Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: The Annie Cafe & Bar Debuts, Saigon House Will Relocate

The Dinner Bell Chicken at The Annie Cafe is a feast.
The Dinner Bell Chicken at The Annie Cafe is a feast. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

The Annie Cafe & Bar, 1800 Post Oak, will open for dinner September 25.  It was originally scheduled to open September 24, but Tropical Storm/Depression/Pain-in-the- Ass Imelda left team members stranded, so the opening was pushed back a day. The new concept is a revamp of Robert Del Grande's Cafe Annie with restaurateur Benjamin Berg of Berg Hospitality Group. Del Grande still remains as Executive Chef and has created a menu of Texas-influenced American cuisine with over 50 dishes. In keeping with the finally-landed-in-Houston trend of raw bars, there will be a raw bar selection as well as as a bevy of meats such as lamb, quail, pork, beef and chicken. There will also be the Cafe Annie "Classics" and daily specials.

click to enlarge Robert Del Grande, Benjamin Berg and  Sam Governale are a powerful trio. - PHOTO BY FULTON DAVENPORT
Robert Del Grande, Benjamin Berg and Sam Governale are a powerful trio.
Photo by Fulton Davenport

Berg has also brought in Sam Governale as Operating Partner. Governale is best known for his elegant restaurant, Emmaline. Other team members include Sommelier Bridget Paliwoda and beverage director, Kara Slife. Paliwoda's curated wine list will feature an international array of varietals ranging from $39 to $1,100 a bottle.

Executive Chef and Partner Del Grande said in a press release, "My culinary team really enjoyed collaborating with the Berg Hospitality Group team to combine our strengths and create an exciting menu with unique presentations that really caters to Houstonians." With these three guys at the helm, expectations are high and will more than likely be met.

click to enlarge Breakfast burritos are big in Texas. Literally and figuratively. - PHOTO BY BUBBLEUP DIGITAL MARKETING
Breakfast burritos are big in Texas. Literally and figuratively.
Photo by BubbleUp Digital Marketing

The Toasted Yolk, 12151 Westheimer, will open September 23. This makes the 10th  greater Houston area location for the restaurant chain reaching as far as Conroe and new caney. Friends Chris Milton and Mathew DeMott opened the first restaurant in Conroe in 2010 to fill what they saw was a void in quality breakfast dining in the area.

The restaurant uses local ingredients when possible and everything is made from scratch, including sauces, dressings and soups of the day. The signature dish, The Toasted Yolk, is two slices of sourdough bread grilled with an egg in the middle of each (remember the breakfast scene in Moonstruck?) and is served with a choice of bacon or sausage. There are egg specialties like the Arnolds, a riff on eggs Benedict.

click to enlarge Get your bread and yourself toasted at The Toasted Yolk. - PHOTO BY BUBBLEUP DIGITAL MARKETING
Get your bread and yourself toasted at The Toasted Yolk.
Photo by BubbleUp Digital Marketing
While breakfast is a big draw here, lunch dishes are just as important with sandwiches, salads and soups. There are fresh-squeezed juices and coffee drinks. In keeping with the toasted theme, there are also plenty of boozy brunch cocktails like The Toasted Yolk Bloody Mary.

The churro-style doughnuts are another popular item and on opening day, there will be free churro-style doughnuts from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. if you miss that special, head out to any The Toasted Yolk location on September 26, National Pancake Day, and wear your Astros gear. Diners showing their Astros love will get a free pancake with purchase.

click to enlarge Oxtail Pho is a signature dish at Saigon House. Let's hope it remains at the new location. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Oxtail Pho is a signature dish at Saigon House. Let's hope it remains at the new location.
Photo by Mai Pham
Saigon House Midtown, 3101 Main, has closed. The restaurant announced on Facebook that it was closing August 31 to give the staff a break and make renovations. However, Chef Tony J. Nguyen says that the restaurant will not be re-opening. This is heartbreaking news for lovers of his Viet-Cajun crawfish, banh mi sandwiches and his signature oxtail pho.

However, we reached out to Chef Nguyen and he told the Houston Press that Saigon House will be reopening in the future at 3645 FM 1960, the former spot of Chez Beignets Wings and Boba. That's sad for the Midtown crowd but great news for the north suburban residents like myself.

click to enlarge Tony J. Nguyen has plans. - PHOTO BY ROBERT LE
Tony J. Nguyen has plans.
Photo by Robert Le
Nguyen said, "Saigon House was reaching toward the end of its lease. We decided as a team that it wasn't in our best interest to continue Saigon House at 3101 Main in Midtown." Nguyen expressed his gratitude for Houston's support and is planning to find funding for future projects, possibly through the crowd funding platform NextSeed. Nguyen also expressed a desire to learn BBQ, so that could be an awesome addition to his repertoire.

The restaurant made CultureMap Houston's Top 100 Houston Restaurants list recently. And its banh mi was awarded 2nd place as Judges' Choice and 3rd place as People's Choice at the 6th Annual Banh Mi Cook-Off held at Warehouse Live, September 3. Chef Nguyen and his team definitely have the chops.

click to enlarge Goodbye donuts. Hello darkness. - PHOTO BY: KATE MCLEAN
Goodbye donuts. Hello darkness.
Photo by: Kate McLean
Duck Donuts, 3157 W. Holcombe, closed its doors September 13 and its denizens are devastated. With consistently good reviews, it's hard to imagine why, but the doughnut market in Houston is a mightily big one, with a shop on every corner. However, Duck Donuts, which was founded in North Carolina, was also unique to our area. With its fluffy cake-like doughnuts and customizable toppings, it thrilled those looking for freshly-made circles of fried happiness.

Duck Donuts was picked as Best Doughnuts in Houston 2019 according to the Houston Press. Readers, however, were still fiercely loyal to Houston favorites and chose Shipley's as their ultimate doughnut shop.
click to enlarge Blood Bros. BBQ is hiding in those dumplings. - PHOTO BY JIMMY CARROLL
Blood Bros. BBQ is hiding in those dumplings.
Photo by Jimmy Carroll

Benjy's, 2424 Dunstan, is being reinvented. Benjamin Levit's eponymous restaurant will close briefly for renovations September 30 to October 2. The grand reopening will occur October 3 at 5 p.m. Happy Hour will return October 4, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and the new brunch menu service begins October 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The new menu features items like Smoked Trout Roe with Cauliflower Cream and Smoked Bone Broth with Blood Bros. BBQ Dumplings. Executive Chef Mike Potowski is in charge of the kitchen and the new menu is a collaboration between Potowski and Seth Siegal Gardner, formerly of Pass and Provisions. Shannon Beehner, formerly of OKRA Charity Saloon, is the new bar manager. Beehner is currently creating a plan for the social bar program at benjy's.

click to enlarge Chefs Mike Potowski and Seth Siegal Gardner are reinventing benjy's. - PHOTO BY JIMMY CARROLL
Chefs Mike Potowski and Seth Siegal Gardner are reinventing benjy's.
Photo by Jimmy Carroll
The re-imagined interior was designed by Aaron Rambo to showcase a lighter, airier feel, inspired  by the laid- back West Coast vibe.

click to enlarge Texas brews are multiplying every day. - PHOTO BY DENISE TROGNITZ
Texas brews are multiplying every day.
Photo by Denise Trognitz

The Annex Crafthouse
, 122 A Vintage Park Boulevard, will celebrate its grand opening September 23. The Texas-themed restaurant will have plenty of Texas craft beers and ciders on tap, including Rahr Ugly Pug, 11 Below Hipster Sauce and Austin Eastciders Original and Pineapple.

The interior has rustic elements like brick walls and lacquered wood tables plus more industrial features such as concrete floors and exposed ceilings. Add some stunning chandeliers and a mural of the bells of San Antonio's Mission Espada and you have an eclectic decor perfect for sipping a brew and partaking of the extensive food menu.

click to enlarge The decor at The Annex Crafthouse is inviting. - PHOTO BY DENISE TROGNITZ
The decor at The Annex Crafthouse is inviting.
Photo by Denise Trognitz
There are starters like the King Ranch Pretzel with beer cheese and Jalapeno Corn Fritters. Depending on your tablemates, you can order either the Carnivore Board or the Herbivore Board, or try both for a balance. There are craft fries like the Hangover Fries with house country gravy and a fried egg or Waffle-Waffle Sweet Potato Fries with sweet caramel sauce and roasted marshmallows. The Texas theme carries through with Come and Take it Nachos and the 1845 Annex Chops. There are plenty of meat-heavy sandwiches, but also the Vegan Cowboy made with an Impossible Burger patty and vegan cheese. There's also a vegan bratwurst and the Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich. I'm telling ya, the cauliflower farmers are probably shocked at the popularity of this once derided brassica.

Preslee's Southern Good Eatery, 1430 W. 19th, is expected to begin its soft opening September 26, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The restaurant and bar from brothers Brandon and Justin Piper will feature a family-friendly patio with hammocks, swings and tables, including one of the ping-pong variety. Expect fried chicken and seafood, plus Cajun-inspired dishes like stuffed turkey legs and blackened pork chops.

click to enlarge Electric Feel Good is ready for patio weather with colorful  and comfortable seating. - PHOTO BY JASON CARRIER
Electric Feel Good is ready for patio weather with colorful and comfortable seating.
Photo by Jason Carrier

Electric Feel Good
, 2416 Brazos, opened September 10. The two-story business has a slide for those not willing to risk stairs after a cocktail or two. Its neon lights and quasi-retro meets futuristic feel is fun and hip. Just a view from the outside will tempt twenty and thirty-somethings in for cocktails and music. The rooftop patio is another bonus.

Electric Feel Good isn't just a nightclub, it's also a restaurant, so you don't have to venture elsewhere for nosh. Items like the steamed red potato bombs are dressed like wings, but without the calorie-filled guilt. Flatbreads like the Thai Chicken or Greek and Eggs offer shareable snack options. Speaking of snacks, there's elote and Spiral Fried Zucchini at very reasonable prices. For the kid in you, try the Party in Your Mouth, a dish of vanilla ice cream with pop rocks.

It's open for lunch Thursday through Sunday, with its "Saved by the Brunch" on Sunday as well. The venue is open daily until 2 a.m., with the kitchen closing at 9 p.m.

click to enlarge "Wheeeee!" - PHOTO BY ELI FLORES
Photo by Eli Flores
The new hot spot comes from Carmack Concepts, named after partners Jason Carrier, Chad Womack and Brad Womack. This is the second Houston concept for the trio who also operate Dogwood Midtown next door, which opened in 2013. There are also two Dogwood locations in Austin and another planned for Nashville in October 2019.

Sawyer Ice House, 1420 Sawyer, is expected to open late fall 2019, according to Houston Business Journal. The new venue comes from Ian Frascati. Frascati and his wife operate a quarterly flea market at Silver Street Studios, so he's not stranger to the area. The new business will be more than a typical ice house, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with shareable plates and sandwiches. There will also be visiting food trucks.

Gulf Coast Distillers, 5610 Clinton, opened its tasting room, Ben's Den, September 19, also reported by Houston Business Journal. It will offer bourbon, whiskey, gin, rum and various coffees. The tasting room is named for the old Uncle Ben's Rice factory which once operated in the structure, but closed in 1998, according to Houston Business Journals.

The distiller is the largest in the Houston area and is part of the coffee manufacturing facility owned by Cadeco Industries. The tasting room will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

click to enlarge If you're going to juice, juice well. - PHOTO BY ABIZER RAJA
If you're going to juice, juice well.
Photo by Abizer Raja

JuiceWell, 797 Sorella Court, debuted this week. The Houston-based juice shop was founded in 2011 and the CityCentre store makes the fourth location. The intimate 680 square-foot space sits between the soon-to-open Tiff's Treats and the Beverly Hills Rejuvenation Center.

The menu offers customizable acai bowls, fresh cold-pressed juices and plant-based snacks. There is a variety of "mylk" drinks made from nuts like almond and cashews and are made in-house. There are also juice shots and coconut beverages.

click to enlarge Ouzo Bay's brunch offers international flavors with Mediterranean flair. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Ouzo Bay's brunch offers international flavors with Mediterranean flair.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Ouzo Bay, 4444 Westheimer, is launching its new brunch menu September 29 with specials like 1/2 off select bottles of rose and $49 bottles of Veuve Clicquot. DJ Bizz will be on hand providing the music.  The launch will benefit the KNOWAutism Foundation.

The brunch menu will run 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, after the initial launch. The menu will include items like the Maine Lobster Omelette with protrusion caviar and Greek "Chilaquiles" made with bison machaca (shredded meat), aged feta, pickled onions, fried egg and crispy pita.
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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.