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Popular Houston neighborhood restaurant serves up sunny new northside location

Popular Houston restaurant serves up sunny new northside location

The Union Kitchen Bellaire exterior
The Union Kitchen is rolling out its sixth location.  Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Northside diners, rejoice. When it opens in June, The Union Kitchen’s Cypress location should be a new warm-weather hotspot. Gr8 Plate Hospitality, The Union Kitchen’s parent company, announced the opening earlier this week.

The restaurant is moving into the spot formerly occupied by Jaxon’s Grill at 9955 Barker Cypress Rd. in The Boardwalk at Towne Lake complex. It will be the sixth location for the brand, which already has restaurants in Bellaire and Memorial, as well as on Ella and Washington Avenue.

“We’re excited about it!” raves Gr8 Plate owner Paul Miller to CultureMap. “It’s a great community.”

Miller has had his eye on Cypress for nearly a decade. Doug Wilson, Gr8 Plate’s director of operations kept telling Miller there was a deficit of mom-and-pop restaurants in the suburb. Miller knew his company was never going to put in the kind of 15,000-square-foot imprint some larger restaurant chains had opened in the area. But, he kept an open mind and followed the area’s growth, waiting for what seemed like the combination of the right time and place for an expansion.

“A lot of our Union Kitchen customers live in Cypress, and they visit our locations in Memorial or Bellaire,” he says. “Occasionally, I’d ask them what they wanted to see in their neighborhoods. And overwhelming they told me that they’d love a Union Kitchen there.”

Those diners — and Miller — are getting their wish. The new restaurant is a comfortable 5,000 square feet with room for 200 seats. Miller says the contracting team has already started demolition on the current space, and construction will begin next week. One of the things he’s most excited for is expanding the already-existing patio space. When that’s complete, it’ll unfold across 2,000 square feet, right on the lake.

“We’re like, three steps from a boat dock,” Miller says enthusiastically. “We’ll be able to have people call us then pull up with their boats and we’ll run their orders out. It’s going to be great.”

The patio is set to be one of the restaurant’s focal points. Miller says the bar currently has a big picture window overlooking the deck and lake. He’s considering a garage door or a swing door that would allow the restaurant to open the space between the bar and dining room and the patio for maximum Instagrammable moments. He’s also working with his team to add some tiki-inspired and frozen cocktails to the bar menu, playing off the patio vibe.

Miller says he’s in this one for the long haul. Gr8 signed a 10-year lease, with options to extend every five years.

“We’re going to be part of the neighborhood,” he says. “That’s one of my favorite things. I love that we sponsor multiple soccer, baseball, and football teams every year. We give to school auctions. We want to be a part of this community.”

In addition to giving back, Miller says he’ll continue to provide his brand of quality, affordable fare combined with great service. The Cypress location will have an open kitchen and a mesquite grill, two firsts for The Union Kitchen. Miller says the addition of the grill means the team will be looking at different cuts of meat and fish to prepare on it.

“We’re going to play with it. I can see mahi, tile fish, snapper – some really cool things,” he says.

And even as he’s planning for the opening of the Cypress spot, Miller’s moving forward with plans for a seventh Union Kitchen spot – this one in Katy. But he’s got to open to Cypress first.

“My general contractor says he can have us ready in 30 days,” he says. “But if I can open sooner, we’ll be ready to go.”