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, closings, and coming attractions
Star Pizza has a new location in Katy. Long an inner loop favorite for its deep dish pies and creative toppings, the new Star is located at 24210 Westheimer Pkwy., which is in Cinco Ranch near the popular LaCenterra mixed-use development. For those who are new to the concept, may we suggest the Joe’s Pizza, which features sauteed spinach and garlic as well as fresh garlic; order it on the deep dish, whole wheat crust and thank us later.
Houston’s first Flying Biscuit Cafe has quietly opened in the Memorial area at 12389 Kingsride Ln. As CultureMap noted in September, the Atlanta-based chain focuses on Southern-inspired comfort food such as biscuits with eggs and gravy, a breakfast bowl with eggs and fried green tomatoes, turkey pot roast, and shrimp and grits. It’s open for breakfast and lunch everyday starting at 7 am.
For months, Just Dinner, the intimate, BYOB restaurant in Montrose, has been counting down its final days. Now, a note on its website makes the news official. It will close on December 31. Those who wish to make a final visit will be pleased to know the restaurant will be open on Sundays to accommodate extra diners.
While many people will remember quiet dinners spent enjoying the restaurant’s Italian-inspired fare, a few will recall that thrilling month in 2010 when chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner, Terrence Gallivan, and Justin Yu previewed the ideas that would lead to both The Pass & Provisions and Oxheart in a pop-up called the Just August Project.
JCI Grill’s location on the Gulf Freeway has closed, Swamplot reports. A note posted in the window cites “the current road construction issues and demographic changes around the 6955 Gulf Frwy. location” as two of the reasons for the decision. Diners can still get their cheesy coney fix at the restaurant’s 17 other Houston-area locations.
Fans of the Gorgeous Gael, take note. The owners of the shuttered Rice Village Irish pub have a new concept coming to the Marq*E Entertainment District called Hugh O’Connors. According to posts on the bar’s Facebook page, Hugh O’Connors will feature many of the same dishes and family-friendly atmosphere that made the Gael a popular spot. Look for it to open sometime this month.
Two members of Houston’s culinary community have achievements of note. Pappas Steakhouse sommelier Steven McDonald has become Houston’s fifth Master Sommelier. McDonald had initially passed the famously rigorous exam in September, but allegations of cheating by some members of the class caused the Court of Master Sommeliers to invalidate those results. He is one of six candidates to pass a retest administered last week. Those who wish to seek McDonald's advice will find him working the floor at the restaurant's Galleria-area location on Westheimer.
On a slightly more bittersweet note, Pizaro’s Pizza founder Bill Hutchinson has announced he will retire at the end of 2018 and fully turn over operations to his son, Matt, his daughter, Nicole Bean, and her husband, Brad Bean. Credit Hutchinson for bringing authentic, wood-fired Neapolitan pies to Houston in 2011 at the original, Memorial-area Pizaro’s. Diners who want to wish Hutchinson well will find him at the Memorial store on December 21 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm and the Montrose store on December 22 from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. We wish him lots of luck in whatever the future holds.
Other news and notes
Vibrant, the Montrose restaurant where all of the dishes are both gluten-free and dairy-free, has rolled out a dinner menu. Inspired by some of owner Kelly Barnhart’s favorite meals from around the world, the options include shareable starters like a fish crudo made with Japanese kampachi, lamb meatballs, and a crudite platters. Entree options include quinoa spaghetti with lobster, whole-roasted branzino, and braised beef with guajillo and pasilla pepper mole sauce. Dinner service begins at 5 pm daily.
Indianola, one part of Agricole Hospitality’s new offerings in EaDo, has added lunch service. Available Monday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm, the menu offers a slightly more casual spin on the restaurant’s globally-inspired fare. In addition to holdovers from the dinner menu like hoja santa-wrapped goat cheese and crispy duck wings, the lunch offerings include creative sandwiches such as a pork schnitzel topped with broccoli rabe and an expanded range of salads.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company has rolled out its newest seasonal offering. French Press is an Imperial Coffee Porter made with espresso beans sourced from local roaster Java Pura. Described by the brewery as having “bold chocolate and coffee flavor and aroma with a balanced roast bitterness and mild sweetness,” it comes in at pleasant 9.4-percent ABV. Available on draft and in cans, French Press will be found on tap walls and retail outlets throughout the Houston area.
Midtown bar Mongoose versus Cobra has rolled out a new winter cocktail menu. Led by general manager Adele Corrigan and lead bartender Josh Alden, the new offerings seek to utilize seasonal ingredients like and teas sourced from Heights shop Tea Sip. For example, the Bolo Tie Bolo Thai blends bourbon with nitro Thai tea, carrot, and coconut milk.
Off the map
Drinks-oriented website Punch recently profiled Houston bartender Alex Negranza, who also happens to be the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Bartender of the Year winner for 2018. Negranza, who moved from Seattle to Houston to take a job at Anvil, discusses how he’s encouraged his colleagues to improve their physical fitness and mental wellness by embracing exercise, specifically SoulCycle.