Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: SusieCakes and Voodoo Doughnut Open, Fluff Bake Bar Relocates

Rebecca Masson, aka " Sugar Hooker".
Rebecca Masson, aka " Sugar Hooker". Photo by Julie Soefer

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SusieCakes has something to celebrate: a second location in Houston.
Photo by SusieCakes

SusieCakes, 1711 Dryden, opened January 16 in the Medical Center. This is the second location for the California-based company which was founded thirteen years ago by Susan Sarich in Brentwood, California near Los Angeles. The company soon expanded throughout California and has opened five shops in Texas.

Sarich based many of her treats on the recipes of her grandmothers, Mildred and Madeline. In tribute to them, she uses no mixes, artificial preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and the sweets have no trans fat. The layer cakes, cookies and bars harken to a time when a good dessert did not need lurid unicorns flying out of cotton candy. SusieCakes' offerings are meant to be savored with a cup of coffee and conversation, not shared all over Instagram. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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The Woodland Hills location of SusieCakes in California.
Photo by SusieCakes
Some of the frosted layer cakes include Southern Red Velvet, Six-Layer Old-fashioned Chocolate and Vanilla Celebration. Traditional cookies like snickerdoodles and soft chewy bars are also available. There are crumble-topped pies and Susie's famous whoopie pies, too. SusieCakes also creates custom cakes and cookies for celebrations.

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Ordering doughnuts at Voodoo is interesting.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Voodoo Doughnuts, 3715 Washington Avenue, had its grand opening January 15. The Portland-based doughnut shop opened its first Texas store in October 2015. Now, it has made its way to the Buffalo Heights neighborhood of Houston and the lines of people waiting up and down Washington attest to the hype and popularity of the small doughnut chain.

Founded in downtown Portland in 2003 by friends Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson and Richard "Tres" Shannon, the doughnut hangout became a gathering place for people looking for something quirky and funky. The doughnuts range from traditional old-fashioned glazed yeast and classic cake to edgier choices like The Old Dirty Bastard or the Maple Blazer Blunt. In keeping with the theme, there's the Voodoo Doll ($3.50), a chocolate-covered Long John-style pastry with raspberry filling, which we assume represents blood since the hapless doughnut has a pretzel stick stuck in its body and is usually wearing an icing frown. From January through March, the shop will also sell the Hi Tea doughnut with Earl Grey frosting and a hibiscus drizzle. A portion of the sales of the doughnut will go to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

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The mural was done by local artist Wiley Robertson.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The shop also has Cannolos, a twist pastry filled with a choice of almond cream cheese, chocolate Bavarian cream or cinnamon apples, a spin on Italian cannoli. We can recommend these enthusiastically, as well as the traditional Buttermilk Bar. Sometimes plain is best.

Expect heated conversations with your more staid friends about Shipley's vs. any other doughnut shop that dares to enter the Houston market. Those same friends are probably rabid Whataburger fans as well. We got like, what, six million people? There's room for adventure.

You can read more about the opening of Voodoo Doughnut and see more photos here in the Houston Press.

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Rebecca Masson, aka " Sugar Hooker".
Photo by Julie Soefer

Fluff Bake Bar, 314 W. Gray, is relocating to 1701 W. 15th. It will close at its current location January 19 and reopen in the new Shady Acres space within a few weeks, according to CultureMap Houston. Owner, Rebecca Masson had become sick of the parking issues in Midtown (haven't we all) and is looking forward to her new spot which is in a residential area surrounded by newly built townhomes.

The new shop brings Masson back near the Heights neighborhood where she first started at Revival Market, which was her biggest wholesale account. Revival Market and the new Fluff Bake Bar will only be a couple of miles apart. Masson said she loved to serve that community in the four years she was there and she hopes her Midtown patrons will make the trek to the new location as well. It's only a 15 minute drive, so we think her loyal customers will do so for the fluffernutters and whoopie pies.

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Workers are getting the new spot ready for Fluff Bake Bar.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The new location will allow Masson to open earlier in the morning, so residents will be able to grab a croissant or Truth BBQ kolache and a cup of Katz Coffee to begin their day.

She also plans to continue the Saturday Morning Bake Sales with favorite guest chefs at the Heights store. The last Saturday sale at the Midtown location is January 18.

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Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

The Sunset Rooftop Lounge, 2119 Dallas, opens January 17, according to CultureMap Houston. We first reported here in the Houston Press about its NextSeed campaign in December 2018. Now, the casually upscale lounge is having a grand opening party January 17 and January 18, according to its Facebook page. There will be live music from Micah Edwards beginning at 8 p.m. and lasting till 11 p.m. on Friday and Sha Davis will perform Saturday from 9 p.m. till midnight. The doors will open at 3 p.m.

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Sunset Rooftop Lounge overlooks the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Photo by Allison Meyer

Owner Dominique Moreau is a level two sommelier and has created a beverage menu of craft beers, signature martinis and creative cocktails inspired by the 1950s martini bars and lounges. The third story rooftop will offer great views of the Houston skyline and the glass walls will allow patrons inside to still enjoy the urban scenery.

If you're a rat pack fanatic, this will be your place to shine. Leave the cargo shorts and Crocs at home. There's no dress code, just common sense.

The brisket grilled cheese at Buck's BBQ was a winner.
Photo by Carlos Brandon

Bucks BBQ, 801 Postoffice, closed January 14, as reported by Houston Food Finder. Owner/pitmaster Jim Buchanan announced the closure on its Facebook page. Previously, on January 13, he made an announcement regarding a "catastrophic equipment failure". We reached out to Buchanan about the equipment failure, but have had no reply.

In an excerpt from the post, Buchanan said, " It is with an extremely heavy heart that we announce the closing of Buck's. Ultimately, business was simply not strong enough over the winter months to sustain continued operations and we were faced with the very difficult decision of closing our doors while on the cusp of what we felt would be a very big summer for us..."

Buchanan started out his barbecue career as partner and general manager at Pappa Charlie's BBQ, which has since moved from its East Houston location to Cypress. He was slated to open his barbecue program at Lucky's Pub in the Heights which was being rebranded as White Oak Biergarten when Hurricane Harvey caused devastating flooding throughout the structure. He eventually moved to Lucky's Lounge before finally opening his own brick and mortar in Galveston in April 2019, as reported here in the Press. Less than nine months later, despite very good reviews, including its brisket grilled cheese being declared one of the Best Barbecue Bites of 2019 by Texas Monthly, it has closed its doors and left Galveston residents one less non-seafood option.
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This Taco Cabana is still open.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Taco Cabana is closing 19 restaurants around Texas and five here in Houston. Dallas-based Fiesta Restaurant Group announced the closures to its under-performing stores in a press release, as reported by Texas Monthly. The restaurant was founded in San Antonio in 1978 by Felix Stehling and his family. The fast casual Mexican chain has been a Texas favorite for four decades among college students, families and late-night party-goers. In the past few years it has instituted a happy hour which includes deals on its real tequila margaritas and nachos.

However, a look at any social media regarding Taco Cabana will show that many of its once loyal customers are concerned about a downshift in quality. This writer has sworn it off after some terrible experiences including a recent outing with my teenage son last month. Not only was the staff confused (they thought they were out of refried beans, then found some) but the food was absolutely the worst I have ever eaten, except for the delicious salsa bar. My teenage son did not finish his nachos because the beans, queso and chips were so bad. And he eats everything. I was shocked to find that this particular Taco Cabana is not one of the ones closing.

Hopefully, Taco Cabana makes some changes and returns to the quality that made it loved by Texans. I would also say from my experience and that of others that I know, " Please, please train your staff ".

Here's the list of Houston closures:

9220 Gulf Freeway
13840 Northwest Freeway
2535 South Highway 6
12518 Tomball Parkway
6522 Westheimer

Randalls is closing five of its grocery stores in the Houston area, as reported by The stores listed are located at 4775 W. Panther Creek, 2250 Buckthorne Place and 2323 Clear Lake City Boulevard and Kingwood residents will be hit especially hard because they will be losing both locations on Kingwood Drive.

Bread Man Baking Co. will add two Whole Foods Markets at 6601 Fry Road in Katy  and 11041 Westheimer to its retail line-up beginning January 27. We are still waiting to see when White Elm Cafe and Bakery will open.

Speaking of waiting, Burger Joint, 2002 N. Shepherd,  may be opening soon. It's been a three year wait for Heights residents. The sign outside the restaurant says it is hiring as does its Twitter feed. There was also a flurry of activity when we drove by  a couple of days ago. Fingers crossed.

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The Spicy Shrimp Club Wrap is new at Corner Bakery.
Photo by Ralph Smith Studios

Corner Bakery rolled out out new nourishing menu items at its six Houston locations January 14. New offerings include the Power Breakfast Bowl with scrambled eggs, ancient grains, chickpeas, oven-roasted tomato, fresh mozzarella, pesto and power greens. The Power Greens and Grains Salad has grains, chickpeas, cucumber, oven-roasted tomato, greens and a hard-boiled egg served with honey balsamic vinaigrette. There are four new wraps: Bacon Breakfast, Chicken Sausage Breakfast, Avocado Breakfast and the Spicy Shrimp Club. All are wrapped in a tomato-basil tortilla.

There's also the new Confetti Baby Bundt Cake with rainbow sprinkles for a splurge.

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The Pit Room has weekday morning breakfast tacos.
Photo by Dominique McGhee

The Pit Room, 1201 Richmond, is now serving breakfast tacos weekday mornings, 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The tacos start at $3.50 and include choices such as brisket and egg, jalapeno-cheddar sausage and egg, ham and egg, etc. Pretty much proteins with eggs in a tortilla. We think the Pulled Pork Hash Brown and Egg sounds tasty.

It's an extra 50 cents to add cheddar cheese, but there's a free condiment bar with all the goodies like green and red salsas, pico de gallo, onions, cilantro and pickled jalapenos. Guests can also choose gluten-free corn tortillas or brisket fat tortillas. I gained two pounds just writing that.

John Moore is the new executive chef at The Oceanaire Galleria.
Photo by Landry's Inc.

The Oceanaire, 5061 Westheimer, announced its new executive chef, John Moore. Moore has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry including stints at Houston's Cafe Annie, Spiaggia in Chicago and Farallon in San Francisco.  He has also served as an instructor at The Art Institute of Houston's culinary school.

Moore will draw upon his heritage to bring some Italian influences to the menu.
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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.