Restaurant News

Openings & Closings: Welcome Xochi, Good-bye Sylvia’s on Westheimer

The callo de hacha is a gorgeous presentation of seared scallops.
The callo de hacha is a gorgeous presentation of seared scallops. Photo courtesy of Xochi

Hugo Ortega’s highly anticipated restaurant, Xochi, opened on January 27 for dinner service inside the new Marriott Marquis in Downtown Houston at 1777 Walker. A press release revealed details about the Oaxacan menu, its pastries and beverage program.

Along with his wife and business partner Tracy Vaught, Ortega presents traditional Mexican cuisine that represents the old state of Oaxaca, which lies between mountain ranges and the ocean. Look forward to dishes like tlayudas, a large, thin toasted tortilla spread with refried beans, asiento (pork lard), lettuce or cabbage, beef, pork or mushrooms, Oaxacan cheese, and salsa, a variety of mole, and Oaxacan street food classics like tamales, memelas (toasted masa pancakes with roasted pork rib) and tetelas (triangular blue masa envelopes filled with cheese). For more adventurous diners, local Mexican delicacies like a trio of insects, gusanos, chicatanas, chapulines (otherwise known as worms, ants and grasshoppers), will also be on the menu.

Pastry chef Ruben Ortega (Hugo’s brother) will present an array of sweet treats that will highlight the house-made chocolate and the talented Sean Beck (of Caracol, Hugo’s and Backstreet Café) will offer a variety of spirits with a focus on the versatility of mezcal, wine and craft beer.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Tongue-Cut Sparrow, the new bar above Pastry War at 310 Main is the super-secret project of Anvil Bar & Refuge's Bobby Heugel and his friend (and roommate) chef Peter Jahnke. The bar is named for a Japanese fable about the effects of greed, friendship and jealousy and inspired by Heugel and Jahnke’s travels in Japan. According to the article, in just seven weeks, the two friends created an intimate, 25-seat bar in the space that used to be the VIP room for Tonic nightclub.

Subsequently, a Facebook post on January 29 on the Tongue-Cut Sparrow page announced details about its soft opening on February 1.

“Given the madness of Super Bowl week, we are treating this four-day period as a Soft Opening and will have a limited menu and take guests on a walk-in basis only. Then, the following Wednesday, February 8th, we will have our first formal day of service with a full menu. We will also begin taking reservations on this day as well. We will return reservations requests during days that we are open by phone from 3:00-5:00.”

There is no dress code, all standard cocktails are $12 and the bar promises to hold half of the 25-seats for walk-in patrons.

click to enlarge The Risotto aux Fruits de Mer (seafood risotto) looks delicious at Brasserie du Parc. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRASSERIE DU PARC
The Risotto aux Fruits de Mer (seafood risotto) looks delicious at Brasserie du Parc.
Photo courtesy of Brasserie du Parc

A press release announced that a lovely, new French restaurant from critically acclaimed Étoile Cuisine et Bar owners Chef Philippe Verpiand and wife Monica Bui opened at 1440 Lamar in downtown Houston on January 30. Brasserie du Parc and accompanying Crêperie du Parc, both inspired by classic Parisian brasseries in Verpiand’s native France is located on the ground floor of One Park Place, a luxury high-rise overlooking Discovery Green.

This week during Super Bowl festivities, restaurant guests can access the Lamar Street restaurant entrance through the pedestrian walkway at Lamar and Austin Street.

Both Landry’s and Hugo’s Cocina celebrated grand openings inside the Bush Intercontinental Airport last Tuesday. According to Airport Revenue News, the airport restaurant management group OTG has added eight new restaurants that will open in Terminals C-South and E towards the end of 2017.

Newcomers in Terminal C-South will include Magnolia Meatball Shop by chef Christopher Williams (of Lucille’s) that will offer fresh interpretations of classic comfort food; Agave, an authentic taqueria by Sharon Haynes (of Tacos A Go Go); and H-Burger, a restaurant by chef Antoine Ware (of Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room) that will serve ranch-to-table dishes inspired by Texas.

Landing in Terminal E will be Q, a restaurant by chef Greg Gatlin that will feature Texas barbecue and traditional southern staples; Gavi, a Houston take on Italian cuisine by chef Ryan Pera (of Coltivare); Yume, a sushi and ramen bar by chefs Chris Kingo (of MF Sushi) and Mike Tran (of Tiger Den) ; Tanglewood Grille, a restaurant offering hand-cut steaks, build-your-own burgers and fresh seafood by chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan; and Beerhive, where travelers can find local brews, pies, sandwiches and salads.

CultureMap Houston previously reported about the new restaurants coming to Terminal C-North which include Bam Bam, a Vietnamese-inspired beer garden featuring Vietnamese cuisine by John Nguyen (of Cajun Kitchen); a Houston-focused eatery, Ember by chef Chris Shepherd (of Underbelly); and Vida Taqueria by chef Roland Laurenzo (of El Tiempo Cantina). An insider connected with one of the new concepts told the Press more details will be released at a media event on February 9.

Global News reported the names of the final two eateries in Terminal C-North as Pala, a pizza joint also by chef Ryan Pera (of Coltivare) and Olio, a panini bar from chef Monica Pope (of former Sparrow Bar + Cookshop). A complete listing of new and existing restaurants along with hours of operation can be found on the IAH site.

click to enlarge The oldest of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen served its last dinner on January 28. - PHOTO BY PAULA MURPHY
The oldest of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen served its last dinner on January 28.
Photo by Paula Murphy

The oldest location of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen at 12637 Westheimer closed after dinner service on January 28. After 16 years, owner Sylvia Casares made the difficult decision to shutter in order to focus more attention on the other two stores on Eldridge Parkway and Woodway. According to a press release, the newer locations can accommodate the wood fire-grilled items that have been added to the menu as well as the popular monthly cooking classes offered by Casares, who is also known as the “Enchilada Queen.”

A reader’s tip noted the closing of Harlow’s Food & Fun at the start of January. Tillman Fertitta’s arcade, bar and restaurant had operated on the ground floor inside of Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 on Weslayan Street for over a decade. According to Swamplot, Harlow’s closed its doors by New Year’s Eve and most of the signage has been removed from the outside façade of the theater.

click to enlarge The chicken fred oyster taco at Fusion Taco is dressed with buttermilk ranch and a celery root slaw. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FUSION TACO
The chicken fred oyster taco at Fusion Taco is dressed with buttermilk ranch and a celery root slaw.
Photo courtesy of Fusion Taco

A second outpost of Fusion Taco officially opened on January 24 at 4706 North Main Street. The gourmet taco truck’s first brick and mortar can be found downtown in Market Square at 801 Congress squeezed between night club, Henke & Pilot, and Barnaby’s Café. According to a press release, the new spacious digs in the Heights offer counter service but also have a full bar (the downtown spot only served beer and wine) and plenty of tables and booths for a comfortable dining experience. The joint is known for slinging globally-inspired tacos with plenty of pizazz like the shrimp tempura with a wicked wasabi aioli and the BBQ Berkshire taco with roasted corn, a great choice. Co-owner Julia Sharaby told the Chronicle that they are “looking to open many units” and “want to go further out with them.”

A press release announced the opening of a new Schlotzsky’s at 12230 West Lake Houston Parkway, suite 275 on February 2. This is the first Schlotzsky location for franchise owner Nick Bhakta with plans for additional stores in Houston in the coming years. The fast-casual restaurant offers 15 different signature sandwiches served on its “Fresh-from-Scratch” oven-baked sourdough buns and sourdough crust pizzas, artisan flatbreads, made-to-order tossed salads, soups and desserts, including a Cinnabon Express bakery featuring the Cinnabon Classic Roll and CinnaPacks.

One of the oldest ice houses in Houston will close on March 31. The Chronicle reported that Jimmy’s Icehouse at 2803 White Oak in the Heights has been sold to Braun Enterprises. Founder Jimmie Murray opened a grocery store, where people could get ice, back in 1942. A few years later, he dropped the grocery store and continued to sell ice and beer.

click to enlarge Chef Clint Page dishes out southern seafood with a touch of sophistication. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PINCH SEAFOOD & BAR
Chef Clint Page dishes out southern seafood with a touch of sophistication.
Photo courtesy of Pinch Seafood & Bar

Southern seafood eatery, Pinch Seafood & Bar, celebrated its grand opening at 10510 Northwest Freeway on January 29, according to a press release. The restaurant has been soft opening for a couple of weeks while Biloxi, Mississippi native chef Clint Page and his team fine tune recipes. Expect classics like bacon wrapped shrimp, deviled eggs and fried oysters. Happy hour specials, available Monday through Friday between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. include half-priced appetizers and $3 beers.

Bacon Bros. Public House will finally open in late February at 2110 Town Square Place. According to the Houston Business Journal, the Greenville, South Carolina-based restaurant has plans to open eight to 10 locations in Texas over the next several years. In a release, Travis Cook, who is the local franchisee for Bacon Bros. first location said he’s “looking forward to serving up creative dishes made from local ingredients, and prepared with a delicious combination of French and new American cooking techniques.” Cook has named Joseph Zerwas (from the Bourbon & Bacon pop-up series at Little J’s) as chef. In 2013, Zerwas was voted “Houston’s Hottest Chef,” by Eater Houston.

click to enlarge The artrist rendering of an evening on the spacious patio at King's Bierhaus. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KING'S BIERGARTEN
The artrist rendering of an evening on the spacious patio at King's Bierhaus.
Photo courtesy of King's Biergarten

The Sitter Group, which operates King’s Biergarten in Pearland, have plans to open its flagship location of King’s Bierhaus in the Heights by late April of this year. Operating partner, Philip Sitter told Houstonia that a “4,000 square-foot space at 828 West FM 646 was simply too good to pass up,” so the company wanted to move forward and announce the second location. Sitter told the Houston Press that the League City location is slated to open by the latter part of 2017 and promised more details to come within the next 90 days.

On a Facebook post, Ramen Bar Ichi, 1801 S Dairy Ashford, suite 108, announced its grand opening on January 28. They will offer dinner service during the week starting February 1. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner service Tuesday through Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., closed on Monday.

Now, here’s a review of the Openings and Closings that were reported in January:

Reported open or plans to open:

Agave, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
Alamo Drafthouse, LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch - spring 2018
Bacon Bros. Public House, 2110 Town Square Place - late February 2017
Baileson Brewing Co., 2322 Bissonnet - May 2017
Bam Bam, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - unknown date at this time
Bayou & Bottle, 1300 Lamar, Four Seasons Hotel - January 21, 2017
Beaver's West, 6025 Westheimer - January 2, 2017
Beerhive, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
Brasserie du Parc, 1440 Lamar - January 30, 2017
Broken Barrel, 1950 Hughes Landing, suite 1900 - February 6, 2017
C.Vi.Che and Go, 1818 North Fry - January 20, 2017
Cabo Baja Tacos & Burritos, 4520 Washington - unknown date at this time
Chapman & Kirby, 2118 Lamar in East Village - in time for the Superbowl
Chobani Café, The Woodlands - sometime in February 2017
Daiso, Market at Westchase - summer 2017
Ember, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - unknown date at this time
Fajita Pete's, 1590 South Mason - January 29, 2017
Flying Saucer Pie Company, 436 West Crosstimbers - reopened on December 27, 2016
Fusion Taco, 4706 North Main – January 24, 2017
Galiana's Bakery and Cafe, 24110 Northwest Freeway, suite 500 - mid February 2017
Gavi, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
Get Fried, 7620 Katy Freeway - unknown date at this time
Green Ceviche, 12555 Westheimer, suite 120 - sometime in 2017
Grotto Downtown, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas - January 3, 2017
H-Burger, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
Hot Bagel Shop, 2015 South Shepherd - end of January 2017
Hugo's Cocina, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - January 24, 2017
King's Bierhaus, 828 West FM 646, League City - late 2017
Kiran's, 2925 Richmond - January 18, 2017 (reopened)
Krisp Bird & Batter, 5922 Richmond Avenue - end of January 2017
Kula Revolving Sushi Bar, Market at Westchase - summer 2017
Kung Fu Tea House, 6250 Highway 6, suite B - unknown date at this time
Landry's, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - January 24, 2017
Lasagna House III, 217 Cypress Creek Parkway - plans to reopen in March 2017
Local Foods Downtown, 420 Main - January 12, 2017
Lucky Sushi Bar, 12555 Westheimer, suite 110 - sometime in 2017
Magnolia Meatball Shop, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
Marco's Pizza, 1940 West League City Parkway - January 15, 2017
Ogun Art & Wine, 920 Studemont, suite 150 - end of December 2016
Olio, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - unknown date at this time
One Fifth Steak, 1658 Westheimer - January 26, 2017
Pala, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - unknown date at this time
Peli Deli, 808 Travis - March 2017
Peña’s Donuts & Diner, 10555 Pearland Parkway - grand opening January 14, 2017
Pinch Seafood & Bar, 10510 Northwest Freeway - January 29, 2017
Pizza Cucinova Italian Restaurant, Lakeland Village Center in Cypress - spring or early summer 2017
Pluckers, northeast corner of Skinner and Highway 290 - sometime in 2018
Poku Poke, East Village - unknown date at this time
Pollo Campero, 11570 Gulf Freeway - mid January 2017
Prelude Coffee & Tea, 609 Main - May 2017
Q, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
Ramen Bar Ichi, 1801 S Dairy Ashford, suite 108 - grand opening on January 28, 2017
Riel, 1927 Fairview - January 3, 2017
Rodeo Goat Ice House, East Village - unknown date at this time
Rose Gold Cocktail Lounge, 2301 Main - January 27, 2017
Sap Sap (Pop-up seriesd) at Ladybird's bar, 5519 Allen - January 15, 2017
Schlotzsky’s, 12230 West Lake Houston Parkway, suite 275 - February 2, 2017
Smoosh Custom Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches, Houston Heights - sometime in 2017
Spring Street Bar & Wine Garden, 1920 Houston Avenue - late spring 2017
Tanglewood Grille, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
The Rice Box, 4520 Washington Avenue - January 28, 2017
Tongue-Cut Sparrow, space above Pastry War, 310 Main - February 1, 2017
Truck Yard (food truck park), East Village - unknown date at this time
Vida Taqueria, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - unknown date at this time
Xochi, 1777 Walker - January 27, 2017
Yume, inside Bush Intercontinental Airport - late 2017
Zayed’s Mediterranean Grill, City Centre - unknown date at this time

Reported closed or plans to close:

Absolve Wine Lounge at 920 Studemont, suite 150 - December 19, 2016
Cooking Girl, 315 Fairview - January 17 (temporarily for maintenance)
Harlow's Fun & Food, inside Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 - December 31, 2016
J. Alexander's, 11103 Westheimer - January 28, 2017
J. Black's Feel Good Kitchen & Lounge, 110 South Heights - February 11, 2017
Jimmy’s Icehouse, 2803 White Oak - March 31, 2017
La Madeleine, 6500 Woodway - January 24, 2017
Lucky Fig food truck, Deacon Baldy's - December 31, 2016
Maribelli’s Italian Restaurant, 12602 FM 1960, suite A1 - end of December 2016
Ocean Grille & Beach Bar, 1228 Seawall, Galveston - December 27, 2016
Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen, 12637 Westheimer - January 28, 2017
The Blind Pig, 11920 Westheimer - January 9, 2017
The Sweet Boutique Bakery, 23501 Cinco Ranch - January 9, 2017
Up, 3995 Westheimer - mid January 2017 (may be temporary)

That's it for this week's restaurant openings and closings! Leave us a comment or send us an email to let us know if we missed something.

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Cuc Lam is a freelance food writer for the Houston Press and local pop-up chef. She enjoys teaching cooking classes and hosting dinner parties when she is not writing.