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Photo by Becca Wright

A growing Houston coffee shop and cafe will soon debut its fourth location. The newest Slowpokes will open Monday, November 28 in West University Place (6725 Stella Link Road).

Slowpokes has developed a devoted following thanks to its combination of coffee, beer, and wine that are paired with a diverse food menu built around sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and breakfast items. Those three beverages are represented by three mascots: a turtle named Mash (beer), a snail named Tasker Alexander (wine), and a sloth named Patches (coffee).

First opened in Garden Oaks in 2016 by owner Mazen Baltagi — a Houstonian hospitality veteran who’s a partner in establishments such as Christian’s Tailgate and the Warwick — Slowpokes has grown to locations in Upper Kirby and Spring Branch.

“It’s been incredible to see how the local community has shaped each of our locations into something unique, and we’re really excited to see what that means for our friends here in West U,” Baltagi said in a statement.

The new location seats 50 people indoors and more on an outdoor patio. Slowpokes posted a sneak peek of the new location’s interior on Instagram.



Slowpokes fans will find the same menu as the other three locations, which means favorites like the chicken pesto panino, salmon bagel, and brie and pear flatbread (known as the Let it Be) are all available. A rotating selection of pastries and baked goods come from a number of local purveyors, including Michael’s Cookie Jar, Sinfull Bakery, and Angela’s Oven.

On the beverage side, looks for a full coffee program that features seasonal specials such as the Punkin’ Pie Latte, the Snickerdoodle Latte, and the Peppermint Mocha Latte. Beers come from local breweries such as 8th Wonder, Eureka Heights, Saint Arnold and more. Slowpokes’ wine selection rotates regularly. Diners may grab-and-go or linger into happy hour that features $4 draft beers, $5 wines by-the-glass, and $10 flatbreads.

“We’re genuinely so grateful for the communities that have embraced us,” Baltagi added. “We hope we’ve been able to better our regulars’ lives as much as they have ours and we’re looking forward to expanding our reach in Houston.”

Starbucks Instagram

Bustling Medical Center Starbucks joins Upper Kirby outpost as second to unionize

another unionized starbucks

Another Houston-area Starbucks plans to join the growing movement of unionized coffee shops. Workers at the 6400 Fannin St. location announced their intentions via a letter distributed by Starbucks Workers United.

In the letter, which is signed by nine employees “and those who wish to remain anonymous,” they note that their decision to organize is based on a high rate of employee turnover at the store, which the authors attribute to labor cuts, insufficient wage increases, and other “unaddressed partner concerns.”

“We understand these are not issues unique to our store or our store’s management, but rather problems that exist on a company level and ones that the lowest-wage workers of this company are looking to address,” they add.

In addition, the authors state that Starbucks presented its baristas as “essential workers” during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving them the same title as the doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals working in the office tower above them. They write that they maintained the highest “Customer Connection” store in their district throughout this period.

In September, workers at the Starbucks at Shepherd Drive and Harold Street became the first in Houston to form a union. They voted 11-3 in favor of the effort.

At the time, Starbucks issued a statement that acknowledged its employees’ rights to unionize but stated “we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”

If 30 percent of the location’s employees sign cards or petitions stating they wish to form a union, an election will be held. If a majority of employees vote for the union, they the location will be unionized. To date, more than 250 Starbucks across the country have unionized, according to Starbucks Workers United.

Courtesy of McCord Development

Bernie's Burger Bus owner brews up new coffee shop with wine, Italian-inspired cocktails, and fresh fare

turning up in generation park

A mixed-use development near Lake Houston has welcomed a new coffee shop and cafe that will benefit residents and office burgers. Lupo Caffe is currently in a quiet soft opening phase and will celebrate its grand opening this Friday, November 4.

Located in the Generation Park development. Lupo Caffe replaces Lupo Pizzeria with a counter-service café and coffee shop that's open daily for breakfast, lunch, and early dinners. Thankfully, pizzas are still available next door at Lupo's sister concept, Bocca Italian Kitchen.

Both restaurants are led by chef Justin Turner, the director of hospitality for Generation Park's developer McCord. Best known for his time as the chef-owner of Bernie's Burger Bus, Turner opened Bocca in late 2020.

Mornings at Lupo Caffe start with locally roasted Katz coffee that includes both drip and espresso options as well as nitro cold brew and teas. Pair them with dishes such as breakfast tacos, croissant sandwiches, bowls, and pastries.

Lupo Caffe spread Find sandwiches, bowls, and a latte at Lupo.Courtesy of Lupo Caffee

At lunch, the menu includes an array of dishes including sandwiches, panini, wraps, soups, salads, and build-your-own bowls. Highlights include Italian wedding soup, porchetta panini, and olive oil cake. End the meal on a sweet note with a scoop of gelato.

Lupo's beverage offerings include a mix of Old World and domestic wines along with eight Italian-inspired cocktails. A market section sells grab-and-go items.

"We saw an opportunity to serve the Lake Houston community with a great coffee shop and Italian café that overlooks an amazing green space perfect for picnics and kids to roam,” Turner said in a statement. “In addition to our hot food items, we’ll have a curated grab-and-go market filled with fresh pastas, homemade pasta sauces, cheeses, wine, fresh squeezed juices, and more [to ensure] our guests can enjoy the best ingredients whether dining at our café, having a picnic on the lawn, or at home.”

Photo by Eric Sandler

Canadian favorite coffee & doughnut shop Tim Hortons now open in Katy

Tim's in Texas

Canadian ex-pats of Houston, rejoice, eh! Your favorite coffee and doughnut shop has made its Texas debut.

Tim Hortons has quietly opened its first Houston-area location in Katy at 21817 Clay Rd. Situated just east of the Grand Parkway, the restaurant features a limited amount of internal seating, a few outdoor tables, and a two-lane drive-thru.

Although Tim Hortons hasn't officially announced the opening, news of its debut has circulated on social media. When CultureMap stopped by Tuesday at 1 pm, cars filled the drive-thru and a line of eager diners spilled out of the door. It's not quite an In-N-Out level frenzy — which required police officers to help manage traffic — but it still demonstrates the enthusiasm for the Canadian favorite.

Once inside, diners will find a variety of doughnut options, including the signature Timbits doughnut holes, along with muffins and breakfast sandwiches on croissants or bagels. Beverage options are extensive, ranging from hot or iced coffee to juices, teas, and sodas.

Patience is advised, as the staff is still learning the ropes. An order on Tuesday afternoon for six doughnuts, an iced coffee, and a chai latte took approximately 30 minutes to be served. Online ordering is not yet available.

Local radio personality Ashlee Young delivered this decidedly mixed review from her visit to the restaurant:

The new location comes from a partnership between Tim Hortons and Houston's CSM Group, which operates Popeyes locations in Texas, Kansas, and Missouri. CSM Group CEO Ali Lakhany told the Houston Chronicle in March that his company plans to open 30 locations across the Houston area, including 10 in the first three years. The company is counting on beating coffee chains like Starbucks with a lower price point and baked goods that are prepared on-site.

“The fresh quality food will be key, and, in Texas, the price point will be another advantage that Tim Hortons will have over Starbucks,” Lakhany said in March. “I think Starbucks is way too overpriced.”

Courtesy of La La Land Kind Cafe

Houston's 'most Insta-worthy' new cafe brews up signature lattes, avocado toast, and kindness in Montrose's hottest hub

off to la la land

A new coffee shop devoted to kindness has opened in Montrose. La La Land Kind Cafe is now serving lattes and more at the Montrose Collective, the new mixed-use destination near the intersection of Montrose and Westheimer.

Touted as "the most aesthetic, insta-worthy cafe in Houston," La La Land offers an extensive selection of coffee, teas, and organic food items. It's the company's second Houston location, joining a store in the M-K-T mixed-use development. It also has locations in Los Angeles and Dallas.

Turning to the food, La La Land offers a variety of toasts, including avocado, truffle burrata, honey strawberry. Grab-and-go items include chia seed pudding and overnight oats.

The extensive selection of drinks starts with 10 signature lattes such as the la la latte with honey, the upside down latte with caramel drizzle, and the purple rain latte with lavender and CBD. Six reserve teas in a range of flavors are brewed to order.

Alternatively, customers may opt for one of 12 signature matcha lattes that come in the same range of flavors as the coffee-based drinks. They're made with a ceremonial grade matcha that's imported from Japan.

As for the kindness aspect, La La Land hires former foster children and prepares them for their future with an eight-week program that includes life skills, on-the-job training, customer service training, mentorship, and more. Beverage sleeves drive some of these points home with sayings such as "Be Kind," "Just Love Each Other," and "Normalize Kindness."

La La Land founder Francois Reihani also founded a companion non-profit called the We Are One Project. Like the cafe, it helps businesses find ways to employ people who have aged out of the foster care system. CultureMap Dallas describes Reihani as a "wunderkind" who helped introduce poke to the city in 2016 with a restaurant called Pok the Raw Bar.

A look inside the new La La Kind at the Montrose Collective.

Courtesy of La La Land Kind Cafe
A look inside the new La La Kind at the Montrose Collective.
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Luxe plastic surgery center injects River Oaks with cutting-edge techniques, posh recovery suites, secret access, and more

A-list treatment

With the holiday season in full swing and many prepping for a new look for the new year, image-conscious Houstonians have a new option for cutting-edge cosmetic treatments and plastic surgery in one of Houston’s most elite neighborhoods.

Nuveau Plastic Surgery + Medical Aesthetics, a local leader in cosmetic medical procedures, has quietly opened a sleek new facility in River Oaks (3720 Westheimer Rd.). Owned and operated by renowned (and board-certified) plastic surgeon Dr. Edward Lee, the facility offers myriad reconstructive surgeries for men, women, and children, as well as beauty treatments, touch-ups, and more.

Aside from top-of-the-line technology, instrumentation, and treatments, the boutique center has personalized service and features to the tony RO crowd. A secret entrance ensures privacy for discreet clients, much like similar operations in Los Angeles and New York.

Another top-drawer feature: Tastefully appointed pre-op and post-op suites keep patients in-house, rather than having to leave posh treatment centers and head to crowded hospital rooms for recovery.

In keeping with Lee’s insistence on a medicine-first approach, anesthesia for patients is provided by Medical Anesthesia Associates, an MD-only group.

A cut above

Notably, the center places a primary focus on plastic surgery, which, for the uninitiated, has a clear distinction from cosmetic surgery. Randy Rakes, managing partner, tells CultureMap that it’s important for clients to understand the difference.

“You have to understand, you have to go through hundreds of hours of training and cases — face and the entire body — to get that board certification, and go through rigorous testing in order to meet that specification,” he says.

Why is that important? The industry, Rakes notes, is rife with practitioners such as “OBGYNs or dermatologists or people who have not really been trained in the art of plastic surgery, who take a class somewhere and learn how to do liposuction or a fat transfer — and then they're ‘experts’ in aesthetic surgery.”

That’s especially key when selecting a provider for highly invasive — and potentially serious — procedures such as facelifts, eyelid surgeries, tummy tucks, liposuction, rhinoplasty, breast lifts and augmentations, breast reconstruction, and more, Rakes adds.

In an era of Instagram beauty demands, more choosy clients are opting for streamlining facial features. To that end, Lee is one of a select few surgeons in the U.S. who regularly performs “V-Line '' surgery. The set of procedures, popularized in South Korea where Lee honed many of his skills, aim to narrow the width of the jawline and the face.

Aesthetics with an expert eye

Lee’s elegant, 5,500-square-foot center is adorned with CASA Houston designs, Italian-influenced finishes, and soothing elements evocative of a modern art museum or luxury spa. The facility houses a Visia Skin Analysis Studio and seven treatment suites aesthetic work such as Botox, microneedling, VI peels, Halo Laser Resurfacing, Moxi Non-Ablative Laser, Broad Band Light Photofacials, Coolsculpting, Emsculpt, and more.

Rakes says that his registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and estheticians are elite, by design, as he and Lee insist on credentials. “All of our injectors are licensed in the State of Texas,” he says. “Most places don't have that, the reason being is that they are much more highly skilled than a traditional, regular nurse injector. So they have a much higher skill set. The people who do our lasers and things of that nature have 10 to 15 years of experience, so clients know that they're getting the best possible treatment with the best possible devices — we own every medical device that's considered cutting edge in the industry.”

Facing forward

Rakes, a longtime medical industry processional with a keen eye for trends and technology, says that his clients aren’t just looking for traditional services, but new technologies and treatment, such as PRP and other regenerative therapies. “I think patients are kind of moving a little bit away from the traditional Hyaluronic fillers like Restylane and really looking for something with a more natural approach.”

His treatment teams stimulate collagen with fillers such as Radiesse, “and then we combine that with energy-based devices to even further lift the tissue and work as a synergy between using the injectable and the device, because the combination of both of those things give the patient the best possible results,” Rakes notes. Lee and Rakes also focus facial care on medical-grade skincare brands Alastin, Revision, and Elta MD.

A global scope

Aside from his board certification in plastic surgery, Lee has also trained in craniofacial and pediatric surgery. His medical mission work has taken him to Thailand, Haiti, and Cambodia, where he has performed surgeries for nonprofits such as Operation Smile and Smile Train for those in need.

Those in need of non-traditional treatments can also trust Lee, says Rakes, who points to Lee’s work in the cosmetic and plastic surgery-obsessed Korea. “Some of the Korean techniques are much more advanced than the techniques that are available here in the United States,” says Rakes. “Dr. Lee does a lot of things that other physicians here just don't do.”

Those interested should book early, Rakes advises, as the holiday and new year rush is in full swing. The center offers “pre-buying” slots where clients can reserve space and time. “We’ve been very busy,” says Rakes, noting the local celebs who’ve shared the work they’ve received there on social media. “I think people come here because they know they’re getting the very best treatment and results available.”

Photo courtesy of Nuveau PlasticSurgery + Medical Aesthetics

Nuveau's sleek River Oaks center boasts designs from CASA.

Beloved Houston urban farm toasts local culinary legend with new cooking courses and classroom

peg-approved

For longtime Houston food insiders, Peg Lee needs no introduction. A lifelong local culinary instructor, she has been a fixture in the food scene since the 1970s, where she (often humorously) led cooking classes at Houston Community College.

She was a no-brainer to found and direct Rice Epicurean's cooking school. And the newly launched Central Market made waves in 2001 by enticing her to launch its now wildly successful cooking school, which, thanks to Lee, has lured top national and international chefs and food names.

Along the way, Lee mentored now well-known chefs such as Robert Del Grande, Greg Martin, and Mark Cox.

Quite apropos, the Houston legend is now the namesake for a new cooking school in one of the city's most beloved urban green sanctuaries, Hope Farms. The Peg Lee Culinary Classroom in Hope Farms' Gathering Barn now hosts field trips, classes, tastings, and free cooking demonstrations for children and adults.

Locals can also book the charming space, spearheaded by Recipe for Success/Hope Farms founder Gracie Cavnar, for cooking parties and cooking classes for anywhere from four to 24 students. Those interested can find more information on classes, which center on Cavnar's passion for healthy eating, and more here.

As for the classroom, visitors can expect a white, farmhouse-style kitchen with custom cabinets and high-end appliances, all reflective of a home kitchen. Butcherblock countertops, matte black accents, and farm-made tables and more adorn the space, while a Wolf Induction cooktop, A GE Café Smart Five-in-One Wall Oven, and other state-of-the-art appliances get folks cooking.

Fittingly, classroom water is tied into the farm's new rainwater capture system for the ultimate in sustainability.

“Peg was one of my earliest mentors in the imagining and crafting of what Recipe for Success Foundation would become,” Cavnar noted in a statement. “Then, when we began programing, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work, helping us teach children to cook and bringing her many resources to help us raise money and awareness for our efforts. It is my deepest honor to pay her tribute with the naming of our classroom.”

New craft brewery bringing 'bold American beer,' Texas comfort food, live music, and more to Sugar Land

Sugar land's new craft brewery

Houston’s growing craft brewery scene will add a new outpost in Sugar Land. Talyard Brewing Co. recently began construction on a 15,000-square-foot production and tap room that will open in early 2024.

Located in Imperial, a massive mixed-use development on the site of the former Imperial Sugar refinery, Talyard will occupy a three-and-a-half acre site that will include a beer garden with shaded seating areas, pickle ball courts, a playground, and a stage for live entertainment.

Principals Keith Teague and Chuck Laughter are Sugar Land natives and neighbors who bring experience from the business world to Talyard. In a release, Teague says that intend to serve “bold American beer” paired with a food menu of Texas comfort food made from locally sourced ingredients.

“We want to push the boundaries of style and tradition by combining old practices and new,” Teague added.

Ultimately, the brewery’s 20-barrel brewhouse will be capable of producing 10,000 barrels per year. For now, brew master Sean Maloney is dialing in recipes on a test system. Formerly of 8th Wonder Brewing, Maloney has been working on the West Coast and recently finished the World Brewing Academy’s Master Brewer Program, administered by the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the Doemens Academy in Munich.

“As I’m sure is the case for many ventures like ours, the idea of starting a craft brewery was hatched over beers in the backyard,” Teague said. “Sean attended high school with Chuck’s son, and over the years, we’d see him at family gatherings during the holidays when he was visiting from the West Coast. Those backyard beer sessions turned into area brewery tours together, and eventually the idea of sharing our passion here locally was born.”

Talyard will add to Imperial’s extensive entertainment options. The area also includes Constellation Field, home to the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, a weekly farmers market, and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center.