Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Upside Pub Opens Soon, Verdine Closes Sunday

Nosh and cold brews await at Upside Pub.
Nosh and cold brews await at Upside Pub. Photo by Becca Wright

The Upside Pub, 3402 N. Shepherd, will have its grand opening August 9. The neighborhood bar is a community driven concept from owners Paige and Andy Lujan, newly transplanted arrivals to the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area, or GOOF, if you want to get some people's knickers in a twist.

The duo are ecstatic (their words) to open in the community. Paige Lujan says, " Every neighborhood deserves a neighborhood pub, and after a lot of hard work, paint-stained T-shirts and learning plumbing on YouTube, we are finally ready to bring this pub to GOOF."

Paige will manage the day-to-day operations while husband Andy Lujan, a former Army Ranger with a background in finance and accounting, will be the back-office guy and on-call busser and runner.
There's a new pub in town.
Photo by Becca Wright
Paige, who has 13 years of hospitality industry experience, is also a founding partner of the Artisanal Brewers Collective in Southern California, so patrons can expect a well-planned beer menu. The inaugural list includes 11 Below Brewing Company 7-Iron Blonde, Klaus Brewing Company Edellweizen and Lone Pint Brewery Saison Doug among the Texas brews, along with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Pale Ale and Krostritzer Shwarzbier from further afield. For IPA fans, there will be several from Spindletap, Great Heights Brewing Company and Eureka Heights. The Rocket Fuel Coffee Porter from 8th Wonder rounds out the list of 14 brews on tap. There is also a small rotating bottle and can list, convenient for beer buckets on the patio plus wine, a couple of draft cocktails and a small spirits list.
A mix of seating invites guests for lounging, conversing or game playing.
Photo by Becca Wright
The food menu, under the direction of kitchen manager David Browne, offers an eclectic mix of bites like Boiled Peanuts, the California Burrito, Potato Latke Balls and the Fancy Grilled Cheese made with local Kraftsman sourdough, Houston Dairymaids cheddar bleu cheese, Swiss and Jack cheeses and topped with fig jam. The Super Bomb Patty Melt is a smash burger patty, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, horseradish cream, Dijon mustard and pickles all on Kraftsman's marble rye. Brunch and happy hour services are planned for the future.

In keeping with its neighborhood pub vibe, there will be shuffleboard and a variety of board games plus sporting events on the telly.

From charcuterie to pasta to meat entrees, Passerella has it all.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
Passerella, 6011 Washington, will open as the second location of the Italian concept from Gr8 Plate Hospitality. Renovations began earlier this month on the former The Union Kitchen Washinton space, another of Gr8 Plate Hospitality's concepts. Owner Paul Miller is hoping to get the Washington Corridor Passerella open by mid-September but the debut date is not set as of now.

As for why Miller closed TUK to make way for Passerella, he said in a statement, "After seeing such success at our Passerella location in Cypress, we knew we had to bring the concept a little closer into town. We think that the change will breathe new life into the space and will provide folks in the neighborhood with easy access to some fine Italian dining."
Passerella has cocktails along with a list of Italian food-friendly wine.
Photo by Jenn Duncan
The menu at the new location will be similar to its big sister restaurant with a few new menu items specific to the Washington spot. Gr8 Plate Hospitality Executive Chef James Lundy will oversee the menu and Gr8 Plate veteran chef Victor Ortega, who joined the team in 2017, will take on the role of head chef at the Washington Passerella.

The new restaurant will also have a large shaded outdoor patio, a cozy, dimly-lit interior and a private dining space for 30 guests. Craft cocktails and beer will be available, along with an extensive wine list curated by Miller to include a number of Italian and Californian varietals.

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The blue door will close for good July 31.
Photo by Verdine
Verdine, 449 W. 19th, is closing its doors July 31 after its final Sunday brunch. The 100 percent vegan restaurant first opened In April 2019 as the brick and mortar version of Stephanie Hoban's Ripe Cuisine food truck. Christened "Wanda", the food truck was retired in July of that year due to the success of Verdine itself.

The restaurant was a bright, light-filled space thanks to its massive windows, white brick walls and light blue decor. It offered a plethora of vegan dishes from varying cuisines. Guests could enjoy Orange Cauliflower, Beet Falafel Salad, the Bistro Burger, Jackfruit Carnitas, the Caribbean Jerk Plate or Aloha Poke, taking a vegan culinary trip around the world.
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The Nachos de Mayo with its vegan queso are only available for a couple more days.
Photo by Erika Kwee
In an email announcement Hoban said "An offer was made to exit the lease early and after a lot of consideration, the offer was compelling to both my partners and I, based on a variety of factors."

Hoban says that a restaurant group, owned by brothers-in-law Robert White and Victor Litwinenko, will open a new vegan concept in the Verdine space at Heights Waterworks. White and Litiwenko also own and operate Jupiter Pizza & Waffle Co., Guru Burgers & Bowls and Japaneiro's Sushi Bistro & Latin Grill, all located in Sugar Land.
Pizza Forno pops out fresh pizza in three minutes.
Photo by Daniel Albelice
PizzaForno, 3210 E. FM 528, will have a grand opening celebration July 31 in Baywood Plaza. On hand for the festivities will be the brand's Chief Marketing Officer, Jason Lowder, and Master Licensees Daniel Albelice and Keith Stephenson. Albelice and Stephenson, who are developing PizzaForno in the marketplace, plan to open an additional 12 units by September 2023 across the city of Houston, eventually extending into a 50-unit development deal.

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Keith Stephenson and Daniel Albelice bring Pizza Forno to Texas.
Photo by Daniel Albelice
The company operates automated pizzerias that bake artisanal pizzas in less than three minutes. It was founded in 2018 by William Moyer and Les Tomlin. Customers are able to choose their ingredients with the tap of a digital screen. Each unit can hold up to 70 fully prepared pre-boxed pizzas which are made with quality ingredients. It also offers the option of take-n-bake or to have the 12-inch pizza cooked on the spot.

With the Houston locations, PizzaForno is launching its "Pizza with a Purpose" campaign, part of its selection process for choosing licensees to join in on the development of its "Pizzaruption". The company not only works with local owners to stay focused on purpose-driven initiatives but also to help support non-profit organizations in their community.

Albelice and Stephenson have chosen the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Houston/Galveston for their charity and every Tuesday, the duo will donate one dollar for every pizza sold at the Texas locations. The funds will help to pay for vaccines, exams and medical treatment for thousands of children. It's a cause close to Albelice's heart as his son was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 18 months. For the three years of treatment that his son went through, the Albelice family got support from the Ronald McDonald House and he chose the organization out of gratitude for its help.

The PizzaForno unit at Social Beer Garden HTX, 3101 San Jacinto, is also in operation now and folks who arrive before 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, can take advantage of the bar's happy hour as well.
Folks in Richmond and Sugar Land will now how to drive a little north for Alicia's Caldo de Marisco.
Photo by Marie Elgamal
Alicia's Mexican Grille, 20420 Southwest Freeway, will close July 29. The building in which it is located is now under new ownership. In a press release David Herrera, owner and operator of Alicia's said, "It has been a privilege serving guests in the Sugar Land and Richmond communities, We are grateful for their support all these years."

The Richmond closure will not affect the four other locations. Alicia's Mexican Grille will continue to serve customers in Cypress, Katy, Spring and Westchase.
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La Madeleine receives the Certification of Recognition from Lake Jackson Mayor Gerald Roznovsky (center).
Photo by la Madeleine

la Madeleine, 401-A This Way, opened in Lake Jackson July 27, after a two-year delay due to the COVID pandemic. For its grand opening the fast casual French bakery and cafe gave the first 100 guests in line a coupon for free bread for a year. Other guests were able to score its famous baguettes, as La Madeleine gave away 250 loaves for free. The grand opening event also raised $3,000 for the Brazoria County SPCA.

First opened in 1983 in Dallas, there are now over 80 locations of the popular cafe. It was founded by Patrick Esquerre with the support, and recipes, of his mother Monique Esquirre. In 1998, it was sold by Esquerre, then eventually ended up in the hands of Groupe Le Duff, a French restaurant group owned by Louis Le Duff.

Its menu offers a variety of sandwiches, soups and salads plus an all-day breakfast. French crepes are available in savory or sweet versions and there are entrees such as Balsamic Glazed Salmon and Chicken la Madeleine. There are a variety of coffee drinks and we were told by a staff member that the Lake Jackson location should begin serving wine next week.
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Prices keep rising but wing lovers keep biting.
Photo by Willie's Grill and Icehouse
Roosters Run launched three weeks ago as a virtual brand for Willie's Grill and Icehouse. The ghost kitchen is operating at each of its 19 locations in Texas. The delivery-only concept specializes in 12-hour Shiner Bock-brined wings and other chicken items such as Texas-sized Tenders, Tender Bites and the Texas Fried Chicken Sandwich, all hand-cut and hand-breaded.

The Shiner Bock wings feature a choice of 8 different sauces and dry rub options. Customers can choose from mild sauces like Buttery Garlic Parm or go for the heat with the Buffalo Bayou or Texas Fire. The Spicy Rooster is two fat tenders on Texas Toast, topped with house-made slaw, sweet pickles and hot Cajun Fire sauce.

To avoid having to raise prices to keep up with the rising cost of chicken, Roosters Run is offering combo meals and absorbing the cost of the included drinks. Greg Lippert, CEO of Willie's restaurants says that the company did not rush into the ghost kitchen concept and that commitment to quality resulted in Roosters Run. Lippert said, " Willie's specializes in connecting the traditions Texans love with modern comfort and convenience and Roosters Run is just one more illustration of that beloved balance. "

Sonoma Upper Kirby, 2720 Richmond, has completed its renovations on its original location, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. After closing the Heights location June 26, the team at Sonoma began renovating and redecorating the Upper Kirby wine bar. After being closed for a few days, it reopened July 6 with new granite countertops, a renovated kitchen, some new decor and two large air conditioning units. And, the wine bar and restaurant is now open on Monday.

In addition to some new menu items and tasting flights, guests will also be able to see some friendly faces from the former Heights location who have moved to the Kirby spot. Owner Farrah Cauley is planning a new Sonoma Wine Bar at 1223 W. 34th, located at The Stomping grounds. It's shooting to open in December.
The ribeye banh mi at Saigon Hustle may be available beyond Garden Oaks soon.
Photo by Saigon Hustle
Saigon Hustle, 3323 Ella Boulevard, was just announced as the winner of Savory Fund's Million Dollar Restaurant Launch competition. Beating out over 240 applicants, the Houston-based fast casual Vietnamese restaurant was founded by Cassie Ghaffar and Sandy Nguyen in 2020 as a cloud kitchen delivery service. In February 2022, it launched its brick and mortar drive-thru in Garden Oaks, which is located next door to its other drive-thru concept, Sunday Press. The duo's hospitality group, Ordinary Concepts, also operates Ginger Kale at Hermann Park.
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Sandy Nguyen and Cassie Ghaffar have million dollar smiles, figuratively and literally.
Photo by Jhane Hoang
Alonso Castaneda, Vice President of Brand Development and Strategy for Savory, said "This is just the beginning for Saigon Hustle and we are very excited to be part of this new venture. We believe with our experience and their hard work, Saigon Hustle can become the next big name in new flavor trends in the industry."

For Ghaffar and Nguyen, the hard work and sacrifice has paid off. Ghaffar said, "Since the announcement, we continue to have butterflies in our stomach thinking about this new journey we are on with Savory."
Nguyen said in the press release, "I cried tears of joy at the announcement because we didn't just win one million dollars, we won a partnership of a lifetime!"

Ghaffar and Nguyen will receive their million dollar check at the private equity firm's 4th annual summit, Restaurantology 2022.
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Franchisees Sebastian Burton and Britney Golston pose with Golden Chick President and Chairman, Mark Parmerlee.
Photo by Golden Chick
Golden Chick, 13600 S. Post Oak, announced new franchisees July 25. Britney Golston and Sebastian Burton are both corporate employees who are taking on the ownership and operations at the S. Post Oak store. The duo will use their previous experience overseeing corporate operations at Golden Chick in the Houston area to build strong relationships in the local community while increasing sales at the location, which first opened in 2018. Burton is also a co-owner of the Golden Chick at 2824 Spears.
Smash burgers are on trend and this one is dry-aged.
Photo by Lindsey Cooper
Cafe Louie, 3401 Harrisburg, began its dinner service this week. The all-day cafe owned by brother and sister Angelo Emiliani and Louie Emiliani first opened in May. Since then, the duo have been working on menus for the dinner service which is available Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The madeleines at Cafe Louie are served warm.
Photo by Lindsey Cooper
Guests will find items like Chicken Liver Parfait, Fried Chicken, Brick Chicken and Garganelli Verdi with Wild Boar, all made with meat from Tejas Heritage Farms in Spring, Texas. The Dry Aged Smash Burger is made with beef from RC Ranch in Arlington while the Redfish comes from Turtlecreek Aquaculture in Palacios, Texas.

Veggie lovers are not left out, as the restaurant's new menu features dishes such as Roasted Beets with creme fraiche and vadouvan spice and Charred Okra with pecan romesco and Carolina gold rice. There's also a refreshing Crushed Cucumber Salad with tahini dressing.

Cafe Louie also has launched its new happy hour. Every Wednesday through Friday, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., guests will be able to indulge in half-price glasses of wine.

Restaurants Reported Open July 2022:

Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, 2101 Washington, opened in May
Cava, 1501 C-Bay Area Boulevard, opened mid-June
Chicken Kitchen, 3011 W. Grand Parkway N., opened May 16
Cinnaholic, 27630 Interstate 45 N., opened July 8
Common Bond On-The-Go, 1127 Eldridge, opened June 29
The Cookshack, 21640 Kuykendahl, opened July 4
Counter Common Beerworks & Kitchen, 5413 Bellaire Boulevard, opened July 8
Crawfish Cafe, 8850 Metropark, opened July 2
DR Delicacy, 1291 N. Post Oak, opened July 18
Gatlin's Fins & Feathers, 302 Crosstimbers, opened July 15
Georgia James, 3503 W. Dallas, opened July 1
Golden Chick, 10206 N. Houston Rosslyn, opened July 6
House of Pies, 20802 Katy Freeway, opened June 22
The Lucky Italian, 414 Travis, opened July 8
Minuti Coffee, 11551 Aerospace Avenue, opened July 23
Noodles & Dumplings, 16630 El Camino Real, opened early July
Ori'Zaba's Mexican Grill, 20750 Kuykendahl, opened June 18
Rooster & Rice, 1223 W. 34th, opened June 9
South Beach, 810 Pacific, reopened July 15
Urban Bird Hot Chicken, 5404 Kirby, opened July 18
Yummy An Choi, 1223 Grand W. Boulevard, opened July 4
Zalat Pizza, 5750 Woodway, opened July 12

Restaurants Reported Closed July 2022:

La Table, 1800 Post Oak, closed for rebranding July 2
Revelry on Richmond, 1613 Richmond, closed July 31
Spring Street Beer and Wine, 1920 Houston Avenue, closed June 19
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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.