Bar Beat

Openings and Closings:Truth BBQ, Dish Society Open, Carmelo's Closes

Do you like it saucy?
Do you like it saucy? Photo by Ben Sassani
Truth BBQ, 110 S. Heights Boulevard, opened January 19. The much anticipated barbecue joint from pitmaster, Leonard Botello IV, has been a long-time coming and in a town of BBQ fanatics, the wait has been painful. A brief 45-minute drive down 290 assuaged the pain for impatient cue-heads who made pit stops at the original location in Brenham while awaiting the Houston opening.

Botello opened the original location in July 2015, with a used Klose pit. Botello's hard work and the help of his parents, who also create the mile-high cakes that the roadside joint is known for, led Truth to the No. 10 spot on Texas Monthly's Top 50 Barbecue Joints, no small feat in a state this size and ultra-discerning about its smoked meats. The popularity led to two patio expansions, according to the website and Botello realized that further expansion was needed and his hometown of Houston seemed the natural spot.

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A bigger space for a bigger city.
Photo by Ben Sassani
The Heights location offers a large space, much needed when one is turning out highly regarded meats from the pit. Carnivorous cravings can be sated with brisket, beef and pork ribs, sausage and turkey. The usual sides of coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad are on offer, along with collard greens, corn pudding and even  tater tot casserole.

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There's more than barbecue at Truth BBQ.
Photo by Ben Sassani

Then, there are the cakes. If you have any room left or you fancy a slice for later, temptations like Italian creme, triple (yes, triple) chocolate, red velvet and banana caramel are just some of the rotating flavors available. You can add a sweet smear of frosting to your barbecue sauce moustache.

Speaking of sauce, Truth has its own bottles of pleasure for sale, if you want to take some home and attempt a few smoked meats of your own. There's the OG sauce, Stay Gold, and the Big Heat hot sauce. Or just take a seat at Truth BBQ and let the pit master do his thang.

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Get in my belly, pork belly.
Photo by Dragana Harris

Dish Society, 1050 Yale, began its soft opening January 16, but its official grand opening is January 28. This is the fifth location for the Houston chain, which serves farm to table dishes, much of it from local vendors, ranchers and farmers within a three hour radius of the Bayou City, many of which are listed on the menu. There are a number of beers from local breweries as well.

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Aaron Lyons is offering seasonal eatings with a smile.
Photo by Dragana Harris
Owner Aaron Lyons opened the first location in the Galleria in 2014 and soon expanded to Katy and the Memorial area. A fourth location opened in the new food and restaurant hub, Finn Hall, as a scaled down version of the restaurant, December 3. The newest Dish Society joins a number of hip and stylish restaurants in the Heights Central Station, but Lyons believes that his restaurant fits into a niche that is under-served in the area.

The Yale location also has a bigger bar footprint and features a small "living area" with a comfy leather sofa and a variety of board games, perfect for its social hour, which begins at 3:30 p.m. daily. The fast casual concept offers counter service for breakfast, lunch and brunch, then switches to table service for social hour and dinner.

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There's a comfy sofa underneath those coats.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
The seasonal and local menu includes starters like pork belly bites and soft pretzel sticks with queso. There are plenty of salad and grains options, including avocado stuffed with citrus quinoa or apple pecan salad. Proteins like salmon, cage-free chicken and steak from 44 Farms can be added. The Farmer's Plate allows diners to choose a protein and add their choice of two sides such as smoked gouda grits or truffle mac n' cheese. Seasonal  vegetables and Brussel sprouts are healthier options for veggie lovers, though the sprouts come with bacon.

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Get your Gaelic green at Hugh O'Connor's.
Photo by David Roche
Hugh O'Connor's, 7620 Katy Freeway, opened in the Marq'E Entertainment Center December 28, 2018 and will have a grand opening February 2 from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. DJ Geneva Gordon, a former Houston Rockets Power Dancer and current sculpture artist, will be supplying the tunes.

The Irish bar and restaurant serves Guinness in a glass, Guinness in a stew, Guinness in a chocolate cake and Guinness-battered onion rings. There's also Jameson bread pudding. Erin go bragh! Just don't go bra-less, Erin. This is a family joint.

The new spot comes from David Roche and Peter Kingston, former owners of The Gorgeous Gael, which closed September 30, as reported here in the Houston Press.

The restaurant does brunch with a full Irish breakfast, complete with white and black pudding. You can condense all that deliciousness and have an Irish breakfast sandwich instead. And if you need some help getting the black pudding down your gullet, there are Bloody Marys, margaritas and mimosas.

There are 18 televisions for watching every single sport known to man and a kids menu for tag-alongs.

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Photo by Marie Elgamal

Alicia's Mexican Grille, 20420 Southwest Freeway, is slated to open in February. This foray into the Sugar Land/ Richmond area will make the fifth location for the family-owned and operated restaurant which was founded in Cypress, Texas in 2006 by David and Alicia Herrera. David Herrera came to the United States with his parents from El Salvador at the age of 18 and cut his culinary teeth working with Tony Vallone at his eponymous restaurant, Tony's. Herrera and his wife saved for 27 years to open their first restaurant.

The family prides itself on making everything from scratch, including the salsa and tamales. The beef fajitas are made with certified Black Angus beef. The full bar offers beer and wine, but savvy patrons know to order a blood orange margarita or the Casamigos skinny rita.

The new restaurant will feature the same earth tones and high ceilings of the other locations, with the design coming from architect Mike Treadway and interior decorator Deborah Goolsby, who also collaborated on other restaurants in the Herrera portfolio, including Dario's, Marvino's and Galiana's.

SING, 718 West 18th, has parted ways with executive chef and partner, Cuc Lam. The Singaporean-inspired restaurant has only been open since October, as we reported here in the Houston Press. After stints as a middle-school English teacher and IT systems engineer, Lam (who also wrote for the Houston Press food section for a while) turned her talents toward cuisine and held pop-ups around town before partnering with Jerry Lasco of Max's Wine Dive and The Tasting Room.

The restaurant initially saw a few hiccups due to its small size and increasing popularity, some of it stemming from a favorable review by Alison Cook at The Houston Chronicle. It remains to be seen what happens with the concept as its creative head is no longer there, but Eileen Lopez, who was already cooking in the kitchen at SING, will take over as executive chef, according to the Chronicle.

As for Lam, she gave a statement to the Press regarding her departure, " I've decided to part ways with Jerry Lasco. It was my choice to leave SING. I wish them the best of luck."

Perry's Steakhouse, 1997 West Gray, is set to open its first location within the 610 Loop February 11. What started out as a butcher shop in 1979 has turned into a Houston steakhouse staple with six other locations in the Houston area plus restaurants around the the United States, including Chicago, Birmingham, Denver and Dallas.

The 12,000 square foot space will have seating for 350 diners, with the first story featuring the restaurant's Bar 79 and a private dining area. The second story will be the main dining area, with more private spaces available. There will also be an expansive outdoor patio.

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Spice up your Benedict with some crazy Cajun flavors.
Photo by Brooke Mackin
Sizzle & Brew, 16949 N. Eldridge, opened December 26. The breakfast and lunch restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., serving brunch favorites like Eggs Benedict with a Cajun twist. While you can order the traditional Benny, the crab cakes Benedict or the Crazy Cajun will make your inner Amos Moses happy. The Crazy Cajun Benedict is comprised of jalapeno-Andouille sausage cornbread, topped with a boudin ball, fried egg and Cajun Hollandaise.

Waffle lovers can choose chicken or pulled pork to add a little protein to the carbs. And seafood fans have options like New Orleans bbq shrimp with dirty rice or grits. They also have a couple of entree salads. Hahahahahahahahaha- who are we kidding, y'all? We're going for the Crazy Cajun. Oh, there's coffee, too.

Noon Mediterranean is changing to Daphne's Mediterranean. What began as Vertskebap soon became Verts Mediterranean Grill, then Noon Mediterranean, before co-founders Dominick Stein and Michael Heyne filed for bankruptcy this past August, according to Eater Austin.

Noon locations will convert to the California-based Daphne's, beginning with Dallas, then Houston, Austin and Boston, in that order. There are only two left in the Houston area, one at 1600 Louetta in Spring and another at 107 Yale.

We wish them luck, but from this writer, I am still craving the beef/lamb kebap with spicy house sauce that is no more. And that bread. From the comments on its Facebook page, I ain't the only one.

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Sloppy Joe goes from lunch line to super-refined with Wagyu beef at Brandani's.
Photo by Sandra Crittenden
Brandani's Burgers, Tacos & Brews, 3340 FM 1092, opened January 17 in Missouri City. The family owned restaurant comes from Ron and Claire Brandani, who also operate Brandani's Restaurant and Wine Bar a few doors down.

The new concept is family-friendly and serves a variety of burgers, including a classic cheeseburger, Texas patty melt and even a Sloppy Joe made with ground Wagyu beef.

The tortillas for the tacos are house-made and diners can choose between crispy or grilled fish, shrimp, Diablo chicken and picadillo beef. There is also a vegetarian taco plate with fried avocado, topped with mango salsa and tomatillo sauce. The taco plates come with black beans and rice.

The fries are hand cut and the pickles are made in house. We've also heard that the onion rings are a must.

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What are those Berg brothers up to now?
Photo by Jenn Duncan
Carmelo's,14795 Memorial, closed January 23 for renovations. Proprietor Benjamin Berg and his brother, executive chef, Daniel Berg took over the longtime Houston favorite after owner Carmelo Mauro decided to step away from the restaurant which has been serving Italian dishes like its much-loved meatballs since 1981. The Carmelo's in Austin closed in the summer of 2017. Carmelo's Houston served its last dinner service on Christmas Day 2017 and reopened under Berg Hospitality the following week on January 3, 2018.

The restaurant will undergo renovations to the interior and the exterior and there will be some changes to the menu. Benjamin Berg said in a press release, "Daniel and I promise to reopen with a new and improved concept that we are confident will be received well by the community."

Berg Hospitality also operates B&B Butchers and Restaurants in Houston and Fort Worth, as well as B.B.Lemon which recently opened in Houston in November 2018.

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Imperfect Produce is on a food waste solving mission.
Photo by Ron Sanchez
Imperfect Produce is launching its delivery service in Houston January 28. Since 2015, the subscription-based produce supplier has been on a mission to reduce food waste and help farmers unload perfectly good produce that may not be up to grocery store standards as far as consistent size and shape.

CEO Ben Simon and Co-founder Ben Chesler also launched Food Recovery Network in 2011 to recover edible food from campus dining halls.

The exact delivery areas and routes for Houston will be available on the website this Monday. New subscribers can save $5 off their first order by using the promo code HOUSTON5. Deliveries are available on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and can be customized to fit customer's household produce needs.

The new Houston service will also help local vendors and customers might see items like Medjool dates, shitake mushrooms and snap peas for this time of year. There are conventional and organic options.

Panda Cafe is relocating.
Photo by Anna Lin
Panda Garden, 5534 Wesleyan closed January 23. A statement on the restaurant's website puts the blame on high rents, an issue many small businesses are struggling with in the booming city of Houston. However, all is not lost. The owners plan to reopen Panda Garden at 5475 West Loop South by the 610 Home Depot.

Panda Garden has been around for 25 years and has been a West U staple for Chinese food, especially delivery. The owners hope to reopen by this summer, according to the construction timeline. They will continue the delivery service, also.

Manager Anna Lin told the Houston Press, " We are sad to leave this place because a lot of our customers have fond memories with their families here. But we are ready to make new memories at the new location, as well".

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Hickory Hollow looks to the next millennium.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Hickory Hollow, 101 Heights, closed January 13. Tony Reidel sold the Heights location to Braun Enterprises which is behind the Buffalo Heights mixed use development, which will be anchored around an H-E-B grocery store, according to the Houston Chronicle. While many residents of the neighborhood will be thrilled to have the Texas grocery giant in their backyard, many will miss the rustic charm of Hickory Hollow and its enormous chicken fried steaks.  Many of the employees will move to the original restaurant, which opened in 1977 at 8038 Fallbrook, off of Highway 249 and Beltway 8.

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Barbecue chopped beef at Hickory Hollow Fallbrook.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Loyal patrons will have to drive north out of the Heights bubble if they want to enjoy the best chicken fried steaks in Houston, according to the Houston Press. For some the biggest dilemma is choosing between those steaks and the famous barbecue. 
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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.