8 things to know

8 things to know in Houston food right now: Montrose Chinese favorite bids farewell

8 things to know in Houston food: Montrose Chinese favorite closes

FM Kitchen birria torta
FM Kitchen has introduced a birria torta. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Pier 6 Seafood Joe Cervantez Chris Loftis
Pier 6 chefs Joe Cervantez and Chris Loftis. Photo by Kimberly Park
Bonchon large fried chicken
Bonchon has opened in Midtown. Courtesy of Bonchon
FM Kitchen birria torta
Pier 6 Seafood Joe Cervantez Chris Loftis
Bonchon large fried chicken

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

Korean fried chicken restaurant has Bonchon has opened its first location inside the loop in Midtown at 2100 Travis St. In addition to its signature fried chicken — available in spicy, soy garlic, or half and half — the restaurant serves a range of Korean specialities including bibimbap, japchae, and bulgogi alongside a full range of beer, wine, and cocktails.

On January 21, the restaurant will celebrate its grand opening with a special offer of a free dozen boneless wings with purchase of any combo meal. The restaurant opens daily at 11 am.

Time is running out to get one last order of crispy, spicy asparagus at 369 Oriental Bistro. Like Half Price Books, the Chinese-American Montrose staple will close after this weekend to make way for Skanska USA’s massive new mixed-use development at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose.

An employee tells CultureMap that the restaurant is looking for a new location but hasn’t found the right fit yet. Fingers crossed that it happens soon. Life without those fried dumplings and General Tso’s chicken will be a little poorer. CultureMap ranked 369 as the city’s 99th best restaurant on its 2019 list of Houston’s top 100 restaurants

JCI Grill (f/k/a James Coney Island) has permanently closed its Town & Country restaurant (701 Town & Country Blvd.). In response to a post about the closure on the Memorial Area Eats Facebook group, JCI director of marketing Michelle Holmes writes that the company decided to move on from the location due to its lack of a drive-thru, which has proven to be essential during the pandemic. She adds that the company is actively searching for a new outpost to serve Memorial-area diners. 

Eaker Barbecue will close after service on Friday, January 22. In an email sent to the food truck’s supporters, pitmaster-owner Lance Eaker writes that sales have declined dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. Fans will have a few more days to get Eaker’s Central Texas-style barbecue brisket and gochujang pork ribs at the Westbury Baptist Church (10425 Hillcroft St.) 

“I can't begin to tell you how much our friends, family, and our customers have meant to us as we have made this crazy journey,” Eaker writes. “That's what kills me, after all of your support and patronage we feel like we are abandoning you guys. Please know that this was not an easy decision to come too and that it weighed heavily on our minds for months now.”

Torchy’s Tacos will next two new Houston-area locations will open in Stafford (11327 Current Ln.) this spring and Richmond’s Aliana development (4818 Waterview Town Center Dr.) this summer. The Austin-based, gringo taco slinger recently received a $400 million private equity investment that will allow it to expand to 10 more states over the next four years. Currently, Torchy’s operates more than 80 locations in seven states. 

Other news and notes

Austin food festival Hot Luck has selected Houston’s Southern Smoke Foundation as its charity beneficiary. Founded by Franklin Barbecue pitmaster-owner Aaron Franklin, Hot Luck is a multi-day food and music happening; no announcement has been made about whether the festival will return in 2021 or wait until 2022. As part of the partnership, two of the festival’s sponsors — Yeti Coolers and Tito’s Handmade Vodka — have made donations to the foundation’s emergency relief fund that provides cash assistance to restaurant industry workers.  

“I’m in awe,” Southern Smoke co-founnder Chris Shepherd said in a statement. “Aaron has supported Southern Smoke since day one, and I’m so honored that he and the Hot Luck team chose Southern Smoke as their beneficiary. Hot Luck is an incredible event—one I look forward to every year—and now, the Hot Luck team is family.”

Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House has named Chris Loftis as its chef de cuisine. Executive chef Joe Cervantez and Loftis are childhood friends who’ve worked together many times over the years, including at Killen’s Steakhouse. Loftis will assist Cervantez with overseeing the kitchen and developing new dishes at the San Leon restaurant. 

“Chris is very passionate. He takes a lot of pride in what he does, and I know I can count on him to deliver and execute well,” Cervantez said in a release. “But it’s also nice to have a friend there. I know the future is going to be really bright. It’s going to be a great partnership. This is just the beginning of what’s to come.”

FM Kitchen & Bar has updated its offerings for 2021. Chef Bety Barrera’s new additions include grilled salmon tacos, flank steak with salsa verde, and a birria torta. In addition, the comfort food restaurant has added some zero proof cocktails that will remain on the menu even after dry January ends.