Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Hello Yelo, James Harden's Thirteen Opens

Yelo has a multitude of bahn mi options.
Yelo has a multitude of bahn mi options. Photo by Isabel Protomartir

Yelo Banh Mi Artisans, 23119 Colonial Parkway, softly opened last week before celebrating its grand opening March 3. The banh mi-centric restaurant is a collaboration between Phat Eatery owner and chef Alex Au-Yeung and chef Cuc Lam. Located next to Phat, the buildout was delayed by the pandemic. In the interim, Yelo popped up as a ghost kitchen, introducing banh mi fans to Lam's Char Siu Xiu Mai, a Vietnamese meatball banh mi which quickly gained fans like the Houston Chronicle's longtime food critic Alison Cook.

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The banh mi dream team.
Photo by Kimberly Park
The array of banh mi on offer includes the Char Siu Xiu Mai plus Beef Rendang (a favorite dish at Phat) and a playful Pho-rench Dip, Lam's take on the French Dip sandwich. The menu also includes rice, vermicelli and salad bowls along with Vietnamese egg rolls and Mango Papaya Shrimp Spring Rolls inspired by Phat Eatery.
Also appearing on the menu is Lam's Chili Crab Rangoon a dish she created while executive chef and managing partner at the now-closed Sing. Yelo's menu will also be updated quarterly with new dishes.

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Lam's Chili Crab Rangoon sings again.
Photo by Kimberly Park

For the banh mi baguette, Lam devoted a great deal of time searching for the perfect bread while creating a tasty pate and rich garlic aioli to elevate the banh mi experience. Instead of the traditional carrot and daikon garnish, Lam and Yeung developed a more expensive and tastier adornment of house pickled carrot and papaya. Happy Farms of Texas, a one-woman operation out of Katy,  provides the chefs with fresh herbs and produce for the restaurant.

The beverage choices are just as thoughtful with fresh-pressed juices, ube and pandan lattes and Vietnamese iced coffees made with New Orleans' coffee of choice, Cafe du Monde.  The espresso-based drinks will be made with beans from Double Barrel Coffee Roaster, a small batch operation in Missouri City.

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Executive Chef Tobias Dorzon cooks like a champ.
Photo by Thirteen Restaurant Staff

Thirteen, 1911 Bagby, opened March 4 for dinner with reservations only. The new restaurant from former Rockets superstar James Harden will offer not only upscale dining but also a hookah lounge in a cosmopolitan atmosphere with personal touches from Harden himself, including a suspended light fixture that is a replica of the basketball phenom's signature.

Harden puts his signature in lights.
Photo by Touche Studio

The 15,000 square foot space was completely renovated to provide seating for 75 guests indoors with an outdoor patio and private VIP room for additional patrons. Guests can indulge in the raw bar to start or try one of the appetizers such as Loaded Old Bay Crab Fries or The Sun Devil, a dish that gives a nod to Harden's days at Arizona State. The main course selections include Maine Lobster with White Wine Scampi Linguine or a 32 ounce Dry-Aged Tomahawk Steak. New Zealand Lamb Chops and Grilled Red Snapper are also on the menu along with sides such as its Lobster Macaroni and Cheese with a fried lobster tail, a twice baked sweet potato with brulee marshmallow and smoked turkey-braised collard greens.

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Crab and Crawfish Rice gets completed with a grilled prawn.
Photo by Touche Studio
Helming the kitchen at Thirteen is executive chef Tobias Dorzon, founder of Victory Chef Catering and Victory Food Truck. A former professional football player, Dorzon learned some of his culinary skills from his Liberian father and also trained in Italy. The first generation African, born in Washington, D.C., was one of the few African chefs to curate a private dinner at the James Beard House. Dorzon also emerged as champion on Food Network's Guy's Grocery Games in 2019.

While preparing for the opening of Thirteen, Harden and his team (not the Rockets) have been providing donations of meals and bottled water to schools, families and individuals in need.

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Bread Man multiplies the loaves.
Photo by Shawn Chippendale

Bread Man Baking Co.
will  build a new bakery facility at 305 Gellhorn. The major expansion project is expected to open this summer. Owner Tasos Katsaounis, aka The Bread Man, has brought in chef Jess DeSham Timmons as Food Service Sales Manager. Timmons, chef and partner at Cherry Block Craft Butcher and Kitchen will continue the partnership with Felix Flores at Cherry Block but will no longer be in the kitchen on a daily basis, according to CultureMap Houston. Timmons has also appeared on Food Network's  Beat Bobby Flay. She joins Drew Gimma, former chef de cuisine at Squable, who Katsaounis recruited as Director of Operations.

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Jess DeSham Timmons, Tasos Katsaounis and Drew Gimma prepare for a major expansion.
Photo by Pop Studios PR
The new plant will give the company over 40,000 square feet of space compared to its current location's square footage of less than 5,000 at 9127 Stella Link. The build out will include state-of-the-art equipment that will allow for increased volume while maintaining the artisanal process of the bread production. It will also allow the company to include fresh and frozen offerings for wholesale and retail. New production lines will have automated slicing and packaging and a burger bun/roll line that will triple production to 9,000 units per hour. With a 600 percent year over year growth in the past couple of years, the new production line will help the company to offer its products for distribution state-wide, regionally and nationally.

Bread Man Baking Co. retail breads can be found at Whole Foods and six Houston-area H-E-B locations.

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KP's Kitchen offers dishes for the whole family.
Photo by Emily Loving

KP's Kitchen, 700 Town and Country Boulevard, opened softly February 14.  Owner and chef Kerry Paul is a familiar face to Houston kitchens having worked at benjy's, Local Foods and Houston's over the years. Paul always wanted to open his own restaurant that was accessible to all and gave a feeling of European bistros where families could gather after a game of tennis or a wedding. Paul and his family live in the neighborhood and want to show their support for the community by featuring the work of local artists and hosting school spirit nights. 

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KP's 12 Hour Baby Back Ribs is served with a chili-citrus glaze.
Photo by Emily Loving

The bistro offers counter service and table service with a small menu featuring appetizers such as a cheese and charcuterie board, spinach-artichoke dip and Southern Fried Chicken Fingers. There are sandwiches like the Hot Chicken and the KP's Bistro Burger. For entrees, there are dishes such as Gulf  Red Snapper (sourced from Blue Horizon), Filet Mignon and Roasted Rosemary Chicken. For now, it's only open for dinner from 4 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It also has online ordering for take-out.

The restaurant is currently in the process of obtaining a beer and wine license but for now it is offering an extremely reasonable corkage fee at $5 per table for BYOB wine and beer.

The Hala Guys has combination platters.
Photo by Carlos Brandon
The Halal Guys, 609 Main, began its grand opening March 2. The celebration continues through March 5 with free platters to the first twenty-five customers, chances to win a 65-inch television and free The Halal Guys  t-shirts and swag while supplies last. The downtown store makes the sixth location for the Houston area.

Founded in 1990 in New York City by Egyptian immigrants Mohamed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed as a food cart, the brand has boomed across seventeen states with a handful of international locations as well. According to its website, over 400 new locations are in development.

The menu offers beef gyro, chicken and falafel platters over rice or as pita sandwiches. They come drizzled with white and hot sauce, which are highly addictive. Sides include baba ganoush, hummus and French fries. The dessert menu is short and sweet with baklava and chocolate chip cookies.

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The bread service at Doris Metropolitan reflects Michal Michaeli's talent.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Badolina Bakery and Cafe
, 5555 Morningside, is currently under construction and expected to open this spring. It comes from Itai Ben Eli, executive chef Sash Kurgan and Itamar Levy, owners of the acclaimed Israeli steakhouse, Doris Metropolitan. The elevated bakery will expand on the restaurant's bread and pastry program while showcasing the breads, cakes and desserts of its executive pastry chef and partner, Michal Michaeli. It is located next to the upcoming Hamsa, a modern Israeli restaurant set to open this summer. It will also share a patio with Hamsa.

The bakery program will feature global flavors and cultural specialties, among them modern Middle Eastern and Israeli baked goods. There will be sweet and savory pastries plus specialty sourdoughs, croissants and babkas.
Badolina will also have a signature coffee from custom-roasted beans.

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Micah Michaeli's stunning cake.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
The bakery will showcase Michaeli's techniques picked up from her travels and experiences in kitchens around the world but also feature recipes from her childhood. Michaeli and Kurgan have been testing the recipes for years. She said in a press release, " Badolina will take you on a journey that you have yet to experience. The textures and combination of flavor profiles are something we are excited to share with you all."

The bakery's name Badolina was inspired by a popular Israeli storybook by Gabi Nitzan that teaches the reader that they are in control of their own destiny.

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Pearl and Vine calls to oyster lovers.
Photo by Raydon Creative
Pearl and Vine, 26151 Nelson Way, opened February 26. The restaurant offers wood-fired steaks and seafood, an oyster bar, hand-crafted pizza and pasta. The restaurant can seat 280 guests and the Garden Veranda can be closed off for private parties for up to 60 guests.

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Who's in the mood for a martini?
Photo by Raydon Creative
Chef Ryan Hallsted, a graduate of Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, is at the helm. Hallsted has cooked all over the country but also in Houston kitchens such as REEF and Anthonie's Market Grill. Hallsted felt it was time to open a restaurant of his own and he has general manager Adam Sabir to help him bring fine dining to Katy. Sabir has 20 years of experience of management at such restaurants as Brasserie 19, Perry's Steakhouse River Oaks, The Oceanaire and The Union Kitchen.

Southern Yankee Crafthouse, 1312 W. Alabama, is shooting to open in June or July 2021, according to Paper City. This is the second location for the Southern Yankee Beer Company which operates a brewpub and restaurant at 930 FM 1960.

The Cookshack, 4015 Washington, opened mid-February right as the winter storm was hitting Houston. The fast casual restaurant kept calm and carried on despite a brief water shortage. This is the second location for the brand which first opened in Fort Worth in September 2019. It comes from Mark Rogers, a former Dallas sportscaster whose family co-founded the restaurant chain Cheddars, according to the Fort Worth Star- Telegram.

Its focus is on "Texas Hot" fried chicken sandwiches and tenders, thought it also offers applewood-smoked ribs. The crispy, spicy tenders can also be ordered with a Belgian waffle buddy for a kick of sweetness or as tacos with the restaurant's signature Shack Sauce. There are other sauce options as well including Sweet Heat, Ranch, Blue Cheese, Buffalo, BBQ and Honey-Mustard.  Homemade sides include French fries, waffle fries, coleslaw and mac and cheese. For dessert, there's Aunt Peggy's Ice Cream Sandwich.

Cold beer, draft or bottle, is available along with wine and margaritas, frozen, rocks or swirled.

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Sip wine. Do good.
Photo by Brittany Baldwin
Postino Wine Cafe, 805 Pacific and 642 Yale, will offer a chance for guests to enjoy a glass of wine while benefitting the Houston chapter of Dress for Success in honor of International Women's Day, March 8.  The cafe will donate $5 from every glass of Espiritu Malbec ordered. The custom project wine is done in collaboration with boutique wine owner and expert, Jimena Lopez.

Restaurants Reported Open February 2021:

Blendin Coffee Company, 3201 Allen Parkway, opened January 29
Bonfire Wings, 2616 Blodgett, opened its ghost kitchen February 5
Bonfire Wings, 5832 Fairdale, opened its ghost kitchen February 5
The Burger Ranch, 16702 House and Hahl, opened February 6
Chipotle, 1400 lake Plaza, opened February 17
Citadel BBQ, 6601 Main, opened January 12
Ebony Food and Music, 11681 Westheimer, opened in January
Hungry Howie's, 9213 West Road, opened January 27
Island Fin Poke, 24345 Gosling, opened January 25
Kanpai Club, 518 W. 11th, opened February 3
Local Foods Market, 2424 Dunstan, opened February 16
Messina Hof Harvest Green Winery and Kitchen, opened mid-February
Roots Wine Bar HTX, 3701 Leeland, opened February 12
Smoothie King, 2710 W. Lake Houston Parkway, opened February 15
Wolfie's, 2329 Highway 6, opened January 23
Wunsche Bros. Cafe, 103 Midway, reopened February 3

Restaurants Reported Closed February 2021:

B.B. Italia, 14795 Memorial, closed temporarily for relocation
Down House, 1801 Yale, closed February 21
Midway BBQ, 6025 Highway Boulevard, closed temporarily due to fire
The Rock Burger Truck, 15914 Telge, closed February 28
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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.