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Westheimer Row restaurant rises again: Fights back from name change, turmoil with new menu, late hours

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La fendee June 2014 gyro
This gyro sandwich and hummus plate is $6.95.  Photo by Eric Sandler
6 La fendee June 2014 restaurant interior
A look inside La Fendee, which survived rumors that it would close.  Photo by Eric Sandler
5 La fendee June 2014 hookahs
Hookahs are part of the restaurant's appeal.  Photo by Eric Sandler
3 La fendee June 2014
A gigantic pot of Persian tea is only $5.  Photo by Eric Sandler
La fendee June 2014 gyro
6 La fendee June 2014 restaurant interior
5 La fendee June 2014 hookahs
3 La fendee June 2014

La Fendee owner Saina Esfandiari wants everyone to know that the Middle Eastern restaurant on Westheimer Road is still standing — and more committed than ever to being successful.

La Fendee's been through months of turmoil with restaurant insiders circulating word of an impending closure, a sudden name change that made it seem like it had closed and reopened as a different restaurant and more. But now La Fendee is La Fendee again — only with later hours and new menu items.

"We never closed. We never had plans to close down," Esfandiari insists to CultureMap.

 New menu items, including souvlaki and baklava, have proven to be popular additions. 

The restaurant brought in a management company and briefly changed its name to Cafe Layal, but Esfandiari, an optometrist who divides her time between her practice and the restaurant, realized that wasn't the answer to revitalizing the restaurant. "I decided to handle it myself," she says.

One of the first steps? Changing the name back to La Fendee. 

To draw in more people, La Fendee has also extended its hours to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and midnight during the week. New menu items, including souvlaki and baklava, have proven to be popular additions. Reasonable prices — a gyro sandwich with hummus is only $6.95 — further add to La Fendee's neighborhood appeal. Of course, regular customers still enjoy smoking one of the dozen or so varieties of flavored tobacco from a hookah on the shaded patio.

Esfandiari says business is "coming back slowly" as word spreads among customers that the family is back in control. The restaurant has never advertised, but she wants people to know they're still around.

La Fendee is surviving the Houston restaurant scene's turmoil — serving up the same, well-executed Middle Eastern classics that have kept it in the Esfandiari family since 2007. 

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