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The Union Kitchen softly opened in Cypress.EXPAND
The Union Kitchen softly opened in Cypress.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Openings and Closings: Union Kitchen Cypress Opens, Pizza Motus Closes

The Union Kitchen, 9955 Barker Cypress, began its soft opening July 9 at the Boardwalk at Towne Lake in Cypress. This makes the sixth location for the concept from Gr8 Plate Hospitality. It takes over the space formerly occupied by Jaxton's Grill House and Bar.

The 5,000 square foot restaurant was built and designed by Charles Chapman of Corinthian Contracting. There's seating in the dining room for 200 guests, plus an additional 130 spots for diners on the patio, overlooking the 300 acre lake. There are 25 seats at the bar, with floor to wall windows offering views of Towne Lake and a couple of televisions for watching whatever it is people sitting at the bar watch. We assume sports.

Burger meets onion rings in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility...EXPAND
Burger meets onion rings in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility...
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Left over from Jaxton's is the wood-burning grill, a first for TUK, giving chefs James Lundy and Ed Roberts the opportunity to create dishes like the Naked Grilled Fish, wood-grilled oysters and Mesquite Trout. Another first for the concept is the selection of frozen cocktails, perfect for sipping waterside under the shade of the red umbrellas.

Patio weather is almost here. Almost.EXPAND
Patio weather is almost here. Almost.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Owner Paul Miller says, "We like to say that The Union Kitchen is the perfect union of good friends and great food." With a gorgeous dining room and lake views, Cypress residents are sure to take advantage of the new dining venue.

And Katy folks won't have to wait long for their own TUK. Gr8 Plate Hospitality will open the seventh location of The Union Kitchen at Stableside at Falcon Landing in Cinco Ranch this fall, along with its third outpost of Jax Grill.

What will I, Chris Shepherd, think of next? Hmmmmm.EXPAND
What will I, Chris Shepherd, think of next? Hmmmmm.
Photo by John Davidson

One-Fifth Gulf Coast, 1658 Westheimer, will open August 12. The new version at Chris Shepherd's five years/five concepts restaurant will replace One-Fifth Mediterranean, which will close July 31 with a ticketed "family" meal. Foregoing the usual September 1 opening each year, the team at Underbelly Hospitality realized that shutting down a restaurant for a month isn't financially viable and the new project will open earlier than expected after a few updates to the interior and menu.

Shepherd and his team almost gave up the idea of a new concept, because they liked One-Fifth Mediterranean so much and considered continuing this third iteration until the end of the five-year lease. However, the team decided to go ahead with a new project focusing on the fresh seafood and bountiful produce and meats of the Gulf Coast. The Mediterranean concept is still in play, though, as Shepherd and his business partner, Todd Mason, scout out a space for a full blown Mediterranean restaurant.

Matt Staph will bring a taste of Rockport to One-Fifth Gulf Coast.EXPAND
Matt Staph will bring a taste of Rockport to One-Fifth Gulf Coast.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

For the Gulf Coast project, Shepherd is relying on the talents of team members, Matt Staph, Nick Fine and Victoria Dearmond, all of whom were raised on the Texas Gulf Coast. Staph, as chef de cuisine, will bring his experiences from his family's house in Rockport and his own knowledge of Gulf Coast fishing. He, Shepherd, Fine and general manager Jeff Buhrer have hit the road to explore the meat markets and shrimp shacks of Louisiana to bring a little taste of the Cajun Riviera back to H-Town.

Shepherd has even found a source for Texas stone crab, which will be joining oysters, shrimp and crawfish in the shellfish section of the menu. Other Gulf Coast specialties like hearth-charred okra with pimento cheese will be featured on the small things side, along with a new version of Shepherd's famous pork belly with Steen's cane syrup. Entrees will include rabbit and dumplings and jambalaya. Pastry director Dearmond will carry over the black lime as an ingredient from the Mediterranean concept to create her own unique Key Lime Pie. Westin Galleymore, spirits director for Underbelly Hospitality, has created a casual cocktail menu with lighter-style cocktails and twists on favorites like the Hurricane and Texas Tea.

The new concept will offer brunch service, a first for the restaurant,  from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Openings and Closings: Union Kitchen Cypress Opens, Pizza Motus Closes
Photo by Erika Kwee

Pizza Motus, 6119 Edloe has closed according to CultureMap Houston. Owner Will Gruy, a former professional motorcycle racer and one-time resident of Rome, Italy opened the pizza shop in August of 2018. It served Roman-style street pizza, or pizza al taglio, known for its airy crust, slight char and rectangular shape.

How could this pizza not succeed?EXPAND
How could this pizza not succeed?
Photo by Victoria Christensen

The casual and cute eatery had a walk-up window like most Roman street pizza businesses and offered a comfortable patio and a BYOB policy with no cork fee. Why that didn't catch on, is a mystery to us. The Houston Press chose Pizza Motus as Best Pizza 2019.

Maybe it was the lack of parking. Maybe it was the pizza's price point. Maybe Houstonians prefer circular pies.

Aroma, 7626 Fry, opened mid-June. The restaurant serves authentic Mexican cuisine and other Latin flavors. Diners can start with items like ceviche, campechana, street corn or empanadas. Or go for arrollados, plantain bites wrapped in bacon with queso fresca and crema. The sopecitos are a tasty way to try a little variety. It's three masa boats, each with a different filling. There's chicken mole, pork with tomatillo and chicken tinga.

For guacamole lovers, (small $5.95, large $7.95) there's an option for house-made pork cracklings for dipping.

Aroma serves some Tex-Mex favorites, but there are also more Mexican side dishes like cactus salad and yucca fries. For vegetarians, there are plenty of creative salads to choose from. Meat eaters will revel in choices like the Aroma Steak ($23) with peppercorn crust and mescal sauce over spinach with fries and asparagus or the Prime Pork Chop ($13).

There's a variety of margaritas on offer plus a Cuban-style mojito ($9).

The Kaffe Spot, 15626 Cypress Rosehill, opened June 29. It serves Colombian food and baked goods like empanadas and arepas. There are also burger options such as The Spot with beef, bacon, ham, crushed potato chips, pineapple sauce and garlic sauce. That's a serious flavor bomb.

There are breakfast combos like the Paisa ($5.50) which is arepa with fried eggs and The Kaffe Spot ($8.50), arepa with carne asada and eggs. The combos come with a small coffee or chocolate.

For snacks, try the papa rellenas, potato stuffed with season beef and rice or the pandebono, a Colombian cheese bread. There's a variety of coffees plus fresh juices and smoothies.

Sweetgreen, 2551 Amherst, is set to open July 23, according to CultureMap Houston. This will be the first Texas location for the healthy salad chain. Founded in 2007 by Jonathan Neman, Nicolas Jammett and Nathaniel Ru in the tiny "tavern" in Georgetown, Washington D.C., it has blossomed into nearly 100 locations across eight states. With a mission " to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food," the company has joined the sustainable farm to table movement with gusto. The focus is on sustainable farming and the company networks with small and mid-size growers to provide the fresh ingredients for which it is known.

The restaurant offers salads and bowls, with calorie content listed on the menu. The Make Your Own option allows guests to choose the vegetables, grains and proteins to create a personalized meal that fits their diet.

Sweetgreen also has a program "sweetgreen in schools" which raises awareness about healthy eating among elementary school children. The company will open a second location in Montrose in September.

Cool off with the Coctel Mixto at La Marisquera.EXPAND
Cool off with the Coctel Mixto at La Marisquera.
Photo by Odalis Garcia

La Marisquera Ostioneria, 5851 Westheimer, opened June 29 replacing the Los Cucos restaurant that occupied the space. The new concept comes from the Cabrera family, who also own Los Cucos, so it's more of a rebranding. The restaurant will host a grand opening fiesta July 20 with Nely Islas from El Norte 107.9. There will be giveaways and entertainment, plus the Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight will be shown with no cover.

The new concept features some Tex-Mex items like fajitas, tacos and quesadillas, but the main draw is the fresh Mexican seafood dishes like Mojarra Frita (whole, fried tilapia) and a variety of ceviches. More unique items like grilled octopus are available, too. And margaritas. Lots and lots of margaritas.

Bae, 9798 Bellaire Boulevard, opened July 13. Yes, another unusual ice cream shop has made its way to Houston. This one originated in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo neighborhood and has landed in Bellaire's Chinatown. If lurid unicorn colors charm the K-Pop divas and kindergarten set, Bae's charcoals and blacks will delight the Goths and the bougies alike. The swirls seem to be de rigueur for Instagram, so if you're an influencer, that's where you begin. The charcoal pineapple swirled with vanilla is striking in a yin and yang sort of way. It's probably wise to get the chocolate or charcoal cone for the best photo. And add on the Boujee toppings like gold hearts or silver stars. For we common folk, there are cereal toppings and even Pocky or Hello Panda cookies.

There's also Earl Grey flavored soft serve, which I don't think is that great as a tea, much less an ice cream flavor. However, the pretty dove gray color makes a lovely Insta snap when swirled with vanilla, because it's all about the likes. Or as my son informed me, the engagement, meaning lots of comments.

There are more colorful swirls like the Matchaholic with green matcha and chocolate or the Now and Later, with strawberry and banana. Still, it's the black and white Mixed Feelings that seems to be lighting up social media. And I have mixed feelings about that.

Seku Ramen and Izakaya, 17333 Spring Cypress, celebrated its grand opening July 5 to July 7 with BOGO ramen. The new Japanese restaurant is hidden in a shopping center but once you are in, an elegant dining room and extensive, and we mean extensive, menu awaits. There's sushi, sashimi, ramen, teriyaki, yakisobi, teppanyaki fried rice, Japanese curry and a robata grill with a variety of skewers. Carnivores and vegetarians alike will have a plethora of items from which to choose. Sashimi lovers can take it to the limit with the Sekushi Sashimi, a chef's choice of ten kinds of fish. For 33 pieces, it's $77.95. Bring an appetite and a friend or two.

In keeping with its Izakaya theme, there are plenty of cocktails like the Lychee Martini or Mai Tai and a variety of sake including Hana Awaka sparkling. Happy hour runs daily from open till 8 p.m. with special beer, wine and sake prices plus deals on sushi and nigiri.

For something unique and quirky, try one of the ramen burgers. It's a Certified Angus beef patty (or two) nestled between buns made of fried ramen noodles.

Cormier's Kitchen, 5200 Louetta, celebrated its grand opening July 10. The Cajun cafe is already exciting local residents.  Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and includes your typical offerings like pancakes, waffles and egg combos. There's also a choice of several eggs Benedict, including the Boudin Benedict ($11.99) made with boudin balls. The Cajun Shrimp Breakfast ($12.99) is a hot mess of sauteed shrimp in a Cajun cream sauce, served over an egg and dirty rice. A delicious hot mess.

There are other Cajun specialties like crawfish etoufee ($13.99) and gumbo, either with shrimp and chicken or chicken and sausage. Fried seafood platters, po-boys, burgers and chicken fried steak round out the menu. And there's cold beer to wash it down.

Saltgrass Steakhouse, 1001 Avenida de Las Americas, is slated to take over the space which originally housed Bud's Pitmster BBQ, according to Houston Business Journal. The Landry's Inc. restaurant will join another Landry's concept, Grotto Downtown. This will make the 17th Houston location of the steak and seafood restaurant.

The new spot will join the recently opened Welcome Center at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The new visitor's center opened July 16 along with Launch, a boutique offering Houston products from local designers and artists, plus Avenida Eats, a casual grab and go restaurant much needed in the convention hall.

Temaki is individually made per person.EXPAND
Temaki is individually made per person.
Photo by Al Torres Photography

Hando, 518 W. 11th, is expected to open in Fall 2019 in the Houston Heights. The 24-seat sushi bar will serve hand rolls, or temaki, at a u-shaped bar on a first come, first served basis. There will be a full bar with Japanese spirits, hot and cold sake, beer and non-alcoholic beverages such as green tea and mocktails.

The new venture is still recruiting investors through NextSeed. The concept comes from Family Meal Group managing partner, Jason Andaya and his childhood friend Raymond Chan, owner of East End Hardware.

NextSeed Space, 2723 Yale, is shooting for an opening around the third week of July. This is the second restaurant space for the crowdfunding company. The first is located at 3 Greenway Plaza. Its first tenant will be The Chicken & Rice Guys, a Boston-based company which began as a food truck and now has several brick and mortars around Boston. The Houston location will be the first venture outside Beantown.

The restaurant serves halal chicken, lamb and beef gyro on top of rice and salads. It also has baked tofu, plus a variety of sauces and sides.

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