Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Pier 6 This Summer, Blackbird Izakaya Closes

Chef Joe Cervantez and owner Raz Halili are opening a seafood restaurant.
Chef Joe Cervantez and owner Raz Halili are opening a seafood restaurant. Photo by Kimberly Park

Pier 6 Seafood and Oyster House, 113 6th, is slated to open summer 2020 in San Leon. Owner Raz Halili, the president and owner of Prestige Oysters, has brought in chef Joe Cervantez who has stepped down as executive chef of Brennan's. Cervantez took over the role at Brennan's in 2017 after having helmed the kitchen at Killen's Steakhouse and had previously been sous chef at Brennan's from 2010 to 2014, according to the Brennan's website.

The new seafood restaurant will be located off the Houston Ship Channel between Red Fish Island and Prestige Point with waterfront views of the oyster and shrimp boats. The dining room will offer 5,000 square feet of space and there will be a 2,250 square foot covered patio lounge. The space is designed by Coeval Studio with wood tones, greenery and natural light creating a casual ambiance of coastal beach vibes meant for a laid-back afternoon or a breezy staycation. Pier 6 will also have occasional live music.

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Pier 6 will offer a breezy patio and waterfront views.
Rendering by Coeval Studio
The menu will be "tide to table" with fresh Gulf seafood, much of it straight from the the sea just hours before landing on the plates of diners. There will be a raw bar with crudos, seafood towers and various oyster dishes served on the half shell. While Halili is a second generation oysterman whose business is known for its Gulf oysters, there will also be other regional oysters brought in for specials. However, the menu's focus will be on fresh seafood from the Gulf including shrimp, crab and fresh fish. Seasonality will be a priority as guests might see a menu of bycatch, the fish that don't normally make their way onto most seafood menus due to the lack of familiarity among diners and chefs. Guests can expect to see tastings of Gulf oysters that will allow for a sense of the terroir of various oysters from nearby reefs and bays.

The menu will be influenced by Cervantez's experience at Brennan's with Cajun touches but also offer some traditional East Coast favorites such as seafood rolls, clam bakes and chowders. There will also be wood-grilled seafood, fish and locally-sourced meats.

Halili expects that the construction of the restaurant's marina will be completed by fall allowing guests to cruise in for a meal or take-out. Oyster shucking classes, fishing tournaments, seafood boils and other events are planned for the future of the new restaurant.

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Daddy's Burgers is moving to Rice Village.
Photo by Caroline Johnson
Daddy's Burgers, 5212 Morningside, opened July 21 next to its sister restaurant Coppa Osteria. It previously was a burger pop-up at The Kitchen at The Dunlavy. The burger pop-up comes from Clark Cooper Concepts which also operates The Dunlavy, Coppa Osteria and Punk's Simple Southern Food. It was an innovative move to keep things going during the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions and shutdowns.

There are single and double burgers made with grass fed beef ranging from $8 to $12. There's also a chicken sandwich, chopped salad and vegetarian burger. Tots ($3) and onion rings ($5) are available along with hand-scooped milkshakes ($8). There are cold, local beers, wines by the glass and signature cocktails, all of which are $2 off during its daily happy hour which runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Kitchen at the Dunlavy, 3422 Allen Parkway, reopened July 23. The breakfast and lunch restaurant operates from The Dunlavy, a chandelier-filled venue along Buffalo Bayou which hosts weddings and other special events. Its new hours are Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m, to 2:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Dot Coffee on the Gulf Freeway is still open.
Photo by Dawn McGee
Dot Coffee, 12010 Eastex Freeway, has closed permanently. The location at 7006 Interstate 45 S. and Woodridge is still open for dine-in service and curbside pick-up. Dot Coffee Shop was the first restaurant for the Pappas Family and opened in Downtown Houston in 1967. Pappas Restaurants now owns over 80 restaurants across seven states, though the pandemic has led to at least five permanent closures in Houston alone.

Uni is not a dish that travels well.
Photo by Billy Kin
Blackbird Izakaya, 1221 W. 11th, has shuttered permanently, as reported by Eater Houston. The Japanese restaurant and pub was opened August 15, 2018 by Ken Bridge, CEO of Delicious Concepts Restaurant Group and chef/partner Billy Kin to replace The Republic Diner and Noodle Bar which itself was a rebranding of The Republic Diner + Sojubang, as we reported here in the Houston Press.

Izakaya is a Japanese-style of pub serving small plates similar to Spanish tapas in an atmosphere meant for socializing. The restaurant restrictions and to-go only model make it difficult for a concept such as izakaya to be successful when the food is meant to be eaten straight away and in multiple courses while visiting with friends and colleagues. Kin's plating was precise, playful and pretty but also restrained, keeping the focus on the fresh ingredients.

A five minute video montage posted to YouTube by the restaurant features photos from the past couple of years of Kin, Bridge, staff members, friends and customers in the restaurant and kitchen, reflecting the human element behind the openings and closings in the hospitality industry.

Slim and Husky's Pizza Beeria may be coming to Houston, according to Eater. The publication says that it was tipped off to a recently filed limited liability company in the Third Ward. The Nashville pizzeria first opened in 2017, founded by three graduates of Tennessee State University who were also friends. The three young men wanted to bring jobs to North Nashville and a sense of community through delicious pizza.

The signature pizzas include The Smoking Herb with white sauce and a choice of smoked chicken or smoked salmon and Nothing But A " V " Thang for vegetarians. There are also build your own pizzas plus a variety of cinnamon rolls with names like Cookie Monsta and Halle Berry.

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Excalibur has beer to-go in Old Town Spring.
Photo by Jeff Colwell and Jeremy Jahn

Excalibur Brewing, 26510 Border Street, in Spring opened its brewery in February for beer pop-ups before softly opening its tap room March 7. Then, it reverted back to beer to-go only March 17 after the first shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The small brewery in Old Town Spring reopened its tap room during the Phase Two reopening of Texas only to be stymied most recently by the 51 percent rule regarding the reopening of businesses serving alcohol, a restriction that overwhelmingly affects breweries and wineries.

Owner Jeff Colwell told the Houston Press that Excalibur is primarily a beer garden with all of its seating outdoors. The picnic table seating and large open area is also kid and pet-friendly. He and owner/brewmaster Jeremy Jahn, describe the brewery as a hobby that got out of control. Now, the duo are faced with the same obstacle that many craft brewers are dealing with, big and small.

So, they are once more back to selling beer to-go while the restrictions are in place. There is an online ordering process and the beer can be picked up at the brewery. Brews available include Dirty Pants Lancelot (American Pale Ale), Merlin's Sack (Double IPA), Cletus Blonde (Blonde Ale) and Young Arthur, a Russian Imperial Stout with an 8.6 percent ABV. In fact, a number of the beers at Excalibur are pretty potent which is why the prices are a little higher than other craft breweries. The beer is also sold in 16 ounce cans.

Lockwood Stn., 409 Travis, has closed, according to Houston Food Finder. The cocktail bar inside Bravery Chef Hall was meant to be a showcase and training ground for upcoming mixologists to learn the ins and outs of running their own bar, similar to the concept at the now-closed Decatur Bar and Pop Up Factory, which hosted chefs in residence.

David Cedeno, or David Dacquiri as he is known, was the first bartender to open in the space with his Lockwood Station. Currently, Cedeno hosts a podcast called "The Open Bar Experience".

MOD Pizza, 9509 FM 1960 Bypass, had its grand opening July 21 in Humble. This is the 44th location in the Houston region for the pizza chain with a 45th restaurant opening in New Caney this fall.

The made-on-demand (MOD) pizzas can be customized with up to 30 different toppings for one price. The individually-sized pizzas are 11 inches or little pizza pie eaters can go for the six-inch mini. There is a menu of Classics for those who prefer a curated pie with choices such as the Calexico with jalapenos and hot Buffalo sauce and the Dominic, with white sauce and sausage.

MOD also has salads plus vegan and vegetarian options, including a dairy-free vegan cheese topping and a cauliflower crust. There is also a gluten-free crust. MOD serves beer, wine and soft drinks. The restaurant has delivery, take-out and dine-in options.

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The Seafood Sampler is a sample of the new menu at Peli Peli.
Photo by Raul Casares and Sean Maxwell of WOND3R.
Peli Peli South African Kitchen, 1201 Lake Woodland and 5085 Westheimer, has revamped its menu and is now 100 percent South African. Owner Thomas Nguyen, a contributing writer to the Houston Press, brought in Ryan Stewart, first as culinary director in July 2018, then as executive chef. Stewart is a native of Johannesburg and co-founder of Mozambik restaurants in South Africa.

The new menu features many of the familiar South African dishes like bobotie and Peli Peli Chicken that loyal diners are used to but the restaurant, with Stewart's inspiration, has introduced a number of new items like Shrimp Mozambique and Ribeye Marina. From grilled meats, seafood and vegetables to Indian and Malay curries, the new menu reflects the "Rainbow Nation" of South Africa.

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The JoBurger and Chicken Sandwich require a cold beer.
Photo by Raul Casares and Sean Maxwell of WOND3R

There's also a shebeen, a South African pub menu which offers items like Fish and Chips, burgers and new cocktails. The Prego Sandwich has strips of ribeye with a red cream sauce and there's also the Flatbread Mozambique topped with air-dried beef biltong. The dessert menu includes the popular sticky toffee pudding, sticky toffee cheesecake and chocolate lekker tarts.

Unfortunately, guests can only try the new menu at the Galleria and Woodlands location. The Cinco Ranch and Vintage Park restaurants are still temporarily (we hope) closed.

Peli Peli is offering first responders and active duty and military veterans a bargain deal in honor of Nelson Mandela's birthday (July 18) and his 67 years of service to the nation of South Africa. Through July 31, they can get one item per dine-in or take out order for 67 cents, excluding alcohol. A badge or identification is required for the offer. Reservations or take-out orders can be made through the restaurant's website or by phone and must include MANDELABIRTHDAY when ordering or making reservations.

Peli Peli will also be offering a $35 three-course dinner menu for the first time ever for Houston Restaurant Weeks, which begins August 1 and lasts through September 7. It will also have a $20 three course lunch menu for HRW.

Saigon Pho, 6938 Wilcrest, had its soft opening in mid-July. The Vietnamese restaurant offers bun moc and a variety of banh mi.  The com tam suon bi cha, or Vietnamese broken rice with grilled pork chop, seems to be the most popular dish. There are different coffee drinks, milk teas, smoothies and fresh juices, too. The small restaurant has counter service and the decor is clean and modern.

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Feges BBQ is popping up all over town.
Photo by Nuray Taylor
Feges BBQ, 3 Greenway Plaza, will be doing a couple pop-ups this weekend. The barbecue restaurant is offering its Buy in Bulk meats and sides at Urban Harvest Farmers Market, 2752 Buffalo Speedway, from 8 a.m. to noon, July 25. The transactions are cashless so bring a credit card. Pre-orders will not be done for the Urban Harvest pop-up. Underbelly Hospitality will also be at the Farmers Market selling dishes and sauces from UB Preserv.

The Feges will have pick up orders at the Spring Branch pop-up, July 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and those bulk items must be pre-ordered on the website. Bulk choices include pulled pork ($30 for 2 lbs.), sliced brisket ($40 for 2 lbs.), smoked sausage ($16 for 1 lb. link) and whole rack pork ribs ($40). Erin Smith's famous sides are also available in bulk sizes.

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The Arristi Misto at Rosie Cannonball is for meat lovers.
Photo by June Rodil
Rosie Cannonball, 1620 Westheimer, is enticing guests with its summertime Spritz Patio. The chefs from Rosie and MARCH have collaborated on an alfresco-friendly menu of snacks like the Arrosti Misti ($38) with Akaushi beef tri-tip and Iberico pork secreto or the lighter Fritto Misto ($20) with shrimp, mussels, summer squash and eggplant. The Spreads and Breads menu offers choices such as N'Duja and Kalamata, Caponata and Faranata and Chicken Liver Mousse. Small plates include Lobster Crudo, Arancini Milanese and Peaches and Jamon.

Pastry chef Shawn Gawle has created frozen gelato and sorbet bars in flavors like the Rocket Bar with raspberry, lemon and blueberry, a grown-up version of the ice cream-truck bomb pops. There's also mint fudgesicle, dreamsicle and strawberry sesame crunch.

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Shawn Gawle has created some cool summertime treats at Rosie Cannonball.
Photo by Pam Cantu
 A Spritz Patio needs some actual spritzes and guests can try a basic Aperol Spritz for $7 or go for the Venetian Sparkle ($10) which takes it up a notch with the addition of sparkling wine.  There's also the Greyhound Garibaldi ($10) made with gin, fluffy grapefruit and Campari. There are wines by the glass, beer and smoothies, with or without booze.

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Wait till you get home before you eat the beignets.
Photo by Julie Soefer
State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer, is now offering chef Bobby Matos' popular Sunday brunch to go. Customers can choose from items such as griddle cakes ($11), beignets ($4), t-bone and eggs ($29), chicken fried chicken ($24), lobster roll ($28) and pork belly Benedict ($21). The brunch menu is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for curbside pick-up or dine-in service. Take-out orders can be placed online at the restaurant's website.

To make it a boozy brunch at home, there are batch cocktail kits like La Parillita ($48), Speedy Buffalo ($50) and Southside Nouveau ($52). Each kit makes five to six drinks. If you're ready to venture out (with mask, course), State of Grace has happy hour oysters ($1.50 each), Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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The Tasting Room begins a supper club.
Photo by Shawn Chippendale
The Tasting Room,  818 Town and Country Boulevard, is offering a 'Supper Club' program which it started last week for those who prefer not to dine out just yet.. The meal subscription plan offers a meal for two every Wednesday that includes two entrees, two desserts and a specially chosen bottle of wine to pair with the meal. For patrons who sign up for the monthly subscription, they will receive four meals a month for $240. For those who wish to order one meal, it is $75. There are no penalties for cancelling or opting out for a week. If the subscription is cancelled, the remaining Supper Club balance will be put on a gift card.

Supper Club members will also be able to take 15 percent off all on-premise food and drink orders, a privilege enjoyed by The Tasting Room's Black Door wine members. 
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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.