope to start making high-end French pastries as well, but for now, Bite Macarons is serving more than a dozen different flavors of the popular French cookies.

French Fry Heaven, a new fries-only chain, is hosting its Houston grand opening on Sunday, August 17 at the Woodlands Mall. According to the press release, "French Fry Heaven serves more than 50 creative flavor combinations, including Garlic Parmesan with Black Truffle salt; French Quarter with Remoulade sauce; Cha Cha with Ghost Pepper salt ; Saint Jennifer (Sweet Potato fries that taste like Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow topping); Festival Saint (tastes like funnel cake)." OK, so with all the crazy toppings and flavor combos, can we still call all these french fries?

Gay cowboys are still mourning the loss of Brazos River Bottom, but they can dry their pretty little eyes, because Neon Boots Dance Hall and Saloon is coming to town. It will be occupying the former Esquire Ballroom, which is being completely restored to include a huge dance floor and performance stage as well as a large outdoor area with a deck and patio. There will be table service and six bar stations throughout the dance hall. Eventually, the owners also hope to install a mechanical bull, sand volleyball court and horseshoes in the back patio area. At more than 10,000 square feet, Neon Boots will be the largest gay bar in Houston when it opens August 22.

The Houston Chronicle reports that HUSA Management is opening a pizza and craft beer pub called City Oven in the Heights. HUSA owns and operates a number of other pub chains in Houston, but City Oven will be the first to focus on artisan pizzas and craft beers. It's scheduled to open sometime at the end of August.

The Chronicle also reported on plans to turn a long-abandoned gas station at the corner of La Branch and Alabama in Midtown into a coffee and crepe joint called Retrospect Cafe. The owners of Tacos A Go-Go are behind the new cafe concept, which will also serve beer and wine. Currently, the former gas station is part of a graffiti and mural exhibit in conjunction with the Station Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the owners, Sharon Haynes, says she's been admiring the artwork on the building for years, so hopefully the structure will continue to be a canvas for local artists.

Allô French Rotisserie is planning a September opening, according to Eater. The non-stuffy French restaurant will open inside the Vintage Park Shopping Village and offer hearty French food in a casual dining setting. Eric Goldner, formerly of Hubbell & Hudson Bistro in the Woodlands, is the mastermind behind Allô.

Swamplot reports on a new "ranch to table" concept from chef Fritz Gitschner called 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. The restaurant is showing every aspect of its development on Facebook, from going to the Houston Permitting Center to bulldozing parts of the property to make room for new building. It will be opening in the fall.

Adam Karam, the owner of Red Door, Saint Genevieve, Wonder Bar and The Good Life, tells CultureMap he sold defunct sports bar Sawyer Park on Washington Avenue to his cousin Saleem Fernandez, who is remodeling the space. It seems Fernandez intends to keep the space a sports bar and is aiming for a September opening. Fernandez also owns Roosevelt Bar on Washington and 5th Amendment in Midtown.

A reader sent Swamplot photos of a TABC sign taped in the window of an old laundromat at 1009 Moy Street. that promises a Pink's Pizza will be opening soon. This will be the fourth Pink's Pizza inside the Loop; a fifth restaurant is located in Garden Oaks.

Dunkin' Donuts is planning to take over Houston, according to the Chronicle. The chain has announced plans to open three new branches with drive-throughs on Center Street, just north of Pasadena Boulevard, in Deer Park; west of Beamer Road and Scarsdale Road in southeast Houston; and south of the corner of Fry Road and Morton Road in Katy. Another store already opened in Terminal E of IAH on August 15. Jonathan Hicks, a broker with Davis Commercial Real Estate who represents Dunkin' Donuts, also told the Chronicle that the chain plans to open 60 stores in Houston over the next five years. Um, WHAT?! I know American runs on Dunkin', but I'm partial to a little mom-and-pop donut joint myself. Sigh.

In uber exciting news, Bernie's Burger Bus has been granted its own booth inside Reliant Stadium for all Texans home games. The food truck had previously sold burgers to tailgaters, but moving into the stadium is a dream come true, Texans fan and Burger Bus owner Justin Turner told CultureMap. The booth will be on the first level of Reliant Stadium, which means visitors won't need special tickets to access it. No word yet on whether the burger prices will be jacked up to match that of the stadium beer.

B4-U-Eat reports two closings this week: Pho Quyen in Greenspoint and Don Julio's in Cypress. No word on why either place has closed, but Don Julio's Web page still lists the Cypess restaurant as open.

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