Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar, Original Ninfa's Uptown

Openings and Closings: Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar, Original Ninfa's Uptown (6)
Photo by Joe Sweeny

Ouzo Bay, 4444 Westheimer, opens June 17 along with its sister concept, Loch Bar. Brothers and owners Alex and Eric Smith of Atlas Restaurant Group operate 18 restaurants from Baltimore to Washington D.C. and down to South Florida. Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar were both opened in Baltimore in 2012, with a second location for each in Boca Raton in 2017. Now, the brothers are bringing the upscale Mediterranean Ouzo Bay and the seafood tavern, Loch Bar, to the River Oaks District, a pedestrian-friendly and upscale area primed for these two concepts.

Ouzo Bay is "elevated Mediterranean" with much of that Mediterranean cuisine inspired by Greece, particularly Santorini. For those who have yet to experience the blue and white serenity of that Greek isle, the Smith brothers want to transport patrons there with the decor, fresh seafood and traditional Greek dishes with a modern touch.
click to enlarge Ouzo Bay has beautiful colors of the sea. - PHOTO BY JOE SWEENY
Ouzo Bay has beautiful colors of the sea.
Photo by Joe Sweeny
There are appetizers such as hummus, tzatziki, and goat cheese dip with pita. The catch of the day is a colorful and sumptuous display over ice and its Fish Market offers delights such as Aegean Bronzino and Hawaiian Kona Kampachi.

Evan Turner has curated an adventurous wine list and the glass-encased floor to ceiling wine room showcases the bottles. An ivy-covered trellis leads to the patio and a massive indoor-outdoor fireplace makes a dramatic statement.

The restaurant seats 275 guests and there will be a live DJ in the bar and lounge Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Sit back with an infused whiskey and pretend you're enjoying some Greek nightlife. In River Oaks.

click to enlarge Oysters on ice and everything nice. That's what Loch Bar is made of. - PHOTO BY JOE SWEENY
Oysters on ice and everything nice. That's what Loch Bar is made of.
Photo by Joe Sweeny
Loch Bar, 4444 Westheimer, is a seafood tavern with a speakeasy feel featuring live music every evening. Boasting one of the largest raw bars in Houston, there will be iced towers of oysters and caviar plus New England lobster rolls and Maryland-style crab cakes. And in keeping with its entry into the Houston restaurant scene, there will be a Viet-Cajun crawfish boil as well.

Designer Patrick Sutton has brought a feel of The Cape to the Bayou City with white-washed wood accents contrasted with brass fixtures. Antique mirrors and custom clocks line the walls and deep-tufted red leather banquettes offer comfortable luxury for relaxing with a cocktail or glass of sparkling wine. The bar program offers over 400 labels of whiskey from Europe, Japan, Canada, and of course, the good ole U.S. of A.

Loch Bar has seating for 175 guests and a private dining room for 30. There's an elevated lounge overlooking the central dining area and an expansive patio features black and white pin-striped canopies to keep out the Texas sun.

click to enlarge The Original Ninfa's is going uptown. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
The Original Ninfa's is going uptown.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston
, 1700 Post Oak Boulevard, opens June 10. The menu and pricing will be the same as The Original Ninfa's on Navigation, but new cocktails and a happy hour bar menu will be featured. A weekday breakfast will be launched later in the year.

The space at BLVD Place was originally occupied by Peska, which closed in November 2017. There is seating for 280 guests, with the three covered patios accommodating 100 of them. The interior design is by Michael Hsu out of Austin and Houston's Studio Red Architects. The renovations were done by Construction Concepts. Photos of "Mama" Ninfa Laurenzo decorate the walls, including black and white photos of the young beauty. The kitchen has a wood-burning oven and grill, signatures of the Original Ninfa's.

click to enlarge Jason Gould and Alex Padilla are heating up the wood-burning grills at The Original Ninfa's locations. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Jason Gould and Alex Padilla are heating up the wood-burning grills at The Original Ninfa's locations.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Jason Gould will serve as Executive Chef. The Australian native has a multitude of experience from restaurants around the world, with Cyclone Anaya's and Gravitas part of his Houston portfolio. He will oversee operations with Legacy Restaurants' Corporate Executive Chef, Alex Padilla, and General Manager Ashley Clark.  Beverage Consultant Linda Salinas will help to launch the bar program with its new cocktails. Happy hour in the bar will run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Indika, 516 Westheimer, will close June 30, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. The modern Indian restaurant was helmed by Chef Anita Jaisinghani for more than 15 years. The James Beard Award-nominated chef sold her share in 2017 to concentrate on her new venture, Pondicheri, which has locations in Houston and New York City. It was bought by Mickey Kapoor, owner of Khyber North Indian Grill. No word yet as to what Kapoor's plans are, but the restaurateur has been a character in the Houston restaurant scene for decades, so it should be interesting.

Candente, 4306 Yoakum, is expected to open mid-July. The new Tex-Mex concept from Sambrooks Management comes hot on the heels of the recent opening of another concept from Michael Sambrooks, 1751 Sea and Bar. The new restaurant will feature a custom built wood-burning grill which will remind diners of The Pit Room's smoky flavors.

Mex Taco House, 14030 Telge, opened May 19. The fast-casual Mexican restaurant serves breakfast and lunch tacos from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. There are also treats like churro pancakes, tortas and on the weekends, menudo.

Bonjour Cafe, 20829 Kingsland Boulevard, began its soft opening June 3 in Katy. Chef Arnaud Acaries, formerly executive pastry chef at La Villa Saint-Tropez, has opened his own pastry shop and cafe in Katy. The French-born Acaries came to Houston in 2015. On the advice of his family, he enrolled in Le Notre, earning a degree in Baking and Pastry. The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Sunday.

The menu leans heavily French with croquet madame or monsieur, quiche, sweet and savory crepes and salade vinaigrette. There are tempting artisanal pastries including eclairs and macarons, plus coffee drinks, organic teas, sodas, sparkling water and bottled juice. The chef also creates special desserts and special occasion cakes.

click to enlarge Black's Market Table is closing in Cypress. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Black's Market Table is closing in Cypress.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Black's Market Table, 11550 Louetta, will serve its last dinner service July 13, according to Houston Food Finder. The restaurant's farm to table, upscale cuisine impressed critics and local residents, but the owners cite Hurricane Harvey, the move of Hewlett Packard Enterprise from the nearby Cypress Creek campus and the preponderance of nearby chain restaurants (especially in the Vintage Park area) as contributing factors to the decision to close its doors. Chef Bart Black and wife Rachele opened the restaurant five years ago serving homestyle fare like fried chicken, deviled eggs, shrimp and grits and steaks with a contemporary and chef-driven flair.

In a post to its Facebook page, the owners stated:

"Along the way, we've had good days and bad, but what stands out are the new friendships and memories that were created inside our doors. It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to serve our community, not only a good lunch or stand out dinner, but to have been a part of your celebrations. Creating a sense of connection through food is one of the things that drives us...seeing that happen time and again has given us a sense of purpose and value."

Unfortunately, diners choosing Black's for special occasions and celebrations weren't enough to keep it going. The drop in sales, with many of the surrounding area residents pouring their financial resources into rebuilding after Harvey and the loss of thousands of HP employees means Cypress is losing another family-owned restaurant.

However, loyal patrons still have a month to show support. Check its Facebook page for specials and the return of some favorite menu items.

Base, 801 Congress, opened May 31. The speakeasy-style nightclub is located in the basement of the Henry Henke building in Market Square. In order to access the club, well-dressed influencers need to make their way through the lobby and take the elevator down to the basement, where sharp eyes will notice a pink neon "Ssshhh". Push the wall and you're in like Flynn. The weekend only party place comes from Concepts to Fruition (C2F), according to CultureMap Houston and is open Friday and Saturday only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There's bottle service for high rollers and their entourage. A neon-lit dance floor offers plenty of space to dance and put out the vibes to potential mates. There are tables and couches for resting your high-heeled tootsies and cooling off with a glass of champagne.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CARLA GOMEZ
Photo by Carla Gomez
Local Group Brewing, 1504 Chapman, is shooting to open in late 2019. at Hardy Yards in Near Northside. The 7,500 square foot brew pub will feature an air-conditioned tap room with over 20 taps, 8 of which will be connected directly to the ten barrel serving tanks. The pet-friendly, kid friendly brew pub will also have views of downtown Houston and an outdoor patio.

The team and co-founders are Todd Donewar, a native of New Orleans,  Canadian Michael Steeves and James " Huggy Bear" Wolfe, whose previous stints include No Label Brewing Company and Southern Star Brewing. Oh, and NASA. The team is currently searching for an executive chef to head the kitchen.

The Near Northside area is part of Mayor Sylvester Turner's "Complete Communities" initiative and the team at Local Group are excited to be part of the neighborhood. The building housing the brew pub was built in 1948 and local firms like Method Architecture, GSD Construction and Field of Study Design will create and design the space.

Chef Holley at Davis Street
, 5925 Almeda Road, is expected to open in August 2019, according to The Houston Chronicle. Chef Mark Holley brought his experience working at Brennan's, Commander's Palace in New Orleans and his 12 year stint as executive chef at Pesce to his own restaurant, Holley's Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar which opened in 2014. The restaurant closed in October 2017 after Hurricane Harvey and Holley has continued in the hospitality industry as a restaurant consultant. Now, he's taking over the Davis St. at Hermann Park spot, which closed in February 2017 for renovations and never reopened.

Holley is being tight-lipped about whether or not his famous fried chicken will be on the menu, but expect to see some of his signature dishes, seafood and prime steaks. Holley also plans to feature a few Davis St. menu items as an homage to the former restaurant.

La Torretta, 600 La Torretta Boulevard, is liquidating all its contents by "Public Sale" which began June 6 and continues Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. until everything is sold. This pre-renovation sale is to make way for the transformation of the Lake Conroe hotel, spa and restaurants into Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Resort, which will include its two restaurants, Landshark Bar and Grill and 5 o'clock Somewhere Bar and Grill.

For bargain hunters, the tag sale will include the entire contents of the 307 guest suites, bed and bath linens, carpet, drapes, gift shop items and more.

click to enlarge Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue is branching out again. - PHOTO BY CARLOS BRANDON
Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue is branching out again.
Photo by Carlos Brandon
Tejas Burger Joint, 214 Main, will open in Tomball later this summer, according to Houston Business Journal.
The owners of Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue saw huge increases in sales after it made Texas Monthly's No. 6 spot on its Best Barbecue in Texas list. However, Wednesdays were sluggish and a burger was introduced to pick up sales. It has proven to be so popular that the owners have decided to open a burger joint not far away from the barbecue restaurant at 200 N. Elm. You can read Carlos Brandon's recent review of Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue here in the Press.

The burger spot will sell burgers, shakes and fries and, after acquiring a liquor license, "adult" milkshakes.

click to enlarge Fajita Pete's will set you up with meats. - PHOTO BY PEDRO MORA
Fajita Pete's will set you up with meats.
Photo by Pedro Mora
Fajita Pete's, 1214 W. 43rd, will open in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area June 10. The Houston-based fajita company does a brisk business in to-go orders and catering, but also has dine-in available. Beef or chicken fajitas can be ordered by the 1/2 pound and includes all the fixings like shredded cheese, pico de gallo and guacamole. There are other menu items, including enchiladas verde, quesadillas and flautas. Tres leches and sopapillas are on the dessert menu and Pete's Ritas are available starting at 12 ounces up to a gallon for take-out. If you bring a gallon of ritas and a couple of pounds of fajitas to your posse, you will be everybody's darlin'.

Weinerschnitzel, 20130 U.S. Highway 59, opened May 26, according to The hot dog franchise began in 1961 and is especially known for its chili sauce for topping its dogs, burgers or fries. Super fans can even purchase the chili by the can to take home and douse whatever is in the pantry without judgment.

The company, which is the world's largest hot dog chain in the world, had locations in Houston in the 1970s and '80s, but left the city. Now, it has returned as the "world's most wanted weiner". I thought that title belonged to Brad Pitt, but anyhoo. The dogs can be ordered with a variety of toppings like sauerkraut, green chiles and relish. If weiners aren't your thing (sorry, Brad), there are burgers and chicken sandwiches. And chili cheese fries.

click to enlarge Willet Feng is the man with a plan for a new burger-chan. - PHOTO BY DIANE WU FENG
Willet Feng is the man with a plan for a new burger-chan.
Photo by Diane Wu Feng
Burger-Chan, 5353 W. Alabama, will be the second location for Diane and Willet Feng's cute burger restaurant, slated to open in the first quarter of 2020, according to CultureMap Houston. Willet Feng's experience as a sous chef at Oxheart means housemade sauces and quality ingredients like 44 Farms beef take the burgers up a notch. Burger buffs can grab a clipboard and build their burgers to suit their tastes by checking off the list of cheeses, sauces, vegetables and added protein to create a personalized 2 ounce or 5 ounce masterpiece. You can even choose your favorite style of buns.Besides beef, there are also chicken and fish sandwiches, plus a unique vegetarian patty made with breaded and fried eggplant tenders. Hot dogs and a variety of sides mean everyone in the fam is happy. The breakfast sandwich is, reportedly, the bomb.

The first location at 5 Greenway Plaza, which originally opened in 2016 as Kuma Burgers, changed its name to burger-chan in 2017 due to a trade dispute, as reported here in the Houston Press. The current location is open for breakfast and lunch only, Monday through Friday and parking can be validated.The new location will have extended hours, plus an expanded menu to showcase Willet Feng's culinary chops. That may mean steaks, whole chickens and more. Plus, the new restaurant is planning to serve beer. That's always a tough decision. Beer versus milkshake. They both compliment burger cuteness (chan) so well.

click to enlarge The 1977 is the name of this bad boy and possibly its calorie content. - PHOTO BY ALLISON MOORMAN
The 1977 is the name of this bad boy and possibly its calorie content.
Photo by Allison Moorman

Goode Co. BBQ, 5109 Kirby, launched the "1977", a barbecue sandwich piled with mesquite-smoked brisket, ham, mac n' cheese, bacon and special sauce on an onion bun for $10.96. The sandwich is a tribute to the year Goode Co. first opened selling its mesquite barbecue to hungry Houstonians in its rustic, Texas-themed decor. The gut-busting barbecue treat is available at all Goode Co. BBQ locations in Katy, The Woodlands and the Northwest Freeway.This limited time special has already been tried and tested by our own Carlos Brandon here in the Press. He's a busy machine on the barbecue scene.
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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.