Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Good News and Good Deals

Spicy Soy Ramen at Kata Robata .
Spicy Soy Ramen at Kata Robata . Photo by Julie Soefer

Right now, many of us are working at our home computers, trying to figure out how to teach our children algebra and what to make for dinner from the supplies that we have left. Others are pulling double shifts at hospitals or fending off complaints from shoppers who are pissed that their favorite brand of toilet paper is not available. Some hospitality workers have found themselves transitioning from bar managers and waitstaff to delivery drivers or take-out assemblers.

And then, there are those who have lost their jobs completely. No matter how tough you think you have it, someone else probably has it worse. Still, that doesn't mean you can't have a brief pity party. We are all hurting. That's why it's so wonderful to see some positive things happening. While the internet is full of partisan trolls and our televisions give us grim daily updates, we still have much for which we can be thankful.

In this economic turmoil, there are still rays of hope. There are some new restaurants opening, some old ones reopening and many, many more trying to survive through takeout and delivery. But, it's the human rays of light that brighten this dark landscape. Even if it just a free meal for healthcare workers or a more substantial financial help-up to hospitality workers, it is the human connection that we all still need.

Here's some good news.


click to enlarge Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries offers a taste of Indigo. - PHOTO BY CHANA RHODES
Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries offers a taste of Indigo.
Photo by Chana Rhodes

Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries
 517 Berry, opened April 1. Chef Jonny Rhodes has closed his critically-acclaimed 13 seat restaurant, Indigo, for the time being and is using the space as Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries. Rhodes and wife Chana, both former Marines, had planned to open a grocery and fine foods shop in the future, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought that concept to fruition a wee bit early.

Indigo is not the type of restaurant that fits the take-out model. It's a concept restaurant centered not only around food, but African-American stories and culture that Rhodes tells through his cuisine, almost like a performance artist. That kind of ingenuity and creativity has earned Rhodes accolades and a James Beard Award nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2019.  Unfortunately, eager foodies will have to wait until the dine-in restrictions are changed in order to be part of the experience.

Meanwhile, patrons can get a taste of Rhodes' talent at the grocery shop. His fondness for preserves means shoppers can try items like the smoked pickled carrots or beet ketchup. Other condiments might include apple butter or canary mustard. For vegans, there's the housemade vegetable ham and for carnivores, the homemade honey-glazed ham. There are also deli meats and cuts of pork and beef. Seafood options vary but a recent Instagram post showed fish such as Drum and Sheepshead, plus King Crab Legs. There will be breads like corn muffins or freshly-baked brioche and treats such as Rice and Butter Ice Cream and Candied Yam Ice Cream. There is also fresh produce.

Common Bond On-the-Go, 601 Heights Boulevard, has a tentative opening date of May 18, according to a press release. The new drive-thru version of Common Bond Bakery and Bistro will take over the spot which formerly housed Sam's Fried Chicken and Donuts, which Michael Sambrooks took over from Cherry Hospitality's Lee's Fried Chicken and Donuts in 2018.

It will offer grab and go pastries, croissants, cookies and coffee plus breakfast sandwiches and lunch and dinner items. There will also be a picnic-style menu which will offer cheeses, meats and spreads perfect for pairing with some of Common Bond's amazing breads. The new location plans to start serving beer and wine in June.

Eaves Construction is overseeing the renovation and build-out. The patio has been expanded and there will be a bar counter and additional inside seating with a look to the future when the dine-in restrictions are lifted.

Common Bond Bakery and Bistro opened its first location in Montrose in 2014 and has since opened two more in the Medical Center and the Heights. During the current crisis, it is running a donation drive for baguettes to feed Houstonians in need. You can check out its website for an option to donate $3 per baguette. Its goal is 10,000 loaves.

Millie's Kitchen will have fried seafood for takeout and delivery. - PHOTO BY CHRISTINA BRIDGE
Millie's Kitchen will have fried seafood for takeout and delivery.
Photo by Christina Bridge
Millie's Kitchen and Cocktails, 3542 Oak Forest, will open April 24, as reported by CultureMap Houston. While this may seem an unusual time to start a new restaurant, owner Ken Bridge of Delicious Concepts, which operates a number of Houston restaurants and bars including Ritual, Blackbird Izakaya and Ready Room thinks the take-out and delivery model will work until things get back to normal.

The restaurant is inspired by the East Cost-style seafood shacks that Bridge remembers growing up. He wanted to bring a nice spot to the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area for everyone to enjoy. Millie's will serve fried seafood for now and favorites like lobster rolls and steamed clams in the future when dine-in restrictions are lifted. Bridge told CultureMap's Eric Sandler that there will be fried clams. This writer can't wait.

Now Hiring:

click to enlarge JuiceLand has jobs. - PHOTO BY JULIA KEIM/GIANT NOISE
JuiceLand has jobs.
Photo by Julia Keim/Giant Noise
Juiceland, 5310 Kirby, is now hiring, with plans to reopen its West University location in late April/early May. The Paycheck Protection loan enabled the Austin-based company to start actively hiring with plans to reopen stores in Houston, Austin and Dallas.

Turn on and Take Out:

click to enlarge Dumpling Haus has family feasts to-go. - PHOTO BY AMILEY LAI
Dumpling Haus has family feasts to-go.
Photo by Amiley Lai

Dumpling Haus
2313 Edwards

This Chinese and homemade dumpling restaurant opened this past January. It was the first brick and mortar for the business which originally began as a pop up at Houston farmers markets and at Axelrad. Unfortunately, its launch was soon overshadowed by the current crisis, leaving owner Elaine Won and daughters Amiley and Ashley Lai scrambling to find ways to operate a new restaurant under current restaurant restrictions. So, they have created family packs that can be picked up or delivered and frozen packs of the homemade dumplings and wontons.

The Family Pack for Four ($60) includes 20 dumplings, a noodle dish, a rice dish and a vegetable dish. They also have 25 piece frozen dumplings for $20. Choose from pork, chicken or vegan. They also have frozen wonton packs. Dumpling Haus takes pre-orders for its microwave meals for pick up at Urban Harvest's Saturday Market at 2752 Buffalo Speedway.

click to enlarge Grab some dumplings for your little dumplings at home. - PHOTO BY AMILEY LAI
Grab some dumplings for your little dumplings at home.
Photo by Amiley Lai
While they also offer delivery through GrubHub and DoorDash, guests who choose to order online and pick up curbside can feel better knowing that their entire purchase goes to the family-owned restaurant rather than delivery charges and commissions. Just text the restaurant when you arrive and let them know the color and make of your vehicle and they will bring the food out to you.

For those not near the Sawyer Yards area, Phat Eatery, 23119 Colonial Parkway, is lending a hand by selling Dumpling Haus frozen dumplings at its restaurant in Katy with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to Dumpling Haus. Phat Eatery owner/chef Alex Au-Yeung was also handing out free meals to restaurant workers in partnership with Houston Shift meal this past week. So, if you're over that way grabbing some of Chef Yeung's Malaysian food or crawfish, you can grab some frozen dumplings for later. You'll be helping two locally-owned restaurants at one time. 

click to enlarge The Paella del Meson at El Meson is filled with seafood and saffron. - PHOTO BY SANDRA CRITTENDEN
The Paella del Meson at El Meson is filled with seafood and saffron.
Photo by Sandra Crittenden
 El Meson
2425 University

This Latin restaurant owned by Chef Pedro Angel Garcia and wife Regina, has reopened for pick-up and delivery after it closed temporarily for the dine-in restrictions. It offers a menu of Cuban favorites like Ropa Vieja, Pollo Al Ajillo and Bistek Empanizado, a Cuban-cut top sirloin. It also has a Tex-Mex menu of enchiladas, nachos, quesadillas and carne asada. There are fish and shellfish dishes, too. For paella lovers, El Meson offers six versions from $22 per person for the vegetable paella to $30 per person for seafood options.The minimum order is paella for two people.

During the current shutdown, it is featuring a special wine list of bottles 25 percent off. It also is offering a four for the price of three entree deal. The entrees must all be the same. It is open for pick-up or delivery Monday through Friday from noon to 8 p.m. , Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. It has a fairly large delivery area and it's free with orders over $75. Check its website for more details.

click to enlarge Can I have some of your tots? - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Can I have some of your tots?
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

FM Kitchen and Bar
1112 Shepherd

This casual restaurant and bar will reopen with a new to-go menu April 27. There will be plenty of the usual favorites like its wings, loaded tots and burgers. There are also salads and a variety of chicken sandwiches.The restaurant is offering some specials during this time like its Winner Winner Chicken Dinner ($35). It's a whole roasted chicken, 2 sides and 2 beers. You can upgrade the deal to substitute cocktail kits for the beers for an additional $5.

Speaking of cocktail kits, FM is offering them for $9 singly. Choose from Classic Margarita, Mango Chamoy Margarita, Moscow Mule or FM Ranchwater. There are $9 frozens like the Frose, Gimlet and Dacquiri. Select wines are $25 by the bottle.

There are also burger packs for 2-4 people and the FM Snack Pack for one which includes an FM burger with french fries or tots and a Montucky Cold Snack beer for $10. Order during happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and get the deal for $8.

click to enlarge Kata Robata's lobster mac n'cheese is luxurious. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Kata Robata's lobster mac n'cheese is luxurious.
Photo by Julie Soefer

Kata Robata
3600 Kirby

Japanese-born chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi, a four time James Beard Award nominee, opened this sleek, modern Japanese restaurant in 2009. Due to the coronavirus dining restrictions, Kata Robata closed briefly last month, but reopened for curbside service April 21. The menu is slightly smaller, but still offers sushi, sashimi, ramen and robata items like the Texas Kobe Beef Skewers. It is open for take-out daily from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

It also offers beer, wine and sake from an extensive list.

click to enlarge La Grange has a pop-up. - PHOTO BY VICTORIA CHRISTENSEN
La Grange has a pop-up.
Photo by Victoria Christensen
La Grange
2517 Ralph

La Grange closed temporarily April 8, but the kitchen will be going full force on April 24 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for a pop-up with special family meals and party-at-home packs for pick-up. There is a Fajita Box which includes three pounds of meat, sour cream, guacamole, and flour or corn tortillas. Customers can choose beef ($45), chicken ($38), grilled tilapia ($45) or choose a mix of two for $45. Three pounds should feed a large family or make two meals for a small one.

There is also a Beer Battered Fish and Shrimp Box ($20) and the Sampler Box($22) should make the whole household happy with 4 pulled pork empanadas, 6 beef tac-itos and 4 smoked chicken flautas. It comes with sour cream, cilantro cause, pico de gallo and guac. Don't forget to add queso: 8 ounces ($9) and 16 ounces ($16). There is beer and wine available for pick-up.

We can't wait until its awesome patio is open again.

click to enlarge Bring Mel's home cooking to your home. - PHOTO BY JEFF HENRY
Bring Mel's home cooking to your home.
Photo by Jeff Henry

Mel's Country Cafe
24814 Stanolind

This cafe in Tomball is known for its down-home cooking and the over-the-top Mega Mel Burger challenge. My brother Cowboy Clint and his son Austin, have both completed the challenge as did my brother's son-in-law, but we won't discuss what happened afterward. That's another story. Let's just say some people should not attempt to eat a burger made with 1-1/4 pounds beef, 1 pound bacon, 1/4 pound cheese and all the trimmings.

Mel's has been in the Weirich family since it began as Mary's Fried Chicken in 1977. It became a burger joint in 1985 and was renamed Mel's Cafe, named for daughter Melody. It became Mel's Country Cafe in 1994 and expanded its menu to include items like its Chicken Fried Steak and daily lunch specials.

During the current situation, Mel's is offering free delivery within a 20 mile radius to places like The Woodlands, Spring, Tomball and Magnolia. It also has a deal called a Family Four Pack. The choices change based on availability. Customers can choose one entree which serves four people. Options usually include dishes such as Chicken Fried Steak, Chicken Fried Chicken, Fried Catfish or, if you're lucky, Chicken and Dumplings. The packs come with four large sides, cornbread or rolls and a choice of banana pudding or peach cobbler. Again, changes are subject to availability. It ain't Burger King.

The full menu is available for take-out except for the lunch specials. If you've been looking for a decent Monte Cristo, Mel's can hook you up for $6.95. Fries are extra.

click to enlarge The Fish Lover is one of many sushi rolls at Redfish Grill. - PHOTO BY ROLITA CHANG
The Fish Lover is one of many sushi rolls at Redfish Grill.
Photo by Rolita Chang

Redfish Seafood Grill
19950 State Highway 249

This restaurant was opened in 2003 by Taiwanese-born co-owner and chef, David Chang. He and wife Rolita have endeared themselves to the Cypress community over the years with a welcoming hospitality and creative food that combines Chinese and Japanese flavors with sauce techniques that are more reminiscent of a French bistro. The various fish varieties might be topped with unique sauces like spicy black bean or macadamia nut cream. However, many of its loyal patrons are dedicated to the sushi roll offerings. Some of the most popular are the Fire Cracker Roll with spicy tuna and salmon and the Rolita Roll.

click to enlarge Redfish Seafood Grill has steaks as well. - PHOTO BY ROLITA CHANG
Redfish Seafood Grill has steaks as well.
Photo by Rolita Chang
For now, the take out menu is a bit smaller than the usual menu, though not by much. Most of the sushi offerings and seafood items are available along with chicken and steak dishes like the sous vide Korean Steak. There are some starters such as Sticky Ribs or Tempura Fried Shrimp plus desserts such as White Chocolate Bread Pudding and Chocolate Eruption Cake. Redfish also has sake, house-made jalapeno cucumber margaritas and its  Redfish 76 cocktail to go or for delivery through DoorDash.

Specials this week include free edamame with the purchase of three sushi rolls and a free salad with an entree order. Redfish is currently closed on Monday.

Wine and pizza are a quarantiner's best friends. - PHOTO BY CORY JOHNSON
Wine and pizza are a quarantiner's best friends.
Photo by Cory Johnson

The Tasting Room
818 Town and Country Boulevard, 281-822-1500
1101-18 Uptown Park Boulevard, 713-993-9800

This wine bar and restaurant is offering its full menu plus some "Social Distancing" Specials right now. Its Facebook page lists different specials like 2 pizzas or entrees, 2 sides, 2 desserts and a bottle of wine for a sweet $40. Other specials include 2 pizzas, 2 salads, 2 cookies and a bottle of wine for $40 as well.  There are burgers, pastas and appetizers, too.

Delivery is available from both City Centre and Uptown through DoorDash, Favor and GrubHub. CityCentre also has delivery through UberEats.

The Tasting Room is also offering free meals to hospitality workers with a paycheck stub every Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Free Meals:

Locations worldwide

The McDonald's restaurants in Houston are offering free Thank You Meals to first responders and healthcare essential workers from April 22 to May 5. It includes police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, doctors, nurses, hospital staff and other essential healthcare employees. A valid work badge is required for the complimentary meal.

For breakfast, options are an Egg McMuffin, Chicken McGriddles or Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit. The meal comes with a soft drink of any size, tea or hot coffee, plus a Hash Brown.

Dinner choices include a Double Cheeseburger, 6-piece Chicken McNuggets or Filet o' Fish with a soft drink, tea or coffee and a small fries.
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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.