Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Georgia James Tavern Opens, Night Shift Sneaks In

Georgia James Tavern still offers a bit of glam in a cozy tavern setting.
Georgia James Tavern still offers a bit of glam in a cozy tavern setting. Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Georgia James Tavern, 777 Preston, opened at Market Square Tower July 27 as we reported here in the Houston Press. The casual offshoot of chef Chris Shepherd's steakhouse, Georgia James, takes its place on the ground floor of the high rise building which houses luxury apartments. This makes the sixth concept for Shepherd's Underbelly Hospitality, co-owned with Todd Mason, Jeff Lindenberger and Fred Baca.

Shepherd has transferred Matthew Coburn from his role as sous chef at Georgia James to chef de cuisine at the new tavern version. Coburn is originally from Tallahassee, Florida, which has earned him the nickname "Tally" among his fellow industry professionals. He first began his Houston career in 2016 staging at various restaurants. His final stint, at Shepherd's Underbelly restaurant, cemented his decision to move to Houston for its culinary diversity and to train under the man who the Robb Report named as Best Chef in the World in 2019.
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Viet-Cajun Confit Chicken Wings are a hint at the fusion fare of Georgia James Tavern.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Other Underbelly Hospitality veterans will contribute to the new concept  as well. Pastry director Victoria Dearmond created the dessert program with a Hearth-Baked Apple Crumble from the restaurant's wood-burning oven and, something that makes this writer salivate just thinking about, a Chocolate-Pecan Pie Cake with pecan praline buttercream. Westin Galleymore, who serves as UH's spirits director, is in charge of the tightly curated cocktail and spirits program at Georgia James Tavern, creating beverages like the Rattler, made with blanco tequila, Sotol, lime, ginger, Fresno chile and grapefruit soda. The Hall Pass keeps it pretty classic with bourbon, banana and bitters blend. The Day Bird is a non-alcoholic concoction of peach, lemon, pomegranate, soda and CBD, part of Shepherd's experimentation with CBD offerings. Booze can be added for $4 more. Most cocktails run an average $14 to $16 so it may not be as casual a hangout for some of us.
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The Hall Pass is not a kiddie drink.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Matthew Pridgen, as wine director for the company, has created a wine program similar to the Georgia James steakhouse list but smaller, featuring boutique producers alongside more well-known vintners. Guests will have options from Oregon, California, Italy, Spain, France and Greece among others.

The dinner menu begins with Small Plates including Hearth-Roasted Oysters, Viet-Cajun Confit Wings and Blue Crab& Corn Stuffed Gulf Shrimp and salads such as the Tavern 7 Salad with "everything spiced" croutons, seven farm vegetables and Green Goddess dressing.

Sandwiches include the Tavern Burger, Tally's Cuban and a Grilled Chicken Sandwich that gets a Korean touch with Gochujang aioli, sesame-cabbage slaw and sweet and spicy pickles. Javi's Club is an homage to Underbelly Hospitality's longtime butcher, Javier Salvador. It's made with brined and smoked turkey breast and ham made from brined and smoked pork shoulder.

For entrees, there's Hearth-Roasted Gulf Fish, Hearth-Roasted Chicken, Ham-Brined Berkshire Pork Chop plus a couple of steak options like the Cast Iron-Seared Wagyu Ribeye.

Lunch service is planned for the future.

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The Shrimp and Longaniza Roll is a tasty dish at any time.
Photo by Justin Bowers/Captiv Creative
Night Shift, 3501 Harrisburg Boulevard, opened July 10. Located in Houston's historic East End, the community bar and late night eatery is a collaboration between Justin Ware, Patrick Abalos and rootlab. Ware was previously the manager at Johnny's Gold Brick for five years and was crowned Heaven Hill Bartender of the Year 2019.  Abalos is a bartender, bar manager and bar consultant who has overseen and developed several bar programs and in 2021 he placed in the Top 10 of the United States Bartenders Guild World Class Competition. Rootlab is an architectural design and fabrication company operated by Logan Beck, Eric Hester and Troy Stanley. The firm has worked on numerous local hospitality concepts including Giant Leap Coffee, Squable, Penny Quarter (now shuttered), Montrose Cheese and Wine, Rosie Cannonball and more. It has also contributed to the upcoming Cafe Louie planned for later this summer inside Giant leap, according to CultureMap Houston.
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Justin Ware and Patrick Abalos are cocktail masters.
Photo by Justin Bowers/Captiv Creative
Leading the kitchen at Night Shift will be executive chef Danny Leal whose culinary philosophy is one of community and building relationships with local chefs, farmers and bakers. That philosophy is reflected in the menu along with Leal's Mexican heritage, leading to flavors that are an amalgamation of Houston's collective taste memory drawing on diverse and nostalgic flavors. The late-night kitchen will stay open for last call at 1:45 a.m. to better serve night owls and post-shift restaurant and bar employees and others in the hospitality industry.

The cocktail menu was crafted by Ware and Abalos to offer seasonal beverages that rotate throughout the year, as will the wine list and local beers on draft. There will also be a large selection of bottled and canned brews. Guests can expect two to four cocktails on tap, too.
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Night Shift provides an oasis for night owls.
Photo by Justin Bowers/Captiv Creative
The large 55-seat deck will open soon, offering wonderful Downtown views, perfect for watching a Houston sunset. The interior bar space has seating for 60 including 18 custom-designed bar seats at the back bar. Controllable LED lighting on the ceiling allows bartenders to manage the lighting according to the vibe.
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The Tropical Cooler will help a body unwind after a hard day's (or night's) work.
Photo by Justin Bowers/Captiv Creative
Ware is excited to see the project come to fruition after more than three years as pandemic restrictions are lifted and Houstonians begin going out once more. He says, "We are proud of our work and glad to have made it to this point. In particular the last year and a half has had many ups and downs—navigating a pandemic while trying to build a bar is not something we ever thought we'd live through, but here we are." He added, " We're lucky to have made it through and are looking forward to whatever comes next."

Night Shift is open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. for folks who need to relax and unwind, no matter how late. It plans to add Saturday and Sunday brunch service in the near future.
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Andiron's patio will be a relaxing escape.
Rendering by AvroKO
Andiron, 3201 Allen Parkway, is shooting to open in the first quarter of 2022. Sambrooks Management Company, owner of The Pit Room, The Patio at The Pit Room, 1751 Sea and Bar, and Candente, has signed a lease for the modern wood-burning steakhouse concept which will occupy 4,500 square feet of interior space and will have an additional 2,800 square-foot patio. The interior is comprised of a main dining room, a spacious bar and lounge, and a private dining room. The outdoor area will have 75 seats on a covered patio with an outdoor bar and lounge and a convertible private dining space.
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Andiron combines traditional steakhouse posh with contemporary style.
Rendering by AvroKO
The interior design firm behind the restaurants transformation is AvroKO out of New York. They are working with local architect Kevin Tietz of Phillip Ewald Architecture and local branding firm Principle to create a space that incorporates a traditional steakhouse experience with a modern essence. Located in a historic structure which once house Star Engraving Company and even Houston Children's Museum at one time, it has been renovated by Radom Capital. It sits across from The Gordy, the new home for Stages Theatre, with which it will share the 300 car parking garage.

Calling it a passion project for his team, owner Michael Sambrooks said,  "We will be combining our skills in smoking and wood fire grilling from The Pit Room and Candente with our chef-driven experience from 1751 Sea & Bar." In addition to traditional steakhouse offerings, the new restaurant will also offer a modern small plate progressive dining experience using live-fire techniques and globally-sourced quality ingredients.
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Bun B and Andy Nguyen are smashin' it.
Photo by Nick Scurfield
Trill Burgers, 2311 Edwards, will launch as a pop-up at Sticky’s Chicken with the first one planned for August 8, beginning at noon. The smashburger concept is a collaboration between rapper Bun B (Bernard Freeman/UGK), Andy Nguyen (Afters Ice Cream, Dough and Arrow) and brother and sister Benson and Patsy Vivares, owners of Sticky’s Chicken, which will host pop-ups for the burger venture as the crew continues its search for the concept’s first brick and mortar space.
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The Oklahoma-style smashburger with grilled onions will give you a trill.
Photo by Trish Badger
The smashburger trend began in Denver, Colorado and has branched out across the country. It is basically a burger with a thin patty (or two or three) that is smashed into the cooking surface allowing the edges to get crispy.  Nguyen is teaming up with Bun B for the artist's first restaurant venture. Nguyen has himself developed ten successful restaurant concepts in California. He is also a partner with the Vivares siblings in Sticky’s Chicken, the former food truck which opened its brick and mortar at Sawyer Yards in 2019. Bun B is a fan of Sticky’s which also boasts NFL star DeAndre Hopkins, NBA champion PJ Tucker and model/actress Karreuche Tran among its devotees. The Vivares duo will be in charge of culinary operations for Trill Burgers. The name Trill comes from from Bun B's solo albums.

Patsy Vivares said in a press release, "Coming out of the pandemic, we were brainstorming ghost kitchen and pop-up ideas with Andy and he kept coming back to the concept of smashed burgers. Through our publicist and friend Nick Scurfield, we set up a meeting with Bun and we all decided to partner together on this venture."
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The Chocolate Bar has big plans.
Photo by The Chocolate Bar
The Chocolate Bar, 1835 W. Alabama, is closing up shop August 1 and relocating to its Rice Village location at 2521 University Boulevard. The Alabama store was its flagship location when it opened 20 years ago. In the past two decades it has served homemade ice creams, cakes, cookies and various forms of chocolate including items only a Texan could dream up like the Texas Frito Brittle, a mix of pretzels, corn chips and pecans drizzled in milk chocolate.

The merger of the the two locations is just a lead up to the company's expansion. It is currently planning a new flagship store, with details to come in the next few months. According to a press release, there will be future expansions into other Houston-area neighborhoods as well. That means the Uncle Darryl cake could be coming to your neighborhood soon.
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The World Famous Foodie Barr has a Steak and Lobster Monte Cristo. Break out the stretchy pants!
Photo by Charles Barr
Houston Grub Park, 1615 S. Loop W., opened July 24, as reported by EaterHouston. The new food truck park is a project from Black Service Chamber, an organization that helps to promote Black-owned businesses in the Houston area. The Houston Grub Park is located in the parking lot of a now-closed Sam's Club. There are tents for shade and there will be misters to keep attendees cool. The organizers want to establish a family-friendly hang-out spot for park-goers to try delicious and unique food while enjoying an experience that's meant to be similar to tailgating.

All of the food trucks, except for the ones selling items like ice cream or gelato, will have online ordering. Many of the trucks will have QR codes displayed and customers can order through their phones and await notification of when the food is ready to be picked up. There will be a booth for beer and wine as well as a customer service booth. While the venue is kid-friendly, pets are not allowed.

Some of the trucks will rotate while others will have regular spots. Rosalyn's Hot Chicken will be one of the regulars with its Nashville Hot wings, tenders and chicken sandwiches. Trap Kitchen Hibachi is launching its first Houston food truck at the park. The LA food truck and catering company was founded originally in Compton, California by two young men, one a member of the Crips, the other of the Bloods, who decided to leave the gang life and unite in business and in friendship. Other vendors include Mississippi World Famous Grill, B&S Catering, Craving Poor Boys, We Got Wings, Bobbie Que's and Rollie's Frozen Custard, among many others. The World Famous Foodie Barr premiered at the park this past Thursday  and K.R.A.C.K  Kitchen makes its Grub Park debut this Saturday with its Cajun and Creole specialties.
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Thai it. You'll like it.
Photo by Sasipim Pratchitwat
Bangkok Station Asian Eatery, 1585 S. Texas 6, opened July 24 attached to the Now and Forever gas station at Highway 6 and Briar Forest. This family-owned business serves a variety of Thai dishes including Pad Thai, soups such as Tom Kha Gai and Tom Yung Goong and yellow, green and red curries. For starters there's gyoza, spring rolls, Veggies Tempura, takoyaki, fish cakes and Golden Tofu with sweet and sour sauce. There is a selection of rice or noodle bowls plus desserts like Thai Doughnuts with sweetened condensed milk. Its best selling dish is the Shrimp Thai Basil Udon noodle stir which blends spicy and savory Thai flavors with Japanese udon noodles. There are soft drinks plus Thai iced tea and jasmine tea.

Guests can dine-in or do take-away. There's a convenient drive-thru and delivery is available through 3rd party apps.
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Enjoy a cool Thai iced tea with a warm bowl of soup.
Photo by Sasipim Pratchitwat
The new restaurant is owned by Sasipim Pratchitwat and his family. He and his parents immigrated to the United States 20 years ago and recently moved to Texas from Florida. The restaurant business runs in the family as his grandmother and great grandmother owned a restaurant in Thailand. His family saved up, he said, to "live the American Dream".
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WYLD CHLD is for a "discerning" clientele.
Rendering by Dizon Collective
Sekai Hospitality, a newly formed hospitality group based in Houston, will host a job fair August 16 though August 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily to orient potential candidates about the brand and the positions that need to be filled including runners, servers, managers and VIP hosts for its two upcoming concepts. The job fair will be located at 1212 Waugh.

One of the new concepts is WYLD CHLD, 5922 Washington, an elevated boutique nightclub that will take over the former spot of benjy's/The Classic. The space will be reinvented by Marc Dizon, a designer out of Brooklyn, New York who has worked on projects like Hakkasan Nightclub in Las Vegas and The Druid Garden in Bangalore, India.
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Why do we feel the urge to sing Styx's "Mr. Roboto"?
Rendering by Studio Five
The second concept will follow soon after. SEKAI DAY AND NIGHT will open at 1505 St. Emanuel in a former warehouse that is being completely rebuilt and reimagined as a mega club with 27 VIP tables, stadium-style seating, a 36-foot main bar and even a resort pool with 16 cabanas, 17 VIP couches and 10 day beds. SEKAI Hospitality has teamed with Irish company Audiotek to supply the high-end sound, video and lighting systems.

Both luxury-focused concepts are slated to open this fall.

Raising Cane’s, 4908 Garth, will open August 3 with a ribbon cutting from the Baytown Chamber of commerce at 9 a.m. In attendance will be Baytown’s mayor, Brandon Capetillo.  With special giveaways that will bring all the "Caniacs" out in full force, the grand opening will also have Rod Ryan from KTBZ and Mario Gomez from KLTN hosting live radio remotes from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and attendees will be able to check out several of Houston's raceway vehicles that will be onsite.

The first 100 customers ages 13 and up will receive a free limited edition Cane's t-shirt with the purchase of a Combo meal. Guests will also be eligible for the "Lucky 20" drawing which offers Free Cane's for a Year to 20 lucky folks.

Restaurant Leader Cory Pits was born and raised in Baytown and is excited to bring Raising Cane's to his hometown. In a press release Pits said, " We've hired an exceptional crew and we're all looking forward to getting even more involved as we work to become an integral part of Baytown. I can't wait for all of my friends, family and neighbors to come out and celebrate with us while enjoying our tasty chicken finger meals."
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Champions has a new, elegant place to wine down.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
 Mirage 38, 13455 Cutten, opened June 11. It comes from Chayn Mousa, who many Houstonians of a certain age may know as the man who originally opened Chayn's Night Club which has been a fixture on FM 1960 for the past 38 years. Mousa is a real estate developer who owns the shopping center in which the new restaurant is located. When a previous tenant, Saints restaurant, moved out of the space, Mousa decided that his choice was to either leave the space vacant or open his own upscale concept with craft cocktails, beers and wines. Because nothing new had opened in the area for so long, most likely due to the pandemic, Mousa decided something exciting and different was needed.
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We need this wall at home.
Photo by Mirage38
Besides cocktails and wine, there is a Lite Bites menu with dishes like Peppered Ahi Tuna, Tenderloin Bites, Salt & Pepper Shrimp and a Sirloin Blue Cheeseburger on sourdough. It also has a Spam Sandwich which Mousa says has gone viral. Like any good wine bar, there is a charcuterie board andt here are two outdoor patios on either side of the entrance in case there are cigar smokers.

The name comes from the The Mirage subdivision behind the center and the 38 comes from the number of years since Mousa first opened Chayn's Night Club.
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Sushi burritos are just one of the creative options at Poke Burri.
Photo by Tory Nguyen
Poke Burri, 2503 Bagby, is celebrating its first-year anniversary with a long-delayed grand opening August 9 though August 14. It originally opened in June 2020 in the early days of the pandemic. It made it through due to its Instagram-worthy concoctions and take-away. Now, it is ready to celebrate its survival with an official grand opening.  The restaurant will be offering a half dozen Sushi Donuts of your choice for $30 from August 9 through August 14.
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Those are not like any doughnuts we have ever seen.
Photo by Duc Hoang
Along with its artfully crafted poke bowls, sushi burritos and build your own options., Poke Burri also has creations like sushi pizza, donuts and even a sushi corn dog. Lifting Noodle, part of the dual concept, offers a variety of ramen such as the 1-UP bowl a dish of kale noodles in a creamy vegetarian broth with crispy tofu. The Angry Zuko bowl has black mushroom and pork belly in a spicy pork broth.

The restaurant is open for dine-in, takeout and has delivery options through DoorDash and UberEats.

Restaurants Reported Open July 2021:

Agnes Café & Provisions, 2132 Bissonet, opened June 8
The Annie Café & Bar, 1800 Post Oak Boulevard, reopened June 26
Avanti Italian Kitchen and Wine bar, opened June 7
Bread Zeppelin, 1700 Lake Plaza, opened July 22
Burns Original BBQ Bistro, 14221 E. Sam Houston Parkway, opened July 3
The Chef’s Table, 110 Vintage Park, opened July 19
The Chipper, 1251 Pin Oak, opened June 16
Craft Creamery, 1338 Westheimer, opened July 18
Gelato Picks, 16525 Lexington, opened June 24
Gratify Neighborhood Bistro, 5212 Morningside, opened July 3
Harris County General Store BBQ Co., 5434 Lawndale, had a grand opening July 14
Howdy Homemade Ice Cream, 20920 Katy Freeway, opened July 22
JOEY Uptown, 5045 Westheimer, opened July 28
McIntyre’s Spirits and Friends, 901 Commerce, opened July 1
NBNB Bakery & Café, 11107 Bellaire Boulevard, opened July 18
Pho Binh, 712 Main, opened July 19
ReikiNa, 799 Town and Country Boulevard, opened July 15
Shoot the Moon, 8155 Long Point, opened July 26
Takara Sushi and Asian Bistro, 15830 Southwest Freeway, opened June 21
Texas BBQ Lab, 13521 Jones, opened June 21
The Toasted Yolk, 5103 Bellaire Boulevard, opened July 12
Trash Panda Drinking Club, 4203 Edison, opened July 30
Turner’s, 1800 Post Oak Boulevard, reopened June 26
Urban Brew Coffee, 1815 Cleburne, opened April 19

Restaurants Reported Closed July 2021:

Antone’s Famous Po’ Boys Medical Center, 6618 Fannin, closed June 28
Café TH, 2108 Pease, closed July 15
Spanish Village, 4720 Almeda, closed July 17
Tony Mandola’s, 1212 Waugh, closed July 26
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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.