Bar Beat

Openings and Closings:Vibrant Opens, Original Beaver's Closes, Spaghetti Warehouse Rebrands

Baked egg skillet with avocado will make your mornings vibrant.
Baked egg skillet with avocado will make your mornings vibrant. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Vibrant, 1931 Fairview, opened August 27. The new health-focused concept from first-time restaurateur, Kelly Barnhart features a menu designed by wellness expert and blogger, Alison Wu. For now, the restaurant is serving breakfast and lunch, with dinner service to begin in September.

click to enlarge Socca to me! - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Socca to me!
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
The restaurant is housed in the old McGowen Cleaners building and offers a clean, fresh interior for diners who also like clean eating. Barnhart and Wu are dedicated to a gluten and dairy free cuisine with no refined sugar, no GMOs and locally and sustainably sourced ingredients, as reported here in the Houston Press. That is no easy feat in the restaurant world.

There is an all-day breakfast menu featuring unique offerings like the Breakfast Socca, a chickpea flour pancake topped with house-made pesto, roasted tomato, watermelon radish and two eggs. Socca is a popular street food in the south of France, but uncommon on a Texas menu.

There are also one of a kind ceramic bowls filled with healthy vegetables and greens to get your regimen back on track. Round out your meal with one of Vibrant's "potions" or elixirs and feel good about yourself the rest of the day.

The Original Beaver's, 2310 Decatur, is splitting ways with Beaver's West and will close its doors as Beaver's according to The Houston Chronicle. The restaurant will reopen in a couple of months as a new concept.

Original owner, Monica Pope, will remain as partner with Axelrad owners, Jeff Kaplan and Adam Brackman for the new restaurant. Employees will be offered compensation and jobs during the interim. No word yet on the upcoming concept's menu or style but Kaplan says, "Houstonians want more outdoor, playful, urban experiences".

The Original Beaver's opened in 2007 and was a launchpad for a number of successful chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs. Beaver's West opened in January 2017, while the Original Beavers closed last summer in order to renovate and make some changes. It reopened with chef Jonathan Jones as operating partner and his new menu differed wildly from the barbecue and comfort food coming out of executive chef Arash Khurat's kitchen at Beaver's West. Jones' cuisine took a more global approach with healthier dishes, but it proved confusing to diners who were expecting some of the comfort food from the Original Beaver's or the barbecue from the Westheimer location.

September 1 is the last day of service at the Original Beaver's so go bid adieu and have a dam good time.

click to enlarge The train car is now a memory. - ARTIST RENDERING COURTESY OF ON THE MARK COMMUNICATIONS
The train car is now a memory.
Artist rendering courtesy of On the Mark Communications

Warehouse 72, 7620 Katy Freeway, is slated to open late 2018 or early 2019 as a spin-off of the former Spaghetti Warehouse, 901 Commerce, which was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey this time last year. The flood-ravaged property has been bought by a developer who has plans to create a new restaurant and bar, incorporating the historic building into the design.

The Spaghetti Warehouse brand first started in 1972 in Dallas, hence the name for the new concept, Warehouse 72. The re-imagining of the venerated red sauce restaurant will include a more modern take with the food being American fare with Italian twists. There will still be traditional favorites like the 15 Layer Lasagne, but there will also be handcrafted pizzas such as the Pizza Guanchiale, a Neapolitan-style pie with whipped mozzarella, Berkshire sausage, Tuscan pesto and local honey. Now, that's amore.

Executive chef Don Flores, most recently of Katsuya in Los Angeles, will be in charge of the cuisine, offering specialties like short ribs with Italian spices and herbs in a sweet demi-glace, porchetta, and roasted Brussel sprouts with pecans.

There will be craft cocktails and premium Italian wines to sip in a decor that features raw materials like brick, wood and concrete or out on the patio with its tall windows.

It's a far cry from the Victorian wood and train car interior of my youth. I fondly remember my first clams and linguine at The Old Spaghetti Warehouse. It felt very exotic, then.

Petite Sweets, 2700 W. Alabama, closed August 25, according to CultureMap Houston. The ice cream and sweets shop opened in 2011 and was the first foray into the sweets world from Cherry Pie Hospitality group. Unfortunately, the company has seen issues recently with its other holdings. Earlier this month, the doors of both Pi Pizza and Star Fish were closed for a day due to a rent payment problem. The group sold its casual comfort food restaurant, State Fare, and has also seen the departure of its founding chef Anthony Calleo and founding partner, Lee Ellis.

There is also a lawsuit underway against Cherry Pie Hospitality as reported by Eater Houston.

click to enlarge Founder Anthony Russo holds the giant pie. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RUSSO'S NEW YORK PIZZA
Founder Anthony Russo holds the giant pie.
Photo courtesy of Russo's New York Pizza
Russo's New York Pizzeria,11200 Broadway, in Pearland Town Center, will host a grand opening with ribbon cutting September 6, starting at 10:30 a.m. Early bird customers will receive a free one-topping giant slice, per customer, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on September 6 and 7.

CEO and founder, Anthony Russo, opened the first Russo's New York Pizzeria in 1992. Since then, it has blossomed to 47 locations in the United States and abroad. The restaurant serves New York style pizza as well as several pastas, calzones and flatbread sandwiches. Russo, a first generation Italian-American, comes from a restaurant family and he uses some of his family's recipes. Pizza pie peeps can choose from several house-made sauces.

click to enlarge Sam Farouz and staff are ready to serve up slices of happiness. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RUSSO'S NEW YORK PIZZERIA
Sam Farouz and staff are ready to serve up slices of happiness.
Photo courtesy of Russo's New York Pizzeria
The Pearland store will be operated by franchise owner, Sam Farouz, who also owns the Marq-E Entertainment Complex off Interstate 10. There will be some new menu items at the Pearland location, including cauliflower fritti (everyone's on the cauliflower bandwagon, so you better jump on), and prosciutto and fig pizza.

The design will be fresh, fast-casual, with an open kitchen showcasing a large brick oven, able to cook 16 pies at a time.

click to enlarge Don't worry, be hippie. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EDENS
Don't worry, be hippie.
Photo courtesy of EDENS

Flower Child, 1101 Uptown Park Boulevard, will open September 12. The happy hippie restaurant comes from Phoenix-based Fox Restaurants and offers a menu of healthy and fresh dishes like salads chock-full of organic greens or colorful veggies. There are also build-your-own plates with a variety of options to choose from, including spicy Japanese eggplant with Thai basil and cashew or red chili glazed sweet potato with bok choy and sesame seed.

For those requiring a little extra protein beyond nuts and seeds, diners can add on grass-fed steak, all-natural chicken, sustainable salmon, or organic tofu for an additional cost.

click to enlarge Make your belly happy at Flower Child. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX RESTAURANTS
Make your belly happy at Flower Child.
Photo courtesy of Fox Restaurants
If you'd prefer to be left in the hands of the kitchen masters, there are bowls like Vegan Poke or Mother Earth to make you feel one with the planet.

For teetotalers, there is kombucha, hot tea and cold brew. For those who think a healthy meal deserves an adult treat, there is a small selection of Texas beer and organic and tap wines.

Fox Restaurants also operates North Italia, which opened in 2015, and is bringing Blanco Tacos + Tequila to the Galleria soon.

Zero Degrees offers technicolor snacks. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ZERO DEGREES
Zero Degrees offers technicolor snacks.
Photo courtesy of Zero Degrees

Zero Degrees, 11510 Barker Cypress, celebrated its grand opening August 11 and 12. The Asian-Hispanic fusion chain, as it bills itself, serves up colorful drinks like the UBE Milkshake, a purple creation topped with a toasted marshmallow and sour belt candy. There are also mangonadas, a slush of fresh mango, chamoy and Tajin, the increasingly popular chili-lime salt. There is a similar slush called Spicy Watermelon if mango ain't your thango.

The snacks are an adolescent's dream, with popcorn chicken and fries on the menu. Some of the most popular, and decidedly unhealthy items, like elotes (Mexican street corn), and chilotes (pork rinds or chicharrones) can be topped with Hot Cheeto dust. If you decide to indulge your inner teenager with the heartburn-inducing treats, you should probably stick to places like Vibrant and Flower Child the rest of the month.

There are plans to open two more Houston area stores at 11400 Broadway in Pearland and another at 2117 N. Freeway in Spring.

Grub Burger Bar, 10403 Katy Freeway, opened August 4. The small burger chain was founded in 2012. Burger buffs can go old school with the Front Porch burger or splurge on the Wagyu option for a few more bucks. For those looking for a groovier experience, there is the Voo Doo Mushroom with absinthe-sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese and Tabasco mayo.

Besides burgers, there are chicken sandwiches, bowls with salmon or tuna and snacks like chorizo queso.

Grub offers hand spun shakes which can also be spiked for your straw-slurping pleasure. The Boozy Mint Chocolate Chip sounds sweet to us.

There are also beers on tap, wine and margaritas.

Black Bear Diner,
9510 FM 1960 Bypass, is opening this summer in the former Logan's Roadhouse spot, according to HKA Texas. The family restaurant chain first opened in California in 1995 and has multiple locations in the western United States. Black Bear Diner hit the Texas market this past March with a location in Katy and now the chain will be offering up its stick-to-your-ribs diner cuisine to the fine folks of Humble.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner starting at 6 a.m. You might feel fuzzy-wuzzy like a bear seeing all the tempting comfort food choices such as chicken fried steak and meatloaf. Black Bear bravely lists the calories of each dish on the menu, so you can jump into the Bigfoot Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs for breakfast knowing full well that you are putting 2,300 calories in your tum-tum. Reserve this splurge for a weekend nap and don't eat anything else the rest of the day, if you know what's good for you.

There are items on the "Little Less" menu for those who want good grub without the extra tub. There are salads, so if you're eating low-carb, the Bacon Cheeseburger Salad might fit the bill.

The desserts are belt-busters, too. But if you've already ditched that day's diet, go for the adorable Blackbeary Cobbler or the house-made Bear Claw. Big sweater season is coming, anyway.

click to enlarge Pork, pork baby. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TACOS REGIOS EL COQUIS
Pork, pork baby.
Photo courtesy of Tacos Regios El Coquis

Green Ceviche, 12555 Westheimer, closed August 26. The restaurant from restaurateur Gabrile Arguello originally began as a food truck. The fusion restaurant served tacos, a variety of salads, as well as different poke options and styles of ceviche.  Many loyal patrons are sad to see it close. However, the space will become the first brick and mortar for Tacos Regios El Coquis #3, which currently operates two food trucks in the Houston area.
click to enlarge Hunka hunka rotating meat. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TACOS REGIOS EL COQUIS
Hunka hunka rotating meat.
Photo courtesy of Tacos Regios El Coquis

The new restaurant is expected to open September 3 and will serve tacos trompa, which is marinated pork with achiote on a vertical rotisserie, similar to the set-up for gyros or shawarma. The technique was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants in the early twentieth century and soon, " Tacos Al Pastor" became a popular street food.

The Monterrey-style tacos have a devoted following. The menu is limited, but bean lovers can order the charros that can be "dressed" with trompo, bistek, or mixto. Pork, steak or a mix. There are also quesadillas.

Arguello will open the new restaurant with different business partners.

Los Cucos, at the southwest corner of Peet Road and Westpark Tollway, will open early next year, according to a press release. The Tex-Mex restaurant will join a number of other business and dining establishments in the District West Shopping Center, including Vida Mariscos, Whiskey River and Star Cinema Grill.

The restaurant was founded in Houston by brothers Sergio and Manuel Cabrera in 1991 and has expanded to more than 20 locations in Texas, Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada.

click to enlarge The Houston collection is like a jewel box of chocolates. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CACAO AND CARDAMOM
The Houston collection is like a jewel box of chocolates.
Photo courtesy of Cacao and Cardamom
Cacao and Cardamom, 2013 West Gray, will softly open September 4, with a grand opening to follow on September 28. This will be the second location for owner Annie Rupani's chocolate confectionery. Along with chocolatier, Lizeth Navarro, Rupani has created forty unique flavor combinations. For foodies, there is Szechuan peppercorn and cardamom rose. For nut fanciers, there are chocolate bars such as Texas Pecan and Health Freak.

Trinity Lounge, 5700 S. Gessner, will celebrate its grand opening August 31 with Nigerian R&B singer, Mr. P performing live. The entertainment venue will have live music, and large television screens for sports games. Manager Kwami Ladzekpo says, " We sell a great selection of beer, wine and spirits! We also offer live music, great food and a fantastic atmosphere."

The new lounge is located in a "trinity of businesses" which includes the Trinity African Bar + Grill and the Trinity African Food Store.

On September 2, soul singer J. Holiday will be part of the Ameerah Presents series. Holiday's album " Back of My Lac " was grammy-nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album.

Openings Reported for August 2018:

Antone's, NRG Stadium, opened August 15
Bacco on the Bayou, 4005 N. Braeswood, opened July 17
Beard Papa's, 23119 Colonial Parkway, opened August 18
Blackbird Izakaya, 1221 W.11th, opened August 15
Broken Yolk Cafe, 7019 Barker Cypress, opened August 13
Bryant Up in Smoke, 10142 Jones, opened June 16
Cafe Benedicte,15455 Memorial, reopened August 6
Cavo Coffee, 2617 Bissonnet, opened August 3
The Classic - All Day, 5922 Washington, opened August 3
The Empanada Company, 15754 FM 529, opened July 14
First Watch, 13325 Westheimer, opened August 6
Flaming Mongolian Grill, 2310 Highway 6 S., opened August
Genki Poke, 18052 FM 529, opened July 5
Gyro Hut, 2807 Old Spanish trail, opened mid-July
Hubcap Grill, 1918 NASA Parkway, opened August 22
Jin's Cafe, 9013 Westheimer, opened end of July
Kau Ba Saigon, 2502 Dunlavy, grand opening July 31
La Lucha, 1801 N. Shepherd, will open September 10
L&L Hawaiian Grill, 2404 Texmati, opened June 26
The Lounge at Field and Tides, 705 East 11th, opened August
The Original Ninfa's, NRG Stadum, opened August 15
Pho Q Long, 19752 Texas 249 Access, opened July 26
Pizza4You, 5200 Louetta, opened June 25
Pizza Motus, 6119 Edloe, opened August 10
PJ's Coffee, 11930 Barker Cypress,opened July 25
Restaurant Indigo, 517 Berry Road, opened August 1
Retro Cafe, 27200 US-290, opened in July
Spicy Girl, 3285 Southwest Freeway, opened August 18
Superica, 1801 N. Shepherd, will open September 10
The Toasted Yolk Cafe, 2110 Town Square Plaza, opened August 9
Twisted Love, 9889 Bellaire, opened August 3
Whole Foods Market 365, 101 North Loop West, grand opening August 22

Closings Reported for August 2018:
Ciao Bello, 5161 San Felipe, closed August 1
H-E-B, 14540 Memorial, closes September 9
L'Olivier, 240 Westheimer, will close September 8 to re-brand as Avondale Food and Wine
Papa Murphy's, 1214 West 43rd, closed August 1
Rico's Morning + Noon + Night, 401 Gray, closed August 6
Ula's Washington, 5555 Washington, closed August
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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.