Restaurant News

YELO Will Hello This Summer, Sam's Fried Chicken and Donuts Closes

Cuc Lam and Alex Au Yeung are opening a banh mi bistro.
Cuc Lam and Alex Au Yeung are opening a banh mi bistro. Photo by Kimberly Park

YELO, 231119 Colonial Parkway, will open in late summer. Cuc Lam and Alex Au-Yeung will open the collaborative banh mi restaurant in Katy Asian Town  in the spot next to Au- Yeung's Malaysian restaurant, Phat Eatery. The all day concept will specialize in craft banh mi and specialty coffee and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Last fall, Au-Yeung expanded Phat Eatery to meet the demands for his Malaysian street food by taking over the space next to the restaurant. With a little left over real estate space, Au-Yeung was scratching his head for a new idea. While discussing the lack of a good banh mi in the area with fellow restaurateur, Peli Peli owner and occasional Houston Press contributing writer, Thomas Nguyen, Au-Yeung rolled the idea over and over in his head.

Au-Yeung knew he needed to hire an executive chef to run his banh mi shop concept. In a press release he said, " The only person I would consider is Cuc Lam. If she wouldn't do it, I wouldn't do it."

click to enlarge The banh mi buddies unite. - PHOTO BY KIMBERLY PARK
The banh mi buddies unite.
Photo by Kimberly Park
Lam, former executive chef at SING restaurant and a former Houston Press writer, said no at first. She'd been patiently awaiting her next move after leaving SING, while giving pop up dinners and helping to open various new restaurant kitchens around Houston such as The Blind Goat and Atlas Diner at Bravery Chef Hall. But, she knew it was meant to be. "We have a mutual respect for each other as chefs and operate on the same philosophy," Lam says. "The reason we're in this business is we love to serve people and make people happy."

YELO's menu will feature a number of bahn mi, some traditional, others more creative. There will be lemongrass beef (or tofu), chicken, pork, meatball and a cold cut combo. Then, there will be more whimsical items like Lam's take on a French dip sandwich. Her Pho-rench Dip is banh mi served with a side of pho broth with ingredients typically found in a bowl of pho. Guests can expect Southeast Asian flavors along with traditional Vietnamese fare.

As for the name YELO, anyone familiar with Chef Lam knows that she likes to hashtag her creations and delicious food photos as #yellowfood. Lam explains, " The color yellow inspires, uplifts, illuminates and offers hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun. That's our mission at Yelo."

Unfortunately, you'll have to wait for her yellow food till late summer.

Sam's Double Donut Sandwich has left the building. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Sam's Double Donut Sandwich has left the building.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Sam's Fried Chicken and Donuts, 601 Heights, closed March 9. This is the second concept, originally bought by Sambrooks Management from Cherry Pie Hospitality, to close this month. In 2018, Sambrooks acquired Pi Pizza, Starfish (which became 1751 Sea & Bar) and Lee's Fried Chicken and Donuts which rebranded as Sam's Fried Chicken and Donuts. Pi Pizza closed in February, as we reported here in the Houston Press. There are no plans to redevelop at either spot. The company is now focusing on its remaining four concepts:

In a press release,Michael Sambrooks, owner/operator of Sambrooks Management Company said: “Sam’s Fried Chicken and Donuts was a fun concept with tasty and Instagram worthy fare. With our recent closing of Pi Pizza, and now the closing of Sam’s, we are fully focused on our “Big Four” concepts: The Pit Room BBQ, The Patio at The Pit Room, 1751 Sea and Bar, and Candente."  Several of Sam's employees will move on to other Sambrooks' concepts, as was the case with Pi Pizza. Others, unfortunately, will not.

Levy Park, 3801 Eastside, has three new food and restaurant options as of March 12, thanks to celebrity chef Tim Love. It's been a couple of years in the making, but Love has brought three of his Fort Worth concepts to Houston all within the popular park. Levy Park offers families with little ones, be they human or canine, many fun games, water features and room to tumble and play.

The Woodshed Smokehouse, 3728 Wakeforest, is the second outpost of Love's restaurant in Fort Worth. Guests can expect a brightly lit dining room thanks to the mostly glass walls and doors that open to let in the occasionally cool Houston air. The Fort Worth location offers burgers, sandwiches, Tex-Mex and of course, barbecue, or as it is termed on The Woodshed's menu, Q. We expect that the Houston location will do the same.

The Love Shack also originates from another of Love's Fort Worth concepts and is a kiosk in Levy Park that functions as a classic burger and hot dog joint. Patrons can also enjoy beer and wine while the kiddies play.

Side Dough, is a double decker bus located within Levy Park that will serve coffee, pastries and breakfast tacos for park attendees. It's similar to Love's Back Dough in Denton, next to his steakhouse, Queenie's, according to Eater Houston.

Besides being a prolific restaurateur in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Love has appeared on Iron Chef America, Top Chef Masters and co-hosted CNBC's Restaurant Startup with Joe Bastianich.

click to enlarge Hunain Dada, Miranda Cartwright and David Buehrer are agents of change for Finn Hall. - PHOTO BY JUILE SOEFER
Hunain Dada, Miranda Cartwright and David Buehrer are agents of change for Finn Hall.
Photo by Juile Soefer

Finn Hall, 712 Main, is making major changes. Located on the ground floor of The Jones at Main in the J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. building, the 20,000 square foot food hall's operation is being restructured by Lionstone Investments, of Houston, and Midway Companies. It opened December 13, 2018.

The real estate investment and development firms have recruited David Buehrer, owner of Greenway Coffee Company, to serve as Finn Hall’s Culinary Director. Buehrer  has developed other successful establishments such as Tropicales, Blacksmith and Morningstar Coffee and Donuts.

“Since 2013, Lionstone and Midway have executed the transformative redevelopment of 708 Main and 712 Main, now known as The Jones on Main,” said Hunain Dada, Real Estate Portfolio Management Director at Lionstone Investments. “With the proliferation of food halls in the city, we remain steadfast in attracting the best culinary offerings to Houston’s largest, most beautiful food hall. With his culinary track record for success, there is no one more forward thinking than David to curate Finn Hall’s newest concepts.”

click to enlarge Stephanie Velasquez and Nicolas Vera will bring Papalo Taqueria to Finn Hall. - PHOTO BY CLAY CORBIN PHOTOGRAPHY
Stephanie Velasquez and Nicolas Vera will bring Papalo Taqueria to Finn Hall.
Photo by Clay Corbin Photography
Those concepts include Lit Chicken by James Beard nominated chefs Ross Coleman and James Haywood, formerly of Kitchen 713. Lit Chicken recently opened in the vacated Mala Sichuan space, as we reported here in the Houston Press. Papalo Taqueria by Stephanie Velasquez and Nicolas Vera, formerly of Underbelly Hospitality and Xochi, will arrive any day now.  During the first week of April, Chefs Kevin Pham & Di Nguyen will open Pho Binh, an offshoot of Pho Binh by Night, in Houston’s Asiatown.

In November 2019, Midway and Lionstone removed Oz Rey LLC as the food hall's operator for non-performing on its lease obligations, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The new streamlined process should allow for better profit margins for vendors, cutting out unnecessary third party issues.

“Once David joined the team, he quickly revamped a vertically integrated business model that cut operating costs," according to Miranda Cartwright, Senior Property Manager at Midway. Buehrer's new business model  offers a more lucrative restaurant format for new and existing businesses.

Finn Hall is named after Alfred C. Finn, the architect of JP Morgan Chase & Co. building. The food hall opened in 2018 bringing in new concepts and offering a brick and mortar space for well known food trucks such as Craft Burger and Oddball Eats which still remain. In addition to the three new concepts, Finn Hall has retained a number of its other original vendors including Amaya Coffee, Dish Society, Pizza Zquare, Lowtide and Yong.

Sit Lo, one of its first vendors, left Finn Hall in March after opening a second location in Sugar Land this past January. Mala Sichuan left this past October, though the acclaimed family-owned restaurant has three locations around Houston. Mr. Nice pie departed the food hall in March 2019 just a a few months after opening.

click to enlarge The Georgia James burger is now available at Friday lunch. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
The Georgia James burger is now available at Friday lunch.
Photo by Julie Soefer

Georgia James, 1100 Westheimer, is introducing Friday lunch. Now guests will be able to enjoy Chris Shepherd's steaks for Friday lunch or choose from an abbreviated lunch menu which includes the Georgia James Burger ($24), Baked Wagyu Meatballs ($24) and the Steak Salad ($35). There will also be a two-course Business Executive lunch for $45. It includes the Farmer's Cut, with greens and fresh vegetables for the first course, or French Onion Soup for an additional $5. The second course offers a choice of three entrees, Hanger Steak, Airline Chicken Breast and Gulf Fish. Side options are brown butter mushrooms, smashed potatoes or wilted kale. Items from the Raw Bar will be available as well.

Friday lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the bar open Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Drinks will be served in the bar between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. during the lunch to dinner shift change with Vicky's Snack Mix available for purchase.

Porta'Vino, 7800 Washington, opened softly February 26. The new Italian-inspired restaurant, in addition to a reasonably priced wine list, has a bring your own beer or wine policy for those who like to bring a favorite tipple from home. There won't be hard liquor, however. The corkage fee for BYO begins at $12 for the first bottle, then $11 for the next and decreases by a dollar per each bottle opened, according to the Houston Chronicle. It comes from restaurateur Bill Floyd and Greg Gordon, former chef and owner of La Vista, which became La Vista 101, and closed in July 2019.

Right now, the restaurant is in its soft opening phase. We will have more details next week.

Andaluz has vegan tortas. - PHOTO BY ALEX ARREGUIN
Andaluz has vegan tortas.
Photo by Alex Arreguin
Andaluz Mexican Vegan, 10540 Cypress Creek Parkway, softly opened February 8. We are seeing a trend with Mexican vegan options like Veego's on Westheimer and Cascabel near Memorial City Mall. Now, folks on the north side can join in the plant-based fun. There are typical Mexican street foods like elote with vegan cheese, tacos, tortas, flautas and empanadas. Expect protein choices from ingredients such as soy, beans, cactus, hibiscus, mushroom and jackfruit. And of course, there are fresh vegetables.

Andaluz also offers agua frescas including a horchata version and desserts such as arroz con leche. The restaurant's opening hours are a bit odd. The are open daily from 6 p.m. to midnight. It's a bare bones kind of place but the prices are extremely reasonable, if not downright cheap and customers are loving the food. It's still working out some kinks, so you might want to call ahead to make sure it's open.

click to enlarge You'll be lovin' more choices. - PHOTO BY THE MCDONALD'S CORPORATION USA.
You'll be lovin' more choices.
Photo by the McDonald's Corporation USA.
McDonald's is expanding the Big Mac family to include the Little Mac and the Double Big Mac. The Little Mac is a single patty version of the Big Mac without the extra patty or bun slice. The Double Big Mac is just that. Two extra meat patties added to the original Big Mac.

In case you don't remember what a Big Mac is, let's sing the song: Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

It's a symphony of seafood at Perry's. - PHOTO BY JULIEN FLEURY
It's a symphony of seafood at Perry's.
Photo by Julien Fleury

Perry's Steakhouse and Grille has a limited time, off-the-menu special, the Seafood Symphony Kabob. It's a hanging wonder of grilled shrimp, scallops, salmon and sea bass, marinated with orange chipotle glaze, served with asparagus and miso butter for $39. It's a creation from Perry's Master Development Chef, Rick Moonen, who is also an American Culinary Hall of Fame inductee. The Seafood Symphony Kabob joins a line-up of other Lent-friendly items such as Perry's Ahi Tuna Tartare, Whole Bandera Branzino, Pan-Seared Sea Bass and Crispy Skin Wild Red Snapper.
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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.