After an unusually busy summer that saw high profile openings like SaltAir Seafood Kitchen, Bramble, Helen Greek Food & Wine and Southern Goods, the fall restaurant scene is already off to a strong start.
Recently, newcomers like Ka Sushi and Tarakaan are already attracting attention, while more hard core foodies are buzzing about popular Thai restaurant Asia Market's new location on the near Northside.
If it feels impossible to catch up and try all these places, well, tough — it isn't going to get any easier. Between now and the end of December, some major heavy hitters are stepping up to the plate with new concepts that are already receiving plenty of buzz.
Whether it's a new locations for an established restaurant or new concepts from successful restaurateurs (not to mention all the barbecue anyone could want), this fall will be busy.
Let's dive in.
Summer holdovers: Hunky Dory/Bernadine's/Foreign Correspondents/8-Row Flint/The Burger Joint
Before tackling the new arrivals, let's catch up on restaurants that looked like they would open in the summer but have slipped to the fall.
With construction mostly complete and hiring well under way, the Treadsack Group's three new restaurants, Hunky Dory, Bernadine's and Foreign Correspondents, will finally open. Look for Hunky Dory, a British tavern with a wood-fired grill from former Feast chef Richard Knight, and Foreign Correspondents, a northern Thai restaurant from chef PJ Stoops, to open by the end of September. Bernadne's, the Gulf Coast restaurant from "slumdog" chef Graham Laborde, will follow a month or so later.
The Burger Joint, a venture between Royal Oak/Stone's Throw owner Shawn Bermudez and food truck mastermind Matt Pak (Koagie Hots, The Golden Grill) is also on track for an October opening. In the meantime, the restaurant's companion food truck is out on the streets offering a preview.
All of the Barbecue
Over the past couple of years, Houston's barbecue scene has been on an upswing as local pitmasters have delivered Central Texas style 'cue that's garnering national acclaim. While Gatlin's BBQ has already opened its shiny new location in Garden Oaks, it will soon be joined by three more establishments that are pushing Houston forward as a nationwide barbecue destination. First to open will be Pappa Charlie's Barbeque in EaDo, which will build off the reputation pitmaster Wesley Jurena has established with his popular trailer at Jackson's Watering Hole. Look for traditional barbecue at lunch, but dinner will be a more ambitious affair as Jurena experiments with items like tri tip and masala-spiced smoked lamb.
On October 3, the brick and mortar location of popular trailer CorkScrew BBQ will make its debut in Old Towne Spring. Already a member of Texas Monthly's top 50 barbecue joints, CorkScrew will keep its food the same but will improve the dining experience with weekend dinner service, beer and wine, and an expansive outdoor seating area.
Finally, if all goes according to plan, The Pit Room (formerly El Burro & the Bull) will open this November in a former porn shop on Richmond. Led by Franklin Barbecue veteran and Houston native John Avila, the restaurant will serve a mix of traditional Texas barbecue as well as Mexican items and other smoked fare. If the "practice brisket" Avila recently served at the CultureMap office is any indication of what to expect, The Pit Room will be a very welcome addition to Montrose.
Blacksmith/Greenway Coffee owners David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto are bringing their talents to the same shopping center on North Main that will also be home to Foreign Correspondents. Like Blacksmith, Morningstar will serve coffee and tea as well as a full food menu overseen by "culinary strategist" Priscilla Nguyen. But what will really set the cafe apart are donuts that utilize local ingredients like honey harvested in the Heights. Design by celebrated University of Houston architecture professor John Zemanek should also set the space apart from other coffee or donut shops.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse Downtown
Three years after the Strip House closed, its replacement finally looks set to open in October. Expect pretty much all of the same things that have made the original location one of Houston's highest grossing restaurants: an extensive wine list, steaks that are dry-aged in house and expert level customer service. If the Galleria location's popularity is any indication, downtown office types will fill Pappas' dining room from day one. The only question is whether out of town chains like Shula's and III Forks will be able to survive in the presence of such stiff competition.
For years, Ronnie Killen's Pearland steakhouse has been somewhat limited by its cramped quarters, but that's all set to change thanks to an expansive new location. When it opens in mid to late October, the new Killen's will seat over 300 and offer amenities that the current location lacks like a separate bar area and expanded private dining rooms. Whether that includes a separate entrance for Killen's superfan J.J. Watt remains to be seen, but Killen will get to expand his wine offerings and dry age steaks in house. The move also frees up the current steakhouse to become Killen's Burger, but those renovations won't be complete until the spring.
State of Grace
Having built a restaurant empire in Atlanta, chef Ford Fry is ready to turn his attention to his hometown with this restaurant in the Lamar River Oaks shopping center that will be helmed by former Ciao Bello executive chef Bobby Matos. The menu will take inspiration from both the Hill Country and the Gulf Coast, with an expansive cold bar and oyster program. Matos will bring some of his Vallone training in the form of housemade pasta, but an open-hearth wood grill will shape much of the seafood-oriented menu. Whether the pretty people can be lured away from SaltAir remains to be seen, but the combined talents of Fry and Matos will draw dining enthusiasts from across the city when it opens in October.
This beer garden at the corner of West Alabama and Almeda both pays homage to the history of its neighborhood and offers patrons a new venue for relaxing and imbibing. With a 12,000 square foot landscaped garden that will include hammocks and a water feature, 25 taps of craft beer, and food offerings that will consist of pizza from neighboring Luigi's and food trucks, Axelrad should offer amenities to appeal to just about everyone. Future plans for the space include a second story speakeasy and a partnership with neighboring Retrospect Coffee to make "Almeda Yards" a Mid-Main style destination. Look for a mid to late October opening.
Actor turned restaurant owner Shepard Ross will bring the expertise he's displayed at Glass Wall, Brooklyn Athletic Club and Pax Americana to this new restaurant in Briar Grove that's located near Bramble and Roegels Barbecue. Per an email from the restaurant, "Chef Albert Vasquez describes The Del as offering a 'modern casual' menu with elevated service." Look for appetizers like grilled lamb chops with a raw almond curry and entrees like a ribeye that is basted in a sweet chili sauce. An expansive patio and a solid selection of wine, beer and cocktails will help make The Del a neighborhood destination. (Update: Shepard Ross and The Del have parted ways. Read the details here.)
Lee's Fried Chicken and Donuts
The Heights' promising future as Houston's home for fried chicken may have fizzled with the closures of The Bird House and The Chicken Ranch, but area residents who crave crispy deliciousness will get a new option when this concept from F.E.E.D. TX (Liberty Kitchen, BRC Gastropub) opens in a former Church's outpost at the corner of Heights Blvd and White Oak — yes, the drive-thru remains intact. The menu is simple: fried chicken (using the same 3-day method made famous at Liberty Kitchen), biscuits, sides and a revolving selection of donuts. Rumors suggest it will open by the end of September, but the smells wafting through the neighborhood will tell the tale.
River Oaks District
Already home to Cartier, the mixed use complex that, to be honest, isn't actually located in River Oaks has already announced it will be home to six restaurants and a luxurious iPic movie theater that will start making their debuts in November. Two Dallas-based will each have two concepts: pizza restaurant Thirteen Pies and modern tavern American Food + Beverage from Raised Palate Restaurants and Toulouse, a Parisian-style bistro, and Taverna, an Italian restaurant that specializes in risotto, from Lombardi Family Concepts. Le Colonial, a French-Vietnamese restaurant from San Francisco, and Phoenix-based Steak 44 round out the offerings. Whether the development has room for any Houston-based restaurants remains to be seen.