Photo by Gerardo Velasquez Photography

The Hotel Lucine, Galveston’s eagerly anticipated, boutique hotel, has made a key hire ahead of its opening this spring. Thorough Fare hospitality group parters Bobby Heugel and Justin Yu, who will oversee the hotel’s food and beverage operations, have named Leila Ortiz as executive chef.

A veteran of celebrity chef David Chang’s celebrated New York restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar and the former sous chef and operations manager for the late, lamented Houston restaurant UB Preserv, Ortiz will oversee the kitchens for both the hotel’s lobby bar and The Fancy, the property’s “fine-ish dining” main restaurant.

Overall, the chef will look to bring both her professional experiences with different Asian flavors and her Latin heritage to the role.

“Having the opportunity to join the Hotel Lucine team and help develop a new space for dining and socializing in Galveston is both daunting and exciting,” Ortiz said in a statement. “The hotel is going to make so many great memories, and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”

Hotel visitors will have different venues for sampling Ortiz’s cooking. The hotel’s two bars — The Den, which will be located in the lobby, and another on the roof — will offer both breakfast and an all-day menu. Potential dishes include chilled heirloom tomatoes served “campechana-style” and a pressed chicken sandwich with Puerto Rican-inspired mojo verde.

At The Fancy, expect a French-influenced take on classic American fare. Dishes include roast chicken with mushroom duxelle and black pepper dumplings and Gulf fish wrapped in potato and served “animal style” with smoked paprika soubise sauce. As one would expect from a chef of Yu’s experience — he won a James Beard Award for his work at Oxheart — the restaurant will source quality ingredients from purveyors such as Alvin, Texas’s Jolly Farm and Galveston’s Katie’s Seafood.

“I have been incredibly lucky to have Leila working with me to develop the opening menus for the hotel,” Yu said. “She has a way about her that is incredibly easy-going, but her flavors are fierce and pop with a lot of pizazz. I can’t wait to show Galveston what we’ve been working on.”

Located on the site of the historic Treasure Isle Motel at 10th and Seawall, the 61-room property will feature an interior courtyard pool, a rooftop with 180-degree views, and a private beach. Austin-based design firm Kartwheel Studio’s plans call for preserving the building’s midcentury feel with details such as white brick, bleached white oak, and native greenery.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Eye-catching new restaurant serenades Montrose with global cuisine and wood-fired steaks

cherry blossom restaurant

Houston’s next destination that blends eclectic cuisine with an eye-catching interior and a lively atmosphere has opened its doors. Muse is now open for dinner in the former Emmaline space at 3210 W Dallas St.

Part of of the Sundown Entertainment Group (Sugar Room, Todos Santos, and The Sporting Club), any conversation about Muse has to start with its eye-catching design. Inspired by owners Brandon Duliakas and Dan Wierck global travels, the space features an 18-seat wraparound bar, walnut accents, and lots of natural light. Most noticeable of all are the large cherry blossom trees that shade the restaurant’s banquettes. All in, the approximately 4,200-square-foot restaurant seats almost 200 people.

Turning to the cuisine, Muse offers serves a globally-inspired menu that hops across a range of genres. Created by executive chef and partner E.J. Miller (Riel, International Smoke) with an assist from sous chefs Dung Nguyen (The Dunlavy) and Andrew Aguilera (The Classic), Muse’s menu incorporates locally-sourced ingredients into shareable dishes that include hot and cold plates, sushi rolls, and wood-grilled steaks and seafood.

Specific dishes include:
  • Octopus salad with with shaved vegetables and soft-boiled quail egg
  • Sticky pork ribs with soy-tamarind glaze
  • Yellowtail aguachile
  • Wood-grilled lobster with green papaya salad
  • R-C Ranch bone-in ribeye with chili eggplant.

Pastry chef Maggie Lin (La Table) makes her own contributions with a Yuzu Tart with sesame shortbread; Profiteroles with lemongrass ice cream and macerated strawberries; and a Mocha Torte with red bean brownie and cafe su da mousse.

“Growing up in Houston, I’ve always enjoyed exploring global flavors and experimenting with a variety of traditional techniques,” Miller said in a statement. “While the name ‘Muse’ comes from the idea of a person or personified force that provides a source of inspiration, our menu is inspired by Houston’s unique multicultural dining scene.”

As they did for the Sporting Club and Sugar Room, Sundown turned to beverage consultants Ladies of Libation to create the restaurant’s cocktails. The results include the Japanese Breakfast a blend of orange blossom gin, bergamot, sake and white peach tea that’s served over dry ice from a traditional tea pot; the Matcha Colada with dark rum, coconut, matcha, pineapple; and lime; and the on-trend take on an Espresso Martini.

Those who prefer wine or sake will find plentiful changes, including 20 wines by-the-glass and a rotating list of sake. They’re overseen by general manager Patty Burbach.

Initially only open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday beginning at 5 pm, Muse’s future plans include construction of a rooftop patio and weekend brunch service.

Muse restaurant interior

Photo by Adrian Barboza

Muse opened Thursday, March 23.

The Texas architect helping define Houston's visual style searches for a nonprofit community partner

community building

These days, if you're asking Houstonians to come into an office, it'd better be a nice one. Nonprofit workers and beneficiaries often get the short end of this stick, with outdated buildings and cost-cutting, so one acclaimed Texas architecture firm is offering its services to spruce things up.

One nonprofit partner in Austin or Houston will receive $20,000 worth of services to directly support its mission from Michael Hsu Office of Architecture (MHOA). That can be accrued however the partner sees fit within design and consultation services, such as site analysis, feasibility studies, master planning, and even interior design help.

Designs by MHOA are likely familiar to Houstonians, who may recognize the firm's work at Uchi, Loro, Da Gama, the Montrose Collective, and many more hard-to-miss modern buildings. Many clients have locations in both Austin and Houston, where Hsu grew up and another office is based, resulting in a growing visual connection between the two cities.

This is the second iteration of the Design for All Partnership, following the success of 2022 as an inaugural year with Austin Angels, a community-building organization that supports youth and families in foster care. Although the partnership began last year, MHOA is still working on a community center on 2.5 acres in Buda that used to support a church facility.

Renderings of the new space show an angular structure that prioritizes storage and openness from one area to the next, plus lots of colors through murals. The organization is now in a fundraising phase to bring the ideas to life.

Austin Angels appealed to the architects because of its capacity to anticipate the needs of its community and a background in hospitality design. This overlap is fitting for the goal of the partnership, which beyond providing one-time services, is meant to meaningfully connect the organization with the design industry.

The next partner will also embody values that align with MHOA's, but also must fit within a few hard criteria for eligibility: it must be a registered 501C3, be within 50 miles of the Austin or Houston metropolitan areas, and propose a project equal to or smaller than 50 acres for master planning or 20,000 square feet for architecture and interior design.

“Our firm has always done our best to balance community-focused work in our project mix,” said Michael Hsu. “Similar to Austin Angels’ project, we’re looking for a partner who is actively contributing to our communities in Austin or Houston.”

MHOA has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) and is accepting applications until May 19 at 5 pm. It will also be accepting questions until April 14, and plans to start conduct shortlist interviews between June 5-9. The new partner should be announced on June 22, and services will start shortly thereafter in July.

Willie Nelson receives prestigious honor and inaugural endowment at UT Austin

Willie forever

Willie Nelson has earned countless awards for his seven-decade music career, but the legend is also well known for his activism — particularly in the areas of farming and food security. In recognition of his longtime advocacy work, the LBJ Foundation will present its most prestigious honor, the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award to Nelson this spring.

The award will be presented at a special gala tribute dinner on Friday, May 12, 2023, which in turn will benefit the newly established Willie Nelson Endowment for Uplifting Rural Communities at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, a part of The University of Texas at Austin.

According to a release, the endowment will fund research and student fellowships focused on sustainable agriculture, eliminating hunger, resilient energy, sustainable water, and natural disaster recovery to benefit rural and farm communities.

Along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, Nelson organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 to raise funds for struggling farmers, which has since raised over $70 million for those who own and operate family farms throughout the United States. He has also helped raise millions around disaster relief, for families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks and for veterans, as well as working toward environmental and animal advocacy, and voting rights. His Luck Family Foundation provides financial grant assistance and other resources to artists, organizations, and programs in need, donating proceeds from Luck Reunion events to Farm Aid and other longtime charity partners like the Texas Food & Wine Alliance.

“Willie Nelson is a national treasure who gained fame through his sheer musical talent and won hearts as someone who truly cares about the lives of his fellow Americans," says Larry Temple, Chairman of the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, via release. "A product of rural Texas, Willie has never forgotten where he comes from. His longtime efforts to raise money and awareness for family farmers through Farm Aid and numerous other endeavors to help those in need throughout his career make him a true inspiration.”

The dinner will honor Nelson's lifelong support for rural communities, embodying President Lyndon Baines Johnson's commitment to public service, particularly in the areas of farming and food security. With their similar backgrounds as rural Texans, both President Johnson and Nelson shared a keen awareness of the struggles of those who work in the agricultural industry.

“The bounty of the earth is the foundation of our economy," President Johnson shared in a 1965 Special Message to Congress on Agriculture. "Programs in every aspect of our nation’s life depend on the abundant harvests of our farms.”