In conversations with restaurant owners around town, it’s clear that people are pretty nervous about what the lingering effects of Harvey will mean for their businesses. Even a month after the storm, customer counts are down as diners are opting to save money by staying home and cooking.
Despite fears about how long it will take the situation to return to normal, this fall offers a number of intriguing new restaurants. After all, most of these businesses have been in the planning stages since long before Harvey made landfall, and they have too much momentum to get derailed now.
By any measure, 2017 has been a good one for new restaurants as homegrown establishments like Xochi, Oxbow 7, Riel, Star Fish, and others have joined forces with out of towners like 85°C Bakery Cafe, Chengdu Taste, Yauatcha, and Aqui to give diners lots of exciting new choices. Keeping up with it all is practically a full-time job.
Usually, this article would only consider establishments that are likely to open before the end of the year, but this version takes a slightly longer view. With places like Agricole Hospitality’s projects in EaDo and Bosscat Kitchen’s new concept in the Heights pushed from fall to early 2018, it made sense to lengthen the timeline a bit.
New concepts from local favorites
Theodore Rex - James Beard Award winner Justin Yu’s replacement for Oxheart is a “modern bistro” with an a la carte menu, a 90 bottle wine list, and an all new interior. Reservations will be tough to score in the beginning, but the restaurant will reserve at least a couple tables and seats at its new bar for walk-in diners.
Emmaline - Former Fleming’s operating partner Sam Governale, chef Dimitri Voutsinas, and creative director Ashley Putman have united to create this new restaurant that’s influenced by the neighborhood restaurants that Governale and Voutsinas experienced when they worked in New York. Slated for a “mid-fall” opening, Emmaline has completely transformed the former Teala’s space by expanding the patio and adding a second story balcony.
Golden Bagels & Coffee - The Heights will finally get its own bagel shop when this new cafe opens in the next couple of months. Golden will serve a full range of bagels along with sandwiches, house cured fish, and a full coffee program created by partner Avi Katz.
Flying Pho - Ninja Ramen owner Christopher Huang will give Houston its first taste of Hanoi-style pho — lighter and less sweet than the Saigon style served at other restaurants around — at this new restaurant in Garden Oaks. As the name implies, delivery will be a major component; customers will even be able to order a “hangover” package that comes with pain killers and Pedialyte.
Agricole Hospitality - The owners of Coltivare, Revival Market, and Eight Row Flint have hatched an ambitious plan to open three concepts in the East Village development: Indianola will be a restaurant that serves “dishes from the American canon that one could comfortably partake of everyday;” Miss Carousel will be a bar that takes some of the pretension out of cocktails; and Vinny’s will be a pizza joint with a focus on delivery. Originally slated for fall, the project is now expected to open in early 2018.
Goodnight Charlie’s - Master Sommelier David Keck may have spent years becoming a wine expert, but his first project with business partner Peter McCarthy will be this honky tonk where patrons are more likely to order a beer and a shot than a glass of vino. Slated to open in early December, the bar will feature live music, dancing, and a menu of tacos created by pop-up chef Alvin Schultz.
Coral Sword - Blacksmith owners David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto have teamed up with San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence and TV star Ming Chen to create a gaming-themed cafe that will open by the end of the year. Located in the same Eastside building at 1318 Telephone Road that houses East End Barber, Coral Sword will offer all the usual espresso beverages as well as room to play games and a podcast studio for gaming broadcasts.
Maison Pucha Bistro - Veteran chef Manuel Pucha (Philippe, La Table) and his brothers, pastry chef Victor and sommelier/mixologist Cristian, are bringing an upscale-casual French restaurant to the former Stella Sola/Black & White space. Expected to open in November, the menu will pay homage to the brothers’ heritage by incorporating Ecuadorian seafood in savory dishes and chocolate in desserts.
Night Market - Chinatown restaurateur Mike Tran and chef Rikesh Patel have converted their global curry concept into a Thai restaurant. After weeks of previewing dishes like crab fritters and roasted duck curry to Instagram, the revamped restaurant made its debut Tuesday night.
Holman Draft Hall - Wooster’s Garden owners The Kirby Group have converted their nightclub VrSI into this beer-focused concept. Similar to sister concept Heights Bier Garten, Holman will feature 100 taps and a full kitchen.
Lucienne - Located at the newly opened Hotel Alessandra downtown, this French fine dining concept is led by acclaimed chef Jose Hernandez (Triniti, Etoile, Radio Milano). The dinner menu features both four and six-course options ($55 or $75) with dishes that include a cauliflower-filled crepe in guyere sauce, lamb tartare, roasted squab, and, of course, Hernandez’s legendary desserts.
Burger Libre - The team behind Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen is developing a new burger concept. Slated to open in January in La Porte, the restaurant will feature burgers made with in-house ground beef and a take on tacos dorado (aka, fried Jack in the Box tacos).
Café Poêtes - Located on the western edge of Midtown near Oporto Fooding House, this new cafe aims to bring “the elegance of an old romantic world with the casual nature of a neighborhood eatery. If nothing else, having a new option for excellent eclairs will attract plenty of attention.
Kulture - Marcus Davis, owner of Midtown staple The Breakfast Klub, will celebrate the diversity of African American cooking at this restaurant that pays tribute to “the cultural contributions of the diaspora from the continent of Africa thru the Caribbean to the southern U.S. Coast. Located in the Partnership Tower downtown, the restaurant will complete the transformation of Avenida Houston into the city’s newest restaurant row.
Melange Creperie - Having closed its location at the Conservatory food hall downtown, the beloved crepe stand will finally have its own stand-alone, above-ground space at the newly opened Heights Mercantile development. When it opens October 16, the 1,400-square-foot restaurant will include a patio and space for private events.
Nancy’s Hustle - Beverage expert Sean Jensen (Public Services, Hay Merchant) and chef Jason Vaughan (Chicago’s Hogsalt Hospitality Group) have kept mum on their plans for this restaurant in EaDo while working to launch Alice Blue. Given their resumes, whatever they’re planning will be worth watching.
Eatalia - Admittedly, we don’t know much about this new Italian restaurant that will replace Briargrove favorite La Vista. However, considering it is related to Montrose staple Romano’s, the prospect of a sit-down, affordable Italian restaurant in a neighborhood that’s on the rise means it merits more attention.
Barbecue Boom Continues
Truth Barbeque - Pitmaster Leonard Botello IV is bringing the Brenham barbecue joint that Texas Monthly ranked 10th best in the state to Washington Avenue. Known for giving equal attention to its creative sides, including a particularly addictive corn pudding and mile-high cakes, as well as its carefully smoked meats, Truth shouldn’t have any trouble drawing interest when it opens early next year.
Blood Bros. BBQ - The pop-up masters will bring their creative spin on Texas barbecue to the Bellaire triangle by the end of the year. Moving to a brick-and-mortar spot will allow them to expand the menu to include sandwiches, more sides, and specials like prime rib and quail.
Feges BBQ - Pitmaster Patrick Feges and his wife, chef Erin Smith Feges, are working to open their first restaurant early next year. No word on an exact location yet, but a recent pop-up that featured Carolina-style whole hog served with a purple cabbage slaw, German potato salad, and roasted eggplant demonstrates the creative twists the duo will bring to barbecue.
Pappas Delta Blues Smokehouse - After years of serving lean, mildly seasoned barbecue, Pappas Restaurants is finally joining the Central Texas trend. Located in Webster, this new restaurant will serve USDA Prime briskets from Creekstone Farms (just like Austin’s Franklin Barbecue) along with steaks and Southern comfort food. If the food coming out of the kitchen tastes as good as the images Pappas chef Michael Velardi has been posting to Instagram for the last few months look, Delta Blues will be the best barbecue joint south of Killen’s.
Beaver’s - The promised “smoke signals” that indicate the original Beaver’s is reopening have yet to appear, but work has begun to transform the restaurant into more of an icehouse. A new design will feature garage doors and an expanded patio; on the menu, new shareable dishes will encourage diners to linger.
Heavy hitters from out-of-town
Superica - State of Grace owner Ford Fry will bring this Tex-Mex concept to the former Hunky Dory/Bernadine’s space in the first quarter of 2018. Fry, a Houston native, and culinary director Kevin Maxey (also a native Texan) developed the concept, which includes Tex-Mex staples like fajitas, enchiladas, and margaritas, along with a up-tempo vibe that will feature live music on the weekends.
Eunice - Back in September, acclaimed New Orleans chef John Besh was confident that his Greenway Plaza restaurant would open by the end of the year, but no signs of construction at 2929 Buffalo Speedway may indicate the timeline has slipped a bit. When it does open, expect a menu inspired by chef-partner Drake Leonards’ South Louisiana upbringing in a lively setting created by local firm gin designs group.
Mastro’s Steakhouse - Houstonians will have another option for satisfying our insatiable desire for a great steak at this upscale concept coming to the Landry’s-owned The Post Oak mixed-use development. All the usual steak, seafood, and side options come with a lively atmosphere that includes live music nightly in the lounge.
BCK: Kitchen & Cocktail Adventures - Harvey has pushed this new project from the owners of Bosscat Kitchen & Libations into early 2018, but the work has begun to turn the former Glass Wall space into a new restaurant. BCK’s menu takes its inspiration from the owners childhoods: everything from Spaghetti O’s to a riff on a McDonald’s fried apple pie.
Doris Metropolitan - Slated to open in the former Triniti space, this upscale steakhouse with locations in New Orleans and Costa Rica offers a twist on standard chophouse fare courtesy of Israeli-inspired dishes like artichoke-flower salad, lamb chops with tahini-yogurt salad, and calamari salad with eggplant and chickpeas. As for the beef, like Pappas Bros. and B&B Butchers, it’s all USDA Prime that’s dry aged in house.
Pokeworks - The New York City-based poke chain known for its highly Instagrammable dishes opened its first Houston restaurant this week. Order a poke burrito — wrapped in rice and toasted seaweed — for maximum portability.
Hurts Donut - The doughtnut shop known for its over-the-top, candy covered treats is coming to Katy. Follow the restaurant’s Facebook page for hints about its location and the chance to win free doughnuts.
Rodeo Goat - Originally slated for this summer, the Dallas-based better burger joint will arrive in EaDo in mid-November. The menu features over 20 burgers, many of which utilize freshly ground beef from 44 Farms, along with a selection of craft beers and cocktails.
Flying Fish - The popular Dallas-based seafood restaurant known for its first-rate fried catfish and cheeky Billy Bass Adoption Center will join the ever-growing mix of restaurants near 19th Street in the Heights in early 2018.
SumoMaya Mexican-Asian Kitchen - The prospects for this Arizona-based restaurant ever opening in River Oaks District are starting to look grim. A representative describes the project as “on hold.”
New locations from existing favorites
Willie G’s - Along with moving from Post Oak Road to The Post Oak, the seafood institution will get a design and menu refresh to bring it more in line with contemporary tastes. Landry’s compares it to the beneficial changes made from Grotto on Westheimer to the stylish new version at the George R. Brown.
Goode Co Kitchen & Cantina - This Tex-Mex restaurant — Goode Co’s first new concept since Armadillo Palace — mixes familiar favorites like fajitas, queso, and enchiladas with dishes that pay homage to the Goode family’s roots in South Texas (carnitas, green chile pork empanadas) and expertise in seafood (redfish on the half shell, campechana). One location has already opened in The Woodlands, but another will arrive soon in the Memorial area on the Katy Freeway.
Cleburne Cafeteria - Work continues to rebuild the iconic Houston cafeteria, which was destroyed by a fire in August 2016. When it opens in the next few weeks, the new building will feature more seating, an expanded menu, and beer and wine.
Dish Society - The third outpost of this casual neighborhood restaurant will arrive in the Memorial Green development by the end of the month. Expect the usual farm to table menu, along with a 1,300-square foot patio for basking in the sun.
The Union Kitchen - The popular neighborhood restaurant will open its fifth outpost at Elan Memorial Park in Rice Military. As with the other four outposts, expect an eclectic, affordable menu backed up by a strong beverage program.
Krisp - The crispy chicken sandwich shop that opened earlier this year in the Galleria area will add a second location on Shepherd Drive in The Heights. With a larger space than the original, Krisp plans to offer breakfast and brunch menus alongside its current offerings.
Snooze: An AM Eatery - The Katy location of the brunch everyday chain will arrive on October 25. The Houston area’s fourth Snooze is scheduled to open at the Lowell Street Market development in the Heights by the end of the year.