• The Burger Guys' hamburger topped with a fried egg
    Photo by Ruthie Johnson Miller
  • Catalan's flatbread
    Photo by Ruthie Johnson Miller
  • Deli-style sandwich at Kraftsmen Cafe
    Photo by Ruthie Johnson Miller
  • Arborio-dusted calamari at Catalan
    Photo by Ruthie Johnson Miller

Need a lunch or dinner recommendation? Here are 10 places around town that are turning some heads and taste buds. Some are new restaurants entirely, while others are seasoned venues with fresh offerings.

Bootsie’s Heritage Café
Randy Rucker's foodie delight (located in Tomball) concentrates on local ingredients served up in outrageously delicious way using interesting techniques. Try the “3rd coast menu,” a five-course culinary fireworks display for just $35.

This new Italian joint in Midtown offers thin-crust pizza and happy hour meal deals. Piola also offers all-you-can-eat gnocchi (for $13) on the 29th of every month.

The Burger Guys
Creative burgers (like the Sydney with thin-sliced pineapple and beets, plus a fried egg), plus duck fat fries and fabulous milkshakes, draw Houstonians beyond the beltway to the new Burger Guys.

Don’t miss the soda fountain, which boasts throw backs like Dublin Dr Pepper and Big Red.

Samba Grille
A Brazilian churrascaria in Bayou Place downtown, Samba Grille offers fabulous meats, incredible popovers, and a burger inspiring raves. Need more? Samba also offers a nice three-course lunch special for $19 and an inspiring cocktail list.

Catalan, arguably the best restaurant in the city, continues to keep diners on their toes. They’ve recently added a kickin’ daily happy hour and a family-style meal on Sunday nights. Last Sunday’s Italian-themed meal earned praise for cheese-filled meatballs, while the previous week’s dinner was Cajun.

The Queen Vic
Houston’s newest gastropub offers a cleaner, higher-end take on standard bar fare. The menu combines British pub food with regional Indian specialties … short rib samosas, fish and chips, curries, Scotch eggs, and paneer, all in a bright, shiny atmosphere.

Stella Sola
Bryan Caswell’s Texas-Tuscan restaurant in the Heights is still abuzz with the crowd that comes when you serve great food with great prices in a great atmosphere. They’ve recently revised the cocktail menu, which means it’s high time for another tipsy looksie.

Hubcap Grill Burger Truck
Parked most nights in front of Liberty Station on Washington, Ricky Craig’s red burger-truck-that-could offers unique inventions like a Cheeto-Cheeseburger and a Peanut Butter Sticky Burger. Follow @hubcap_grill to confirm days and hours.

Kraftsmen Café
Scott Tycer’s new casual lunch spot takes over the former Textile location and offers seasonal soups, gorgeous pastries and creative sandwiches (served on fabulous Kraftsmen bread, of course). Sandwiches are a pricey, but come packed with delicious and fresh ingredients.

Café Bello
It seems odd that the storied Tony Vallone would open a no-frills Italian place like Café Bello, but the new Montrose restaurant is just that. Yes, it’s got the typical pastas, mains, and service you’ve come to expect from Tony, but the real reason to go is the fantastic pizzetta.

Houston Chef's Table: Robert Del Grande reveals his IHOP regular past & hisBaskin beginning

Foodie News

No one knows Houston restaurants better than the people who run them, own them, and work in the kitchens. In this continuing series, CultureMap is asking our favorite foodie personalities around town where they go for great eats when they're not working.

Robert Del Grande has been synonymous with high-end dining in Houston for decades, ever since Cafe Annie put his elevated Southwestern cuisine on the map. Now Del Grande presides over RDG most nights.

In addition to working on his future West Ave duo, Ava Brasserie and Pizzeria Alto, Del Grande and his partners just opened Soleil, a Mediterranean cafe and bar in Austin with incomparable views of Lake Travis.

Restaurant to take out-of-towners to: It all depends where they're from. We usually see if they want to do the Texas barbecue thing and if so we usually go to Goode Company Barbecue, the one on I-10.

It was one of the first places I went when I came to Houston in 1980. I was like, "Wow this is good." I guess I've come to appreciate the local barbecue feel. It's fun to look for something you wouldn't find in Chicago or California.

Restaurant for a special occasion: I always end up going to the places of friends who are chefs. My buddy Dean Fearing up in Dallas — he'll treat you like a king. You know, Mark Cox's place, and some others too.

Favorite meal: I tend to be found with burger at Becks Prime hanging out under the tree (at the location on Augusta near Westheimer). I like the Bill's Burger with jalepeños and a bunch of stuff — kinda spicy is always good.

That's where I'd be today if I didn't have to work.

Breakfast/Brunch favorite: In the old days we used to go to IHOP. I always thought for breakfast those guys were amazing to have so many tickets in the window. And you could order anything with pancakes on the side. We'd try to figure out when the big churches would let out and get there before them.

You know you go there a lot when the manager knows your name. I like the fried pork chop breakfast, I'm more traditional, rather than go for the pancakes and eggs.

For brunch I like Gigi's Asian Bistro. It's one place that's actually gotten even better, even though we get there at 2 p.m. sometimes and miss the breakfast. But I like to eat whatever the waiter recommends and then we hang out in the Galleria for some shopping.

Dessert: It ends up being ice cream. [My wife] Mimi loves ice cream. My first job at 16 years old was at Baskin Robbins.

All these years later they still have Jamoca Almond Fudge and it still tastes the same, it's still good anytime. Sometimes even at the restaurant I'll come in and have an ice cream sandwich for breakfast. Ice cream is always good.

Other articles in the Houston Chef's Table series:

Lee Ellis loves Les Givral

Sugar hooker Rebecca Masson can't get enough of Catalan's Cake

Beachy L.J. Wiley digs the special occasion simple flavors at Dos Brisas

David Grossman goes for Vic & Anthony's crab cake, Yelapa late nights & some Bootsie

Jeramie Robison appreciates Kata Robata's sushi, Beaver's bangin' meatloaf & foodie chicks

Tony Mandola finds breakfast magic at Sunrise Taquitos

Philippe Schmit craves a Picnic romance & Stella Sola's French toast

Benjy Levit is torn between Indika's salads and Hank's Ice Cream

Flora & Muse's David Luna likes to hang with his fishing buddy and hit the Blue Nile

Asian Bistro's Gigi Huang seeks out spicy fried chicken at a Dive

Hugo Ortega believes in a Goode tradition

Soma Sushi's Jason Hauck is anti-brunch, pro-Feast

Jenni Tran-Weaver can't get enough hot pot

Bistro Alex's Juan Carlos Gonzalez finds a great $1.50 meal & giant key lime pie

Mockingbird Bistro's John Sheely treasures homemade Mexican & cool Connie's Seafood

Elizabeth Abraham dishes on her secret Royal Restaurant

Fleming's Jason Cole finds Texas' best barbecue, surf secrets

Kraftsmen Cafe's Scott Tycer hungers for the Taco Nazi's tortillas

  • Rice Epicurean founder William Levy, right, talking to a customer
  • And how it looks today. This is the salad bar deli area with chefs preparingfresh foods.
  • Great selection
  • Bountiful produce at the Tanglewood store
  • The original Rice Epicurean
  • Inside the original Rice Epicurean
  • Alfred Friedlander, from left, William Levy and Joel Levy
  • A night shot of current store at Tanglewood/Post Oak

Surviving in a grocer eat grocer world: Rice Epicurean succeeds by staying small& thinking big

It's all in the family

When See's Candies closed its shop in The Galleria in the mid-1990s, Edna Levy, the wife of one of the founders of Rice Epicurean Markets, realized she would have no place in Houston to buy her favorite chocolates. So her son, Joel, quickly contacted the candy maker asking to be the first retailer in the nation to sell See's Candies in a custom-built shop inside a grocery store and they struck a deal.

In Houston's brutally competitive supermarket world, the leading contenders have to constantly come up with new ways to keep customers coming in. For more than 73 years, the owners of Rice Epicurean Markets, Houston’s oldest family-owned specialty grocery store chain, have sought to stay in the fray by remaining close to their roots — providing great service, knowing their customers, and finding the best products for shoppers.

The importance of family

Family is a large part of the Rice experience. Not only do members of the founding family still run the business, attend food shows, and explore growth opportunities, but employees have worked there for decades, and many of the food brands that are sold in the stores are produced by small family businesses from around the world.

Being a small family business also makes it easier for many companies to get their products into the five Rice stores in the Houston area. If, while on vacation, vice president and director of specialty foods Scott Silverman sees something at a food show or at a restaurant that he thinks his customers would eat up, he can order it on the spot and have it shipped directly to the stores without working with distributors or having months of paperwork and shelf space approval. It might even make it to the shelves before he makes it back to Houston.

“Because we are small, it is to our benefit and theirs that we can get their product in fast,” Silverman said. “When we hear of something that our customers read about or tried out of town, we react quickly. No company is too small for us, when it could take them up to a year to get into Whole Foods.”

Local competition

Because Rice has everyday products and specialty ones as well, it competes with everyone.

“Our competitors are Walgreens, Central Market, Williams-Sonoma and Specs, among others,” Silverman said. “What makes us different is our ease of shopping for our customers and our variety of products.”

Executives realize that many grandparents come into the store, so they place holiday greeting cards and children’s related gifts with the home décor holiday gifts. They know their shoppers are well traveled, so they carry products from all over the world, like butter biscuits from England, gingersnaps from Sweden, and peanuts from Virginia.

“You can find Christmas around the world in our store,” Silverman said.

And instead of doing all of their shopping at Rice during the holiday season, many shoppers only visit the store for certain products like Amish Wedding Spiced Peaches or New England Cran Pepper Jelly. Rice executives anticipate what will be hot this holiday season, like Linda’s Gourmet Latkes and baking emulsions instead of extracts, and prepare their shelves accordingly.

Customer Service

To stand out, Rice provides some touches other stores don't. They offer private charge accounts for personal or corporate use, with monthly billing, and stocks hard-to-find ingredients like Hammons Black Walnuts (for baking, not eating raw), which are the walnuts that Blue Bell uses in its ice creams. They were selling POM Pomegranate Juice before it exploded in popularity, and they added Greek yogurts to their dairy shelves and tart yogurts to their yogurt bar before the fad took hold.

Rice rewards customers with coupons for future grocery visits and gift cards to restaurants around town. And the chain supports local and Texas-based vendors. It recently started carrying Logan Farms Hams instead of Honey Baked Hams because Logan is local and Silverman believes customers appreciate that.

He realizes his customers aren’t baking Duncan Hines cakes — they want a more upscale brand — so Rice offers many varieties of the more exclusive Stonewall Kitchen cake mixes. In the end, for Silverman and the Rice team, it comes back to family.

“For every 12 boxes that we sell of this cake mix, I know that there are at least 24 memories of a grandmother and her grandchild who will bake this cake together for (the holidays),” Silverman said. “We love that and that’s why we want people to buy.”

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Ridiculously violent John Wick: Chapter 4 hits most of the right marks

Movie Review

The world of John Wick sure has changed a lot from its relatively small beginnings in 2014. Back then, Wick (Keanu Reeves) was just a former hitman out for revenge on the people who killed his dog. Now it’s a full-blown franchise with a story that spans continents, necessitating that each subsequent sequel try to out-do the previous film.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is the biggest movie in the series yet, clocking in at just shy of three hours. Stunt coordinator-turned-director Chad Stahelski does his best to fill that massive running time with as much brutality and derring-do as possible. Wick, having long ago run afoul of the powers-that-be that lead the hitman syndicate, The High Table, is still on the lam, with only a few loyal friends willing to help him.

One of the leaders of The High Table, the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), is on mission to root out Wick once and for all, systemically shutting down versions of The Continental, hotels that serve as safe houses for assassins like Wick. With the Marquis and his henchmen constantly on his tail, Wick has no choice but to do what he does best – take out as many people as he can before they get to him first.

The film, written by Shay Hatten, Michael Finch, and Derek Kolstad, is not quite a non-stop thrill ride, but it’s as close as you can get when you decide to make a film this long. The complexity of the machinations of The High Table makes it almost impossible to keep up with the actual story of the film, but when they get down to the business of fighting, none of that really matters.

There are multiple extended sequences that become an orgy of violence, but the way they’re staged by Stahelski and his team make them eminently engaging. John Wick: Chapter 3 suffered from repetitiveness, and while the same could be said here to a degree, it feels fresher because of the sheer number of combatants and constantly changing scenery.

The fight scenes are magnificently over-the-top, but in this series, that’s to be expected. Where the filmmakers step up this time around is in the cinematography, with bravura shots filling the screen. The camera is almost constantly on the move, swooping in, out, and above the action. One especially memorable sequence even has the camera going above walls to follow the fighting.

While the majority of the story is treated in a deadly serious manner, the filmmakers aren’t afraid to add in some goofy elements. We’ve always had to take Wick’s ability to survive (mostly) unscathed with a huge grain of salt, but this film turns that idea up to 11. At certain points, there’s a kind of a Wile E. Coyote tone to Wick’s escapes, especially a late sequence involving (many) stairs.

There’s not much to the character of John Wick other than his preternatural ability to kill, and Reeves continues to play him perfectly, expressing himself more in gunshots and punches than words. In addition to returning favorites like Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and Laurence Fishburne, this film sees great supporting turns by Skarsgård, Donnie Yen, and Shamier Anderson.

John Wick: Chapter 4 did not need to be nearly as long as it is, but in this case, the excess is the point. Much of it is ridiculous and ridiculously violent, but it’s also highly entertaining, which is all you can hope for from this type of film.


John Wick: Chapter 4 opens in theaters on March 24.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4

Photo by Murray Close/Lionsgate

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4.

Here are the top 14 things to do in Houston this weekend

Weekend event planner

The weather this weekend is going to be absolutely glorious, according to the experts at Space City Weather. From farm tours to arts festivals, Houstonians have lots of reasons to be outside at some point during the next few days.

This weekend offers lots of other entertainment options, ranging from a mezcal class to a winery opening and any number of ways to spruce up both home and garden. So get out there and enjoy.

Here are your best bets for the weekend.

Thursday, March 23

Asia Society Texas and Houston Ballet present The Tale Behind Genji: A Conversation With Dr. Melissa McCormick and Nao Kusuzaki
Harvard scholar Dr. Melissa McCormick and artistic director Nao Kusuzaki will present an insightful talk about the classic novel The Tale of Genji, prior to the world premiere of the ballet Genji. Dr. McCormick will provide an overview of The Tale of Genji and place it in the context of Japanese culture, global literature, and its influence on other art forms. Ms. Kusuzaki will discuss her artistic approach to creating Genji, the first ballet adaptation of this foundational masterpiece. The talk will include a Q&A period with the audience. 7 pm.

4th Wall Theatre Company presents Sanctuary City
Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok presents the powerful story of two young DREAMers who fight to establish a place for themselves in America, the only country they know as home. Poignant, timely, and highly theatrical, Sanctuary City illuminates the triumphs and challenges these lifelong friends face, and how much they are willing to risk for each other when they have everything to lose. Through Saturday, April 15. 7:30 pm (3 pm Sunday).

DACAMERA presents Ensemble Intercontemporain with Matthias Pintscher
Ensemble Intercontemporain, the winners of the prestigious Polar Music Prize for 2022, will make their first-ever Texas appearance. Founded in France in 1976 by composer/director Pierre Boulez and under the direction of world-renowned conductor Matthias Pintscher, the Ensemble presents Schoenberg’s early 20th-century masterpiece, which the composer wrote “seeks to express all that swells in us subconsciously like a dream,” and Boulez’s kaleidoscopic, propulsive Dérive 2. 7:30 pm.

Friday, March 24

Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park
The three-day Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park will spotlight the festival’s featured artist Dewey James, a mixed-media artist from Minneapolis, along with 300 artists from across the country. As the nation’s premier, spring outdoor art festival, Bayou City Art Festival will provide patrons with the opportunity to personally meet artists, view original works, and purchase artwork from 19 art disciplines including world-class paintings, prints, jewelry, sculptures, and more at prices for everyone. 10 am (noon Sunday).

Wine Vibes Micro Winery and Bistro Grand Opening
Wine Vibes Micro Winery and Bistro will have its grand opening in Missouri City this weekend. Although it’s been open to the community since February, this woman-owned, experience-focused micro winery features high-quality wine from across the U.S. The unique collection reflects their story and the future of winemaking — one swirl, sip, and savor at a time. They are also committed to crushing industry barriers, elevating patron experiences, and introducing new varieties and regions in an approachable, fun, and friendly way. 3 pm.

Houston Botanic Garden presents History of Mezcal
Blending education and tastings with Rafael Avila, a small batch producer of Mezcal in Mexico, the History of Mezcal will provide attendees with knowledge of and increased appreciation for the history and cultural uses of North America's original spirit.

The presentation will cover various aspects of mezcal, including etymology of the word, historical origins, artisanal production, diversity of the genus Agave, and the differences between tequila and mezcal. 4 pm.

36th Annual Art Car Parade Weekend Kickoff Party
It’s that time again for all the freaky-looking cars in H-Town to start rolling on these city streets. The official kickoff party for the 36th Annual Art Car Parade Weekend will feature 50+ art cars on display, cold local craft brews at the Ion’s Second Draught taproom, multiple food trucks, an assortment of lawn games, and musical stylings by DJ REDD. Participating Art Car artists: Bring your art car and don’t forget to pick up your Art Car Weekend packets. 5 pm.

Saturday, March 25

Cy-Fair Home and Outdoor Living Show
The two-day, 16th Annual Cy-Fair Home and Outdoor Living Show will feature special guest appearances and over 100 exhibitors with the latest in-home products and services on the market. A DIY Home Décor welcome mat by AR Workshop or canvas pillow will be given to all attendees. There will also be a live tree wholesale from B&A Tree Farm. Shoppers can also find a bargain at the Greater Houston Builders Association Remodeler’s Council charity garage sale. 9 am.

Houston Modern Home Tour
The Modern Architecture + Design Society (MA+DS) is continuing its annual tradition of showcasing some of the best examples of modern architecture and design in Houston. The annual tour, presented by BEC Engineers and Consultants, will open doors for a day of architecture exploration and give local architects, designers, and home builders the opportunity to showcase their work directly to the community. Addresses of homes are provided to ticketholders. 10 am.

Katy Home & Garden Show
At this two-day home and garden show, guests can get inspired to kick start or finalize renovation plans with the help of design and renovation experts of one-stop shopping, including decorating, gardening, remodeling, window treatments, home theater, landscaping, kitchens & baths, do-it-yourself, flooring, windows & doors, siding, heating/cooling, pools, outdoor entertainment, and a myriad of other home-related products and services. 10 am.

Bellaire United Methodist Church presents “Blessing of the Animals”
Bellaire United Methodist Church will host its 11th annual “Blessing of the Animals,” where people of all faiths can bring their pets and have them blessed by the church's pastors.

All pets should be friendly and either on a leash or in protective carriers, cages, fish bowls, or terrariums. Professional photographer Nikky LaWell will also provide attendees with a free digital photo of their pet’s individual blessing, which will be available for download afterwards from the church’s website. 1 pm.

Sunday, March 26

Harvest Green presents Village Farm Tours
On the fourth Sunday of each month, visitors can tour the Village Farm at Harvest Green in Richmond for an up-close look at what it takes to keep a farm running. The Richmond community’s Farm Educators teach visitors about seasonal produce as they guide them around the farm. Stops will be made to sample produce and visit with Harvest Green’s chickens and Nubian goats. Admission is free with registration. 1:30 pm.

CASULANA Women's Choir of Houston presents Seasons
The CASULANA Women's Choir of Houston will explore the changing seasons of nature and of life through music. The performance will feature music by long-favorite composers Robert & Clara Schumann and Edward Elgar, as well as pieces by living composers Abbie Betinis, Erik Esenvalds, and Gwyneth Walker. Led by artistic directors Janwin Overstreet-Goode and Neena Taylor, the 34-voice choir will be joined by collaborative pianist Barbara Jones and guest musicians on violin, flute, and cello. 3 pm.

Houston Chamber Choir presents Heart & Song
Houston Chamber Choir presents its 2023 gala, a celebration/festive party for current supporters, as well as an opportunity for new friends to experience what the Choir is about. The gala features a $100,000 challenge match from a generous donor. Every dollar raised will be matched one-to-one, up to $100,000, so that patron donations will count double to support the Choir and its 2023-24 season. Dinner will be served later in the evening, with a program and entertainment featuring soloists from the Choir. 6 pm.

Rapidly expanding Houston restaurant group befriends Rice Village with shareable plates and craft cocktails

what about your friends?

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.