This year has been an exciting time for people who like trying new restaurants. Even as the industry has faced challenges such as rising prices and a labor shortage, an array of exciting new projects have opened since January.
At the high end, Houston has welcomed four tasting menu concepts — Degust, Hidden Omakase, March, and Reikina — as well as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s stunning new restaurant Le Jardinier, Clark Cooper Concepts’ buzzy Gratify Neighborhood Bistro, and Da Gama, the Indian-Portuguese restaurant that’s been my favorite newcomer of the year (so far).
More casual options abound, too, from Hugo Ortega’s new street food concept Urbe to the bigger, badder Feges BBQ, Homestead’s diverse array of breakfast options, and even the simple pleasures of craveable bar food at Night Shift and Trash Panda Drinking Club.
If no other restaurants opened between now and December, Houstonians could congratulate themselves on living in a city with a dynamic, thriving scene that responded to a pandemic with remarkable growth, but we ain’t done yet. Not even close.
The next three-and-a-half months will see a number of intriguing new options from some veteran operators and newcomers alike. Read on for details about a massive food hall opening downtown, a new project from the Houstonian who charmed America on Top Chef, a Korean steakhouse backed by a Youtube star, a seafood and chicken concept from one of the city’s best barbecue joints, and so much more.
This list isn’t intended to be comprehensive, but it does provide a thorough overview of what to expect between now and the end of the year.
Keep in mind that opening estimates are a moving target; they can shift due to delays in materials, delays caused by city inspections, or numerous other hassles. In addition, this list doesn’t include restaurants that are definitely opening next year such as: Andiron, the steakhouse concept from the owners of The Pit Room; Wild Oats, Underbelly Hospitality’s contribution to the Houston Farmers Markets; and Berg Hospitality’s still-unnamed live fire concept coming to Timbergrove.
After 10 years of operating Ristorante Cavour, the Hotel Granduca in Uptown Park will soon welcome this new restaurant. Led by executive chef Maurizio Ferrarese, Alba will feature dishes inspired by the Italian city known for its truffles along with seafood dishes made with ingredients sourced from the Gulf and Mediterranean, such as Ferrarese's signature scallops with black truffle. The restaurant’s champagne bar could become a popular destination for both Galleria area residents and hotel guests.
AL Quick Stop
A second location of the beloved Mediterranean restaurant will soon join Hando and the Bearded Baker on 11th Street. Although it will lack the convenience store aspect of the original location in Montrose, it will serve the gyros, felafel, and other dishes that have made it a neighborhood favorite for years.
Bayou Heights Bier Garten
Coming soon to Washington Avenue, the latest project from the Kirby Group will build on the CultureMap Tastemaker Award-winning Heights Bier Garten’s formula — a cocktail bar with an extensive selection of spirits plus a beer garden and wine bar with approximately 100 taps — with an on-site bakery as well as a butcher shop and ice cutting facility that will support all of the group’s concepts. Formerly the site of a Bank of America drive-thru facility, the new establishment should open just in time for peak patio season.
The days of only being able to get Burger-Chan via Click Virtual Food Hall are finally coming to a close. By the end of 2021, owners Diane and Willet Feng will unveil their new, Galleria-area location that will serve both the restaurant’s acclaimed burgers topped with housemade condiments and some new creations by chef Willet. For the first time, Burger-Chan will be open for dinner, and diners will have the ability to pair their meals with beer or wine.
The Burger Joint - Webster
The third Houston-area location of Shawn Bermudez and chef Matthew Pak's burger restaurant will open near Baybrook Mall this November. Opened in 2015, The Burger Joint focuses on a classic mix of burgers, sides, and shakes. Expect this new location to feature an expansive patio similar to its sibling in The Heights.
Chef Angelo Emiliani, who made a splash with his Angie’s Pizza pop-up, will partner with his sister Lucianna on this restaurant inside the Giant Leap Coffee that’s currently under construction in the East End next to How to Survive on Land and Sea. Inspired by all-day cafes in Los Angeles such as Sqirl, the menu has been stocked with what Emiliani describes as “craveable” dishes made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Look for freshly made pastries and breakfast sandwiches in the morning with Mediterranean-inspired fare for lunch and dinner like preserved lemon chicken with vadouvan rice, poached egg, and cured carrot salad and white Sonora roti with honeycomb, salted butter, and roasted peach preserves
This year’s third restaurant from Night Moves Hospitality (joining Space Cowboy and Trash Panda Drinking Club) will replace Calle Onze in mid-October. Led by former Belly of the Beast chef Thomas Bille, Chivos will serve Mexican-American cuisine such as corn items made with a traditional nixtamalization process and entrees like duck with fig mole. The beverage selection will lean towards cocktails made with Mexican spirits that run the gamut from rum to gin to sotol and mezcal.
This new project from Dish Society founder Aaron Lyons and chef Brandi Key will occupy the former International Smoke space in CityCentre. Slated to open in November, Daily Gather will blend Key’s prior experiences at Clark Cooper Concepts and Alice Blue with Dish Society’s focus on local sourcing and seasonally-inspired dishes. Look for classic American fare such as salads, burgers, steaks, flatbreads, and pasta. Gin Design Group recently shared some renderings of the reworked interior:
d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails
Opening very soon in Garden Oaks, the restaurant will feature a come-as-you-are, family-friendly atmosphere and an expansive outdoor patio. Consulting chef Geoff Hundt (Benjy’s, Local Foods) has created an Italian-inspired menu that features pizzas, pastas, salads, and more. Proprietor Daut Elshani brings extensive experience as the owner of downtown’s Underground Hall along with years opening concepts for the Salt N Pepper Group (Beer Market Co., The Moonshiners, etc.).
Dave’s Hot Chicken
The Los Angeles-based restaurant known for serving seven spice levels of halal chicken tenders and sandwiches will make a major push into the Houston market. Dave’s has leased at least six Houston-area locations that were expected to begin opening this summer with restaurants in west Houston and Rice Village, but they're running a little bit schedule (again, opening estimates are always a moving target). Keep an eye on @houstoneatz on Instagram; he’ll be among the first to know when Dave’s finally debuts.
Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers
A partnership between Gatlin’s BBQ owner/pitmaster Greg Gatlin and executive chef Michelle Wallace, Fins & Feathers will serve the seafood and chicken dishes that occasionally show up as specials at Gatlin’s as well as new creations that draw on Wallace’s interest in Asian flavors. Expect items such as New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, gumbo, fried chicken, oysters, and the catfish the restaurant serves the first weekend of every month. Located at 302 W. Crosstimbers, Gatlin told CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast that he expects it to be a “hidden gem” for the area, but our money is on it becoming just as much of a destination as the barbecue restaurant is.
The minds behind Monkey’s Tail — owner Jessie Gonzalez, bar director Lainey Collum, and chef/director of operations Steven Ripley — will bring this new concept to the former Petrol Station space in Oak Forest. Grease Monkey's menu will feature Monkey's Tail signature items such as the Chango burger and dry-rubbed wings along with tacos and other Mexican-inspired eats. Beverage offerings will lean towards agave spirits as well as a "Free-Spirited" menu of non-alcoholic drinks, craft beers on tap, and an affordable selection of wines by-the-glass or bottle.
The owners of Hungry’s have cultivated this plant-based concept for the former NextDoor Bar & Lounge space in Memorial. Look for dishes such as a take on Hungry's popular gyros made with seitan, chickpea penne and wild mushroom pasta, and a take on ceviche made without animal protein. Designed to be family friendly, Heartbeet will offer a kid's menu with dishes such as falafel fingers and mac and cheese made with cashew cheese.
This Dallas-based concept is coming soon to the River Oaks Shopping Center — at least according to the signs posted in its windows. Inspired by neighborhood restaurants in New York's West Village, Hudson House is built around a classic, double patty cheeseburger, an extensive selection of raw oysters, and the self-described "World's Coldest" martinis. The lively weekend brunch features Benedicts, berry pancakes, and frozen peach bellinis.
The Dallas-based Italian restaurant has claimed the former California Pizza Kitchen space at the corner of San Felipe and Post Oak for its first Houston outpost. Led by two former employees of Houston’s/Hillstone, the restaurants makes all of its breads, pastas, and desserts in-house as well as butchers all of its steaks and seafood. Popular dishes at the original location include meatballs made with a mix of lamb, beef, and pork, bolognese with mafaldine noodles, and pan-roasted Mediterranean sea bass with mint gremolata and seasonal vegetables.
After quietly being under construction for over a year, this massive new barbecue joint in EaDo is almost ready to fire up its smokers. Led by pitmaster Willow Villareal (Willow’s Texas BBQ), Villareal’s partner Jasmine Barela, and chef Mark Mason (Pappas Restaurants), J-Bar-M has been pretty tight-lipped about the specifics of its barbecue offerings, but the restaurant’s Instagram account has previewed a tempting array of sides and desserts, including creamed corn, mac and cheese, pimento cheese, chocolate pie, and cobbler. Fingers crossed for a mid-October opening.
The upscale Korean steakhouse that unites Dak & Bop owner Jason Chow with Youtube star Mikey Chen and chef Moul Kim (New York’s Jongro BBQ) looks to finally be taking shape. In a recent video, Cho toured Chen through the future restaurant space, showing him 39 tables in the main dining room, multiple private dining rooms, and and a room for dry aging beef. Cho says in the video that he expects the restaurant to open in September or October.
Kenny & Ziggy’s
The restaurant’s home in the former Luby’s at San Felipe and Post Oak should be ready in October. In addition to more indoor seating, the new Kenny & Ziggy’s will feature an in-house bakery, a bar with cocktails created by Julep owner Alba Huerta, and an outdoor patio. The oversized sandwiches, Eastern European specialities, and Jewish deli classics will remain unchanged. Zei gezunt.
Chef Dawn Burrell — the olympian-turned-chef who earned a James Beard semifinalist for her work at Kulture and became a culinary celebrity by reaching the finals of Top Chef — has partnered with Lucille’s chef-owner Chris Williams to bring this new restaurant to Midtown’s The Ion mixed-use development. She described the concept on CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast.
"What I like to say is that this is going to be food from the African diaspora with Asian techniques or flavor profiles, but we will also discover those cross sections where cuisines are similar like the useage of rice, the useage of specific vegetables, and the uses of very similar sauces and fermentation processes," Burrell said. "We're going to develop a new style, which is Afro-Asian cuisine. A lot of cultures like Guyana, they have all those flavor profiles because of migration."
Burrell's rising star status and the innovative concept combine to give Late August the most potential of any of the restaurants in this article to draw serious national attention. Expect to hear much more about it as the opening becomes more imminent.
Hai Hospitality’s Asian smokehouse concept that unites two James Beard Award winners — Uchi founder Tyson Cole and Franklin Barbecue founder Aaron Franklin — will soon be serving signature items like sweet corn fritters, oak smoked salmon, and smoked prime bavette rice bowls in a former church on 11th St in The Heights. Pair those dishes with a tempting mix of wine, craft beer, and cocktails. Chef de cuisine Marcos Leal will lead the kitchen.
Construction continues to transform the former Stone Mill Bakers into Lulu’s, an Italian concept from Armandos owners Cinda and Armando Palacios. The couple have recruited chef Jose Monterrosa, most recently of the Atlanta-based Southern Prospect Hospitality Group, to serve as executive chef. When the restaurant opens, it will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an intimate, 75-seat space that will be reminiscent of the original Armandos location on Shepherd.
Chef David Cordua makes his triumphant return to the Houston dining scene with this bar-forward concept. Opening in The Ion mixed-use development, the Lymbar will serve small plates inspired by Latin and Mediterranean flavors served from an open kitchen that will prominently feature a vertical roaster. In addition to its food offerings, the restaurant will feature a craft cocktail program built around barrel-aged spirits.
Already home to three new restaurants (Da Gama, Homestead Kitchen & Bar, and Rakkan Ramen), this mixed-use development will welcome more bars, restaurants, and an ice cream shop in the weeks to come. Briefly, they are:
- Blue Sushi Sake Grill: an Omaha-based restaurant known for an extensive selection of sushi (both nigiri and maki) and prepared items as well as lots of vegan and vegetarian dishes.
- Casa Nomad: an intimate, 30-seat bar and restaurant inspired by Tulum.
- Highline Park: an upscale patio bar that serves cocktails plus a tidy food menu of salads and sandwiches.
- Honeychild’s Sweet Creams: a permanent home for the farmers market favorite devoted to locally-sourced ingredients and seasonal flavors
- Mendocino Farms: a fourth Houston-area location of the California-based sandwich and salad concept.
The New York Eatery
This slightly more upscale sibling to Meyerland institution NY Deli & Coffee Shop will soon open in Bellaire next to its companion Bagel Shop Bakery. With 200 seats, it will be substantially larger than the original with a new menu created by consulting chef Matt Marcus (The Eatsie Boys) and executive chef Roshni Gurnani. Look for elements such as nova sliced tableside and deli meats smoked in house as well as a full selection of wine, beer, and cocktails. Since it will not be kosher (the bagel shop is), diners can enjoy the simple pleasures of a Reuben sandwich or a cheeseburger.
The Arizona-based restaurant will open two Houston locations this fall: near the Galleria (5018 San Felipe St.) and in Upper Kirby (3021 Kirby Dr.). Similar in approach to Flower Child, the menu includes protein bowls, salads (“chops”), sandwiches, fresh juices, protein shakes, acai bowls, breakfast items, and parfaits. Many diets are taken into consideration, including gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.
Slated to open in November, the game-changing mixed-use development coming to the former Barbara Jordan post office in downtown will include a food hall with more than 30 concepts ranging from food stalls to full service restaurants. Developer Lovett Commercial has announced about 20 vendors (first group; second group), including several making their Houston debuts: Austin’s acclaimed Salt & Time butcher shop, a wine bar from Saison sommelier Mark Bright, a seafood restaurant from Norwegian chef Christopher Haatuft, and three concepts from Top Chef and James Beard Award winner Paul Qui (East Side King, Thai Kin, and Soy Pinoy). Locally-owned concepts include a permanent home for West African pop-up ChòpnBlọk, and third location of Blendin Coffee Club, and the return of chef David Guerrero’s pan-South American restaurant Andes Cafe. Still to be revealed are the tenants for the two rooftop restaurants.
After a brief run at the Blodgett Food Hall that earned it a spot on Texas Monthly’s to-go version of its best new restaurants list, this Vietnamese concept will open a permanent home in Garden Oaks in the same shopping center as sister concept Sunday Press (see below). The concept puts some fun twists on the familiar Vietnamese menu of egg rolls, vermicelli bowls, and banh mi with dishes like the banh xeo Saigon Crepe roll, honey-glazed lemongrass salmon, and build-your-own Vietnamese salad (goi). With a drive-thru and plenty of outdoor seating, the concept fits lots of current dining trends.
This coffee shop and cafe from Ordinary Concepts (Ginger Kale, Saigon Hustle) is scheduled to open October 1 at the corner of Ella Boulevard and 34th Street The food menu will feature a diverse array of salads, sandwiches, and freshly baked pastries paired with a wide array of coffee and tea-based drinks such as vanilla matcha latte, charcoal latte, and more. Drive-thru convenience will only enhance its appeal with Garden Oaks’ busy families.
Uptown Sushi owners Peggy and Daniel Chang are bringing this high-energy, Japanese-inspired concept to the CityPlace mixed-use development in Spring. Like its Galleria-area sibling, expect a fusion-style menu with a wide array of dishes and a stylish setting that will appeal to business diners during the week and date nights on the weekends.
Moving from its current home in Montrose to a permanent space comes with a number of benefits for the artisan tortilleria and chef-driven Mexican concept. First, chef-owner Emmanuel Chavez will be able to increase the number of diners at his weekly tasting menus from six to 12. In addition, Tatemó will be able to offer prepared items to-go and add weekend brunch service. Chavez and partner Megan Maul expect to debut the new location in late October.
Downtown’s luxurious Four Seasons Hotel has replaced its Italian restaurant Quattro with this Latin-inspired steakhouse from globe-trotting chef Richard Sandoval. Intended to provide a lighter, fresher take on steakhouse fare, Toro Toro replaces traditional dishes such as creamed spinach and shrimp cocktail with shareables such as tuna Nikkei ceviche, lomo saltado empanadas, or grilled octopus.
Entree options include individual steak and seafood dishes or large format platters that includes lamb, ribeye, and picanha. Those dishes are paired with wines sourced from Latin and South American countries and classic cocktails such as the margarita, the mojito, and the caipirinha.
This year’s second opening from Berg Hospitality (joining NoPo Cafe), Trattoria Sofia will replace Presidio on 11th Street in The Heights. Whereas the currently shuttered B.B. Italia served classic Italian-American food, Trattoria Sofia will have a more Tuscan-influenced perspective. Look for a romantic atmosphere that features a new bar along with pergolas on the patio that should make for first-rate outdoor dining.
Hai Hospitality’s second opening of the fall will be this Southeast Asian-inspired concept in the Zadok Jewelers buildings on Post Oak. Seen as more casual than Uchi, the restaurant uses a yakitori grill to create hot and cold dishes built around different grilling, smoking, and curing techniques. On the beverage side, the restaurant will offer a full selection of spirits, including a selection of Japanese whiskys. Chef Shaun King, a veteran of celebrity chef David Chang’s Momofuku Las Vegas, will serve as chef de cuisine.
Chris Shepherd's first fast casual restaurant will be this to-go oriented burger stand at the Houston Farmers Market. An "Underbelly Burger" will be similar to the chef's lauded Cease & Desist Burger — just add shredded lettuce and sesame seeds to the potato bun. The menu will also offer Shepherd's signature bacon sausage both on top of burgers and in a hot dog. Chicken sandwiches and seasonal sandwich specials round out the entrees. Pair them with "sidewinder fries," which are described as "soft in the center and crispy around the edges," as well as milkshakes created by Underbelly Hospitality pastry director Victoria Dearmond.
Former Bernadine’s chefs Graham Laborde and Chris Roy teamed up with Johnny’s Gold Brick owner Benjy Mason to bring this bar and po’ boy shop to the former Natachee’s space in Midtown. Previewed at a series of pop-ups, Winnie’s will serve both familiar sandwiches like a combination fried shrimp and fried oyster as well as more innovative twists like one that combines fried bacon with braised collard greens. Easy-drinking cocktails and a spacious patio that looks onto Main Street will make Winnie’s especially popular once the weather cools off. It begins soft opening this weekend.