Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Sugar Room Debuts Again, Bellaire Broiler Burger For Sale

Sugar Room takes inspiration from The Great Gatsby.
Sugar Room takes inspiration from The Great Gatsby. Photo by Cameron Jones

Sugar Room, 5120 Washington, has reopened. It originally debuted in January 2020 only to be sidelined by the pandemic restrictions against bars opening. The speakeasy-inspired lounge comes from SoClutch Group, a hospitality company that operates businesses like Concrete Cowboy and Clutch Bar in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and Chicago. Due to recently altered TABC rules regarding Food and Beverage certifications, more bars are opening with a few changes. Sugar Room has opened Sweet at Sugar Room serving breakfast classics and tempting treats, due to its status as an outpost of local bakery, Tout Suite. Sweet is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., serving desserts like pots de creme, cheesecake and mousse plus sweet nibbles such as macarons, brownies and cookies.

click to enlarge Sugar Room has cocktails designed by Ladies of Libation. - PHOTO BY TINA MARIE BRACKETT
Sugar Room has cocktails designed by Ladies of Libation.
Photo by Tina Marie Brackett
For the evening, Sugar Room opens at 5 p.m. behind the bakery through a hallway that leads to a dimly lit lounge with an art deco ambiance. Guests can enjoy crafted cocktails embellished with edible gold and glitter. Some of its signature cocktails come from a partnership with Ladies of Libation, a consulting agency from local mixologists extraordinaire, Laurie Sheddan Harvey and Kris Sowell. The Death Before Decaf is a blend of dark rum, espresso, chocolate, coconut and Irish cream. The Garnet Manhattan mixes cherry cask bourbon, ruby port and spice mix number 7. It also includes an edible gold encased cherry. Another cocktail, Le Bichon, uses butterfly pea tea, vodka, lemon and diamond dust for a dazzling concoction that turns from blue to purple when served.

click to enlarge Sugar Room offers a comfortable patio. - PHOTO BY CAMERON JONES
Sugar Room offers a comfortable patio.
Photo by Cameron Jones
There's also a newly updated outdoor patio with an additional 2,000 square feet of space for socially-distanced socializing.

SoClutch has other plans for Houston as well. Owner Dan Wierck says that he plans other expansions to Houston including The Sporting Club at 5201 Washington. Details will be announced soon.

click to enlarge Chef Steve's special scallops. - PHOTO BY STEVE HAUG
Chef Steve's special scallops.
Photo by Steve Haug
Magnolia Cajun Comfort, 1807 Broadway, opened in Pearland August 31. The new restaurant offers Cajun, Creole and Texas flavors from chef Steve Haug and Desiree Burleigh. Haug has over 25 years of restaurant experience including 18 years as executive chef at Del Frisco's and stints at The Oceannaire, Killen's Steakhouse and Grazia Italian Kitchen in Pearland. Burleigh has built ties in the Pearland business community with her restaurant, Jax Burgers. She also brings some Cajun cred as a native of Lafayette, Louisiana.

Desiree Burleigh and Steve Haug bring Louisiana flavors to Pearland. - PHOTO BY STEVE HAUG
Desiree Burleigh and Steve Haug bring Louisiana flavors to Pearland.
Photo by Steve Haug
The menu starts with Southern Louisiana comfort favorites like fried green tomatoes, boudin balls and crawfish pies. For the upcoming fall weather, there's Texas chili, chicken and sausage gumbo and Chef Steve's Seafood Soup. Entrees include Blackened Redfish, Cajun Scallop Sliders, Boudin Grilled Cheese and New Orleans-style Barbecue Shrimp. There's also fried catfish, crawfish etouffee, chicken fried steak, chicken and dumplings and red beans and rice.

Bellaire Broiler Burger, 5216 Bellaire Boulevard, closed  in June due to a transition according to its Facebook post. The message mentioned the passing of a longtime employee and asked that customers be patient as the new staff were trained. However, the post also stated, " If the harassment of me and my employees continues, then we just won't do it for you guys anymore." Now, it seems that the restaurant's owner has made good on his word. We tried calling the business to get more details but the answering machine message said that the business and the property are both up for sale. The owner, Tom Daneman, expressed his gratitude to customers with the closing message of "Peace and Love."

Daneman has owned the burger restaurant since he took over in 1999 after his parents passed away. He had grown up working in the restaurant, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Daneman family have owned the restaurant for nearly five decades earning the loyalty of nearby residents who would sometimes eat at the retro burger joint three or four times a week. Its 1960s and '70s decor and straight-up basic burgers kept fans coming back regularly. The crinkle-cut fries weren't memorable but regulars enjoyed the thick-cut onion rings and Chili Delight.

The building was originally designed by Roger Converse and first opened as Brittain's Broiler Burger in 1959, according to The Arch-ive.

click to enlarge Oh, my my Monte Cristo. - PHOTO BY CHICO RAMIREZ
Oh, my my Monte Cristo.
Photo by Chico Ramirez

White Elm Cafe Bakery, 14079 Memorial, which recently opened August 11 is now launching its weekend brunch, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests can enjoy breakfast and lunch specialties such as the Breakfast Pizza with free-range eggs, bacon jam, mozzarella, goat cheese, spinach and fresh herbs. There's also a Monte Cristo, sure to make fans of the fried sandwich with raspberry preserves happy. There's a daily quiche, entree salads, the NMH Burger or the Breakfast Plate with two eggs, Yukon Gold and chevre croquettes, ham or bacon and toasted brioche. There's also a selection of delicious breads and pastries from Tasos Katasounis, better known as The Bread Man. The kids menu ($6) offers a choice of  French toast dippers, chicken tenders or cheese pizza.

click to enlarge White Elm Cafe Bakery offers a variety of pastries. - PHOTO BY SHANNON O'HARA
White Elm Cafe Bakery offers a variety of pastries.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
For drinks, there are mimosas, elixirs, fresh-pressed juices plus specialty coffees and teas.

The new cafe is a collaboration between Katsaounis of Bread Man Baking Co., Chico Ramirez of Dinner Table Investments and Scott and Stacy Simonson. The Simonsons, who own the longtime French fine dining restaurant, Chez Nous, serve as executive chefs. Jesus Salinas is chef de cuisine.

Federal American Grill, 727 W. Grand Parkway, will open next spring, as reported by CultureMap Houston.  The upscale American fare  at the stylish restaurant offers dishes ranging from entree salads to chops and steaks. Guests can start with the Federal Fried Oysters, Tuna Tartare or Fontina Dip among a varied list of appetizers. Entrees include Baby Back Ribs, Truffled Stuffed Chicken. Center Cut NY Strip, Filet Mignon, Ribeye, Blackened Ahi Tuna and Grilled Salmon. There are burgers such as the Akaushi Wagyu Burger and sandwiches like the Cajun Chicken. Most entrees run from $15 to $29 with steaks a bit pricier.

The restaurant serves brunch with items like Breakfast Tacos, Chicken and Waffle and Thai Shrimp and Grits. There's a variety of Benedicts including Traditional, Crab Cake, Florentine and Braised Short Rib. For hearty eaters, there's the Full Federal Breakfast with two eggs, breakfast potatoes, brioche French toast, bacon, sausage and mixed greens.

The restaurant's owner, Matt Brice, made national news when the Hedwig location opened for dine-in service April 24, 2020 in defiance of Harris County Judge Lina Hildalgo's extension of the "Stay  Home, Work Safe" order requiring restaurants to keep their dining rooms closed and offer only to-go service. Hidalgo's extension was through the end of April which meant Federal American Grill was open nearly a full week before Governor Greg Abbott reopened restaurants May 1 at 25  percent capacity.

In June, the restaurant again made news with its suspension of dine-in service in protest of Hidalgo's eight-day mask requirement for restaurants and other businesses. In a press release and Facebook post, Matt Brice said, " We are simply not willing to police other's choices nor do we want to risk hurting anyone."  The Harris County Commissioners then voted to extend the mask requirement to August 26. The mask orders, which varied from county to county, became a statewide mandate with Governor Greg Abbott's office issuing an executive order requiring face coverings for businesses' employees and patrons July 2, ahead of the Independence Day weekend. That mandate continues to be in place.

click to enlarge Willie's Grill has left Champions. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
Willie's Grill has left Champions.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Willie's Grill and Icehouse, 4561 FM 1960 W., closed July 29, according to its Facebook post. President and CEO Greg Lippert issued a statement blaming the closing on "current economic conditions". However, its location at North Oaks Shopping Center may also be a factor. The shopping center, which many Houstonians in the northern suburbs will remember for its movie theater's midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was a bustling spot for teens cruising the FM 1960 strip. On a recent visit to the Half Price Books located in the strip center, we found a number of empty businesses and garbage strewn across the parking lot.

The Facebook post engendered some lamentations from locals, many of who remembered working there when they were young or spending weekend nights eating its burgers and wings over its run of 24 years at the Champions location. Willie's Grill and Icehouse is still open in Willowbrook, Jersey Village and Spring.

Gyro Hut, 18002 Park Row, celebrated its grand opening September 5 in Katy. The lines were long as customers lined up to try and claim one of the free platters for the first 100 guests. This is the third location for the halal restaurant in Houston. It originally began as a food cart in New York and it still sells NY-style gyros and chicken over rice.  Customers can build their own platters or opt for one of the pita sandwiches. Protein choices include lamb gyro, chicken, falafel, shrimp, fish and chapli kabab. Loyal fans sing the praises of its red, orange and white sauces.

Besides inexpensive Mediterranean fare, it offers fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juices with flavors like Jalapeno Boost and Tropical Delight.

click to enlarge Tostadas get an Asian twist at The Union Kitchen. - PHOTO BY VICTORIA CHRISTENSEN
Tostadas get an Asian twist at The Union Kitchen.
Photo by Victoria Christensen
The Union Kitchen has launched a seasonal menu with 17 new items from executive chef James Lundy. New dishes include the pretty Lolo Tostada made with wonton chips, Asian slaw, Ahi tuna, toasted sesame seeds and wasabi aioli and the Fried 3-Cheese Ravioli. There's also the Short Rib Grilled Cheese on toasted brioche with gouda cheese, caramelized onions and bacon jam served with house chips. Miller's Meatloaf Sandwich and the sous vide Bone-In Pork Chop will warm the bellies of carnivores.

The Union Kitchen currently has five locations open for dine-in and take-out in Katy, Cypress, Memorial, Kingwood and Ella. The location at 6011 Washington is temporarily closed due to the pandemic.

Crafty Crab, 211 Cypress Creek Parkway, opened August 18 for take-out. The chain has locations through out states such as Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. The new location makes the second for the Houston area. The first opened at 11328 Westheimer January 31, 2020.

It serves a number of fresh seafood boils with snow crab legs, Dungeness and blue crab, shrimp and even lobster. Raw oysters and fried seafood are also available. Look out for daily specials such as the Lobster Special ($37.99) with a lobster tail, half-pound shrimp, half pound crab and sausage and potatoes.

click to enlarge Nashville Hot Fried Fish is available at Off the Hook Seafood. - PHOTO BY MAX VON OTTERDYK
Nashville Hot Fried Fish is available at Off the Hook Seafood.
Photo by Max Von Otterdyk
Off the Hook Seafood, 2222 Rayford Road, had its soft opening August 27 with to-go orders only. Now, it has opened for dine-in service and is planning a grand opening celebration soon. The restaurant offers items like Crispy Soft Shell Crab BLT, Clam Chowder Poutine, Seared Mahi Mahi, po' boys and plenty of fried oyster, shrimp and fish baskets. There's also the Nashville Hot Fried Fish Sandwich for something a little different.

For non-seafood types, there are dishes like the Bone-In Ribeye or Cornish Hen. The Cornish hen is marinated in buttermilk, then glazed with garlic honey and roasted. There's a dessert menu with treats such as the Key Lime Pie Ice Cream Sandwich and a kids menu.

Maison Pucha Bistro is participating in Latin Restaurant Weeks. - PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN PUCHA
Maison Pucha Bistro is participating in Latin Restaurant Weeks.
Photo by Christian Pucha

Latin Restaurant Weeks is running September 20 through October 4, 2020 in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual celebration of Hispanic culture, businesses and cuisine in Houston. This two-week event comes just ten days before Houston Restaurant Weeks is set to end September 30.  The event was first founded in 2019 by Karinn Chavarria to showcase Hispanic-owned restaurants, business owners, chefs, bartenders and restaurant staff. There are at least twenty-five restaurants on board so far including La Fisheria, La Pupusa Loka, La Vina Cuban, Los Ranchitos, Tony's Tex-Mex, La Calle Tacos Downtown, Tropical's Restaurant and Sweets by Belen. Each business will offer prix-fixe menus which range from $15 to $50 depending on the restaurant and menu. A portion of the proceeds will go to Second Servings of Houston, which collects surplus food from restaurants and grocery stores to deliver the same day to approved charitable meal sites. Its mission of fighting hunger and reducing food waste helps 170,000 people annually.

You can learn more about the participating restaurants plus the virtual cooking and cocktail demonstrations on its website.

click to enlarge The Campechana de Mariscos is a seafood wonder. - PHOTO BY TIM LOFTIN
The Campechana de Mariscos is a seafood wonder.
Photo by Tim Loftin

The Original Ninfa's, 2704 Navigation and 1700 Post Oak Boulevard, is offering a special for National Hispanic Heritage Month. For $25, guests can indulge in the Campechana de Mariscos with 50 percent of the proceeds going to The Ninfa Laurenzo Scholarship Fund.

The special campechana is a Mexican seafood cocktail of fresh Gulf shrimp, crab, Spanish octopus and Texas Redfish with cocktail and Leche de Tigre sauces plus house-made chipotle aioli.
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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.