12 things to know

12 things to know in Houston food right now: Openings, closings, and best bites

12 things to know in Houston food: Openings, closings, and best bites

Roka Akor Kushiyaki skewers
Roka Akor's new skewers launch August 6. Courtesy of Roka Akor
Union Kitchen Cypress interior
A look inside the new Cypress location of The Union Kitchen. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Justin Yoakum State Fare
Justin Yoakum worked for Jessica Biel prior to joining State Fare. Photo by Meagan Ulbrich
Tex-Mex combo plate at Chuy's in Dallas
Chuy's has arrived in Spring Branch. Chuy's Dallas/Facebook
Justin Ware Johnny's Gold Brick
Justin Ware is the Heaven Hill bartender of the year. Courtesy of Johnny's Gold Brick
Roka Akor Kushiyaki skewers
Union Kitchen Cypress interior
Justin Yoakum State Fare
Tex-Mex combo plate at Chuy's in Dallas
Justin Ware Johnny's Gold Brick

Editor’s note: Houston’s restaurant scene moves pretty fast. In order to prevent CultureMap readers from missing anything, let’s stop to look around at all the latest news to know.

Openings and closings

Swiss restaurant Edelweiss is now open in Brideland’s Lakeland Village Center. The menu features raclette served with different toppings and potatoes, such as the Texan flight that includes beef filet, bacon, onion, tomato, and jalapeño ($25 per person); other dishes include a Swiss pasta with potatoes and cheese sauce and beef tips with mushrooms. Open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Speaking of Cypress, the Houston area’s sixth location of The Union Kitchen recently opened at The Boardwalk at Towne Lake. Replacing Jaxton’s Bistro, this location features a wood-burning grill that’s a first for the company. Chefs James Lundy and Ed Robert use the grill to create dishes like wood-grilled oysters, wood-smoked goat cheese, mesquite shrimp kabob, and naked grilled fish. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, with brunch and dinner on the weekends.

Memorial and Spring Branch area fans of creamy jalapeño sauce and chicka-chicka boom-boom enchiladas are rejoicing; Chuy’s has recently arrived at 9774 Katy Fwy. Reviews on the Memorial Area Eats Facebook group are mixed, but the reports of big crowds indicate the neighborhood is mostly excited about the new arrival.

Boomtown Coffee has opened at downtown’s Understory food hall, where it joins Flip ‘N Patties and Mona Fresh Italian. Opening Monday through Friday from 7 am to 6 pm, the coffee shop features the same menu as the two other locations, including a full range of espresso beverages and Boomtown signatures like the $5 mocha. Still to come are SeaSide Poké, East Hampton Sandwich Co., and Mama Ninfa's Tacos y Tortas, a new fast casual concept from the chef and owners of The Original Ninfa's on Navigation.

West Houston has a new fast casual spot serving up classic Chinese American food. Chow Wok, a restaurant from Cafe East co-owner Matt Chow, features dishes such as General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour shrimp, and pork with garlic sauce. Don’t miss appetizers like shrimp egg rolls and fried cheese puffs. Best of all, a lunch special with an entree, rice, egg roll, and drink is only $5.75 ($7.75 at dinner). 2575 Dairy Ashford Rd.

Tango & Malbec announced on Facebook that it has permanently closed. The South American steakhouse opened near the Galleria in December 2010. While the restaurant may have declined in popularity, it remained a popular happy hour destination for the Gow Media sales staff, who will miss it terribly.

Pan-Asian restaurant Tuk Tuk Crab closed on July 10. Known for its Thai-style chili crab and crab fried rice, the restaurant had a devoted following on social media but never achieved mainstream success.

Other news and notes

Comfort food restaurant State Fare Kitchen and Bar recently welcomed a new executive chef. Justin Yoakum comes to the restaurant after stints at Mastro’s in Las Vegas, Fleming’s in Dallas, and as the chef for Au Fudge, a family-friendly restaurant in Los Angeles that was owned by actress Jessica Biel. Yoakum has streamlined and refined the restaurant’s menu; he’s also introduced some lighter options, such as a poke bowl and vegan spaghetti.

On July 30, Japanese steakhouse Roka Akor will introduce Roka Akor Reserve, an eight-seat section devoted to kushiyaki (skewers) cooked on the restaurant’s three-tier robata grill. Available a la carte or as a four-course, $75 tasting menu, the dishes include both meat and vegetable skewers, with the highlight being Japanese wagyu from the Miyazaki prefecture.

Kenny & Ziggy’s will resume its popular National Deli Month in August. More than 30 delicatessens across the country will participate in the event, which spreads awareness of the genre and raises money for local charities. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of sales from its three-course, $38 menu to the Holocaust Museum Houston, which recently opened a $34 million expansion

Get an intimate look at the downtown dining scene courtesy of a new food tour. Hosted by local foodie Star Gilani, Best Bites Houston takes participants on a three-hour walking tour of downtown. The tour stops at as many as five bars and restaurants, along with notable landmarks such as a mural created by local artist GONZO247 or the historic Arthur B. Cohn house. Tickets are $65 for two beverage pairings, $75 for VIP with five beverage pairs, and $45 for children 12 and younger. Book via the Best Bites Houston website

Hearty congratulations to Justin Ware, the general manager of Johnny’s Gold Brick in The Heights, who won Heaven Hill’s Bartender of the Year Award. To win the award, Ware had to submit two recipes to Heaven Hill, a spirits company whose brands include Henry McKenna, Deep Eddy Vodka, and Elijah Craig. Out of over 1,000 applicants, Ware emerged as one of 48 national semifinalists. He won his region and bested the seven other finalists to win the prize. Find some of his winning drinks on the menu at Johnny’s through the end of August.