Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Toro Toro Opens, Chivos Debuts

The Octopus Anticucho at Toro Toro offers a foil to the rodizio-style meats.
The Octopus Anticucho at Toro Toro offers a foil to the rodizio-style meats. Photo by Jason Kindig

Toro Toro, 1300 Lamar, opens at the Four Seasons in downtown Houston October 30. This is the second concept for Richard Sandoval Hospitality at the hotel which opened Bayou and Bottle at Four Seasons Houston in 2017. The new restaurant opens on the heels of an extensive multi-year, multi-phase renovation for the downtown luxury hotel. The global steakhouse is located on the third floor and was outfitted by New York City design firm, Meyer Davis.

Richard Sandoval Hospitality was founded by Mexican-born chef and restaurateur, Richard Sandoval and is based in Denver. The contemporary Latin restaurant group owns and operates 45 restaurant concepts globally. This is the sixth Toro Toro concept for the company which has another Texas location in Fort Worth.
click to enlarge A stone bar top and custom lighting add to the luxe feel of Toro Toro's dining space. - RENDERING BY FOUR SEASONS HOTEL
A stone bar top and custom lighting add to the luxe feel of Toro Toro's dining space.
Rendering by Four Seasons Hotel

Sandoval has brought in the talents of chef de cuisine Rafael Villalpando and general manager Pedro Munoz to help create the vibrant and contemporary steakhouse experience for guests with a focus on Pan-Latin flavors. The menu will offer Rodizio-style Churrasco steaks along with seafood and exotic game. Small shareable plates like empanadas, specialty tacos and an open ceviche bar help to foster a convivial dining experience while tableside presentations like the 52-ounce mezcal-flambeed Prime Tomahawk add drama to a dinner with friends or family.
click to enlarge The Churrasco Mixed Grill Skewer can feed a small army. - PHOTO BY JONATHAN ZIZZO
The Churrasco Mixed Grill Skewer can feed a small army.
Photo by Jonathan Zizzo
Meat is the star at Toro Toro with the Churrasco Mixed Grill Skewer line-up of  Brazilian-style picanha steak, rib eye, chicken cusco and lamb chops. Other unique cuts show up on the menu as well including the South Texas Antelope, sourced from Texas' Broken Arrow Ranch.

Along with an expansive wine list that highlights several Latin wine regions, cocktails like the Negroni Norte, made with El Silencio Mezcal, Campari and carpano antica bring a Latin twist that can stand up to the meat-centric menu.

The team at Meyer Davis has created an elegant space that is also warm and inviting with marble fireplaces with fluted plaster columns, flooring of distressed dark oak and custom wood tables. Earthy touches of rust and green mingle with saddle leather accents that remind diners they are still in Texas. A private event space features custom lighting made with blackened metal and burnished brass that highlight art installations from Latina female artists from around the world.
click to enlarge Pollo al Carbon is a hearty dish for autumn. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
Pollo al Carbon is a hearty dish for autumn.
Photo by Dylan McEwan

Chivos, 222 W. 11th, opened October 28. This is the fourth concept from Night Moves Hospitality and owner Greg Perez. Night Moves has partnered with Chris Manriquez, the owner of Calle Onze, which previously occupied the space. The two men are familiar with each other as Perez was the beverage director at Calle Onze at one time. They have also brought in executive chef Thomas Bille, formerly the owner of Belly of the Beast, to launch the modern Mexican-American concept. Bille also brings chops from a brief stint as chef de cuisine at Hugo Ortega's Xochi.
click to enlarge Homemade flour tortillas get a sexy kiss of salmon roe and truffle butter. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
Homemade flour tortillas get a sexy kiss of salmon roe and truffle butter.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Not only is the restaurant Mexican-American but so is the entire leadership team at Chivos. Perez's mother is from Guadalajara Jalisco and Manriquez's family has roots in Guanajuato. Bille is a first generation Mexican-American. The team also includes Celi Perez who has transitioned from her role as executive chef at Calle Onze to a front-of-the-house position as general manager. Leesly Valdez. who worked with Greg Perez at Calle Onze, Monkey's Tail and Space Cowboy, will take on the job of bar manager.

The contemporary Mexican fare at Chivos includes dishes like pozole dumplings (Big-haired Kim is going to love that), duck with fig mole and Hamachi tiradito. There will also be handmade flour tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe that might give the Nancy Cakes at Nancy's Hustle some competition.
click to enlarge The D.F. takes Manhattan. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
The D.F. takes Manhattan.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
With so many beverage professionals involved, patrons can expect a well-crafted bar program. Valdez has designed the menu with a focus on Mexican spirits with inspiration from the foods and candy that she and Bille grew up with. The West Tejas is made with corn-infused tequila and hominy syrup while the Rutas Ganseres takes its cue from the Mexican snack cake, Gansitos, a treat of strawberry jelly, cream and chocolate. The D.F. is a twist on a Manhattan with Mexican whiskey and tamarind bitters.

The word chivos is the Spanish word for goats and a play on the acronym G.O.A.T (greatest of all time). Of the decision to name the new restaurant Chivos, Perez said, "We deeply admire anyone who aspires to be the greatest in their profession so we strive to pursue the same greatness for our guests."
click to enlarge Tin Drum offers global Asian flavors with a fun atmosphere. - PHOTO BY HEIDI GELDHAUSER
Tin Drum offers global Asian flavors with a fun atmosphere.
Photo by Heidi Geldhauser
Tin Drum Asian Kitchen, 1111 Shepherd, is opening its first Houston location in early 2022. Located in The Vic at The Interpose, a mixed use development, it offers a wide range of dishes from across Continental Asia, from the food stall fare of Hong Kong to the hidden cuisine of small, neighborhood restaurants.
click to enlarge Casual and colorful decor adds to the vibe at Tin Drum. - PHOTO BY HEIDI GELDHAUSER
Casual and colorful decor adds to the vibe at Tin Drum.
Photo by Heidi Geldhauser
Founder and CEO Steven Chan first opened the concept 18 years ago in Atlanta inspired by his urban upbringing in Hong Kong. It now has ten locations in The Big Peach. The Pan-Asian menu is what Chan refers to as " Asia's greatest hits" and is a mix of Szechuan, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Korean dishes. The restaurant's goal is to serve vibrant, fresh, made-to-order food at a reasonable price point. Small plates include Firecracker Cauliflower, Chicken Lettuce Wraps and savory Crab n Cheese Rolls. From the wok comes Citrus Pad Thai in a tangy tamarind sauce and Singapore Curry Chow Mein. There are bowls like Thai Basil Fried Rice and Tikka Masala and ramen fans can sate their cravings with Tokyo Ramen like Pork Belly Tonkotsu and Spicy Miso Chicken and Potsticker. Some of the dishes were created by Chan's wife, Sylvia, who was born in China and raised in Thailand.
click to enlarge Tin Drum has an extensive menu of Asian dishes. - PHOTO BY HEIDI GELDHAUSER
Tin Drum has an extensive menu of Asian dishes.
Photo by Heidi Geldhauser
A trip to Korea inspired Chan to add Korean Fried Chicken to the Sidewalk Sandwiches menu which also includes the Panko Sriracha, both served on a brioche bun and accompanied by Tokyo Crinkly Fries. There's boba tea and Vietnamese coffee on the beverage menu and customers can take home candy, snacks, and sauces from its mini Asia Market.

The restaurant will offer 2,200 square feet of space and a patio with an ambiance that is modern and playful. Chan's partners in the Houston expansion, Shairoz and Avez Mareida became fans of Tin Drum in college in Atlanta and are excited to share the food and the experience with the city.
click to enlarge Cherif Mbodji, Victoria Pappas Bludorn and Aaron Bludorn plan a Rice Village concept. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL ANTHONY
Cherif Mbodji, Victoria Pappas Bludorn and Aaron Bludorn plan a Rice Village concept.
Photo by Michael Anthony
Chef Aaron Bludorn and wife Victoria Pappas Bludorn will open a new concept at 2445 Times Boulevard in Rice Village in the summer of 2022. The couple recently leased the space, which formerly housed Politan Row food hall. They chose Rice Village for their new venture because of its urban aesthetic and neighborhood charm. The vintage mid-century structure also drew them to the spot. They are partnering with Cherif Mbodji, the general manager for the couple's restaurant, Bludorn, which opened in August 2020, in the midst of the pandemic.

The married duo first met at Cafe Boulud in New York, where Bludorn served as executive chef. Pappas Bludorn is a native Houstonian who comes from a family of restaurateurs. The eponymous Bludorn was the chef's first solo concept and continues to receive critical acclaim. However, the Bludorns' goal from the moment they decided to relocate to Houston was to take advantage of the opportunities that the city provided and plan multiple concepts. Recently, the brand has extended to include Bludorn Catering and Events and an upscale chef-prepared meal program, Bludorn at Home.
click to enlarge Wild will be a welcoming and edgy space for hemp integration. - PHOTO BY HARRISON
Wild will be a welcoming and edgy space for hemp integration.
Photo by Harrison

Grinders Coffee Bar and CBD Apothecary, 2121 N. Shepherd, will become Wild next year, January 2022. The new concept will be an upscale destination with a "lounge" type environment that will allow patrons to explore natural cannabis derivatives and hemp-infused coffee, mocktails, cocktails, pastries and more. Meanwhile, Grinders is still in operation.

The new venture has Harrison, a Dallas-based architecture and design firm, to help it in its branding and concept development as a multi-purpose boutique dispensary, coffee shop and bar. Its bold and vibrant design will reflect a forward-thinking, approach with a laid back attitude. Harrison's COO, Keith Anderson said, " The Wild team's passion for its products and hemp education will be infiltrated throughout the design with key elements showcasing their slower and more responsible production process."

Wild hopes to revolutionize hemp integration in the beverage space and spread knowledge in the Cannabidiol market which is forecasted to reach $13.4 billion in the United States by 2028.
click to enlarge Healthy food is convenient at Sunday Press. - PHOTO BY ORDINARY CONCEPTS
Healthy food is convenient at Sunday Press.
Photo by Ordinary Concepts
Sunday Press, 3315 Ella, softly opened earlier this month with a grand opening planned for October 29. Located at the corner of Ella and 34th, the former laundromat has been turned into a fast casual restaurant and luxury retailer with 3,445 square feet of space and a drive-thru service. Inspired by the marketplaces of Asia and Europe, the all-day cafe and lifestyle concept comes from hospitality group, Ordinary Concepts. Led by managing partner Cassie Ghaffar and Sandy Nguyen, the duo have several other "fine-fast food concepts" in their portfolio including Ginger Kale cafe in Hermann Park, Creme de la Crumb cookie delivery service and Saigon Hustle cloud kitchen.

Saigon Hustle will open its first brick and mortar location in November 2022, in the former service station next door to Sunday Press. The Vietnamese concept will be drive-thru service only. The side by side concepts are a perfect fit for the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area which has become a hot real estate market for young professionals and families in Houston.
click to enlarge Enchiladas are a classic staple in Houston. - PHOTO BY CHRIS SMITH
Enchiladas are a classic staple in Houston.
Photo by Chris Smith
La Viva Cantina, 29040 Northwest Freeway, opened  mid-September in Cypress. It comes from Chris Smith (the cook) and Guy Barrios (the carpenter). The new restaurant is owned 50/50 by the duo. Smith told the Houston Press that Barrios built the restaurant and he, Smith, runs it.

Located in Fairfield Town Center, the Mexican restaurant serves fajitas, tacos, quesadillas and Tex-Mex combos plus a number of seafood dishes like campechana, ceviche, and grilled shrimp. The Pescado Alejandro is a dish that tops the fish of the day with shrimp, scallops and avocado in a white wine sauce. Starters include its famous white queso, 7 Layer Dip, Smoked Ribs and the Ceviche Trio with snapper, shrimp and campechana.
click to enlarge The tasting room at La Viva is a suburban oasis. - PHOTO BY CHRIS SMITH
The tasting room at La Viva is a suburban oasis.
Photo by Chris Smith
The cantina side of the menu offers margaritas, beer and wine plus signature cocktails like the Mexican Tea made with Tres Agaves tequilas in Silver, Anejo and Reposado. That will put hair on your chest and probably your back and toes as well.

Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. with a special bar bites menu and $3 off house margaritas.

Jersey Mike's Subs, 12661 W. Lake Houston Parkway, will open November 3. It was originally slated to open October 27 but there was a slight delay. Franchise owners John and Grae Enterline will be raising funds for Addi's Faith Foundation from November 3 through November 7 through special fundraising coupons.

Kinokawa, 3119 White Oak, is planned for the spot which formerly housed Golden Bagels, which closed September 26. The new omakase restaurant comes from Billy Kin, formerly of Blackbird Izakaya, which closed last year. He opened Hidden Omakase in early 2021 but has left the restaurant in the hands of chef Nikki Vongthong. Kin is partnering with Brandon Silva, who parted ways with the tasting restaurant Degust this past September. Silva read that Kin was opening Kinokawa in the Golden Bagels space in an article by Eater Houston, and decided to contact Kin, according to CultureMap Houston.

Kinokawa will be located in the building's main dining room that will seat only 15 diners for a 12-course Japanese-inspired tasting menu. Kin and Silva will also debut a more casual izakaya, Tesserack, on the building's patio in early 2022, when Kin receives the liquor license.
Is chilaquiles the breakfast of champions or afternoon nappers? - PHOTO BY MARTIN HERNANDEZ JR.
Is chilaquiles the breakfast of champions or afternoon nappers?
Photo by Martin Hernandez Jr.
Chilakings, 11323 Barker Cypress, is in the final stages of permitting and will open within a few weeks, once the health department makes its inspection. The food truck is bringing a taste of Mexico in the form of quick, to-go chilaquiles. Owners Martin Hernandez Jr. and Lorenzo Reyes bought the truck with an eye to opening a taco stand. However, during a visit to Mexico to visit family, Hernandez Jr. sampled the chilaquiles at his cousin Nayelly's business in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora and convinced her to allow him to open an outpost of the concept in Cypress.
click to enlarge Martin Hernandez Jr. and Lorenzo Reyes are bringing chilaquiles to-go for Cypress residents. - PHOTO BY JOSE SAAVEDRA
Martin Hernandez Jr. and Lorenzo Reyes are bringing chilaquiles to-go for Cypress residents.
Photo by Jose Saavedra
Chilaquiles are usually a Mexican breakfast dish with fried corn tortillas covered in salsa and usually topped with eggs. It's a dish that can be rather messy,  so chilaquiles are usually served in sit-down restaurants. Hernandez Jr. and Reyes have taken the dish and made it more on-the-go friendly and Hernandez Jr. says that he can have them ready in less than four minutes sometimes.

Customers can choose eggs, chicken or steak for the chilaquiles and there is a choice of rioja (red) or verde (green) salsas. Or both for those who cannot decide. There are also breakfast tacos with options like ham, chorizo, bacon and potato plus omelettes.

The truck will be at the Barker Cypress location for the remainder of the year and will also be doing catering and events.
click to enlarge Twice-fried is oh-so-nice. - PHOTO BY DANIELA GULMAR
Twice-fried is oh-so-nice.
Photo by Daniela Gulmar

Dak & Bop, 1805 W. 18th, has lost its executive chef Jordan Economy and sous chef Matt Womack who have left for new opportunities. In an email response to the Houston Press, co-owner Jason Cho said, " I am thankful for their contributions to the Dak & Bop concept and hope they excel at their next endeavor."

As a result, the Heights location will reinstate much of its menu that was at the original spot in the Museum District, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The original location shuttered last year. The Heights restaurant opened in January 2020 and incorporated more than just the Korean fried chicken that was its main draw as an effort to allow the chefs creative control. The  Heights menu offered a few Italian dishes like an eggplant parmesan sandwich and American comfort food including a Philly cheesesteak.
click to enlarge Dak & Bop's Korean fried chicken is its bread and butter. - PHOTO BY DANIELA GULMAR
Dak & Bop's Korean fried chicken is its bread and butter.
Photo by Daniela Gulmar
The revamped menu will be a condensed blend of favorites. Returning will be the Bulgogi Mac n Cheese and a variety of bao. Cho also plans to offer the option of smaller portion sizes again. He is promising a few new items as well. Cho said, "Our goal with this transition is to be more accessible to everyone and to bring back the positive experiences our customer base enjoyed at the first location."

Other changes are being made in the kitchen, too. Victor Gutierrez, who managed the kitchen at the original restaurant and has been working in the kitchen at the 18th location, will take over management of the back of the house. Dak & Bop's pastry chef, Zed Benak, will be assisting in the menu transition.

 Another change will be an all day menu rather than separate lunch and dinner offerings.

Bigotes Street Tacos, 1201 Lake Woodlands, opened September 22 at The Woodlands Mall food court. It has two other locations at 5417 FM 1488 in Magnolia and 24900 Kuykendahl in Tomball. It offers breakfast tacos, chilaquiles, huevos rancheros plus a variety of creative tacos including the Hawaiianos with pineapple and the Condeza with nopal and chorizo or the Bigoton with just meat. There are tortas, burgers, enchiladas, sopes, flautas and birria tacos as well.

Shake Shack, 2515 N. Town Center Boulevard, is slated for Sugar Land in the future. That's all we know for now.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.