Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Berg's Tavola Opens, Bludorn's New Concept Announced

The pollo at Tavola is organic and free-range.
The pollo at Tavola is organic and free-range. Photo by Brain Kennedy

Tavola, 1800 Post Oak Boulevard, opened December 13. Located in the former home of the French fine dining restaurant, La Table, the newest concept from Berg Hospitality and The Bastion Collection will explore the various culinary regions of Italy with executive chef Luca Di Benedetto creating an authentic Italian dining experience along with the partnership and oversight of The Bastion Collection's corporate chef Salvatore Martone. Di Benedetto honed his craft under chef and restaurateur Gualtiero Marchesi who is regarded by many as the father of Modern Italian cuisine. Martone is a Michelin-starred chef as well as a protege of Joel Robuchon. Needless to say, there's a lot of talent behind the scenes at the new uptown dining destination.

As for front of the house, Tavola has Valerio Lombardozzi as general manager. The grandson of Italian restaurateurs, he has worked in Michelin-starred establishments in Europe as well as being part of the successful management team for La Table.
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With both Berg Hospitailty and The Bastion Collection behind it, Tavola aims to stun.
Photo by Brain Kennedy
The glitzy and glamorous design of the new concept is a collaboration between Gail McCleese of Sensitori, The Bastion Collection and Benjamin Berg, owner of Berg Hospitality. The restaurant seats 118 guests in its gallery, brasserie-style bar and enclosed patio.

Tavola is open for lunch and dinner service. The daytime menu features salads such as Roasted Beets, Baby Spinach , Tavola Caesar and Crab Avocado. Guests can add proteins such as red prawns, chicken, prime sirloin, lobster or crab for an additional cost. There is also a trio of panini including Meatball, Prosciutto and Veggie.
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The Lobster Linguine at Tavola is a decadent entree.
Photo by Brain Kennedy
The evening menu starts with a variety of antipasti such as Artichoke Salad, Tuna Tartare, Fritto Misto, Carpaccio and Grilled Octopus. There's also a Burratta Bar with several choices. Pasta dishes include Tagliatelle al Tartufo, Spaghetti Vongole, Lasagnetta Bolognese and Pappardelle al Cinghiale made with Texas wild boar. Secondi plates such as Branzino, Beef Tagliata, Veal Milanese and Prawns Buzara round out the dinner menu. There's also a traditional Italian dessert selection.
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Alexandra Pena takes the reins at Bar Bludorn.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Bar Bludorn, 9061 Gaylord, is expected to open in Memorial in early 2024. It's the much anticipated third concept from chef/owner Aaron Bludorn, his wife and partner Victoria Pappas Bludorn and partner Cherif Mdboji. With the announcement of the soon-to-open venture comes the news that the executive chef for Bar Bludorn will be Alexandra Pena, already a rising star chef in the Bludorn world.

Pena is a native Houstonian whose love of cooking began as a child helping her grandmother prepare homemade foods like tamales and handmade tortillas. Educated at the Culinary Institute Lenotre, she began her professional career in restaurants such as Kris Bistro and Kitchen at the Dunlavy before joining Bludorn as an entremetier, a cook who prepares the vegetables and soups. Working her way up the kitchen ladder, she landed as sous chef at Bludorn, a restaurant that gets high praise from magazines such as Food & Wine and Wine Spectator.  Pena then moved to another Bludorn concept, Navy Blue, as executive sous chef. With Bar Bludorn, she will be able to take the reins and infuse her own personal style into the upcoming neighborhood tavern.

It will take over the former home of the original Jonathan's the Rub which relocated in April 2021. Aaron Bludorn's first Houston restaurant experience just happened to be at Jonathan's when he arrived in the city and he's excited to join the Memorial community.  "Memorial is not just a neighborhood to us; it's a backdrop to our personal and professional journeys. For Victoria, it's where she grew up and for me, it's the neighborhood that introduced me to Houston's vibrant dining scene."
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The Chango Burger makes its way to Conroe.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Monkey's Tail Conroe, 2017 N. Frazier, opened December 13 in Conroe. It's the second location for the award-wining bar which opened its first location in 2019 at 5802 Fulton in the Lindale Park neighborhood. Part American-Mexican bar, part restaurant, it has a laid back vibe, creative cocktails and great bar food, all of which have made it a popular gathering place in Houston and is sure to do the same in Conroe where it is sorely needed.

Unfortunately, the Lindale Park location is still temporarily closed, making those on the Northside a bit antsy. It closed for revamping this past August, then reopened briefly in late September. According to its Facebook posts, the current closure is for renovations to bring it up to code.
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Monkey's Tail has a list of fall cocktails with an American-Mexican twist.
Photo by Becca Wright
So, its Northside fans are going to have to drive even more north to Conroe in the meantime for its seasonal Mistletoe Margaritas, Spiked Eggnog and King Cake Shots. The food menu at the Conroe location has the original location's Chango Burger, tacos, jumbo wings and Extra Large Pizzas, by the pie or slice. There's even a Mexican-inspired pizza with a choice of pork al pastor or barbacoa, perfect for pairing with its creative cocktails.

Monkey's Tail Conroe is shooting to have a grand opening celebration in late January.

Lombardi Cucina Italiana, 1101 Uptown Park, opened December 8. It's the second location for the Italian restaurant from Lombardi Family Concepts, which operates a number of restaurant brands in Texas including Maison Chinoise, Toulouse Cafe and Bar, Penne Pomodoro, Lounge 31, Taverna and more. It also has a location of Taverna in Atlanta and Akumal, Mexico. This is the first Houston restaurant for the Dallas-based hospitality group.

The main dinner menu offers a wide selection of Italian dishes beginning with Mozzarella Caprese, Cacio e Pepe and Zuppe del Giorno, the soup of the day. For the table there are shareables such as Prosciutto & Burrata, Wagyu Meatballs and the Antipasto del Chianti, a charcuterie and cheese platter. There is a Crudo section for beef tartare, raw seafood and caviar plus an array of pasta dishes like Rigatoni alla Vodka, Lasagna Classica, risotto with scallops and tagliolini with fresh truffle, served in a wheel of Grana Padana cheese. Entrees include seared wild salmon, Branzino in Crosta, Veal Chop Parmigiana and Colorado Lamb Scottadito.

There are holiday menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day as well as a special holiday brunch December 26 from open till 3 p.m.
Chicken or beef? Shake Shack has both.
Photo by Evan Sung
Shake Shack, 19677 Gulf Freeway, will open December 21 in Webster. That's big news for our neighbors down south. It will be the 26th Shack for Texas, a fact that will be celebrated on opening day with the first wave of guests receiving a custom Texas Shake Shack cold cup decorated with a cowboy boot.  As part of its mission to stand for 'Something Good', the company will donate one dollar from every sandwich sold opening day to Southern Smoke Foundation.

The new location has both in-store dining and a drive-thru with a two-lane ordering system, separate pick-up window and digital menu board. Customers can also use the Shake app or online ordering for pickup and delivery.

The brand, which was founded in 2004, is known for its made-to-order Angus beef burgers, crispy chicken, crinkle-cut fries and handspun milkshakes.
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The singles are cheap but it's best to get a Double Double for the optimum meat to bread ratio.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
In-N-Out Burger, 28320 Highway 290, opened November 18 in Cypress. The California-based chain has been serving burgers on the West Coast since 1948 but the past few years have seen it move eastward to a number of states including Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Oregon. It may be moving even further eastward as there are plans to open more restaurants in Tennessee by 2026, according to the New York Post. The new Cypress location makes number five for the Houston area, all of which are in the surrounding suburbs of the city.

Its regular menu consists of burgers, fries, shakes and sodas. Its Not-so-Secret menu has other items like its Animal Fries and Grilled Cheese. While its menu is small, the prices are as well, keeping them on the lower side compared to many fast food restaurants.
The Pincho Burger is loaded with potato sticks and its secret sauce.
Photo by Pincho
Pincho, 0201 Katy Freeway, opened December 8. Located next to Velvet Taco at Memorial City, it's the second Houston area location for the Miami-based Latin restaurant which opened its first Texas restaurant in Cypress this past June at 8828 Barker Cypress.

Along with its Latin-influenced burgers, it has kebab plates, protein bowls, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and the Pincho Plate in which customers can choose a protein and two sides. There is a kids menu along with sides like sweet tots, fries, tostones (fried green plantains) and maduro bits, little pieces of fried sweet plantains that are a fan favorite at Pincho.

The Best Stop Cajun Market
, 806 Katy Fort Bend, opened December 11. With three locations in Louisiana, the market has earned a reputation for its Cajun offerings and specialty meats since opening its original store in 1986 in Scott, Louisiana. Founded by Lawrence Menard and Robert Comier, it has truly become a family-operated business. After the passing of Menard, better known as Uncle Brud, various members of Robert Comier's brood have left their professional careers over the years to help run and expand the family business. And now, it's in Katy, Texas.

There are plenty of cuts of meat available including deboned chickens with various stuffings, steaks, pork chops, smoked sausages and marinated rabbit. Prepared foods are ready to take home such as jerky, sweet dough pies and pralines. And it would be unwise to miss out on the cracklings or boudin.

In addition to its market, there is a deli menu of burgers, po'boys, breakfast biscuits and red beans and rice.
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The lunch duo allows for two half-portions like this plate of Antique Charm and Chicken Pumpkin Curry.
Photo by Raydon Creative
Makiin, 2651 Kipling, opened October 23, serving dinner only for its debut. This week, the Thai restaurant from Lukkaew Srasrisuwan launched its dinner service which will be available Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. With its location in the Upper Kirby/River Oaks area, its new lunch service will allow for guests to enjoy a nice break from the chaos of holiday shopping.

The daytime menu includes some of its favorite dishes including starters like Crispy Delights Unleashed and Silken Calamari Soiree. For those who like to taste everything, the Curry Carnival offers freshly made roti bread with three dipping curries: panang, turmeric and massaman.

Entree lunch plates come from its classic menu and features dishes such as Pad Thai Delight, the Stir-Fried Porky Pleasure and Thai Street Noodle magic. Antique Charm is Makiin's version of classic chicken fried rice and the Garden Bowl Elegance is a healthy combination of baby kale, tofu steak, carrots, seasonal mushrooms, bell peppers and crispy tofu skin, served with purple jasmine rice.

New dishes include the Beef Massaman Curry and the Chicken Pumpkin Curry. Guests can opt for the Lunch Duo which offers half-portions of any two lunch entrees for $24. 
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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.