Ramen Tatsu-Ya, 1722 California, will reopen its dining room March 24 beginning at 5 p.m. It closed for dine-in service March 16, 2020 in compliance with the governor's restaurant shut-down at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. The ramen restaurant has been serving to-go food only for the past year. It will begin its daily lunch and dinner services March 25.
The restaurant has practiced very strict safety protocols since the pandemic began in order to provide a safe space for its team to work and to ensure safe standards for the community it serves. Shion Aikawa, a partner at Ramen Tatsu-Ya, acknowledges that the challenges for restaurants have been immense. In a press release, Aikawa said, " We've studied long and hard to devise a plan for reopening that we feel is positive for everyone involved and we're stoked to get back to seeing people inside the restaurant while upholding some serious safety standards."
Those standards include temperature checks for guests before entering, plexiglass dividers between booths and along community tables, six feet spacing between banquette tables and QR code ordering rather than counter service. Masks are required for anyone circulating throughout the restaurant. Guests will be seated by a host and each table will order and pay via QR code. Also, guests can make reservations ahead of time.
With the reopening of the dining room, the restaurant has brought in Todd Patterson as executive sous chef. Patterson has experience from stints at Brenner's on the Bayou, Revival Market and Royal Oaks Country Club. His job will be to oversee culinary operations including the to-go, delivery and dine-in services.
Ramen Tatsu-Ya is one of four concepts in the brand. The other three, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya, Domo Alley-Gato Tatsu-Ya and DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya are located in Austin.
Homestead Kitchen and Bar, 600 N. Shepherd, is expected to open in M-K-T Heights in mid-April. It will soon be joined by other food and beverage concepts like Rakkan Ramen and Da Gama Canteen. The M-K-T Heights complex has five buildings housing restaurants, boutiques and communal spaces adjoining the Heights Hike and Bike Trail. Homestead will be located in Building 4.
Homestead comes from Jeff Svenvold, a native Houstonian, whose roots come from a farming and ranching family who immigrated from Norway in the late 1800s to homestead in eastern Montana. The oil and gas industry brought his parents to Texas but much of his family still farms and ranches in Montana. Svenvold spent youthful summers on the family homestead working with cattle and learning grain production but his desire for a social life outside of hanging with cattle took him in another direction.
His culinary adventures began with subjecting his family to his experiments as a child. Their willingness to give him free rein in the kitchen inspired him to continue his enjoyment of cooking. He worked in restaurants throughout high school and college, ending up at Montana State University studying business management and finance. The restaurant scene in Bozeman was limited so Svenvold had to resort to cooking meals for himself and friends if he wanted the flavors of Texas. He eventually returned to get his degree from the University of Houston. His first job after graduation was working for the Wine Director at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. However, he felt that grad school and a career in energy trading were in his future until his father talked him out of it. Instead, his father reminded him of their dream to open a restaurant together. With his father's support, the vision was put into motion.
At first, they envisioned a restaurant focused on breakfast. More brainstorming led to incorporating three cuisines that Svenvold felt met at a culinary crossroads unique to Houston: Tex-Mex, Cajun and Southern. The three cuisines are so well-represented in Houston that their appearance together on a single Houston menu does not seem out of place. Breakfast and brunch will still be the primary focus of Homestead and will be served daily, all day long. However, the lunch and later menu plus a great beverage program will offer more dining opportunities for guests and residents using the Hike and Bike Trail. Conveniently, the patio is right off the trail.
Rakkan Ramen, 600 N. Shepherd, is expected to open in early April at M-K-T Heights in Building 5. Known for its 100 percent plant-based broths, the chain originally began in Tokyo, Japan in 2011. Its stateside franchising began in California where there are currently four locations and another in Georgia. The Heights franchise comes from Christopher Lav, who also brought Pokeworks to Houston. There may be up to five more locations set for the city, according to Eater Houston.
While its plant-based broths allow for vegans and vegetarians to get their ramen fix, the restaurant also offers traditional pork and beef additions to the broth and noodles. It also put a big emphasis on umami with a focus on quality fermentation. It offers different styles of ramen with its Amber (soy) Pearl (pure rock salt), Quartz (creamy sauce) and Garnet or Spicy Garnet, made with miso. Its umami sauce is made with dried bonito flakes and dried sardines, so it is not vegan. However, it has a small selection of gyoza, buns and hand sushi rolls, all of which have vegan versions.
Golden Chick, 125 Remington Valley, opened March 15. This is the seventh Houston area location for the chicken chain which has over 200 locations in five states. It is planning to reach 500 stores by 2030. It began in San Marcos, Texas in 1967 as Golden Fried Chicken but changed its name to Golden Chick in 1993. The new franchise location is owned by Alam Khandaker.
It offers fried and roast chicken pieces, chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches and salads. Its sides include mashed potatoes, battered French fries, dirty rice, fried okra, jalapeno poppers and corn nuggets. Its popular hot yeast rolls were introduced in 2006. The chain recently added fish to its menu with its hand-battered Alaskan Cod Sandwich and Cod and Shrimp combo.
Red Crab Juicy Seafood, 5370 W. 34th, began its soft opening March 4. It first opened in Florida and now has multiple locations across 15 states. It offers a number of boil options including blue crab, crawfish, shrimp, crab legs, mussels, clams and lobster tail. Guests can pick their seafood, then choose from Lemon Pepper, Cajun or Garlic Butter sauce and choose a spice level from mild to extra hot.
It also offers fried seafood baskets, po-boys and chicken wings along with a selection of appetizers. There are cocktails, beer and wine.
Culinary Matters, 100 Jackson, was launched this month by young superstar chef Omar Pereney. He began his television and culinary career at the tender age of 14 hosting a cooking show called Yo Cocinero in his native Venezuela. His pursuits eventually landed him the executive chef role at Peska Seafood Culture at the wizened age of 20. Eventually, the Peska relationship went south, as reported here in the Houston Press but Pereney continued to be a force in the Houston restaurant scene as a consultant at A'la Carte Food Service Consulting Group. He most recently created the menu for The Nash downtown as well as training its staff to execute it.
With the motto of "Making your food ideas real! " the new venture, with Pereney as Principal and Brand Visionary, includes other up and comers along with industry veterans to provide the tools, services and expertise to clients looking to open their own concepts in the food and beverage business or for local restaurateurs and bar owners looking to refresh their brands.
Pereney says, "We want clients to enjoy the process. They need to be up to their elbows in food, cocktails, wine tastings and playing along with us as we create a solid plan, brand and concept." For this holistic approach, Culinary Matters is sited in the historic Western Electric Company building in east downtown. The large open floor plan offers natural light for photo shoots and video production while the expansive commercial kitchen offers a space for menu creation. There are multiple areas to demo concepts plus space for ideation sessions.
Pereney's team includes Chris Cai as Culinary Specialist, Diedre Goodhue as Beverage Specialist and Jaime De Leon as Wine Specialist. Jiolo (Jo) Dingayan will serve as Pastry Chef, Niki Vu as Head Recruiter and McKenzie Loock as Senior Strategist. The Creative Direction will be done by Kim Lewis Design. Omar Pereney Sr. will be the I.T. Director and well-known local photographer Kirsten Gilliam will be in charge of food photography.
Romano's Pizza, 1528 W. Gray, is hoping to reopen in April according to a post on its Facebook page. The March 3 post said that the family hopes to reopen within four to six weeks. It closed in late October 2020 due to a fire at the next door Q Nails and Spa River Oaks. The fire severely damaged the pizza restaurant which has been a favorite of Houstonians craving authentic New York-style pies since 1998. This writer misses its calzones.
Davis St. at Hermann Park, 5925 Almeda, is shooting to reopen in April, according to a post on its Facebook page. Chef Mark Holley and his team made the decision to close the restaurant at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. We have reached out to the restaurant for more information but we do not yet have a definite opening date. Its Facebook page, however, promises that it is just around the corner along with photos of Crispy Thai Shrimp and its Down South Coconut Cake.
Boudreaux's Boiling Shack, 37707 FM 1774, opened in Magnolia February 26 next to the Chevron gas station. Owner Todd Boudreaux has a background in engineering and the oil and gas industry but the Louisiana native also makes a mean boil, according to his friends and now, his customers. His last name is Boudreaux, he has a lovely wife named Cherie and they both hail from small towns in Louisiana. No cultural appropriation with these Cajuns. They're the real deal and they're boiling crawfish and shrimp Louisiana-style.
The food truck is in operation Friday (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), Saturday (1 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) for now so crawdaddies should get there early because they sell out toward the end of the day. The crawfish are $7.99 per pound and the shrimp are $15.99 per pound. The shrimp come with a small dipping sauce as well. Corn and potatoes cost a little extra and sausage can be had for a buck, cut into four pieces. All extras are boiled in its Magic Dust crawfish seasoning, too. It's Boudreaux's Dipping Sauce is a creamy sauce seasoned with its Magic Dust.
Plus Kitchen, 798 Sorella Court, launched March 18 from Yi Peng Thai Dining which opened at City Centre in October 2020. The restaurant's new ghost kitchen offers customers a more expansive menu that includes a variety of different cuisines fused with Chef Junnajet "Jett" Hurapan’s traditional Thai cuisine. Plus Kitchen makes its debut with its take-out only "China Town" menu.
The “China Town” menu includes dishes reflective of commercial Chinese food blended with Northern Thai influences. There will be starters like the four-piece Dim Sum with Shrimp Shu Mai and pan-fried or steamed Shanghai Chicken plus soups such as Shrimp Wonton and Chicken Dumpling. There will also be Lo Mein, Szechuan Wok Bean Curd and the Wok Stir-Fried Broccoli with Chef Special Sauce which can be made with tofu, chicken, beef or shrimp.
Yi Peng has implemented enhanced sanitization protocols. For take-out each individual item is prepared and packaged in an eco-friendly box and sealed immediately to facilitate contactless dining. Now through the end of the year, diners can receive 15 percent off curbside orders from the Plus Kitchen menu. Delivery is also available through third-party vendors.
Andre Queirolo, business development manager for Yi Peng said “We noticed that the takeout and delivery trends are here to stay so we made the decision to expand our offerings to better serve those needs through Plus Kitchen... Our loyal customers will now have access to upscale dining from the comfort of home, and have the added convenience of being able to order from a variety of different cuisines all on the same bill.”
Queirolo and Hurapan plan to open a new brick-and-mortar this year which will serve as the prime "ghost kitchen" for Plus Kitchen with Queirolo at the helm. In the coming months, Plus Kitchen plans to unveil two additional new menus including "NY Little Italy" and "Taste of Thai" which pay homage to Chef Jett’s extensive experience in exploring a variety of cuisines including Italian, Mediterranean, Thai and Traditional American.
Raising Cane's, 4908 Garth Road, will open August 3 in Baytown. It will make the forty-first Houston store for the Baton Rouge-based chain known for its One Love Chicken Finger Meals. The new location will feature a multi-lane drive-thru, limited-capacity indoor dining and an expansive patio. Raising Cane's also offers online ordering through its mobile app.
Little Woodrow's, 11241 Timber Tech, opened February 23 in Tomball. It has a dog-friendly, astro-turfed patio with heaters and televisions. There are bar bites like the Italian Sammich and Jumbo Pretzel plus 14-inch handmade pizzas. The bar also has a rotating line-up of food trucks.
La Lucha, 1801 N. Shepherd is bringing back its spring crawfish boil March 28 from 11 a.m. until the mudbugs sell out. The boils are classic-style spiced with Tabasco pepper mash but crawfish eaters can get more adventurous with one of its dipping sauces like white remoulade, kimchi aioli, smoked oyster mayo or green harissa for 50 cents each. We were told the crawfish are at cost so call ahead for pricing. Corn and potatoes are $1 extra and sausage is $9 for a pound.
Weights + Measures, 2808 Caroline, is hosting its first ever Sunday Sessions-Blues Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with live music from Sparky parker Band from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The normal brunch menu will be available along with its signature cocktails. The music is complimentary but reservations are required.
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