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Openings and Closings: Whiskey Cake Woodlands Opens Soon, Ninfa's Uptown Locked Out [UPDATED]

The Cure at Whiskey Cake is a tower of guilty pleasure.
The Cure at Whiskey Cake is a tower of guilty pleasure.
Photo by Kathy Tran

Whiskey Cake, 27800 North Freeway Service Road, opens September 8 in Oak Ridge North. The farm-fresh American fare is dished out in a industrial-chic atmosphere with vintage repurposed light fixtures and reclaimed wood tables. This will be the ninth location for the brand with several Greater Houston area locations in Friendswood, Stafford and now, The Woodlands.

The restaurant posits itself as farm to fork and garden to glass with many locally sourced ingredients from Texas vendors and producers like Gundermann Acres, Fun Guys Gourmet Mushrooms, Veldhuizen Cheese Shop and Little Orchard Pecans.

There's turkey in that there chili.
There's turkey in that there chili.
Photo by Kathy Tran

The menu offers starters such as Local Goat Cheese Fondue and Fried Green Tomatoes with some salad options such as Rotisserie Chicken and Kale. There are burgers and mesquite-grilled entrees including Whiskey-braised Short Ribs and Garlic Grilled Ribeye. There's also a well-priced kids menu with items like chicken fingers and Silver Dollar Burgers for $5 and include a beverage and side.

Craft cocktails include the Tennessee Stud made with Jack Daniels and the Left Hook Lucy with black tea-infused Wheatley vodka. There are also plenty of whiskey choices for the whiskey flights. There are non-alcoholic beverages including the Ollie Ollie Oxidant and the Jessica Wabbit, fresh fruit juice blends for health-minded folks.

Houstonians can still get their red and green salsas at Ninfa's on Navigation.
Houstonians can still get their red and green salsas at Ninfa's on Navigation.
Photo by Cooper + Ricca

Update: The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston reopened for normal business hours, August 29 at 10 a.m.

The Original Ninfa's Uptown Houston, 1700 Post Oak Boulevard, was locked down when employees and managers showed up for work August 25, as we reported here in the Houston Press. The restaurant brand, founded by Ninfa "Mama" Laurenzo in 1973, was bought by Legacy Restaurants in 2006. Legacy Restaurants also operates Antone's Famous PoBoys, another Houston legacy business.

In a press release, Legacy Restaurants owner Niel Morgan said he was surprised and shocked by the lockout from its landlord, Whitestone REIT, at BLVD Place since lease negotiations were going in a positive direction. Morgan said that Legacy Restaurants and Whitestone REIT had been negotiating in good faith for some time, and Ninfa’s was not requesting any rent forgiveness. According to Morgan, Legacy Restaurants was informed on Friday that its proposed deferral and payment plan was acceptable subject to resolving one remaining issue.

“I really don’t understand this tactic. It’s quite disappointing to see a landlord seek to improve its position instead of sharing the burden during a very difficult time for the restaurant industry.” Morgan said.

However, Jim Mastandrea, CEO of Whitestone REIT, told CultureMap Houston that Ninfa's had not paid rent since March and that its "refusal to make any payment toward rent or property expenses left us with no choice." Mastandrea said that the company has a vested interest in Ninfa's success but that it also has a commitment to its stakeholders, debt holders and shareholders as well. Mastandrea also stated that he remains open to resolving the company's issues as it has with other tenants.

A spokesperson for Legacy Restaurants informed the Houston Press that the rent payment agreement was approved by Whitestone REIT but that the company was refusing to come to an agreement about the guarantee which would require Morgan to increase his personal risk and raise his guarantee by 50 percent during an industry crippling pandemic.

No notice was given prior to the lockout which was a shock for the 65 employees who showed up for work that day.

The interior at Ninfa's Uptown was designed by Michael Hsu.
The interior at Ninfa's Uptown was designed by Michael Hsu.
Photo by Becca Wright

Legacy Restaurants acquired The Original Ninfa's on Navigation in 2006. The Laurenzo family no longer has ties to the restaurant. With Executive/Corporate Chef Alex Padilla, the company expanded the menu, eventually opening the second location in Uptown in June 2019. Legacy Restaurants also created a new offshoot of the Ninfa's brand called Mama Ninfa's Tacos Y Tortas at Understory food hall in downtown Houston in August 2019. That location is temporarily closed as is the Antone's location in the Medical Center.

The Original Ninfa's on Navigation is thankfully still open, serving its famous tacos al carbon, which many  believe made its entry into the Tex-Mex world thanks to Ninfa Laurenzo.

Black Rock Coffee Bar,1420 W. Grand Parkway, celebrated its grand opening August 21. The coffee company was founded in Portland, Oregon in 2008 with most of its stores located in Oregon, Arizona, Idaho and Colorado. It is slowly making its way eastward with its first Texas location having opened in Austin in January of this year.  The Katy location is the second for Texas with a third planned for Houston later this year. It is primarily a drive-thru but there is some inside seating. It also offers subscriptions for its proprietary bags of coffee and convenient online ordering.

There is a wide variety of coffee drinks available including latte, cappuccino, Americano and flavored brews such as Mexican Mocha and Irish Coffee. There is a plethora of flavored syrups to add including watermelon, kiwi, banana and lavender. Those who like iced drinks will find plenty of options like blended Chillers in flavors such as Oreo, Mint Chip and Caramel Blonde and its Fuel energy drinks. There are fruit smoothies plus hot tea, chai tea latte, and hot chocolate.

Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra.
Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra.
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra, 2707 Commercial Center Boulevard, reopens August 31. The cinema, which also serves food and drink, has been shuttered for five months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, it is reopening with numerous safety protocols in place. Everyone do their part and no one gets hurt. Its COVID-19 safety standards are listed at drafthouse.com.

Tickets are now on sale for Tenet, the new Christopher Nolan film, The New Mutants and Bill and Ted Face the Music. The theater will also be running themed films to help cinema goers escape the anxiety of the pandemic while having a little fun. The Making Up For Lost Time series includes Inception, Back to the Future and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure while the September series, MASKS, offers Batman (1989), Mad Max: Fury Road, Mask of Zorro and The Silence of the Lambs.

Staff will have temperature checks, wear masks and gloves (which will be changed out regularly) and guests will be required to wear masks at all times, except when eating and drinking. Seats will be spread out and guests must exit row by row.

Molina's can make your home a cantina with margaritas to-go.EXPAND
Molina's can make your home a cantina with margaritas to-go.
Photo by Kimberly Park

Molina's Cantina, 6300 FM 1463, is getting ever closer to opening in Fulshear and it is currently hiring for the new location. We reached out for a projected opening date and are awaiting word of its debut. Meanwhile, there are two current locations where guests can dine-in or pick up curbside Tex-Mex to go including fajitas, Tex-Mex combos, enchiladas and more. Take-out customers can add a single margarita ($9) to food orders online or opt for the half gallon ($50) or gallon ($99) margaritas served in a soft-sided easy pour pouch. Fajita bulk packs are available as well.

Texadelphia is expanding to Memorial City.
Texadelphia is expanding to Memorial City.
Rendering by Moody National

Texadelphia, 9655 Katy Freeway, is expected to open in mid-September. The Texas-based chain has been around since 1981 and is known for "The Original Texas Cheesesteak". This will be the fourth location for Summit Interests, owned by Jeremy Sanders and Kenny Owen. The duo are franchisees of Texadelphia and are reimagining and refreshing the brand with an enhanced dining environment, evident in their Katy, Vintage Park and Galveston restaurants.The new location was also part of a NextSeed crowd-funding campaign.

The Memorial location will offer 5,000 square feet of space and a casual, family-friendly environment with a sports bar ambiance. The menu includes its Classic Cheesesteak, which can be customized with a number of toppings, or diners can try one of the Signature Cheesesteaks like The Texican which is served with grilled onions, jalapenos and two ounces of queso. There's also non-steak choices like The Left Coast with chicken and guacamole or The Pizza Steak with pepperoni and marinara. There are burgers, salads, wraps and chicken tenders plus appetizers such as wings, pickle fries and onion rings. Its queso and chips is a popular starter. There's also a inexpensive kids menu which has more than a few tot-friendly choices like burgers, mini corn dogs, mac and cheese and cheesesteaks for $4.99.

Texadelphia has a full bar with beer, wine, margaritas and frozen drinks.

Fix and Fogg makes peanut butter dreams come true.
Fix and Fogg makes peanut butter dreams come true.
Photo by Blake Lupton

Fix and Fogg, 1731 Westheimer, opened its first U.S. storefront window in Montrose. The New Zealand-based peanut butter purveyor was founded in Wellington in 2013 by Roman and Andrea Jewell. The company began selling its peanut-y product on Amazon and quickly gained a legion of fans. Realizing that the success of its brand could do well in the United States, the home of peanut butter, it brought its manufacturing to Colorado where it uses ingredients from the U.S. when possible. The hatch chiles for its spicy Smoke and Fire peanut butter come from New Mexico while the maple syrup for the Coffee and Maple comes from Vermont. There are six flavors in all including Super Crunchy, Smooth, Dark Chocolate and Everything Butter. All of the butters are gluten-free, vegan, natural and Non-GMO Certified. They also contain no palm oil or artificial flavors. Fix and Fogg are also B Corporation Certified, the first New Zealand food manufacturer to receive the designation. Touting itself as "The World's Best Peanut Butter", it is available at the new Houston location and at Central Market stores across Texas. It can also be ordered online for $8.99 a jar or $35 for four. There's also peanut butter-themed merchandise for sale such as t-shirts and tote bags.

Openings and Closings: Whiskey Cake Woodlands Opens Soon, Ninfa's Uptown Locked Out [UPDATED] (3)EXPAND
Photo by Allison Moorman

Goode Co. BBQ, 8865 Six Pines, is still temporarily closed but it is hosting another Goode Bird pop up August 29 and August 30 from noon to 8 p.m. Orders must be placed ahead of time online at toasttab.com/goode-bird-pop-up for pick up at the Goode Co. BBQ location in The Woodlands.

Goode Bird opened as a to-go only Southern Fried Chicken concept at Goode Co. Armadillo Palace in July. Due to its popularity, owner Levi Goode decided to do a pop-up last week in The Woodlands. Its success has led to another pop-up this weekend with a chance of Goode Bird having a more permanent Woodlands schedule in the future.

The menu revolves around fried chicken made with all natural chicken from the Texas Hill Country. Customers can order small or large, from a three piece dinner with two sides and a biscuit ($13) to a Family Pack ($44) which serves four and includes ten pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits and a choice of two pints of sides. There are also chicken tenders available.

Sides options such as fried okra, slow-cooked greens and pimento mac and cheese carry out the Southern theme along with from-scratch desserts like Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie and Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies. A whole pecan pie is a bargain at $22. Order early to avoid disappointment.

Social media helps to get the word out about small businesses.EXPAND
Social media helps to get the word out about small businesses.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

A Plus Cakes 'n Mor, 10130 Grant, is in need of some love from folks on the northside near Highway 249. Small bakeries are suffering due to so many weddings and special events being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. For those with a sweet tooth, this little shop has more than cakes, as its name states. There are freshly baked cookies, prettily decorated cake balls ($1.25), cupcakes ($2.50), cream horns ($2) and macarons. Cake flavors include carrot, chocolate chip, Oreo, red velvet, lemon, Italian cream and more. There are brownies and truffles for chocolate lovers plus Blue Bell ice cream.

A box of sweet treats could make someone's day. And help a struggling small business.

State Fare is offering DIY cocktail kits.EXPAND
State Fare is offering DIY cocktail kits.
Photo by Lisa Gochman

State Fare Kitchen and Bar, 15930 City Walk and 947 Gessner, has frozen drink pouches and cocktail kits to-go for enjoying the last bit of summer. The new beverage program offers cocktails, mocktails, beer and wine. There are frosty frozens in to-go pouches similar to a grown-up Capri Sun. Each pouch contains 17 ounces for $12. That's about a drink and a half. Options include Margarita, Frose, Mai Tai and Ocean Water.

It also has mimosas by the gallon for $28 and Bloody Mary and Margarita kits ($36). Beer and wine to-go are 20 percent off. For non-drinkers, there are mocktails ($4) such as the Ginger Lime Fizz, Madame Blueberry and The Jackalope.

Alcoholic beverages require a food purchase so take home some snacks that ride well like the Queso Blanco, Dill Pickle Dip and Smoky Chicken Wings. State Fare also has burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, a lighter fare menu and a kids menu.

State of Grace has a Hill Country menu for Friday lunch.EXPAND
State of Grace has a Hill Country menu for Friday lunch.
Photo by Julie Soefer

State of Grace, 3258 Westheimer, is resuming its Friday lunch service from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests can start the weekend early with the Texas Hill Country inspired menu which features appetizers such as smoked pimento cheese and deviled eggs. For a light lunch, there's a grilled chicken salad or for something more substantial, try the Pharmacy Burger or Lobster Roll. Entrees include the Petit Filet with garlic confit and Spaghettini with pesto and shrimp. The elegant restaurant also offers a weekday oyster happy hour with $1.50 oysters Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Brennan's new tasting menu comes from its new executive chef.EXPAND
Brennan's new tasting menu comes from its new executive chef.
Photo by Sabrina Miskelly

Brennan's of Houston, 3300 Smith, has a new executive chef, Joey Chavez, and he has a new five-course tasting menu to give patrons a sample of his cuisine. The tasting is chef's choice but it could include a beginning such as Louisiana Crab Salad followed by a Saucisson Sec Plate with fennel and garlic pate and chicharonnes. The third course might be a decadent Cornbread and Truffle Chicken with cornbread foie gras truffle mousse. BBQ Lamb with smoked tomato relish rounds out the menu with a sweet ending of White Chocolate Bread Pudding. The tasting is $80 per person or $155 with wine pairings from wine director, Marcus Gausepohl. Reservations can be made for one to ten persons and all guests at the table must participate in the tasting menu.

Brennan's has special cocktails for Houston Restaurant Weeks.EXPAND
Brennan's has special cocktails for Houston Restaurant Weeks.
Photo by Fern Casio

Brennan's also has a Houston Restaurants Week cocktail menu to accompany its HRW lunch and dinner menus. Guests can sip on treats like the Blackberry Lemon Drop ($12), Smith St. Mint Julep ($12) or the Spicy Margarita ($13). The cocktails and the HRW menu are available for dine-in or take-out. Houston Restaurant Weeks 2020 ends September 7. For guests dining in, Brennan's is also offering a specially chosen bottle of rose each week for the bargain price of $19.

The Lexus Patio at One Fifth will host a Wednesday cocktail pop up.EXPAND
The Lexus Patio at One Fifth will host a Wednesday cocktail pop up.
Photo by Julie Soefer

One Fifth Mediterranean, 1658 Westheimer, is launching its guest bartender pop-up program in partnership with Lucille's restaurant September 2, as we reported here in the Press. The pop up benefits Lucille's 1913, a non-profit initiative from Lucille's owner and chef, Chris Williams, to provide food to the elderly and under-served community in areas such as Sunnyside and Acres Homes. So far, 55,000 meals have been served.

The line up of participating bars for One Fifth's Wednesday pop-ups begins September 2 with Eight Row Flint. On September 9, bartenders from Two Headed Dog will be on hand making special cocktails while Johnny's Gold Brick staff will be on the patio September 16. Mixologists from Julep, Alba Huerta's highly acclaimed cocktail bar, will take the patio September 23. Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar just joined the lineup for October 7.

The guest bartenders will create three or four cocktails with one dollar from each drink sold going to Lucille's 1913. The dual purpose pop-up will also provide contract employment for the day to the bartenders and of course, generous tips from generous guests. Reservations are required for table service and can be made at One Fifth's website.

Openings Reported for August 2020:

BCK, 933 Studewood reopened late August
Bludorn, 807 Taft, opened August 21
Bao Shi Yi, 3819 Kirby, opened July 4
Cinco de Mayo, 1922 Greenhouse, opened late July
Happy Daiquiri To Go, 14715 TC Jester, opened late April
Hyat Cafe, 9099 Westheimer, opened early August
Kamp Houston, 6025 Westheimer, opened early August
Killen's, 101 Heights Boulevrad, opened August 19
Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette, 4224  San Felipe, reopened early August
Liberty Kitchen at the Treehouse, 963 Bunker Hill, reopened early August
Mingo's Latin Kitchen, 21945 Katy Freeway, opened July 1
Namaste Indian Cuisine, 202 Sawdust, opened July
Saigon House Food Truck, 2310 Decatur, opened mid-August
Street to Kitchen, 6501 Harrisburg, opened August 3
Twin Crab, 12802 Gulf Freeway, opened July 31
White Elm Cafe Bakery, 14079 Memorial, opened August 11

Closings Reported for August 2020:

Alice's Tall Texan, 4904 N. Main, closed early August
Bistro Provence, 13616 Memorial, closed for rebranding August 22

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