Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Stuffed Belly Opens This Weekend, Shun Will Close

The Sichuan Hot Chicken is a different take on the trend.
The Sichuan Hot Chicken is a different take on the trend. Photo by John Suh

Stuffed Belly, 8133 Long Point, opens softly June 10 and June 11 with a public event from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until sell out. Guests will be able to take advantage of a 50-percent-off special on sandwiches, sides and drinks for both days. Sweets are not included in the special. The average price for a combo meal runs from $12 to $17.

The new sandwich concept from chef Christine Ha and her husband John Suh is opening in the same strip center as the couple's new location of The Blind Goat in Spring Branch. The Stuffed Belly venture has been in the works for a while, keeping the duo very busy. Ha, who won Season 3 of Master Chef, also owns and operates Xin Chao with chef-partner Tony Nguyen.
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Christine Ha opens a sandwich shop.
Photo by John Suh
The menu is one of American sandwiches that have been favorites of "The Blind Cook." Ha said of the inspiration for the menu, "I've added my own fun personal twist on some of the sandwiches and kept the others simple and straight forward. I don't believe in making everything over the top. If the classic is great, keep it that way. They're classic for a reason."

Some of the sandwiches on the opening menu include the gooey Triple Cheese, Please with cheddar, provolone, American cheese and tomato confit on buttery Texas toast. The Sichuan Hot Chicken is a tasty slab of buttermilk fried chicken topped with Sichuan mayo and pickles on a toasted potato bun. Another hot sandwich is the Belly Burger with two smashed all-beef chuck patties, caramelized onions, American cheese, pickles and Stuffed Sauce on a toasted potato bun. Could the Belly Burger at Stuffed Belly be one that gives Trill Burgers a run for its money? We're eager to see.
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A vegetarian grilled cheese oozes with flavor.
Photo by John Suh
On the cold sandwich side, there's the Humpty Dumpty Egg'wich or the Tuna Crunch, both served on crustless Texas Toast.  For sides, there are tater tots and Zapp's Kettle potato chips. There is a small kids menu for children 12 and under. For a sweet ending, there are assorted flavors of Pudgy's Fine Cookies, a local cookie bakery located on North Shepherd. 

The new restaurant offers limited seating for dining in but also boasts a convenient drive-thru for cravings on the go.
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A College Station favorite opens another Houston store.
Photo by Becca Wright
Layne's Chicken Fingers, 2359 S. Shepherd, will open in a long-closed KFC building. It will be the third Houston area location for the brand which first opened in 1994 in College Station. With the nearby Texas A&M University campus, it quickly earned a grassroots fan base of locals and hungry college students.  Owner and restaurateur Masroor Fatany is thrilled to bring the chicken tender concept to the Montrose area. Using the term  "Born and Breaded in Texas since 1994", the company is proud to say that it preceded its competitor, Raising Cane’s, by two years, to Montrose.

While Raising Cane's touts its One Love chicken finger meals, Layne's has copyrighted the slogan "Soon to be Famous Chicken Fingers." The tenders are marinated and breaded on site.

"After a wildly successful opening in the Heights, it only made sense to expand to the eclectic Montrose neighborhood," says Matt O’Reilly of Layne’s Chicken Fingers. "This is our first location inside the loop and we are so excited to see our restaurant expand to even more chicken lovers."

The new location will offer drive-thru and dine-in service.
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We will miss the beautifully plated dishes at Shun.
Photo by Becca Wright

Shun Japanese Kitchen, 2802 Shepherd, will close June 10, after five years of business. Though it's the end of the road for the concept, it's the beginning of new ventures for chef and founder Naoki Yoshida. Yoshida, the son of Nippon Restaurant owner, Naomitsu Yoshida, learned many of the techniques and flavors from his father including using quality seasonal ingredients.

Shun's quality ingredients, sleek interior and stunning plating made it a dining destination in its time in the Montrose area. Over 200 original recipes were debuted at the restaurant and it successfully navigated the struggles and challenges created by the COVID pandemic. It created buzz with its Tokyo Night Festival and Tokyo X while establishing the Hako Bento Box Company and becoming a sponsor of Hitachi Wagyu.
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Shun Japanese Kitchen will close this weekend.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Using that success as a launching pad, Yoshida's plans for the future include opening Houston's first Japanese-owned solely omakase restaurant in fall 2024. The name has not been determined as of yet.  Until then, the restaurateur will continue promoting events such as Tokyo Night Festival  and the upcoming Tokyo X event at NRG Park June 17 and June 18.

The Tokyo X expo will be a merging of modern and traditional Japanese cultures with over 200 retailers and purveyors including more than 30 food vendors. There will also be anime showcases, sumo demonstrations, an arcade tournament, live music, a Pokemon Trading Card Tournament and a display of more than 85 cars.
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Trill Burgers' exterior is hard to miss.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Trill Burgers, 3607 S. Shepherd, opened June 7 in case you haven't heard. Located in the former home of a longtime James Coney Island restaurant, the building has been painted in bright yellow with black accents, mirroring the colors for Trill Burgers. The smashburger concept has been a long time coming since it was first popping up at places like Sticky's Chicken and Houston's City Hall. The team behind the venture includes its famous face, Bernard 'Bun B' Freeman, plus Nick Scurfield, California restaurateur Andy Nguyen, and chefs Mike Pham and Fernando Valladares.
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This is what the fuss is all about.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
While many of us were thinking this was a permanent brick and mortar spot for the burger joint, the team at Trill Burgers said in a press release that the Shepherd spot is an extended pop-up space for the next six months while it searches for a permanent location. It feels like a foodie game of Where's Waldo? or maybe Where's Bun B?

The menu will offer the OG Burger with two smashed all-beef patties, Trill sauce, pickles, caramelized onions and American cheese on a potato bun. The Vegan OG Burger uses vegan cheese and vegan mayo. There are seasoned fries as well. More items will make it to the menu soon.
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Bun B's former musical partner Pimp C gets a wall of honor.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Trill is still in soft opening mode so delivery apps and the drive-thru are not available currently. It is also cashless. For now, its opening hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. which could change in the future.

For more info, check out our story in the Houston Press about last week's friends and family event at Trill or the soft opening June 7 here in the Press.
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Chef Omar Pereney puts the finishing touch on the CAPS Burger.
Photo by Gonzalo Picon
CAPS Supper Club and Bar, 2610 Briar Ridge, opens to the public June 9. It's a rebranding of the former CAPS Piano Bar but this time around, it has a supper club menu from Chef Omar Pereney, the new culinary lead for the venue. Pereney got an early start in the culinary world, hosting two television shows in Venezuela at the age of 14 and opened his first restaurant when he was just sixteen years old. Other stints include executive chef at the now-shuttered Peska and his time as private chef to George H.W. Bush. He currently operates his food service consulting agency, Culinary Matters.
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Omar Pereny has created a menu that pairs well with cocktails and music.
Photo by Gonzalo Picon
The menu begins with a selection of crudo including Caviar Potato Chips, Steak Tartare and Ceviche Mixto. Shareables include Fanny's Burrata, Chorizo and Manchego Croquettes, Grilled Octopus and the Short Rib Grilled Cheese, served on sourdough bread. There's also a Leek & Mushroom Soup plus a Berry Beet Salad.

Entree options like Whole Branzino and Braised Short Rib offer date night glamor while pasta dishes such as Bucatini Cacio e Pepe and Campanelle Bolognese will please carb lovers. There are also steaks and lamb chops. A sticky toffee pudding is a luxurious dessert with bourbon-caramel sauce, vanilla gelato and Luxardo cherry.
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The chic bar offers mid-century coolness.
Photo by Laziza Mukhamedova
The beverage program includes a variety of dessert cocktails, classics such as a French 75, plus a Curated section with signature drinks like Piano Man's Brunch and the Raspberry Sidecar. In addition to a global and reasonably-priced wine list, there are wine flights and whiskey flights. CAPS also has a Social Hour Menu with varying hours.

There will still be piano music and nightly performances by the original group of beloved musicians.

Coffee Fellows, 4900 Bissonet, opens June 14 at 7 a.m. in Bellaire. The craft coffee shop from Germany has chosen Houston as its first U.S.-based flagship location. Not only that, three more locations in the Greater Houston area are in the pipeline for Katy, River Oaks and Houston Heights for late summer and early fall 2023.

It's a major milestone for the company which has been around for 24 years and is the second largest craft coffee shop concept in Germany. Dr. Stefan Tewes, CEO of Coffee Fellows said in a press release, "We plan to customize our menu offerings to suit American preferences, but guests can anticipate the comfortable, friendly European ambiance our brand is known for and feel confident in the mission of sustainability that is close to our hearts and is part of everything we do." Part of that American approach is to offer drive-thru service, a first for the German brand.
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Citizens offers a colorful and vibrant wake-up spread.
Photo by Citizens
Citizens of Montrose, 907 Westheimer, opened June 7 across from the Montrose Collective and next door to Velvet Taco.  We recently wrote about the all-day Australian cafe here in the Houston Press and true to the original press release, they opened on track, a rarity these days. It's the first location for the brand outside of New York where it was first founded by best buds Justin Guiffida and Andrew Geisel in 2016.

The native Australians wanted to create a new breakfast experience that celebrates their much-loved Aussie culture while respecting the neighborhoods where the cafes are located. They're excited to now call Houston home.
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Banana Bread French Toast is available all day.
Photo by Citizens
The menu offers hearty and healthy breakfast classics with a touch of Australian flair, with seasonality a focus for the menu items.  Banana Bread French Toast with Miso Butterscotch is a popular sweet breakfast dish while the BBQ Pulled Pork Benny on its signature Cheddar Biscuit is a savory brunch plate. Though the menu is geared toward breakfast, the dishes are served all day along with a variety of lunch options like the Fried Chicken Sandwich with Yuzo Aioli and the Smashed Double Brisket Burger. Its menu also features bowls like its Miso Chicken and Harissa Salad.

The signature flat white, an Australian staple, is available plus various blends of their house coffee and several unique nitro cold brews. There is a selection of Wellness Lattes for the health-conscious. Besides caffeine beverages, there are craft cocktails using fresh citrus and "fluffy" juice that are made to order along with seasonal frozen cocktails.

Geisel said of the new Houston location, "We choose Montrose because the neighborhood has such a rich history for its diverse community, thriving arts scene, and fantastic restaurants. We're thrilled to be part of this dynamic community and to contribute to its legacy by bringing a little bit of ‘Aus’ to the neighborhood."
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Sichuan hot chicken has come to Houston.
Photo by Fajar Hassan
Thunderbirds HTX, 8200 Washington, opened at Railway Heights food hall April 1. Sometimes these food stalls sneak in under the radar but this one is creating some buzz with its take on the classic Nashville hot chicken sandwich. The concept from Chef Sunny Vohra infuses the flavors of Sichuan cuisine into the buttermilk-brined chicken. After brining with garlic and onion, the chicken is fried, then dunked into an aromatic and spicy Sichuan chili oil. It's a blending of Southern comfort food with the mouth-numbing tingle of Sichuan's Ma La flavors.

And just as many folks like to choose their spice levels for the Nashville version, customers at Thunderbirds HTX can do the same. Chef Vohra has even created a "you crazy" level. He says, "I went ahead and used scorpion chiles as I enjoy how the heat allows more flavor to come through on the palate and it seems to dissipate much quicker than the Carolina Reaper."

The menu offers the signature Sichuan Hot Chicken Sandwich along with a slider version. There are Sichuan Bird Fries topped with crispy Sichuan chicken, a tangy "that sauce", and fresh green onions. For a refreshing beverage, there's the Calamansi Lemonade that is both citrusy and floral.

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Vinny's crew members partner with the team from The Montrose Center for a worthy cause.
Photo by Micah Danae
Vinny's Pizza, 1201 St. Emanuel, has partnered with The Montrose Center to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride month with a special pizza. The PRIDE pie is inspired by the colors of the rainbow flag and has a diverse array of ingredients including tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, shaved prosciutto, pepperoni, mushrooms, basil pineapple, red onions and orange bell peppers. It will be available from June 6 through June 30.

The Pride pizza is available by the slice ($5) or the pie ($25) with a portion of the proceeds going to The Montrose Center which helps support  LGBTQ+ youth and adults with the tools and resources needed to live healthy and actualized lives with the affirmation of their value.

Red Lion Pub
, 2316 S. Shepherd, is hosting a UEFA Champions League Final watch party June 10 at 2 p.m. It will serve its traditional English breakfast throughout the day along with full brunch and dinner menus. There will also be happy hour specials all weekend.

Brennan's of Houston, 3300 Smith, has a lineup of June events from a casual crawfish boil to a three-course cooking class. The Summer Crawfish Boil happens June 13 at 5 p.m. in Brennan's storied courtyard. There's a Spirit Round Table June 14 at 6 p.m. celebrating rum with Bar Manager Thomas Cordes. The Orin Swift Wine Dinner is slated for June 20 at 6:30 p.m. and offers a multi-course Texas- Creole dinner with wine pairings from California vintner Orin Swift Cellars.

Toward the end of June, the restaurant will host a Drink & Learn Dinner: Tequila June 22 at 6:30 p.m. with Drink Historian Elizabeth Pearce showcasing Casa San Matias tequila. Then, there will be a Ranch-to-Table Cooking Class June 27 at 6:30 p.m. with Chef Ric Rosser who will partner with Brennan's culinary team for a three-course cooking class featuring ingredients from Spread Oaks Ranch and Moorhead's Blueberry Farm. 
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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.