Courtesy of ALife Hospitality Group

A rapidly growing Houston restaurant and bar group will soon arrive in Rice Village. ALife Hospitality is opening FRNDS Restaurant & Lounge on April 1.

Located in the former Mi Luna space at 2442 University Blvd., FRNDS (pronounced “friends”), aims to be a gathering spot for groups. Although ALife is well established with concepts such as Kamp, Lost & Found, and the recently-opened Bungalow Downtown Dining, the new establishment will be its first in Rice Village.

“The space sort of picked us,” ALife partner Junior Martin tells CultureMap. “While looking for new opportunities, we viewed several locations in different areas of the city. After touring the property during the day and at night, it gave us a vision of what was missing from the Rice Village area and from our hospitality offerings to the city of Houston.”

Those offerings begin with a menu of tapas-style shareable plates created by ALife culinary director Mark Holley. Best known for his time at seafood restaurant Pesce and his current role at Davis Street at Hermann Park, Holley’s menu includes Coconut Curry Shrimp Skewers, Crab Avocado Dip, and Red Curry Fried Calamari. Diners will also find truffle pasta, shrimp cocktail, and baby back ribs. For his part, Martin recommends the wagyu dumplings and chicken satay.

“Several of the menu choices are shareable items to enjoy with your friends,” Martin adds. “This fosters a vibe of fellowship with your group and allows [everyone] to explore multiple menu items together.”

FRNDS pairs its dishes with a range of craft cocktails. Highlights include the Pineapple Patron and a popcorn cocktail that comes with a sidecar of kernels.

FRNDS Pineapple Patron cocktailBehold the Pineapple Patron.Courtesy of ALife Hospitality Group

Renovations to the space include adding royal blue and purple booths, marble bar and table tops, and wood accents.

Rice Village has seen a number of new openings in the past few months, including Navy Blue, the new seafood restaurant from the Bludorn team; Sushi by Hidden, an omakase restaurant from the owners of Hidden Omakase; a new location of Chinese American restaurant the Rice Box; Australian-inspired coffee shop Bluestone Lane; and Eau Tour, a French restaurant from Local Foods owner Benjy Levit.

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Eva Longoria's Flamin' Hot serves up a spicy underdog story with fairytale qualities

Movie review

Underdog stories are a reliable go-to for filmmakers, as there is something universal about beating the odds and rising above someone’s supposed station in life. While typically associated with sports stories, the underdog arc can be especially potent when it’s an individual rising above the system to become more than anyone thought they could be.

Flamin’ Hot is an especially successful version of this story, centering on Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), a Mexican-American man trying to escape his rough past in the Los Angeles area. He and his wife, Judy (Annie Gonzalez), both struggle to find work until Richard is hired to work as a janitor at the nearby Frito-Lay factory.

Richard soon proves himself to be an extremely hard worker, as well as an insatiable learner, bugging various higher-ups, including Clarence Baker (Dennis Haysbert), about everything that goes into making the brand’s snacks. Noticing a lack of flavors that would appeal to Hispanic people, Richard takes it upon himself to create a spicy flavor, one which would go on to become a cornerstone of the company.

Directed by Eva Longoria in her feature debut and written by Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chávez, the story is irresistible – even if it may not actually be true. If you’re willing to suspend a little disbelief, the film works like a charm, as Richard is a compelling character whose drive and easygoing nature make him someone for whom it’s easy to root.

Subtle but effective scenes dealing with racism and classism reinforce the uphill climb he faced toward success.

Richard is almost relentlessly positive, able to withstand slights in a manner that few others would be able to do. To accomplish this, Longoria and her team employ a lot of humor, sometimes in straight-up funny situations and other times to defuse the tension built up from a particular confrontation. Richard is also complemented extremely well by Judy, who brings her own energy to make their struggles seem less daunting.

Even if you weren’t aware of the dispute of Richard’s claims, it’s clear that the film is meant to be a type of fairy tale, one that gives Latinos a showcase they don’t often get. While the film is family-friendly, Longoria doesn’t avoid unsavory topics like Richard being abused as a child or dealing drugs in his younger days. The difference is that the characters are shown as three-dimensional humans, ones who are capable of good and bad things.

Both Garcia and Gonzalez are getting their biggest roles to date, and each does a fantastic job. Garcia is in 95 percent of the scenes, and he carries the film as if he’s been a longtime star. Gonzalez is equally impressive, playing the supportive wife in a way that doesn’t diminish her own performance. Haysbert, Tony Shalhoub, Matt Walsh, and others turn in great supporting roles.

Flamin’ Hot is full of all the right elements that make for a rousing underdog story. With great performances, a solid combination of drama and comedy, and a brand that’s instantly recognizable, it’s a feel-good film that earns its spicy stripes.

Brice Gonzalez, Annie Gonzalez, Jesse Garcia and Hunter Jones in Flamin' Hot

Photo by Emily Aragones; courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Brice Gonzalez, Annie Gonzalez, Jesse Garcia and Hunter Jones in Flamin' Hot.


Flamin' Hot is now streaming on Hulu and Disney+.

Elegant supper club and upscale dining restaurant tunes up big comeback this weekend in Briargrove

no cap, fam

A Houston restaurant and bar devoted to live music begins its comeback this weekend. Caps Supperclub & Bar opens this Friday, June 9.

Located in the Briargrove neighborhood at 2610 Briar Ridge, Caps Supperclub (styled CAPS in press materials) is a reimagining of Caps Piano Bar, which operated at that location for almost 40 years until it closed in 2021. Dr. Venkata Diddi saw an opportunity to preserve the space’s intimacy while adding a full food menu and upgrading the interior.

“I immediately recognized the potential. Not only is it a great location in Houston, it’s also a concept that any customer at any age enjoys — a sophisticated spot with delicious food and entertainment,” Diddi said in a statement. “We are not a dueling piano bar or a jazz lounge, but an upscale dining establishment with great live music Tuesday through Sunday. And I think that’s rare to find in Houston.”

To create that delicious food, Diddi retained consulting chef Omar Pereney of Culinary Concepts. He created a familiar menu built around shareables (deviled eggs, calamari, a cheese board, and more), raw dishes such as caviar and oysters, and steaks. Other entree options include a burger, pastas, and seafood items, all of which can be paired with sides such as creamed spinach mac and cheese, roasted root vegetables, and parmesan truffle fries.

“The dishes we will serve will only hold three or four components, but they make each other stronger,” Pereney said. “Our menu will be constantly evolving, and though there isn’t one flavor or ingredient that inspires it, seafood will be a main theme carried throughout.”

The Tighten Up Band will take the stage nightly. Carl Davis, Gale Evans, Travis Doyle and Cleveland “Moose” Hendricks have performed together for more than 20 years, according to a release, in a refreshed dining room that seats 94 people.

"We're thrilled to be back at Caps, and can't wait to create new memories with our loyal fans and provide an unforgettable experience for all who walk through the doors," Davis added.

Caps will be open Tuesday-Sunday beginning at 4 pm.

Caps Supperclub bar interior

Photo by Laziza Mukhamedova

Caps Supperclub offers an intimate environment.

Posh and palatial Post Oak penthouse towers on market with a potentially historic $5.9 million asking price

all about the views

A monumental 26th floor penthouse with a mighty price tag in downtown H-Town has commanded the eyes and ears of our city’s highly active real estate market.

The four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bathroom condo spans across 9,503 square feet in the Astoria building at 1409 Post Oak Blvd. Stunning floor-to-ceiling windows and a spacious balcony allow guests to overlook the beautiful downtown skyline.

Access to the penthouse is provided by a private elevator entrance, allowing future owners and guests to retain their privacy in a city that knows it all. Once inside, guests are introduced into a world of elegance with the home’s designer finishes and resort-style amenities.

The master suite boasts two walk-in closets, a private spa-like bathroom with separate his-and-her vanities, a glass-enclosed shower with entrances on two sides, and a deep tub for a relaxing bath.

Other extravagant features of the penthouse include:

  • Chef’s kitchen with Eggersmann cabinets
  • Miele appliances and a wine chiller
  • Formal dining room
  • Media room
  • Steam room
  • Sauna
  • Gym
  • Pool
  • Two assigned parking spaces
  • Downstairs storage unit

If the condo is sold for the list price of $5.9 million, it will be the fifth most expensive penthouse sold in Houston’s history, calling to mind the River Oaks’ Penthouse Two West and Astoria’s 28th floor penthouse that sold in 2022.

The condo is situated within the heart of the Galleria, bringing its future owners within walking distance of all the high-end shopping excursions, fine dining experiences, and more. And for any necessary traveling on the Loop and beyond, the Astoria building is just minutes away from 610 and 69.

The listing is held by agents Geron Fuller and Nadia Jubran of Geron Fuller of Nan and Company Properties.

1409 Post Oak Boulevard 26th floor penthouse.

Photo courtesy of Turnkey Visuals

Who can say no to a skyline view like this?