Restaurant News

Openings and Closings Vine Memorial Debuts, Thirteen Reopens Soon

Chef James Lundy has created a wine-friendly food menu.
Chef James Lundy has created a wine-friendly food menu. Photo by Dylan McEwan/Scurfield Group

Vine Memorial, 7951 Katy Freeway, opened January 9, near I-10 and Chimney Rock. The retail bottle shop and wine bar comes from Gr8 Plate Hospitality and its owners Doris and Paul Miller,  married restaurateurs who get to showcase their wine expertise as WSET Level 2 certified wine and spirits professionals at the new venture.
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This team of hospitality professionals is ready to give the public a special wine experience.
Photo by Dylan McEwan/Scurfield Group
The Millers have also brought in general manager Jim Harvey and well-known Master Sommelier Guy Stout to help curate the more than 200 bottles whose origins span the globe. Chef James Lundy has created a bar bites and food menu that pairs with the different varieties of wine such as charcuterie boards, pizzas, salads and sandwiches.
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Over 200 bottles from around the world will be available.
Photo by Dylan McEwan/Scurfield Group
The wine bar and retail shop will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. serving lunch and dinner plus happy hour specials. The 2,554 square-foot space accommodates 78 guests in the former home of Memorial Wine Cellar, a retail wine concept in which Paul Miller spent many hours bonding with his father as they made plans for his eventual company, Gr8 Plate Hospitality. Doris Miller designed the remodeled space including the Oil Man's Lounge, a private wine room that seats 24 and also has AV capabilities. A nice-sized patio will be added this spring with additional room for 60 wine lovers.
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Master Sommelier Guy Stout (left) shares a glass with Gr8 Plate Hospitality co-owner Paul Miller.
Photo by Dylan McEwan/Scurfield Group
The Millers will feature educational classes at the new wine concept along with wine tastings. The first ticketed wine dinner is January 25 with the Wagner Family of Wines. Patrons will also be able to join the Vine Club which will offer tastings of wines handpicked by Stout himself.
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The transformation of Thirteen is nearly complete.
Rendering by Studio Five
Thirteen, 1911 Bagby, will reopen February 1, 2024. Founded by NBA superstar and former Houston Rockets shooting/point guard, it first opened in March 2021 in Midtown as a fine dining steakhouse. In October 2023, it shuttered for a complete transformation which means a new beginning with changes in management and staff as well as bringing in a new chef.

Taking the reins of the revamped Thirteen's kitchen will be chef Siddartha Cadena. The classically trained chef is a Texas native whose culinary journey has landed him in some of the best restaurants in the world including Joel Robuchon in Paris, The Apartment in Shanghai and Gaggan Anand in Bangkok. That eclectic and international experience is in line with Harden's own worldwide travels which have inspired the revamped vision for Thirteen's menu which will see a fusion of Japanese and American contemporary cuisines.

As well as a completely new food menu, the lounge and bar program have been overhauled with a boutique wine list and beautiful cocktails. And the interior design of the restaurant, led by Adel Sadek of Studio Five, has been transformed with an expansion of the dining room, new decor, furniture, lighting and fixtures. The outdoor patio will have all new furniture and a custom patio cover.

According to general manager Sean Night, a hospitality veteran who most recently served as Regional Operations Manager for ALife Hospitality, everything is new from "fixtures to flatware". He says, "The entire new team at Thirteen couldn't be more excited to present Houston with a fresh, completely reimagined dining experience filled with international flavors and the finest hospitality in a warm, artistic new ambiance.

As for the other 13 returning to Houston, odds do not look good.
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The Italian Farm Salad is a green option with some salumi added for a hearty dish.
Photo by North Italia
North Italia, 840 W. Sam Houston Parkway, is expected to open February 7 at Houston CityCentre. First founded in 2002 by Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts, the Italian concept has expanded to 29 restaurants across the U.S. with two Houston area locations, one downtown at Boulevard Place and another in The Woodlands. The upcoming location will make number three for the city, joining the vibrant dining, retail and lifestyle development which features green spaces, open-air plazas and entertainment venues.
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Gettin' piggy with it.
Photo by North Italia
Located on the ground floor of the six-story commercial building in the CityCentre Plaza, it will be open daily for lunch, happy hour and dinner plus a weekend brunch. With chef Jairo Gonzales leading the kitchen, North Italia will serve its take on Italian standards with a contemporary twist. Beginning with shareables like chef's boards, calamari fritti and beef carpaccio, the menu also offers a selection of pizzas including its popular The Pig, loaded with salumi, pepperoni, sopressatta and Italian sausage.

The pasta is made from scratch for dishes like its Squid Ink Tonnarelli, Bolognese or Spicy Rigatoni Vodka. Guests may substitute gluten-free pasta or vegetable noodles for an additional cost. Entrees include Chicken Parmesan, Roasted Salmon and Braised Short Rib.
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The Sicilian Margarita is a cocktail you can't refuse.
Photo by North Italia
There's a robust wine list and signature cocktails with happy hour running Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. There's a bar bites menu as well, along with half-price bottles of wine all day Monday in the bar.

North Italia City Centre will host a job fair Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through January 21 at the restaurant itself.
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Chef Timur Fazilov joins the Atlas Restaurant Group team.
Photo by Atlas Restaurant Group
Azumi, 4444 Westheimer, is slated to open in spring 2024 and it has just announced its head chef for the new concept. Timur Fazilov has been chosen as Atlas Restaurant Group's concept chef for Asian cuisine and he brings Michelin cred to the new venture.

With Japanese cuisine on trend across the city, Azumi's sushi-focused menu will showcase the talents of Fazilov who spent four years as executive chef of Morimoto in Doha, Quatar. His time with with star chef Masaharu Morimoto's concepts also includes a stint as Brand Executive Chef at Sa' Moto in Miami.
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Azumi will bring upscale Japanese cuisine to River Oaks.
Rendering by Atlas Restaurant Group
Fazilov said in a press release that he intentionally seeks opportunities that challenge him to evolve. "I am thrilled to start my next chapter with Atlas and to be a part of a culture where creativity is celebrated and chefs are encouraged to continue pushing the envelope to deliver the unexpected.  When a commitement to quality and innovation are at the forefront of what you do, the sky's the limit."
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Pizza and Pints conveniently overlooks the Biergarten.
Rendering by Karbach Brewing Co.
Pizza & Pints, 2032 Karbach, is expected to open in the first quarter of 2024 at Karbach Brewing Co., next to its Swag Shop. We got a tease about the pizza concept in a tour of the brewery last year. At 5,000 square feet, the pizza restaurant will open to the Biergarten, connecting with the brewpub and the brewery.

The menu, overseen by chef Edward Hoyos, will feature Italian-inspired appetizers along with salads and handmade pizzas. Since pizza pairs spectacularly well with beer, there will be 20 taps at the restaurant with a rotating selection of Karbach brews.

The addition of the restaurant will create a space totaling 87,000 square feet. With a brewpub, pizza eatery and biergarten (and occasional live music), guests may never want to leave the compound.
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ChopnBlok will inhabit a stunning space in Montrose.
Rendering by gin design group
ChopnBlok, 507 Westheimer, will open its first free-standing brick and mortar location in Montrose later this summer, according to CultureMap Houston. Founded originally as a pop-up series by owner/chef Obe Amosu, the West African concept opened a small location within the food court at The POST, 401 Franklin, in November 2021. The new Westheimer spot will have 3,000 square feet of space in comparison to its POST location which only has space for three or four tables. It will also be counter service like its predecessor.

With an expanded space comes an expanded menu plus the addition of a cocktail program. We reached out to Amosu for some details about the upcoming ChopnBlok and he said, "The expanded menu offers additional rice and protein pairings that showcase various storylines and flavor profiles of the West African diaspora. Also, expect more stews/curries, seasonal salad blends and small chops (lite bites)."

Amosu added that the West African brunch series would be incorporated into the mix including dishes such as Plantain Pancakes, Nigerian Egg Sauce and Coconut Fried Chicken. He also said that the "Sips" menu will feature mocktails such as the citrus-based Ikoyo Chapman and ChopnBlok's classic Oga Palmer hibiscus tea. For cocktails, Amosu plans to incorporate artisan distilleries like Liberian Sangar rum, Bayab gin and Uncle Nearest whiskey, named in honor of Nathan "Uncle Nearest" Green, the first known African American master distiller.
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The interior of ChopnBlok will reflect its West African inspiration.
Rendering by gin design group
As for the design, Gin Braverman of gin design group, one of Houston's top restaurant and bar designers, said "ChopnBlok is more than a restaurant. It is a community gathering space, an art gallery, a home base, a place where guests are exposed to, immersed in, educated on and treated to the stories, sights and scents of West Africa."

Amosu himself said of the new restaurant, "Expect an inviting, lively space that will service both lunch and dinner, with cultural education and the signature soulful vibes our guests have come to know us for over the years."
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Fresh ingredients are the key to Salata's success with diners.
Photo by Salata
Salata, 21856 Market Place, opened January 11 in New Caney. Located at Valley Ranch Town Center, the new 2,800 square-foot location will be the 17th for Supreme Greens Franchise Group owned by Joe Piro and his partners. The group has a development deal in place for five more locations in the future. Salata is a Houston-based soup and salad concept that was founded in 2005 and currently has 96 corporate-owned and franchised stores in Texas, Louisiana. Georgia, North Carolina and Southern California.

Guests can choose customizable salads or wraps with a multitude of toppings available as well as a choice of 11 house-made, gluten-free dressings. The fruits, vegetables and proteins are prepared and chopped in house daily.
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Golden Chick is ringing in 2024 with another location.
Photo by Golden Chick
Golden Chick, 4805 Galveston Road, opened January 9 as the 15th Houston area location. Located near Cesar E. Chavez High School, it's the chicken brand's first location of 2024 and also the first Golden Chick for franchisee Sean Kheerani. Based in Richardson, the company has seen major expansion into markets across the Lone Star State and Oklahoma, along with its first restaurant in Mississippi. There are plans to opens more locations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Nevada in the coming year.

Founded in 1967, it bills itself as the creator of the Original Golden Tenders and the Big & Golden Chicken Sandwich. In addition to its popular fried chicken, there are items such as Golden Roast Chicken, Southern Fried Catfish and Chicken Salad. It also has comfort sides such as fried okra, green beans, dirty rice,  mac and cheese and battered fries. 
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Craft Pita invites customers to enjoy the Mediterranean diet.
Photo by Michael Ma
Craft Pita, 5172 Buffalo Speedway and 1920 Fountain View, have launched a Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep menu to help Houstonians with their New Year's resolutions.  Customers can create their own ready-to-eat meals with a selection of fresh vegetables, grains and proteins. Entree choices include rotisserie chicken, beef kafta, fattoush salad, lentils, roasted cauliflower and more.

The meal prep menu is available online or in-store and there are flexible options for various dietary needs.
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Chef Tim Reading had us at whipped ricotta.
Photo by Rachel Sumang
Pastore, 1180 Dunlavy, is partnering with local chefs and culinary superstars each month for its Pizza with Purpose campaign. Each chef will create a custom pizza for the restaurant with $5 from the sale of each one going to a charity of the chef's choosing.

The line-up so far for 2024 includes January with Chef Tim Reading of Leo's River Oaks, February with Lena Le of Lena's Asian Kitchen and March with Chef Leila Ortiz of Hotel Lucine.

Reading's January pie ($20) will feature whipped ricotta, spicy capicola, aged asiago, arugula and pickled onions. His charity of choice is Rescued Pets Movement. Le's pizza collab in February will be topped with xiu mai (Vietnamese meatballs), tomato sauce, Thai basil and mozzarella and will raise money for Daya Houston, a local non-profit which aids and empowers South Asian survivors of abuse.

Ortiz's pizza creation is still to be determined but the partnership will benefit the Big Sister Little Sister mentoring program in honor of Women's History Month. 
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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.