Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: The Sporting Club Debuts, Better Luck Tomorrow Reopens

The Sporting Club has a retractable roof for Houston's nicer evenings.
The Sporting Club has a retractable roof for Houston's nicer evenings. Photo by Corine Michel
The Sporting Club, 5102 Washington, opened its doors and debuted its retractable roof October 22. The high energy restaurant and bar comes from SoClutch Group and is on the same block as another recent concept from the group, Sugar Room. Its 8,000 square feet includes 5,000 square feet of dining space with exposed brick from the original structure lit by crystal chandeliers. The green colors, brass and rattan accents and its innovative retractable roof give the feel of an indoor/outdoor space with green plants and comfortable seating. The patio adds another 3,000 square feet of space and features a bar created with an Airstream van that has been painted a Veuve Cliquot yellow, fitting for its bubbly cocktails.

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This ain't your typical keg party.
Photo by Corine Michel
Speaking of cocktails, as with Sugar Room, SoClutch has brought in Ladies of Libation, a local cocktail consulting group, to help create its cocktail program. Guests can start with the Amuse Bouche, a mixture of vodka, cucumber, ocean tincture, dill and caviart, a vegan version of caviar. Beauty is one of the Bright Botanicals made with butterfly pea flower gin, lemon, tonic and edible flowers and changes colors in front of the guest's eyes. The restaurant will offer bottle service and party-sized cocktails including pre-batched carbonated cocktails in a hand-painted mini-keg. One option is the Ladies Who Brunch, a concoction of elderflower liqueur, grapefruit vodka, citrus, rose and edible flowers.

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There are big screen televisions for sports fans.
Photo by Corine Michel
For the dining side, SoClutch has brought in chef EJ Miller, a well-known local chef who has experience from restaurants such as Coppa, Riel and the now-closed International Smoke. For The Sporting Club, Miller has focused the menu on seafood, light coastal Italian bites and classic bar favorites given a decidedly upscale twist.  A two-tiered seafood tower, Red Snapper ceviche, broiled oysters and fritto misto are some of the seafood choices while elevated pizzas offer guests a non-seafood option. One of the unique pizzas is the Houston Pie, made with Feges BBQ, Redneck Cheddar, caramelized onions and Lone Star BBQ sauce. Pizzas will also be available on the late night menu till 2 a.m.

There will be a weekend brunch with breakfast favorites such as the New England Benedict with lobster, Chilaquiles and Crab and Avocado Toast, plus shareables such as the Bagel Board and Breakfast Pizza.

The Sporting Club will be open daily from 11 a.m to 2 a.m.

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Oysters are a must for any restaurant with coast in its name.
Photo by Content Haus

Acadian Coast, 2929 Navigation, will open softly next week for friends, family and media. The restaurant will officially open Halloween, October 31, with live entertainment planned.  The new restaurant will showcase the culinary evolution of Acadian cuisine, from the original French settlers to Canadian New Brunswick to the migration to the Louisiana Coast. In charge of that culinary travel is chef Jean Philippe Gaston who himself has done a bit of voyaging. Born in Mexico and raised in France, Gaston has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and South America. He is known on the Houston restaurant scene for his stints at places such as Kata Robata and Izakaya, blending French and Asian flavors along the way.

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Jean Philippe Gaston leads the kitchen at Acadian Coast.
Photo by Content Haus
The opening menu at Acadian Coast will focus on the traditional dishes of seafood and wild game, melding Gulf Coast seafood, American Creole and Canadian Acadia with the American South. Guests can enjoy dishes such as Elk Heart Carpaccio, Seafood Court Bouillon, Steak Tartare and a stunning gumbo. Expect drinks such as Sazerac, the much-loved New Orleans cocktail.

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Elk Heart Carpaccio is something different for Houston diners.
Photo by Content Haus
Its setting in the East End of Houston is a fitting location with its proximity to the Ship Channel which has not only brought in goods from all over the world, but immigrants as well who have shaped the culinary landscape of Houston. Like its sister port city, New Orleans, Houston has benefitted from the menagerie of cultures and cuisines that have made their way through Navigation Boulevard. Acadian Coast aims to tell some of those stories.

Better Luck tomorrow has created a spread of new dishes.
Photo by Cindy Wang

Better Luck Tomorrow, 544 Yale, reopened September 30 and is now serving lunch weekdays beginning at noon and brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The new license allows BLT to operate as a restaurant though it always has had delicious food thanks to James Beard Award winning chef Justin Yu of Theodore Rex. Despite the new license, BLT is keeping the capacity well below 75 percent in the cozy space and is strictly following social distancing guidelines and enforcing the wearing of masks when not seated.

The bar/restaurant has gotten a lot of love from critics and food writers for Yu's cuisine and business partner Bobby Heugel's bar program. Heugel is also the brains behind Anvil Bar and Refuge and The Pastry War. While The Pastry War is temporarily closed, loyal fans can enjoy the bean tamales at Better Luck Tomorrow. BLT has also brought back its Pasta Tuesday, a biweekly (that's every two weeks y'all) special with a different pasta dish each time. It's available from noon to midnight. Check BLT's Facebook page for more details. Also, a food purchase is required in order to indulge in an adult beverage, so be ready to eat and drink.

While BLT is gearing up again, it has to keep its food sales above its liquor sales per TABC guidelines. To quote a character from Raising Arizona, " Government do take a bite, don't she?" In keeping with those terms, BLT is offering some real deals on booze. Drinks and liquors of all types and tastes are half-off Monday through Friday before 5 p.m. It's a day drinking happy hour. The Facebook page says the deal is on everything from the cheapest beer to Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year. And to keep the sales equation between food and drink in keeping with the law, the management has also lowered many of the drink prices. That leaves more money for nosh and tipping really, really well.

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Quail pops up more and more on Houston menus.
Photo by Becca Wright
La Colombe d'Or, 3410 Montrose, has released its plans for its new beverage and wine program for the new hotel when it opens this winter. The hotel will be made up of  The Mansion, The Tower and The Bungalows. The Mansion is the beautiful house built for the Fondren family in 1923 that is a familiar sight to Houstonians travelling down Montrose Boulevard. The Zimmerman family acquired the property in 1979 and collaborated recently with Hines, a real estate investment firm, to build The Residences at La Colombe d' Or.

The new restaurant, Tonight and Tomorrow, will have chef Jonathan Wicks at the helm creating a menu that caters to the Houston vibe. Dinner dishes include Stuffed Quail served with boudin, braised greens and mustard seed and Gravlax Carpaccio accompanied by house-made lavash.  The lunch menu will offer seasonal entrees, salads and sandwiches. There will be indoor and outdoor dining available.

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Gravlax Carpaccio comes with homemade lavash.
Photo by Becca Wright
The Bar will offer light fare and full coffee service in the morning then small plates in the afternoon and late evening. The full bar will feature craft cocktails and an extensive wine list.

The new restaurant and bar will serve as a cocktail and dining destination for Houstonians, the hotel's guests and the residents of the property itself.

Dan Zimmerman, President of NewForm Real Estate, said in a press release, “La Colombe d’Or Hotel has served as a refined culinary and cocktail destination for guests and locals of the city of Houston for nearly four decades. With hotel renovations nearing completion later this winter, we are excited to bring a new food and beverage program to life that reflects the energy of our neighborhood and our new hospitality experience.”

Hurts Donut, 5801 Memorial, celebrated its grand opening and relocation October 22. It sells over 70 different doughnuts with names such as White and Nerdy, Andes Mint and English Gentleman. Some are plenty over the top for those who lean that way. You can get Fruity Pebbles, Cotton Candy, Maple Bacon or just grab a kolache.

Hurts Donuts was founded in Springfield, Missouri in 2013. The franchise has 20 locations which are independently owned and operated.

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Cinnaholic offers a bounty of vegan treats.
Photo by Cindy Higa
Cinnaholic, 28920 Highway 290, will open later this fall. The vegan bakery is known for its customizable cinnamon rolls and its appearance on ABC's Shark Tank. The new Cypress location will be the second in the Houston area. Cinnaholic began franchising in 2014 and there are now 40 locations in 15 states and Canada. Twenty locations are currently under construction and nine others will begin buildout soon. All in all, the company anticipates there will be 50 locations by the end of 2020.

Customers can choose from 20 different frostings such as banana cream, cake batter, chai, cream cheese and marshmallow. Topping choices include berries, coconut, caramel sauce, nuts and pretzels. The bakery also sells from-scratch brownies, containers of chocolate chip cookie dough and baby buns, which come in an order of three. There's also hot and cold brewed coffee.

Everything is completely vegan with no dairy, lactose or cholesterol. The marshmallows are gelatin-free.

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The Pearland Parkway Marketplace is filling up with tenants.
Rendering by Gulf Coast Commercial Group
Chicken Salad Chick, 2110 Pearland Parkway, opened at the Pearland Parkway Marketplace October 21. The chicken salad sandwich cafe is the inaugural tenant at the retail complex which has now reached 50 percent tenancy including another restaurant, Lin's Asian Cafe, which is expected to open by the end of the year.

This location makes the ninth in the Greater Houston area and the first franchise for Kim and Clarke Hayes of H7 EATS-Pearland LLC. The chicken salad chain was founded in 2008 by Stacy Brown in Auburn, Alabama. It now has 175 restaurants in seventeen states. It was acquired By Brentwood, a private equity investment firm, in 2019.
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The trio at Chicken Salad Chick offers variety.
Photo by Parlee Teague Productions
It offers more than a dozen chicken salad flavors with names such as Fruity Fran, Jalapeno Holly and Olivia's Old South, named after Brown's friends and family. Besides chicken salad scoops and sandwiches, the restaurants offer pimento cheese, turkey sandwiches, gourmet soups and a variety of salads.
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Sarah Crowl moves to Rosie Cannonball.
Photo by Nuray Taylor

Rosie Cannonball
, 1620 Westheimer, has brought in two new managers. Francis Hawley will serve as general manager while Sarah Crowl takes on the role of front of house and bar manager.  In a press release, Rosie Cannonball business partner June Rodil said, " It's important to us that Sarah has been so dedicated to the Houston hospitality scene. She knows and understands our community so well. Francis has worked all over the world and he's bringing that knowledge and experience to Rosie. The two of them make our team stronger and more dynamic which, in turn, provides our guests an even better experience."

Hawley, born in Mexico City, was raised in Miami. He studied at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado and began his front of house career at Zuma in 2012. He has experience managing teams at Michelin-starred restaurants across the globe and has done stints at restaurants such as L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Public Kitchen by Jean Georges.  He received his BBA in hotel management from Les Roches, Switzerland.
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Francis Hawley brings global expertise to his new position.
Photo by Francis Hawley
He is currently pursuing Level 3 Wine and Spirit Education Trust certification from Napa Valley Wine Academy. He also pens a blog on food and cooking called Pancho's Creations.

Sarah Crowl is a Houston native who received a liberal arts degree from University of Colorado in Boulder. Her bar career began as office manager at Anvil Bar and Refuge while also bartending at 13 Celsisu. Since then, Crowl has honed her bartending and managing skills at places such as Haven, Uchi, Aqui and Coltivare. Most recently, she served as bar manager at Penny Quarter, creating its first cocktail program.

She also runs a cottage banana bread business, Little Miss Bakewell.

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Blake Lupton welcomes customers to the window.
Photo by Allyson Huntsman

Fix and Fogg, , the New Zealand-based purveyor of gourmet nut butters has collaborated with Goodnight Hospitality and pastry chef Shawn Gawle to create special cookies that will be available at the Montrose store window. Served on a first come, first served basis, the cookie flavors will change each month and are not available for pre-order. October's flavor is almond butter with cashew and maple. For November, it's chocolate almond butter. Customers who want to get a little nuttier can opt to add a drizzle of one of the gourmet nut butters available.

Eighteen36, 2221 W. Alabama, announced that head mixologist Josh Saphier was chosen as one of 12 winners in the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey " Honor Your Legacy" competition with his cocktail The Stepping Stone.

He has also created a special house-made cinnamon whiskey debuting Halloween weekend. Eighteen36 does not serve Fireball Whiskey due to its ingredients so Saphier has come up with his own version, Houston Hellfire.

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That's a lot of good stuff in one dish.
Photo by Becca Wright
The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston, 1700 Post Oak, has a new Mexican Paella available at dinner only. It contains arborio rice, white wine, Gulf shrimp, mussels, clams, octopus, Texas redfish, Mexican chorizo, olives and rabbit. It is $125 and feeds four people.  A 24-hour advance notice is required so call ahead.
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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.