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Photo by Jeremiah Jones

Midtown's game-changing mixed-use development welcomes its newest restaurant this week. Stuff'd Wings will open its brick and mortar location this Friday, April 29 in the former Shipley Do-Nuts (401 Richmond Ave.) that's part of The Ion, Rice University's innovation focused project in the former Sears building.

First announced last year, the restaurant will be the first permanent location for Prisoria and Jarrod Rector's popular food truck. Founded in 2019, Stuff'd (or "STUFF'd" in the restaurant's branding) serves chicken wings stuffed with boudin, dirty rice, or mac and cheese. For dessert, try strawberry-banana pudding stuffed with Oreos or chocolate chips.

Operating a restaurant will allow the Rectors to expand their menu with new stuffings like broccoli cheese casserole and sides like Cajun fries that are topped with cheese, sriracha, ranch, and boudin. The restaurant will also feature Stuff'd's first ever brunch offerings: stuffed hash browns, maple bacon wings, and glazed funnel cake. Beer, wine, and sodas will be available.

“The journey to a permanent Stuff'd location in the Ion District is one that has a lot of personal significance for Prisoria and myself; she is really the reason why STUFF’d exists and why we are standing here about to expand the food truck into a brick and mortar,” Jarrod Rector said in a statement. “I can’t wait for first time guests to try our wings because I love seeing the look on each person’s face when they take that initial bite. Conversely, I am really excited for our regulars who have tried everything on the menu to be able to sink their teeth into the new items that we’ve been perfecting for some time now. It’s going to be like one big family reunion!”

Local firm Gin Design Group created the interior. Artist Jesse de Leon added an external mural.

To celebrate the opening, Stuff'd has partnered with local apparel designer Jailyn Noah for a limited run of t-shirts, hoodies, and sweatpants. Expect them to sell out quickly.

Stuff'd joins Common Bond On-The-Go as part of The Ion campus. In the months to come, the property will add three more bars and restaurants: Late August, an Afro-Asian restaurant from Top Chef finalist Dawn Burrell and Lucille's chef-owner Chris Williams; The Lymbar, a bar-forward, small plates concept from chef David Cordua; and Second Draught, a craft beer bar from the owners of Baileson Brewing Company.

“Jarrod and Prisoria represent everything that the District stands for as local entrepreneurs who are bringing their creative passion, ingenuity and determination together to cultivate an innovative experience that will be celebrated by the entire community,” Bryson Grover, investment manager for direct real estate at Rice Management Company, added.

Stuff'd Wings opens on Friday

Photo by Jeremiah Jones
Stuff'd Wings opens on Friday
Photo courtesy of HLSR

Hungry Rodeo fans sip and savor at Roundup + Best Bites event

Bottoms Up

Last month, more than 5,000 — yes, you read that right — Rodeo fans packed into NRG Center to sip and sample from nearly 100 Houston restaurants and food trucks at the 2022 Rodeo Uncorked! Roundup & Best Bites Competition.

In addition to the amazing food, approximately 400 wines from the 2022 International Wine Competition were poured.

This annual event put on by the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is a fan favorite, with top chefs and world-class wines coming together to duke it out (in a friendly way) for the championship titles.

Here's the full list of winners:

People's Choice Award
First place: Cotton Culinary: Figgy Piggy
Second place: Guard & Grace, A Modern Steakhouse: Oak grilled Creekstone Farms Prime New York Strip with loaded baked potato

Tasty Tradition Award
First place: Joyce's Seafood & Steaks: White chocolate bread pudding
Second place: Taste of Texas Restaurant: Certified Angus Beef tenderloin and Megan’s mac & cheese

Trailblazer Appetizer Award
First place: Omni Houston: Pork belly skewer, Moroccan BBQ, carrot puree, chicharrone
Second place: Songkran Thai Kitchen: Thai steak salad (Neu Nam Tok)
Third place: Revival Market: Cauliflower crositini – cauliflower hummus, homemade giardiniera, za’atar, chives

Lone Star Entree Award
First place: Killen’s TMX: Brisket suadero taco with black garlic salsa guacamole and queso fresco, and charro beans with jalapeno sausage
Second place: Gus’ Fried Chicken: Fried chicken wing
Third place: Russo’s Italian Kitchen: Lobster maestro – lobster essence, bianco, talegio, capelietti, maine lobster, smoked pecan

Two-Steppin' Dessert Award
First place: Egghaus Gourmet: Texas pecan croissant
Second place: Ragin Cajun: Bread pudding with rum sauce
Third place: Ashley Cakes: Carrot cake

Rookie Award
Craft Creamery: R-C Ranch wagyu brisket ice cream sandwich

Trail Boss Food Truck Award
Cruisin Sushi: Cruisin Special Roll – fried roll inside chicken, zucchini, carrots, Monterrey cheese, Tampico, cream cheese and avocado, drizzled with homemade spicy mayo and eel sauce (homemade soy and jalapeno sauce on the side)

Outstanding Showmanship Award
First place: Eculent
Second place: Texas Harvest

Killen's TMX won the Lone Star Entree Award.

Photo courtesy of HLSR
Killen's TMX won the Lone Star Entree Award.
Photo by Becca Wright

Wildly popular Heights hot chicken shop rolls out new food truck fleet

Takin it to the streets

Typically, once a food truck upgrades to a brick and mortar location it doesn't look back. The truck gets parked so that its owners can focus on the more convenient (and more profitable) building.

But Mico's Hot Chicken isn't a typical restaurant. The wildly popular Heights establishment announced it will expand its reach by fielding a fleet of five bright red food trucks.

When the first truck hits the road in March, it will serve Mico's signature hot chicken sandwiches alongside waffle fries and fried pickles. Details about where the trucks will operate are still to be determined.

“We’ve been in our brick and mortar for almost two years now –– during the pandemic the entire time –– and demand has continued to grow,” founder Kimico “Mico” Frydenlund said in a release. “We’re so grateful for the support, and we have a lot of exciting plans in the works that we can’t wait to share. We’re working hard to get this food that we’re so passionate about in more mouths.”

Opened in 2019 as a food trailer, Frydenlund and her husband Chris quickly built a following for their fiery chicken sandwiches. A brick and mortar location followed in 2020. Since then, they've refined their processes to better serve customers. For example, Mico's recently introduced online ordering that allows customer to avoid its frequent long lines.

Frydenlund has also introduced new menu items such as fried pickles. Last year, the restaurant caused a social media kerfuffle by encouraging people to add a scoop of ice cream to their hot chicken sandwiches. The dish remains available on Mico's "secret menu."

“Surprisingly we’ve had a great reaction from those who’ve been brave enough to try it," Frydenlund said last year. "They actually like the combo."

Perhaps they'll like it even more when a truck brings it directly to their neighborhood.

Pioneering Houston food truck hits the brakes on impressive 11-year run

Last call for Eatsie Boys

A pioneering Houston food truck will end its 11-year run this weekend. The Eatsie Boys will have its final day of service this Sunday, December 26, chef and co-owner Matt Marcus tells CultureMap.

The chef cited a number of reasons for the decision, including decreased food traffic, the difficulty in finding sufficient labor to run the truck efficiently, and supply chain challenges that have raised the cost of raw materials. As painful as the decision, Marcus acknowledges the time has come.

“We’re just hemorrhaging money at this point,” Marcus says. “The proper business decision, although it’s my baby and I would have kept it going forever, I just can’t do it at this point.”

Founded in 2010 by Marcus, Ryan Soroka, and Alex Vassilakidis, the Eatsie Boys quickly emerged as a leader in Houston’s growing scene of gourmet food trucks. Marcus, a Culinary Institute of America graduate whose resume includes Michelin-starred restaurants such as Cyrus and The Fat Duck, developed a menu of gourmet sandwiches with clever names and elevated preparations.

“Some of my best memories were cooking at Agora, and the day we came up with matzo ball pho,” Marcus says. “Doing the pop-ups at Urban Harvest when we first got started. The hundred or so people we employed; they all meant so much to me.”

The truck spawned a brick and mortar cafe that operated from 2013 to 2015, earning recognition from CultureMap as one of the best new restaurants of 2013. Since closing the restaurant, the food truck has been based at 8th Wonder Brewery.

Marcus will remain involved with 8th Wonder Brewery and Distillery, but he says he’s open to something with a more explicitly culinary focus. The chef has consulted for a number of local clients over the years, including JCI Grill and the recently-opened New York Eatery.

“If anybody wants to open a restaurant, let’s do it,” he says. “Or if there’s any opportunity, I’m really open to hearing it.”

Photo by Emily Jaschke

Bun B and Houston food trucks team up for Astroworld victims fundraiser

Food Truck Fundraiser

A group of top Houston food trucks are teaming up to raise money on behalf of the victims of the Astroworld Festival tragedy. Bun B Presents: Breaking Bread will take place at 8th Wonder Brewery on Sunday, November 14 from 1-8 pm (2202 Dallas St.).

Led by the Eatsie Boys, the pioneering Houston food truck that shares ownership with 8th Wonder, the event includes several vendors who lost sales when the Astroworld festival was cancelled. Sunday's event will give them the opportunity to recoup lost revenue and raise funds that will be donated to verified GoFundMe drives that benefit people who were seriously injured or killed at the concert.

“This is about helping our friends and our community in any way we can,” Eatsie Boys’ founder and chef said Matt Marcus in a statement. “I’ve watched these food trucks grow from start-ups to some of the city’s best. They were hit hard last weekend. Then of course, there are the victims and their families, going through unfathomable pain. In Houston, we do know how to lift one another up.”

Participants include: Bun B's Trill Burgers smash burger concept; chicken wing favorite Sticky's Chicken; taco and quesadilla truck Blk Mkt Birria; Korean fried chicken truck Seoulside Wings; Korean-Mexican fusion favorite Oh My Gogi; hot dog truck Happy Endings; The Waffle Bus; and, of course, The Eatsie Boys. In addition, 8th Wonder Brewery will also donate a portion of sales from their taproom to the cause.

To contribute, attendees simply buy food or beer from the participating vendors. The event is free to attend.

“Festivals, especially the music ones in Houston, are a huge deal for food trucks. What happened at Astroworld was devastating,” said Patsy Vivares, co-owner of Trill Burgers and Sticky’s Chicken. “With a surplus of supplies, my brother Benson had the idea to gather our core food truck friends that we do festivals with, sell what we have and donate a portion of that to the victims and their families.”

Fitzhugh Brewing/Facebook

6 intoxicating breweries and distilleries to spirit away to in nearby Dripping Springs

Dripping with drinks

Dripping Springs bills itself as the Wedding Capital of Texas, complete with a trademark on the phrase. The growing community near Austin also brags about its official International Dark Sky designation, a draw for stargazers. While there may be no official recognition for an abundance of wineries, distilleries, and breweries — trust us — this area has boozy bona fides.

As summer fades into fall (yes, please!), here are three distilleries and three breweries in Dripping Springs offering plenty of reasons to stop by.

Booze

Desert Door Distillery
Sotol is tequila’s smoother cousin. This distillery makes it from sotol plants wild-harvested in West Texas and uses it to make ranch water, margaritas, and bespoke cocktails. A covered outdoor seating area with misting fans is kid- and dog-friendly. Enjoy live music, limited editions of sotol, and farm-to-table inspired dishes from the Eden West food truck, open Thursday 4-8 pm, Friday and Saturday noon-8 pm, and Sunday noon-6 pm. Distillery hours are Thursday 3:30-8 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am-8 pm, and Sunday noon-6. 211 Darden Hill Rd., 512-829-6129.

Dripping Springs Distilling
In 2005, the Kelleher brothers built the first distillery in the Texas Hill Country and in 2007, sold their first bottle of Dripping Springs Vodka. The venture became Dripping Springs Distilling in 2018, offering vodka, gin, bourbon, tequila, and other spirits. A new location with a bar; visitors center; event venue; and spacious, oak-studded grounds, complete with a kids’ play area and water bowls for the pups, opened in August. After a pandemic-related hiatus, distillery tours and tastings are back by reservation or walk-up ($21.65 per person). Venue operations manager Kristi Quick reports plans for Sunday tours with Austin Tour Company, featuring this and two other area stops. The distillery plans to roll out fall cocktails in October, with seasonal touches such as warming spices and hot drinks. Also in the works: Sunday brunch. The distillery is open Thursday through Sunday 10:30 am-5 pm. 5330 Bell Springs Rd., 512-858-1199.

Treaty Oak Distilling
On 28 shady acres, tour the production facility, dine at Alice’s Restaurant, sip cocktails, or sample spirits in the Rickhouse Bar or tasting room, or grab a picnic table under the oaks. Bring the dog and the kids (there’s a play area for the little ones). A $25, 45-minute guided tour and tasting includes $5 off any bottle, up to two bottles. Tours run Saturday noon-5 pm every hour. Live music happens on Friday and Saturday. Nab one of 10 spots in the Single Barrel Select program that includes behind-the-scenes tasting and barrel samples, a personalized bottle of cask-strength Ghost Hill Texas Bourbon, a barbecue plate, and a 40 percent discount on food, beverages, and merchandise all day. The entire facility is open Friday and Saturday noon-9 pm, and Sunday noon-6 pm. 16604 Fitzhugh Rd., 512-400-4023.

Beer

Beerburg Brewing
Hops don’t grow well in Texas, but Beerburg sources all its other brewing ingredients from the state, with a Wildcraft Series featuring Texas-foraged plants. Seasonal offerings for fall include a mesquite bean and pecan brown ale. Taqueria la Violeta offers a variety of regional Mexican street food, including tacos and house-made ice creams. Enjoy it all on a large deck and tree-shaded beer garden. Live music jams every Friday and Sunday, and local artwork is on view in the lounge. Beerburg is open Thursday and Friday 3-8 pm, and Saturday and Sunday noon-8 pm. 13476 Fitzhugh Rd., 512-265-0543.

Fitzhugh Brewing
Here, the possibilities abound. Choose to spend your day in an expansive indoor space, on the covered patio, or in the large outdoor beer garden with shaded picnic tables, a playscape, and a stage. Co-owner Kerbey Smith and brewer Nathan Rice make beers for everyone, not just aficionados. Rice brews styles from Barbados to Belgium, all piped straight to the bar taps. (It doesn’t get fresher than that!) Food by PEJ Kitchens (the sister company of longtime Austin smokehouse Pok-e-Jo’s) features tender riffs on barbecue, from smokehouse nachos to burnt ends, pork ribs, and sausage — and one of Austin’s most inventive charcuterie boards. Events range from those featuring baby goats to kids’ nights, four-course dinner and beer pairings, and a one-year anniversary party planned for October 16 that will include music, raffles, and bottle releases. Fitzhugh is open Thursday and Friday 4-8 pm, Saturday 11 am-9 pm, and Sunday noon-7 pm. 15435 Fitzhugh Rd., 512-648-0653.

Jester King
The picnic tables in the pole barn, beer garden, pasture, canopy, goat barn, and grotto are first-come, first-served here, but there are a lot of them and most offer glorious shade. In addition to a rotating cast of unique beers, including one brewed with 100 percent Texas ingredients (very impressive since Texas-grown hops are a challenge), Jester King makes wine and cider using its own groundwater and Texas grapes and fruit for wine and Texas apples for cider. Food options include fresh-made pizzas, barbecue, and sides. Walk the mile-plus nature trail and the grounds on your own, or reserve a Goat Experience or Goat Walk with the herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats ($10 per person) or a tour ($5 per person). Jester King is open Wednesday and Thursday 3-9 pm, Friday 3-10 pm, Saturday noon-10 pm, and Sunday noon-9 pm. Reservations are encouraged. 13187 Fitzhugh Rd., 512-661-8736.

Find even more Dripping Springs options here.

Indulge in the charm — and tasty brew and barbecue offerings — at Fitzhugh Brewing.

Fitzhugh Brewing/Facebook
Indulge in the charm — and tasty brew and barbecue offerings — at Fitzhugh Brewing.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston Independent School District cancels classes again due to city-wide boil notice

school's out

With the issues surrounding the city-wide boil notice still unresolved, Houston Independent School District has announced all its campuses and facilities will be closed on Tuesday, November 29. This comes after classes were canceled on Monday, November 28.

"This decision has been made due to the logistical challenges caused by the notice," district staff notes in an email. "Those challenges prevent the district from being able to provide meals for its students and ensure safe water is available for students and staff."

The email goes on to add that all HISD employees will be working remotely unless otherwise instructed by the chief of their business area.

While most kids will no doubt enjoy yet another day off, HISD encourages students to "engage with digital academic resources that are available 24/7 online.

This closure announcement comes as other districts and colleges closed campuses on Monday. As CultureMap previously reported, the city was put on a boil notice after water pressure dropped below the City of Houston's required minimum of 20 PSI due to a power outage at the East Water Purification Plan around 10:30 am Sunday, November 27.

Under city guidelines and those set in part by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, city water pressure must be at least 20 DPI to ensure contaminants do not enter the flow. Notably, according to the director of Houston Water, Yvonne Williams Forrest, the city's water pressure never dropped to zero — but did fall below the regulatory limit.

Additionally, Forrest says the city boil notice could last until the early hours of Tuesday, November 29.

As reported by CultureMap news partner ABC13, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner provided a timeline for the outage on Sunday:

  • 10:30 am: East water purification plants 1 and 2 lose power
  • Plant 3 loses power, 14 sensors below 20 PSI for less than 2 minutes, 2 sensors below 20 PSI for 30 minutes, 5 sensors never fell below 20 PSI
  • 12:15 pm: Power restored to plants 1 and 2
  • 12:30 pm: Power restored to plant 3
  • 3:30 pm: All sensors back to 35 PSI

Residents expressed outrage on social media that they weren't notified of the boil notice until late Sunday night. In response that same night, several school districts — including Houston ISD — announced they would close on Monday, November 28. Parents should watch their school districts' social media for updates regarding classes resuming.

Concerned residents who are unsure if the boil notice affects their neighborhood can view this map that displays the entire affected.

Early Monday, the City of Houston announced on Twitter that the aforementioned Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved a plan by the Houston Public Works department to sample water and send to labs for testing.

Boil notices are nothing new to the Gulf Coast and Greater Houston areas, given the propensity for storms and flooding. But as longtime Houstonians know, there are few key things to remember when under a boil notice. These tips include:

  • Boiling all water used for food, drinking, and brushing teeth
  • Boiling the water for at least 2 to 3 minutes — even for making coffee
  • Avoiding chilled water lines from on the refrigerators
  • Avoiding ice from an automated ice machines

    The City of Houston also reminds residents to call 3-1-1 for any boil-notice-related questions.

    Beloved Houston local art showcase decks the walls for 25th anniversary with can't-miss events

    silver showecase

    Local shoppers on the hunt for that perfect gift or art loves looking to expand their collections want to be at the annual Art on the Avenue event at Winter Street Studios in the Heights on December 3.

    The noted auction features more than 500 works of art by more than 250 local artists. Celebrating its 25th year, the event celebrates the creative process and encourages collecting works created here in the Houston area.

    Fittingly for the nation's most charitable city, Art on the Avenue is also an important fundraiser for Avenue, a Houston nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable homes.

    Among the many local artists displaying works in the auction is Paperbag, who got his name from painting paper bags on people's faces. His artwork encourages others not to judge a book by its cover, and invites individuals to celebrate their unique personalities and stories. In addition to his art, Paperbag — née Dominique Silva — is also an ardent mental health supporter.

    Blossom by Paperbag Look for works such as "Blossom" by local artist Paperbag.Photo courtesy of Paperbag

    Art on the Avenue kicks off on Thursday, December 1 with a VIP preview party. A $150 ticket gives attendees an exclusive first look at the available works and the opportunity to bid on them prior to the main auction and party on Saturday, December 3. Art-inspired bites, cocktails, and entertainment by Two Star Symphony are also part of the evening's festivities.

    On Saturday, December 3, from 10 am to 1 pm, guests to see these incredible works of art for themselves and enjoy free admission.

    The auction proper begins at 6 pm, where a $35 ticket allows guests entry to the gallery space, bidding opportunities, and entertainment from vinyl enthusiast Losty Los of The Waxaholics, who will spin tunes.

    Art on the Avenue Sketches, paintings, sculptures, and more will be up for auction. Photo courtesy of Art on the Avenue

    Guests looking for a chance to dress up are encouraged to deck out in silver in honor the event's 25th anniversary.

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    Art on the Avenue runs Thursday, December 1 through Saturday, December 3 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter St. For tickets and information, visit Art on the Avenue.

    'Burn you twice' hot chicken chain spices up Houston with fifth fiery location

    flying into spring

    A rapidly growing chicken tender restaurant will soon arrive in Spring. Urban Bird Hot Chicken will open its fifth Houston-area store next year in January.

    Located in the former B.Good space at 2162 Spring Stuebner Rd., Urban Bird will be part of The Market, a Kroger-anchored shopping center within the the larger City Place mixed-use development. Other nearby tenants include Torchy’s Tacos, Jinya Ramen Bar, and Beard Papa’s, the Japan-based cream puff bakery.

    First opened in 2020, Urban Bird is a chicken tenders concept with different spice blends that deliver increasing levels of heat. The six options range from "country" up to "Nashville hot" and "Fire in the Hole" — which the restaurant says “will burn you twice. Available as baskets, sandwiches, or chopped up over fries, the restaurant touts that its batter went through 60 iterations prior to opening.

    Diners may pair their tenders with dipping sauces such as ranch, barbecue, or the signature Bird Sauce. Sides include fries (both potato and sweet potato), Hot Cheetos mac and cheese, street corn, and a kale salad with a dressing that includes maple syrup. Shakes and frozen custard help ease the burn.

    Urban Bird currently has locations in Katy, north Houston, Fulshear, and near Rice Village. In addition to Spring, the restaurant will soon add outposts in Webster and the Summerwood neighborhood near Lake Houston.

    “We’re thrilled to welcome this fast-growing concept to The Market and feel that it will resonate well with people who live in the area, as well as employees from City Place businesses and major office campuses,” Rip Reynolds, senior leasing agent for real estate developer Regency Centers, said in a statement. “The Urban Bird Hot Chicken team were drawn to this prime site based on its high levels of traffic, the desire for proximity to an anchor and the immediate availability of a second-generation space, the latter of which was only recently vacated.”