Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Toca Madera and Thai Tail This Week, Xin Chao Has Closed

The Como la Flor is a cocktail for all the senses.
The Como la Flor is a cocktail for all the senses. Photo by TJ Perez

Toca Madera
, 1755 Allen Parkway, opens June 18 at The Pavillion at The Allen. The modern Mexican steakhouse is located on the ground floor and spans nearly 14,000 square feet encompassing two full-service bars, a lounge, a private members club, a private dining room and a lush outdoor patio overlooking Eleanor Tinsley Park. It comes from Noble 33, an international hospitality group which owns and operates a number of concepts including Sparrow Italia and Casa Madera. Toca Madera Houston, which will be the largest,  joins locations in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Scottsdale.
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Guests should dress to be seen in this dining room.
Photo by Connie Anderson
Meant to be an immersive dining experience that touches all the senses, the restaurant's design, done by Monochrome, uses bold, architectural elements for structure along with handcrafted custom woodwork and intimate lighting for a romantic, cozy feel. Plush velvet upholstery and unique art pieces add to the glamour.

Tosh Berman, co-founder and CEO of Noble 33, said in a press release, "Great detail and attention is given to the architecture, design and soundscape, all combined with an incredible menu for a bespoke dining journey."
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While premium steaks are at the core, Toca Madera excels at seafood as well.
Photo by TJ Perez
And the dining is fine at Toca Madera with executive chef Christian Brennen leading the Houston culinary team. A curated selection of premium Australian and Japanese beef is at the center of the Houston menu with a dramatic table-side American Wagyu Flaming Tomahawk and a Prime 40-ounce Porterhouse. The raw bar section offers oysters, Ceviche Blanco and Sashimi Mexicano. The flavors of Mexico City get modern interpretations with dishes like Truffle Quesadillas, Tostaditas and A5 Wagyu Tacos.

Beverage director Carla Lorenzo has crafted a mixology program that utilizes fresh, seasonal ingredients in tequila drinks like the Como la Flor with guava, coconut, Liquor 43, Fino sherry, lemon, bitters and rose air or the Mi Serrana which gets a kick from serrano peppers.
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We want to get lost in this oasis.
Photo by Connie Anderson
In keeping with its dynamic energy, the restaurant will also offer nightly entertainment from live music to local and international DJs. Guests may be lucky enough to catch a fire performance.

Noble 33 is also planning to bring another of its concepts to Houston, Meduza Mediterrania, in spring 2025.
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Guests will have to open wide for the Thai Basil Beef Burger.
Photo by Sean Rainer
Thai Tail, 1402 Westheimer, opens June 20 in the former home of La Fendee in Montrose. The newest culinary undertaking from MaKiin Concepts is a fast-casual Thai eatery that offers an intimate 1,200 square-foot space with seating for 24 guests inside and 36 diners on the patio. It will also offer online ordering through UberEats and DoorDash including sealed cocktails as well as its food menu.
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Thai Tail offers a cozy casual dining room.
Photo by Sean Rainer
Founder and CEO of MaKiin Concepts, Lukkaew Srasrisuwan, says that Thai Tail is excited to be part of the vibrant Montrose neighborhood, citing is walkability as an asset. "Our menu will appeal to all guests seeking an authentic and approachable menu celebrating Thai flavors at reasonable price points."
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Crispy Wonton Pad Thai is a creative snack.
Photo by Sean Rainer
Some of those Thai dishes include snacks like Shrimp Nuggets and Beef Drunken Chili with spinach tortilla chips. Entree choices like Panang Chicken Club Sandwich and Green Curry Pork Burger blend Thai flavors with American favorites. There are also classic items such as Drunken Noodles and Pad Thai.

The restaurant offers an array of cocktails like its Thaigerita, which gives a tropical fruit twist to the margarita, and The Beach, a frozen concoction made with rum, coconut and an essence of jasmine.
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Xin Chao fans will miss the Smoked Beef Rib and Pork Belly Bao.
Photo by John Suh
Xin Chao, 2310 Decatur, had its last service June 8. The announcement was made via Facebook in a short post that read, "Crawfish season is coming to an end and we decided to close our doors. We want to thank everyone for supporting us throughout this journey."

It's a sad end for a restaurant that incorporated the skills and heritage of two talented Vietnamese American chefs. Xin Chao debuted in September 2020 with both Master Chef Champion Christine Ha and Saigon House owner Tony Nguyen co-helming the venture. The two blended their culinary skills to create a menu of modern Vietnamese American cuisine with items like Nguyen-er Nguyen-er Chicken Dinner, Texas BBQ Fried Rice, Not Our Ma's Egg Rolls and Pork Belly Bao.

The creativity paid off not only with raves from Houston foodies but also nationally, as the duo were James Beard Award Outstanding Chef finalists in 2022 and semifinalists in the same category in 2023. Then, in December 2023, Ha left Xin Chao to concentrate on her two restaurants with husband John Suh, The Blind Goat and Stuffed Belly.
Chef Tony Nguyen has closed Xin Chao.
Photo by Robert Le
That left Xin Chao solely in Nguyen's hands and he tweaked the menu to reflect more of his Viet-Cajun style. Unfortunately, Nguyen closed Saigon House 1960 in late March 2024, diverting the crawfish and his signature H-Town Bang Sauce to Xin Chao and his Saigon House food truck.

There were other contributing factors to the closure including damage from power outages and the severe storms that popped up in May, as reported by Houston Food Finder's Ryan Kasey Baker. Nguyen told Baker that there was damage to the A/C, hood vents and a few fridges. And, like many Houston restaurants, Nguyen had to deal with a bleak 2024 crawfish season.

Midpoint Bar and Eatery, 25600 Westheimer, softly reopened in a new location earlier this month. The neighborhood bar closed in 2021 during the pandemic after a decade in the Katy Mills area, according to the Houston Chronicle.

With the new, larger location, Midpoint is ready to bring the fun with Latin Nights and '80s Party. In addition to cocktails and cold beer, it has a good-sized menu of  small plates such as Southwestern Chicken Eggrolls, Hot Honey Chicken Bites and Ultimate Nachos as well as burgers, chicken sandwiches, entree salads and street tacos.

It has a daily happy hour from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a selection of $4 beer, $7 house wines and $6 Tito's vodka, Deep Eddy vodka, Crown Royal and Jameson. Happy hour small plates are $2 off.
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A Mediterranean feast awaits at Gyro Republic.
Photo by Shane Dante Photography
Gyro Republic, 23040 Fort Bend Parkway, is opening this July in Missouri City. It's the first franchise for the NYC-style halal brand from owner/founder Rehan Ranpuri. Based in the Greater Houston area, it has three other locations in Sugar Land, Richmond and Southwest Houston. The new Missouri City location will be operated by owners and franchisees Ahmer Ali and Ejas Hussein. Ranpuri plans to announce 4 to 6 new franchise units this year.

The quick-service concept allows guests to build their own gyros, rice bowls, salads and pita sandwiches to fit their preferences, be they vegans, vegetarians or meat-eaters. There's even its version of a burrito, the Gyrito. The ingredients are free from MSG and artificial additives and the proteins are 100 percent halal.

In keeping with the NYC style, the the gyro meat is cubed rather than sliced and served with a mayonnaise-based white sauce. In addition to its version of white sauce, Gyro Republic has a signature red hot sauce as well.

The Missouri City location will also be introducing new menu items including Ghost Pepper Sauce, Avocado Hummus, Spicy Red Pepper Hummus, Spicy Rice and Spicy Chicken.
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Taco Cabana is rolling out a new look.
Photo by Taco Cabana
Taco Cabana, 22340 Kuykendahl, debuted its next generation prototype, TC 3.0,  June 14 in Spring, Texas. The newest location of the fast casual Tex-Mex brand boasts 2,541 square feet of space with a 375 square-foot patio. Its streamlined design features double merging drive-thru lanes plus a walk-up window for take-away orders. The kitchen has been engineered to make food preparation more efficient and speedy, while guests look on as the team makes handmade tortillas and char-grilled meats.
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The tropical colors have been replaced with neutrals.
Photo by Taco Cabana
First founded in 1978, its parent company YTC Enterprises, LLC now owns and operates 143 company-owned restaurants in Texas. The newest design has been crafted with an eye to franchising.

The new Taco Cabana offers breakfast beginning at 6 a.m. and all-day service till 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with opening hours extended to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

Wayback Burgers, 13341 Westheimer, is shooting to open in October 2024  as the first Houston area franchise location for the hamburger brand. It first opened in Newark, Delaware in 1991 as Jake's Hamburgers. In 2009, amid its expansion, it changed its name to Jake's Wayback Burgers before becoming known simply as Wayback Burgers. It now has over 170 locations worldwide including countries like Japan, Ireland and South Africa. There's another Greater Houston location planned for 18321 W. Airport Boulevard in Richmond.
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New seasonal ice creams beat the heat at Money Cat.
Photo by Alex Montoya

Money Cat, 2925 Richmond, is introducing a new line of Japanese-inspired ice creams and sorbets and along with the new products, it is debuting its Mobile Cat pop-up food bus June 14 at Levy Park, 3801 Eastside. Taking over the double decker bus which used to house Tim Love's Side Dough, Mobile Cat will operate between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. during Levy Park's new bi-weekly Sunset Bingo Nights. In addition to the frosty treats, it will also feature a limited food menu that includes Bistec Bao Buns and Katsu Sando plus makimono options such as Spicy Crunchy Tuna, California and vegetable rolls.
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Chef Sherman Yeung is popping up at Levy Park's Sunset Bingo.
Photo by Alex Montoya
Owner/chef Sherman Yeung says he is excited to roll out the new Money 'Mobile' Cat menu and the seasonal ice creams. "Our new ice cream and sorbet selections are a perfect way to cool down during the summer." Some of those flavors include Corn Ice Cream with blueberry compote, cornbread and cornflakes plus Ube Ice Cream with dulce de leche and ube churro bits. There's also Honeydew Sorbet, Calpico Strawberry Sorbet and Match Green Tea Ice Cream with white chocolate swirl.

Money Cat's food bus will also offer a drink menu of cocktails, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.

Sunset Bingo Nights at Levy Park happen the second and fourth Friday during the summer.
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Bagels and lox go together like shoes and socks.
Photo by Serge Trevino
Bagel Shop @ The Museum, 5401 Caroline, is now open at The Holocaust Museum Houston. Located on the second floor, the cafe is operated by the team behind New York Deli & Coffee Shop and Houston Catering Concepts. Restaurateurs Michael Saghian and Riana Sherman have partnered with the museum to provide kosher-style menu items in a space that once housed The Legacy Cafe. However, the new eatery is non-kosher.

Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., the cafe-style restaurant will accommodate both customers who want to sit down for a meal and visitors who want a snack as they explore the museum. The menu features items such as bagels (plain, everything, sesame, honey whole wheat and cinnamon raisin) for a sweet $2. Customers can upgrade with cream cheese, lox, honey and more. There are also grab-n-go snacks such as popcorn and chips plus salads and sandwiches including the Nova Sandwich ($10.95), Turkey Wrap ($$7.95) and Pizza Bagel ($5.95).
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A cinnamon roll this pretty deserves to be savored.
Photo by Becca Wright
There are treats such as muffins, cookies and cinnamon buns and coffee drinks and hot chocolate, too.

Saghian says he is thrilled to partner with the Holocaust Museum. "As a Jewish-owned business, we understand the importance of preserving our history and educating the public, so to be able to play a part in this dynamic experience that the museum offers is an honor and a privilege that we don't take lightly."
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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.