Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Wild Oats Relocates, Albi Reopens

The Beef Short Rib is Flintstone-sized.
The Beef Short Rib is Flintstone-sized. Photo by Becca Wright

Wild Oats, 1222 Witte, opens December 8 in Spring Branch. It's a relocation for the Texas-inspired concept from Underbelly Hospitality, joining its sister restaurant, Underbelly Burger, at the same development. The original location shuttered in September and was replaced with another Underbelly concept, Comalito, soon after.

Wild Oats first opened at Houston Farmers Market in February 2022 with Chef Nick Fine at the helm. Fine remains a partner in the concept while the executive chef role at the new location will be held by Omar Munoz. We were told that there are planned special events with Fine in the future.
click to enlarge
This photo screams Texas.
Photo by Becca Wright
While the menu at the Spring Branch restaurant will still feature Texas-friendly items like chicken fried steak and chili, a couple of changes have been made. Even though the CFS at Wild Oats is made with Wagyu from RC Ranch, some customers balked at paying $42 at the original location. On the new menu, guests can order the regular-sized chicken fried steak for $18 or make it Texas-sized for $35. There are still some pricey entrees such as the Beef Short Rib ($40), Red Snapper Veracruz ($35) and RC Ranch Wagyu Steak Fajitas ($36) but there are also sandwiches such as the Fried Catfish Po Boy ($15) and CFS Sandwich ($18) or Puffy Tacos ($15) and a grilled chicken quesadilla ($16) for less costly fare. It's revamped chili is made with "no beans, no 'maters" and is offered by the shot, cup or bowl. We're not sure what a shot of chili is, but for five bucks, it better be good.
click to enlarge
Revamped chili with all the fixin's.
Photo by Becca Wright
The starters menu has a couple of new additions including the Tuna Tostada and Smoked Wings. The Armadillo Eggs and Pepper Jelly are still available as are desserts such as Dr. Pepper Cake and Banana Tres Leches. There's a kids menu as well with chicken strips, corn dogs, steak fingers and grilled cheese.
click to enlarge
Belly up to the bar like a Texan at Wild Oats.
Photo by Becca Wright
The new location offers a spacious dining room and bar along with two outdoor patios. For now, it offers dinner service daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. There is also brunch service Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
click to enlarge
We all look better in velvet.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Albi, 1947 W. Gray, reopened December 6 after shuttering temporarily and unexpectedly in mid-November. Originally opened in May 2023, the splashy Mediterranean restaurant offered a glamourous interior and a menu blending Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. With chef/consultant Mark Cox's input and executive chef Christian Hernandez leading the kitchen, beautiful and unique dishes were being created.

That's why it was a surprise when rumors began to swirl after a post on Houston Foodie Friends about a canceled reservation at the restaurant. In a Facebook post, the restaurant stated that it was temporarily closed while undergoing a chef change. Co-owner Nano Fakhoury told Culturemap Houston that the closure occurred following the dismissal of Hernandez and the departure of his sous chefs.
click to enlarge
The new menu at Albi is modern and Mediterranean.
Photo by Philip Ethridge/Hypergrowth IQ
Tucked up on the second story of a building fronting West Gray, the restaurant also features a tree house-like veranda. While the culinary offerings at Albi under Hernandez were spectacular, there is now a new food menu with items such as grilled lamb chops with tzatziki and yapprah plus a seafood gnocchi loaded with octopus, mussels and shrimp in a pepperoncini sauce.

The new cocktail menu offers signature drinks such as the Muz Eski Moda, a modern take on an Old Fashioned. There's also the Habibti Cocktail made with Caravedo Pisco, fresh raspberry, citrus and aromatic smoke, sure to charm your "darling".
click to enlarge
We are craving this sandwich and we haven't even tried it. Yet.
Photo by Sunil Srivastava
Spice Zest, 401 Franklin, opened this week at POST Houston's food court. It's a new concept from Sunil and Anupama Srivastava, co-owners of Vernadah Progressive Indian Restaurant. While Verandah is an upscale dining destination, Spice Zest will offer fast-casual fare inspired by the street foods of India.

The offerings at POST Houston's dining area are global with vendors offering everything from Filipino and South American to African and Mediterranean cuisines. Spice Zest will feature something a little different with both bite-sized snacks and full-sized meals. Drawing inspiration from cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Chennai, diners can travel the regions of India by mouth. For delectable starters there are vegetable samosas or Delhi Gol Gappe, six pieces of pani poori stuffed with potato and mung sprouts. The Grilled Tandoori Chicken Panini is filled with spiced Indian chicken, roasted red peppers and mixed green salad while the Railway Omelette is a traditional omelet served between slices of pan-grilled bread and served with Desi Fries.
click to enlarge
Lots of spices make a flavorful and colorful chicken curry.
Photo by Sunil Srivastava
Other dishes include Chicken Tikka Kathi, Anda Kathi, Methi Paneer, Chicken Curry and Chole, a vegetarian dish of stewed chickpeas. There are traditional Indian beverages and desserts such as Gulab Jamun. Most of the dishes are $14 and under while the snacks are $4 to $9.
click to enlarge
Cinnaholic's treats can be customized.
Photo by Cinnaholic
Cinnaholic, 4798 Beechnut, opens December 8 at Meyerland Court. For its grand opening party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., each guest will receive a cinnamon roll of choice for $2, limit one per person.

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the gourmet bakery serves vegan and allergen-friendly cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats. With more than 85 locations nationwide the brand is especially popular in Houston with the Meyerland location making number 8.

All Cinnaholic stores are locally-owned and operated. The Meyerland location is owned by the Figueroa family including father Jose, daughter Maria and eldest son Hector who are excited to build for the future and be part of the small business community.

The menu will be the same as other locations with its famous cinnamon rolls like the classic Old Skool, Caramel Apple Pie, Campfire S'mores and the Cookie Monster, made with cream cheese frosting, cookie dough, chocolate chips and chocolate sauce, all plant-based of course. Other treats include its non-dairy, gluten-free Dole Whip, brownies, cookies and Baby Buns.
click to enlarge
Junction Beer Garden may need a chef.
Photo by Andrew Hemingway
Railway Heights Market, 8200 Washington, closed quietly in September before its first floor space was taken over by Junction Beer Garden November 14, as we reported here in the Houston Press. A press release stated that several of its food vendors would remain on the second floor to provide dining options for the bar itself.

Now it seems that the food hall has evicted those last four tenants, Meat + Cheese Project, Meshiko, the Funnel Cake House and Mykuna.  And the bad news was apparently done by text, according to the Houston Chronicle. Just like a lousy ex.

The food hall first opened in August 2021 from Company of Nomads co-founder Anh Mai and COO Shephard Ross, a duo who were successful with the original Conservatory and Bravery Chef Hall. It seems to have changed hands and the property is now owned by Easy Park, according to the Chronicle.
Goodbye, my pretty.
Photo by Andrew Hemingway
Common Bond Brasserie & Bakery, 800 Capitol, has closed. Located in the Bank of America Tower, it first opened in September 2021 as a new concept for the Common Bond brand, known for its pastries, breads and sandwiches. The brasserie version was more full-service, with a menu of European classic dishes, modern Texas fare and a full bar. It also had an adjacent bakery and coffee bar, providing quick service for the downtown offices and employees.

We reached out for more information and received the same statement as other outlets: "Common Bond Brasserie Downtown has closed. Our lease has ended and we felt it was best to concentrate on the Bistro & Bakery and On-The-Go locations."

click to enlarge
The Avocado Piada is filled with fresh ingredients.
Photo by Liz Dickey/Piada Italian Street Food
Piada Italian Street Food, 4846 FM 1463, will open December 12 in Katy at 10:45 a.m. It will be the 13th Texas location for the company which offers hand-rolled piadas, Italian wraps filled with proteins and vegetables. Guests can build their own with protein options such as Italian sausage, grilled chicken, crispy chicken, grilled steak, grass-fed meatballs and even hot fried chicken. Seafood lovers can opt for calamari and hot peppers or grilled salmon. There's a choice of four sauces including basil pesto, alfredo, marinara and diavolo, a spicy tomato cream sauce. There are numerous toppings available like feta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese plus a variety of greens and vegetables. In addition to the piadas, customers can create their own salads or pastas. There are also chef-created items for those who want to avoid decision making.

There's also an array of sides such as Sweet Corn Salad, Pepperoni Piada Stick and Lobster Bisque along with desserts like it Sweet Street Cookie and Chocolate Brownie.

Joe's Italian Restaurant and Pizza, 13203 Jones, opened this week in Cypress. The menu is solidly old school red sauce with a variety of pasta dishes including lasagna, manicotti, spaghetti and eggplant parm. There is a selection of pizzas plus lunch specials and a kids menu. For chicken lovers, there are 19 variations on a poultry theme. There are also 16 different chicken and shrimp options. Red meat lovers can opt for its ribeye steak or veal choices.

It serves soft drinks and beer along with a pretty respectable wine list by the glass or bottle.
click to enlarge
Outback Steak house is going Next Gen.
Photo by Outback Steakhouse
Outback Steakhouse, 10315 W. Grand Parkway S., celebrated the opening of its Next Gen restaurant model in Aliana, a community in Fort Bend County. The new design features a smaller footprint at 4,694 square feet and a modern "Aussie" environment. Its large central bar is inspired by the Great Barrier Reef and the artwork lining the walls combines the spirit of the Outback with local flavor. Artist Lindsey Jenneman has created a mural inspired by the Houston's space program with a kangaroo astronaut in a NASA space suit.

A portion of sales from the opening day were donated to Richmond-Rosenberg Helping Hands. 
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.