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This is our idea of holiday wrapping.EXPAND
This is our idea of holiday wrapping.
Photo by Julie Soefer

Openings and Closings: Sweet Paris Highland Village and Blanco Tacos Galleria

Sweet Paris Creperie and Cafe, 2701 Drexel, opened December 8. The new Highland Village location makes the sixth since the creperie began in 2012, founded by husband and wife, Allison and Ivan Chavez. The duo have traveled the world and are on a mission to revive the art of eating crepes.

The cafe offers sweet crepes like the S'mores or Nutella, the crepe choice of many a European. There are also substantial savory crepes like the chicken enchilada or ham and gruyere. Breakfast crepes like Le Mexicain and the croque madame are served until 3 p.m. The creperie also offers panini and salads.

Sweet Paris is bringing style and crepes to Highland Village.EXPAND
Sweet Paris is bringing style and crepes to Highland Village.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
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The Highland Village store is debuting a "Grinch" holiday crepe. Yes, it's green. There's also an upgraded wine pairing program for those who want to make their Sweet Paris experience even more Francais.

Sweet Paris will open a location in The Woodlands in early 2019  and there are plans to expand to Baybrook and eventually San Antonio, Texas.

Blanco Tacos and Tequila offers a snazzy outdoor terrace.EXPAND
Blanco Tacos and Tequila offers a snazzy outdoor terrace.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Blanco Tacos and Tequila, 5115 Westheimer, opens officially December 17, though it has had a soft opening for the past week. The Galleria location makes the sixth for Blanco Tacos, which comes from Fox Restaurant Concepts, based in Phoenix, Arizona. Founder Sam Fox began his career working in his parents' restaurants before opening his own restaurant at the ripe old age of twenty-one. Fox Restaurant Concepts now operates twelve different concepts in 14 states. Blanco Tacos is the third Fox restaurant in Houston, with North Italia opening in 2015 and Flower Child more recently this past September. All three restaurants are in the Galleria area.

Blanco Tacos takes its place among some wallet shocking dining establishments such as Nobu, 51Fifteen, The Oceanaire and Fig and Olive. The new Mexican restaurant offers a bit less expensive option for mall shoppers and diners who are brave enough to face the Westheimer and 610 Loop traffic.

There is valet parking at the Galleria, but it's not cheap. The brown garage at Sak's Fifth Avenue is the closest free parking.

Snake River Wagyu is used for the carne asada.EXPAND
Snake River Wagyu is used for the carne asada.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

The menu at Blanco Tacos reflects its Arizona origins with its carne asada, cheese crisps and poblano peppers. Each state known for its Mexican food such as California, New Mexico, Arizona and of course, Texas, have adopted eagerly the cuisine of our Southern neighbor and each state's Mexican food reflects the different regions of Mexico from where the predominant migration occurred. For Arizona, it's the Northern region of Sonora.

As with most Mexican restaurants, margaritas are on the menu, in the $10-$14 region. The fajitas are a little different, with some using soy and garlic reflecting the influence of Chinese immigrants in Sonora. The queso, served with guacamole and sour cream is definitely different from what most Houstonians are used to and it comes in at $10. However, Blanco Tacos offers a happy hour Monday through Friday, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., in the bar, so you can try out its house rita ($5) and queso ($6) and see how it compares to Houston favorites. If you're shopping with pals at the Galleria, take a break and enjoy the happy hour pricing.

Elliot's has popped up permanently.
Elliot's has popped up permanently.
Photo by Jessica Ivins

Elliot's Table, 465 T.C. Jester, began its soft opening November 16. This is the first storefront restaurant for chef/owner Elliot Roddy, who has done pop-ups with his company, Family Meal HTX in the past. Drawing on his experience in the hospitality industry, Roddy has created a comfortable dining experience, with an eclectic, but pared down menu and reasonable wine list.

Diners can start with the bread service ($5), which comes from Cake and Bacon, a local wholesale bakery and butchery. Other local farmers and vendors are featured, including Houston 's darling of the chefs, 44 Farms, which provides the ribeyes and New York strips served at the restaurant. For dessert, there's ice cream from Fat Cat Creamery.

Thai chili ribs make friends with a cold Saint Arnold's brew.
Thai chili ribs make friends with a cold Saint Arnold's brew.
Photo by Jessica Ivins

The interior is indeed cozy, which means reservations are a good idea, especially for a larger group. Dinner is served Wednesdays through Saturday, beginning at 6 p.m. and the last seating is at 10 p.m. Sunday service is from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. which includes its brunch and Seafood Sundays.

The new R Bar location has a bigger patio.
The new R Bar location has a bigger patio.
Photo courtesy of R Bar

R Bar, 1302 Houston Avenue, celebrated its grand reopening December 1. The neighborhood bar was originally located off Memorial for eight years. It closed this past March in order to move into a bigger space with a larger outdoor patio.

Owners Mark and Kelly Fenity and Matthew and Kelly Simon met at Roeder's Pub 15 years ago. The Simons got the opportunity to buy into the business six years ago and both couples have kept the business successful despite their full time jobs.

The bar is a local place to hangout with friends and watch the game. After the new year, the owners plan to bring back the popular Thursday Trivia Night. There is no food menu, but food trucks are brought in to feed hungry imbibers.

Antone's shows Houston how to take care of its own.EXPAND
Antone's shows Houston how to take care of its own.
Photo by Cooper + Ricca

The Marquis II, 2631 Bissonet, reopened December 5, after a two-day temporary closure. The bar was purchased by longtime General Manager, Al Jara, from the previous owner. 

The neighborhood hangout has seen a major loss of revenue due to the ongoing construction along Bissonnet, due to the difficulty of access and parking, a story so often heard in this booming city. The original Marquis opened in 1945 in River Oaks. After the previous owner's death, the bar was purchased by two employees in the 1960s. It moved to two other locations before landing at its current spot in West University in 1985. The building had been a doughnut shop and a gentleman's establishment prior to the Marquis II.

Now, Legacy Restaurants CEO Jonathan Horowitz is stepping in with a helping hand. Two Legacy restaurants, The Original Ninfa's on Navigation and Antone's Famous Po'Boys, will host a pop-up fundraiser and customer appreciation event December 20 at the Marquis II from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be tacos and tamales from The Original Ninfa's executive chef, Alex Padilla, and some of Antone's classic po'boys like the The Super Original. The Marquis II will have plenty of bar beverages for purchase, including its renowned Texas Tea. So, go out and buy some food and drink to support a family-owned, local business.

Say it isn't so!EXPAND
Say it isn't so!
Photo courtesy of Baba Yega

Baba Yega, 2607 Grant Street, has been temporarily closed due to a fire. There are plans to reopen in 2019.

Known for its extensive menu, Sunday brunch buffet and lush courtyard garden, Baba Yega originally opened in 1975 and has been a lunch staple for the Montrose set ever since. The vegetarian and vegan menu offers items like the Hippie meatloaf made with organic quinoa, black beans and vegetables. The eclectic decor and comfort food like the French Dip sandwich and its variety of burgers has kept the public happy for more than 40 years. Here's hoping for a quick rebound.

Sarah Troxell, Martin Stayer and Sara Stayer are tiking a chance with a new bar and restaurant.EXPAND
Sarah Troxell, Martin Stayer and Sara Stayer are tiking a chance with a new bar and restaurant.
Photo by Trish Badger

The Toasted Coconut, 1617 Richmond, is coming to Montrose in the spring of 2019.The tiki-inspired bar and restaurant comes from Nobie's chef/owner Martin Stayer, his wife Sara and bar director Sarah Troxell. This will be the second restaurant for the team and will feature a food menu with Caribbean, Latin American and Asian flavors.

The bar menu will be driven by Troxell's enthusiasm for tiki culture, including cocktails inspired by forerunners like Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber. The thatched palapa is staying put and will add to the tropical feel along with lush landscaping and a 1,500 square foot beach bar patio.

Tiki lovers can get a taste of The Toasted Coconut before its spring opening with the once a month, Toasty Tuesday events at Nobie's which will preview the cocktails and cuisine of the new restaurant. The first Toasty Tuesday, will take place at Nobie's February 12. Check out Nobie's Facebook or the Facebook page for The Toasted Coconut.

Any way you want it, that's the way you need it at Snooze.EXPAND
Any way you want it, that's the way you need it at Snooze.
Photo courtesy of Snooze: An A.M. Eatery

Snooze:An A.M. Eatery, 5000 Westheimer,opened December 12. This is the sixth Houston area location for the ever-expanding breakfast and lunch restaurant out of Denver, Colorado. Early shoppers in the Galleria area can fuel up with a variety of eggs Benedicts, or Bennys, as they're called or some of the delicious pancakes. The good thing about Snooze, if you're indecisive, the menu allows you to create your own Benny Duo, so diners can try two different combinations. Also, if the pancake choices baffle your just-out-of-bed-head, go for the pancake flight which offers three different flavors. And if you are a mix and match kind of eater, the Ahhh la Carte section is made for you. Wash it all down with a Boss Hog bloody Mary and you're all set to tackle the Christmas list.

If you're not an early riser, Snooze is open for lunch as well, with plenty of sandwich choices. The restaurant also uses local vendors like Slow Dough Baking Co. and Black Hole Cold Brew Coffee.

Parking is never easy in the Galleria, but the front lot at Snooze offers free parking.

By Popular Demand, 12420 Memorial, opened November 6. The new whiskey bar and cocktail lounge comes from the Masraff Family of Restaurants. It offers comfortable, communal seating around indoor fireplaces or outdoor fire pits on the patio. The feel is of a living room away from home, a perfect spot to relax with friends, while keeping warm in these few days of Houston winter.

There are also dining tables and a small food menu. Shareables like queso, hummus and cheeseburger spring rolls are on offer, but it's the Pigs on a Blanket that has us intrigued. It's five buttermilk pancakes topped with jalapeno boudin, goat cheese and a vanilla bourbon glaze. It sounds crazy, yet wonderful.

Buffalo Wild Wings, 11985 Grand Parkway, opens December 17. The wings chain joins a number of other restaurant chains, clothing stores, entertainment venues and shops in this huge multi-use complex in New Caney. An Olive Garden, Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, and Sub Zero join the pack in 2019.

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