Halfway through 2019, it feels like this year has been a relatively slow one for new restaurants. Sure, places like 1751 Sea & Bar, Truth Barbeque, and Squable have made big splashes, but the overall pace hasn't been quite as torrid as in 2017 or 2018.
Well, friends, that's about to change. This summer is loaded with interesting concepts from both prominent local operators and established restaurants from beyond the Red River. That doesn't even include the new Ninfa's, which dropped off this list by opening on Monday.
Just to note, this list isn't designed to be comprehensive. For example, some of the 13 restaurants coming to Bellaire Food Street will open this summer, but it isn't yet clear which of them will arrive by Labor Day or in what order. The first, a second Houston-area location of Japanese cream puff purveyor Beard Papa opens June 22.
Also, this list focuses on establishments expected to open before Labor Day. That means that Killen's, the new comfort food restaurant that will replace Hickory Hollow, or Be More Pacific, the Austin-based Filipino restaurant coming to the Heights, are not included, because they won't debut until this fall.
With those caveats out of the way, read on for information about two new food halls coming to downtown, a massive new brewery, the latest project from Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel, Tex-Mex from The Pit Room, and so much more.
B.B. Lemon - Montrose
Ben Berg will open a second location of his upscale diner in the former Pax Americana space. Like its sibling on Washington Avenue, the menu will feature a first-rate cheeseburger made with Texas wagyu beef, but executive chef Emily Trusler will expand the number of seafood offerings. In terms of design, the decor will feature a similar style of plaid wallpaper as Washington, and the patio will be reworked to make it more functional. Expect an opening just before the July 4th holiday.
Bravery Chef Hall
Remember when this food hall in the Aris Market Square apartment tower was going to open in late-summer or early-fall 2018? We don’t either, but the beginning of hiring and training employees makes it appear as though Bravery will finally open in late-June or early-July.
When it does open, the food hall will feature six restaurants and three bars including: Atlas Diner from Richard Knight, the Blind Goat (a Vietnamese pub) from Christine Ha, BOH Pasta from Ben McPherson, Cherry Block Craft Butcher and Seasonal Kitchen (a steakhouse with a wood-fired grill) from Felix Florez and Jess Timmons, Kokoro (seafood) from former Uchi chefs Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee, and Nuna (Peruvian seafood) from David Guerrero. Veteran bartender David Cedeno will lead Lockwood Station, the venue’s cocktail bar, and partner Shepard Ross will oversee the wine bar. Each stand features a dining counter, which will allow patrons to interact with the chefs as they prepare each order.
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company
Houston’s most creative brewery will soon open the doors to its massive, three-story facility in Sawyer Yards. In addition to providing increased capacity to make more Crush City IPA and Sam’s Daily, the new Buff Brew will feature a beer garden on the first floor, a 200-seat restaurant on the second floor, and a rooftop patio with a view of the downtown skyline. Chef Arash Kharat moves over from Beaver’s to lead the kitchen; expect the menu to feature his creative cooking mixed with a new focus on beer and its component ingredients. With construction moving quickly, it should open in August.
Set to replace Indika after it closes at the end of June, Bukhara is a new concept from veteran restaurateur Mickey Kapoor (Khyber North Indian Grill). The restaurant takes its inspiration from the region in Uzbekistan that helped shape the culinary trends along the Spice Route that ran from China to Turkey. With kebabs and rice pilaf dishes on the menu, Kapoor promises it will be a “meat lover’s paradise” when it opens in mid-July.
The Burger Joint - Heights
The over two-year process of turning a former mechanic shop at the corner of N. Shepherd Drive and 20th Street into a second location of the popular Montrose burger spot should finally come to an end later this summer. In addition to all the creative burger and hot dog combinations that have made the original equally popular with regular Houstonians and celebrities like Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, the new spot will feature a large patio and a full bar.
The Tex-Mex restaurant from Sambrooks Management (The Pit Room, 1751 Sea & Bar, etc) is on track for a mid-July opening. Powered by a custom-built wood-burning grill, the restaurant, which replaces the shuttered Montrose location of Cane Rosso, will feature high-quality ingredients and scratch-made recipes. The Wednesday night fajitas special at the Patio at the Pit Room is already a hit; mixing in enchiladas, margaritas, and other classic dishes certainly sounds like a winning formula.
Common Bond - Heights
The third location of the ultra-popular bakery and cafe will makes its debut in the Heights Waterworks development in July. Expect the same sky-high croissants, decadent cakes, and savory entrees as its siblings in Montrose and near the Medical Center.
The transformation of the Fountainview Square Shopping Center — Barnaby's replacing Eatalia, Cabo Bob's replacing Harvest Green — continues with this Mediterranean concept. Owner Rafael Nasr brings years of experience working for Pappas Restaurants to this "fast fine casual" establishment that will serve pita sandwiches, bowls, rotisserie chicken, and more. Locally sourced ingredients, such as vegetables from Plant It Forward Farms and pita from Phoenicia, will help set it apart from other, similar establishments when it opens in August.
Located in Bridgeland’s Lakeland Village Center, this Swiss restaurant will celebrate the joys of raclette, which will be served tableside and scraped onto diners’ plates. Chef and co-owner Markus Klauser’s menu will feature Swiss specialities like Älplermagronen, penne pasta with potato cubes in a creamy cheese sauce, and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes mit Rösti, beef, and mushrooms in gravy with shredded, roasted potatoes. We’ll find out whether Cypress residents crave stinky cheese when the restaurant opens in late June.
Eugene’s Gulf Coast Cuisine
Restaurateur Kyle Teas is updating Danton's Gulf Coast Seafood and Steaks in a new location, the former home of Mockingbird Bistro at 1985 Welch St. Named for Teas’ father, the new concept will feature a similar menu as Danton’s with some updated dishes designed to appeal to contemporary diners. Unfortunately, a rep couldn’t confirm a specific opening timeline, but we expect it to open by summer’s end.
How to Survive on Land and Sea
Mike Sammons, the beverage expert who co-founded 13 Celsius, Weights & Measures, and Mongoose versus Cobra, will bring this wine bar to the Second Ward. Details are light, but Sammons’ track record of success makes anything he does worth following. Look for a mid-July opening.
Loch Bar and Ouzo Bay
Coming to Houston courtesy of Baltimore’s Atlas Restaurant Group, these two seafood restaurants should bring even more energy to River Oaks District. Of the two, Loch Bar is the more casual option. Described as a “seafood tavern,” it features classic fare (crab cakes, lobster roll) as well as an extensive selection of raw oysters. A bar with 400 whiskeys and daily live music should make it a lively hangout spot when it opens June 24.
Ouzo Bay is a more upscale affair that features fresh seafood sourced from around the globe. Dishes like Norwegian langoustines, West African salt prawns, and a lamb shank may be paired with a selection from sommelier Evan Turner’s (Helen, Emmaline) 300-bottle wine list — 225 sourced from Greece. An indoor-outdoor fireplace, octopus tentacle lighting fixtures, and "high-backed cherry banquettes" give the interior a luxurious feel. It opens June 19.
Chef Adam Dorris (Pax Americana, Presidio) makes his triumphant return to Montrose at this new bar, which replaces Brooklyn Athletic Club. General manager Michael Riojas (Beaver’s, Ladybird’s) will oversee the cocktail menu, which will focus on draft options to expedite service; draft beer and wine will also be available. The limited food menu will focus on charcuterie, with Dorris preparing pates, terrines, and dry-cured items that harken back to his time at Stella Sola and Revival Market. It opens in late June.
BCN chef Luis Roger will expand his repertoire at this new restaurant in River Oaks District than takes its name from the airport code for the city of Madrid. MAD will focus on tapas and a rotating selection of paella cooked over a wood-burning fire. As at BCN, a selection of both classic and creative gin and tonics will be the focus on the cocktail program. While BCN is fine dining with prices to match, MAD will have a more casual atmosphere and lower price points. It opens for dinner on June 19 with lunch to follow in the coming weeks.
Backed by investment money from Whole Foods, this California-based restaurant has already revealed plans for four Houston locations in Rice Village, Uptown Park, downtown, and the Heights — in that order, with Rice Village kicking things off later this summer. Known for its creative sandwiches and salads, the restaurant prides itself on using locally-sourced produce and freshly-baked breads. A reputation for excellent service and reasonable prices have also contributed to its rapid growth.
Sharif Al-Amin (Helen Greek Food & Wine) and Greg Perez (Calle Onze) are transforming a north Houston dive into a modern, Mexican-American bar with creative cocktails and food. Steven Ripley (Helen, Jonathan’s the Rub) is overseeing the menu, which will include New York-style pizzas, wings with Mexican-inspired dry rubs and sauces, and street corn. A draft wall with 20 taps will join Perez’s cocktails that draw on his Mexican heritage. Since the original late-April timeline has slipped, let's hope for a mid-July opening.
Montrose Cheese & Wine
One of two new concepts from Goodnight Hospitality (Goodnight Charlie's), this retail shop will feature a rotating selection of 12 to 15 cheeses along with a selection of 75 wines focused on (but not limited to) organic, biodynamic, and natural production, In addition, the 760-square-foot shop will also feature gifts, accessories, and wine-related tools when it opens later this summer.
Musaafer by The Spice Route Company
Named after the Hindi world for “traveler,” this ambitious restaurant aims to take diners on a journey across the entire Indian subcontinent. Chefs Mayank Istwal and Shivek Suri took a 100-day journey across the country to collect recipes, techniques, and ideas for the restaurant's a la carte, bar, and tasting menus. Details on specific dishes are still elusive, but the two courses they served at a Recipe for Success dinner in October hint at its potential. Expect lavish decor in the 10,000-square-foot space, which will sit above Fig & Olive in the Galleria VI. Fingers crossed for an August opening.
Having successfully launched Squable, Justin Yu and Bobby Heugel can now turn their attention to this all-day cafe that replaces Etro in the space next to Anvil. Pitched as the evolution of Montrose staples like Brazil, Penny Quarter will offer coffee in the morning (courtesy of Alex Negranza), but the cafe’s real focus will be a wine list created by Justin Vann (Public Services, Theodore Rex, etc) that will be available until midnight Sunday-Wednesday and until 2 am Thursday-Saturday. Yu will contribute a menu of toasts, small plates, salads, and other dishes. The opening timeline is still uncertain, but Heugel promises it will be sometime this summer.
Postino - Montrose
A second Houston location of the Arizona-based wine cafe will open in the former Montrose Mining Company space. As with its location in the Heights, patrons may look forward to $5 glasses of wine until 5 pm, a selection of bruschetta and other shareable dishes, and a stylish renovation of the historic building. Expect a late-August opening.
This casual restaurant from Goodnight Hospitality will features dishes prepared by a wood-burning oven and grill. Chef Adam Garcia will utilize locally sourced ingredients, including vegetables from Goodnight's farm, to prepare pastas, seafood, and meat dishes that let their ingredients shine. Master sommeliers June Rodil and David Keck will team up on a wine list that features affordable vintages from places such as Beaujolais, the Loire Valley, and "progressive" New World producers. Like Montrose Cheese & Wine, Rosie is on track for a late-summer opening.
This wine-fueled new restaurant in the Heights features talents such as managing partner Brian Doke (Tiny Boxwoods), beverage director William Meznarich, and chef Micah Rideout (Potente, Reef, etc.). The restaurant will feature an eclectic menu of mostly European-inspired dishes with enough global touches to feel in touch with contemporary Houston alongside an extensive wine list that covers all varietals and price points. A pop-up dinner in January featured two dishes from the menu — chicken bundles (sauteed chicken wrapped in mustard greens) and balsamic-cured duck — both of which received an enthusiastic response from diners.
Beyond the wine list, the restaurant’s stylish look will help set it apart from other spots in the neighborhood. With permitting and construction delays behind it, the restaurant seems to be on track for a July opening.
Shake Shack - downtown
Houston's fourth full service outpost of the New York-based global burger juggernaut — no, the one at Minute Maid Park doesn't count — will arrive at 712 Main St by "mid-summer," according to a representative. That's good news for downtown office workers, JW Marriott hotel guests, and anyone else that appreciates the elegant simplicity of a ShackBurger.
Named after its height, this restaurant occupies the 43rd floor (550 feet above street level) of downtown office building 1415 Louisiana. Executive chef Evan Parker’s Mediterranean-inspired menu features dishes such as chilled cauliflower soup and scallops with lentils and Spanish chorizo, but it's the expansive views that will be the real draw. It opens June 24.
The Toasted Coconut
The team behind Nobie’s — chef Martin Stayer, sommelier Sara Stayer, and bar manager Sarah Troxell — will celebrate their love of all things tiki at this Montrose restaurant that replaces Maria Selma’s/Texas Shrimp Shack. The food menu features dishes inspired by countries within 20 degrees of the equator with a focus on shareable items like skewers and dumplings. Cocktails will both pay homage to classics like the Zombie and the Painkiller and offer alternatives that don't rely on rum and sweet juices.
If the recent presence of Peter Jahnke (Tongue-cut Sparrow) behind the bar at Nobie’s is any indication of future staff, the Stayers will launch the concept with a talented, veteran crew. Send positive thoughts for a mid-to-late-July opening.
Chef Mike Tran (Tiger Den, Mein, etc) will complete his project to open six restaurants in a Chinatown shopping center with this izakaya. Inspired by his many trips to Japan, the restaurant will feature a large, wood-burning grill, a chef’s counter for raw dishes, and an extensive selection of Japanese spirits. Predicting the chef’s moves is always a little tricky, but a mid-July opening seems like a safe bet.
Located in the newly-constructed Capitol Tower, this food hall features a design by acclaimed Austin architect Michael Hsu. It will feature seven restaurants and a cocktail bar, six of which have been announced: SeaSide Poké, East Hampton Sandwich Co., Boomtown Coffee, Mama Ninfa’s Tacos y Tortas, MONA Fresh Italian Food, and Flip ‘n Patties. While most of those are familiar, Mama Ninfa’s is new; it's a fast casual, taco-oriented concept from the owners of The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation. We anticipate a mid-July opening.
The Union Kitchen - Cypress
The sixth location of this wine-fueled comfort food restaurant will replace Jaxton’s Grill at The Boardwalk at Towne Lake complex. That’s good news, since the restaurant comes equipped with a wood-burning oven and grill that sets it apart from other TUK locations. Work is moving swiftly enough that it should open in late June or early July.
This restaurant in the Marq*E Entertainment Center will update Spaghetti Warehouse for a new generation. Executive chef Don Flores' new menu will mix Spaghetti Warehouse classics like the 15-layer lasagna and spinach and mozzarella ravioli, while also introducing new tastes like porchetta, Gulf shrimp, and short ribs. To drink, expect an all-new cocktail menu, a focus on Italian wines, and an expanded beer selection. The restaurant plans to open on July 22, according to its website.