Wild, 2121 N. Shepherd, opened February 21 in the Heights. The Bali-inspired lounge is the first in Texas to offer hemp-infused products paired with specialty cocktails and coffee drinks. The new concept is an evolution of Grinders Coffee Bar & The CBD Apothecary from cousins Adyson and Andrew Alvis.
The new venture was inspired by the duo’s travels throughout Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Mexico. The space has been designed to be comfortable and airy with light wood complemented with pops of color from the pink neon lights to the lush wall of tropical greenery. The cousins worked with London-based branding company, Harrison, to help with the rebranding and packaging of the Wild product line.
Though the founders sourced and designed much of the space themselves, they have brought in Ladies of Libation to assist them with curating the cocktail menu. Local specialists, Kris Sowell and Laurie Harvey, have created pretty libations like Flower Power made with Fords gin, butterfly pea flower, Italicus bergamot liqueur and lemon. Befitting a CBD-influenced concept, there’s the Pineapple Express, a mix of Hangar 1 Mandarin vodka, hibiscus, pineapple, ginger and lime.
There are also coffee cocktails such as an Espresso Martini and the Lucky Charms made with Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey, Drambuie, honey and its signature blend coffee. It also comes with marshmallows. In keeping with its brand, there are Wild Hemp Infused Elixirs made with Full Spectrum CBD or hemp-derived delta 8 syrup. Traditional and specialty coffees are on the the menu as well.
Other hemp products available at its Bud Bar include Wild branded tinctures, gummies, flower, pre-rolls and delta 8 and delta 9 products. It also has a large selection from other companies including Bayou City Hemp Co., Texarkana and Hometown Hero.
Gabriela’s, 1910 Bagby, is shooting for a spring opening in Midtown. The Mexican restaurant first opened in downtown Austin in 2018 before expanding to South Austin in the spring of 2021. It comes from Gabriela’s Group, a restaurant and bar management group founded by siblings Gabriela and Arturo Bucio. The sister and brother are natives of Mexico and much of the food menu comes from Michoacan family recipes. It’s just the latest project for the Latin-owned restaurant group which recently opened a new music venue, Mala Santa, and a boutique coffee shop, Revival Coffee, both in East Austin. Other restaurants and bars include Mala Vida, Taquero Mucho and a Sinaloa-style seafood and sushi concept, Seareinas.
The menu for Gabriela’s emphasizes fresh ingredients while staying away from artificial flavors. There are starters like the Choriqueso and Esquites (Mexican street corn) plus tortas, tacos like the Birria Queso version, and seafood options including Shrimp Aguachiles and Shrimp Ceviche. There are vegetarian dishes such as the Vegetarian Enfrijoladas filled with panela cheese and covered in refried black beans, crema, queso fresco and served with sliced avocados.
The bar program, developed by Gabriela herself, makes use of freshly-squeezed juices and fruits such as tamarindo, mangos and grapefruits that the Bucio siblings grew up eating in their backyard in Mexico. Of course there are margaritas, including the Caprichosa, a flight of four different flavors. There’s also the Pina Para la Nina, a strawberry frozen margarita served in a pineapple that will bring back memories of the trip to Cozumel when the cute bartender ran out back to pick a hibiscus bloom for a special garnish.
Saigon Hustle, 3323 Ella Boulevard, opened February 10 in Garden Oaks. The Vietnamese drive-thru eatery from Houston-based Ordinary Concepts opened quietly but word-of-mouth praise spread quickly about this new destination for traditional and healthy Vietnamese fare.
The fast casual concept began as a cloud kitchen with delivery-only service. It comes from co-owners Cassie Ghaffar and Sandy Nguyen who also operate Ginger Kale at Hermann Park and Sunday Press, a drive-thru café specializing in salads and sandwiches, next door to Saigon Hustle.
The new drive-thru concept occupies 819 square feet with no indoor seating but there is a large, covered patio that seats 40 guests. It is housed in a renovated vintage gas station and the integrity of the original structure remains with added punches of color in green, blue and pink in the fresh and modern space.
The menu offers a number of Vietnamese favorites like pork egg rolls, which can be ordered in quantities of two and four or by the dozen. For vegetarians there are veggie egg rolls filled with shredded taro, jicama, onion, peas, carrots and glass noodles, served with a vegan Vietnamese vinaigrette. Other rolls, served in pairs with peanut dipping sauce include Shrimp & Pork Spring Rolls, Glazed Lemon Tofu Rolls, Saigon Crepe Rolls and Honey Glazed Lemongrass Salmon Rolls. Vegan/gluten-free rolls are available by request.
There are Banh Mi, Rice Bowls and Vermicelli Bowls with a variety of protein options plus the Saigon Hustle Salads. The ABC Beef Soup starts with a pho-based broth and adds peppered ground beef, cilantro, caramelized onions, green onions and alphabet pasta.
The beverage menu offers Vietnamese coffees like ca phe sua da, cinnamon ca phe sua da and ca phe sua nom plus teas such as Thai, milk, passionfruit and taro milk. For sweets, there are macarons in flavors of green tea, taro, Thai tea, passionfruit and honey jasmine.
Dave’s Hot Chicken, 2525 Rice Boulevard, opens February 25. This is the fourth Houston area location for the fast-casual concept which serves halal-certified hot chicken tenders and sliders with heat levels ranging from No Spice to Reaper, which actually requires a a signed waiver before consumption. There’s also sides of house-made kale slaw, mac n’ cheese and crispy French fries.
The venture began for friends Arman Oganesyan and Chef Dave Kopushyan and brothers Tommy and Gary Rubenyan in 2017. The four launched Dave’s Hot Chicken in a parking lot as a pop-up. It became so popular that it opened as a brick and mortar in East Hollywood. In 2019, the team began a franchise deal with Wetzel’s Pretzels co-founder and former CEO, Bill Phelps, and movie producer, John Davis, and the brand began to expand across the United States and beyond with almost 500 franchise locations in operation.
Its success has attracted brand investors like Maria Shriver, actor Samuel L. Jackson and retired NFL player and current Good Morning America anchor, Michael Strahan.
Zalat Pizza, 1620 Research Forest, will open March 1 in The Woodlands/Shenandoah area. This is the second location for Zalat in the Greater Houston area. With scratch-made dough and fresh sauce from oven-roasted Roma tomatoes, it has become a cult favorite, much of it due to its innovative flavors which are tested for months prior to making the menu.
Some of the fun options include Nashville Hot Chicken & Pickles, Pho Shizzle, Elote, Loaded Notato and Pineapple Express. Its signature SriRancha sauce, a blend of Sriracha and ranch dressing, can be ordered for dipping. Adventuresome pizza and heat enthusiasts can spice up the evening with the Zalat Reaper Roulette Challenge in which its Reaper sauce is added to one slice in the pie but customers won’t know which one.
In keeping with its standard business model, the newest location will be takeout only through its website or app and delivery through most third-party delivery apps.
Russo’s New York Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen, 10615 Fry, opened February 18 in Bridgeland, up northwest of Houston in Cypress. The Texas-based concept has over 50 locations nationwide with several international ones in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. . It joins a number of retail and dining businesses at Lakeland Village Center.
It began as a pizzeria in Galveston in 1985, founded by Anthony Russo, the son of first-generation Italian immigrants. Russo used family recipes and fresh ingredients to build and expand the business, adding more and more dishes to the menu. Besides its signature and build-your-own New York-style brick oven pizza, there are salads, homemade soups and appetizers such as East Coast Calamari, Cauliflower Fritti and Homemade Meatballs. There are a number of pasta dishes such as spaghetti with meat sauce or meatballs, Truffle Burrata Gnocchi and Pistachio Pesto Chicken Pasta.
Lick Honest Ice Creams, 911 Shepherd, will open this year at Autry Park, the mixed-use real estate development at Shepherd and West Dallas. It joins other restaurant concepts including the chef-driven and vegetable-forward Auden plus two projects from Benjamin Berg, Annabelle’s and Turner’s Cut.
The ice cream brand began in 2011 and comes from co-founders and partners, Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier. The duo are committed to sustainability and supporting the Central Texas community. Lick has been recognized by magazines such as Southern Living, Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.
Its artisanal treats are made in-house with carefully-sourced ingredients that can be traced back to their origins. Using peak season ingredients, the ice creams are soy-free, palm oil-free and preservative-free. Its Everyday flavors include Caramel Salt Lick, Fresh Mint and Chocolate Chunk and Texas Sheet cake while its Seasonal flavors might offer Lemon Poppy Seed or Grapefruit with Champagne Marshmallows. There are dairy-free and vegan options as well plus ice cream sandwiches. Topping choices like chocolate sauce, Texas pecans and Sprinkles from Color Kitchen are available, too.
Salt & Time and The Butcher’s Burger, 401 Franklin, have both closed, according to CultureMap Houston. Salt & Time, the Austin-based butcher shop and restaurant was one of the inaugural tenants at POST Market when it opened November 13, 2021. Owned by Ben Runkle and Bryan Butler, Salt & Time Butcher Shop sold premium, locally-raised meats and house-made charcuterie and sausages. Customers could also get their meats cooked to order as well. The Butcher’s Burger used meats sourced from Salt & Time with which it shared space.
POST general manager, Janice Gorman, provided a statement to CultureMap that read ” After careful consideration, both teams agreed that the Salt and Time concept was not a good fit for the market hall at this time. While we would have loved to have the thriving Butcher’s Burger restaurant continue to operate at POST, its ownership determined that was not an option. As a result, both parties agreed to cancel the license agreement.”
Kolache Shoppe, 4521 Kingwood Drive, will open in summer 2022 and will be the first franchised location for the bakery and coffee shop. Currently, there are two independently owned and operated locations at the original Greenway Plaza spot and Houston Heights, which opened in 2018. Kolache Shoppe is owned by Lucy and Randy Hines. The couple believe the business, which first opened in 1970, is “on the cusp of growing like never before.”
The new franchisees are Jordan and Kristy Armendinger, residents of Houston Heights, who frequented the neighborhood location and were fans of the bakery. The new opportunity to own their own franchise has been a long-standing desire and Jordan says, “We’re very proud to become stewards of the brand and its product, which is so easy to love.”
The new Kingwood store, and all upcoming franchised locations, will still use the decades-old dough recipe that has contributed to the brand’s longevity. The new franchisees will also continue to source ingredients locally as much as possible.
Another franchised Kolache Shoppe is planned for north Dallas.
Tim Hortons is planning to open 30 locations in the Houston area and two Houston brothers have recently signed a deal to open the first location of the Canadian-based brand in Texas. Ali and Emad Lakhany are native Houstonians whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in the 1960s. Their family eventually owned and operated several Popeyes Louisiana Chicken across the state. The brothers began their careers as dishwashers, working their way up the ranks to owning 70 Popeyes stores. The duo are shooting to open 30 Tim Hortons location in Texas with 10 expected to open in the next three years.
One of the largest restaurant chains in North America, Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 and now has 4, 800 locations worldwide. It serves a selection of coffee drinks, hot or iced, plus breakfast sandwiches with bread choices such as croissant, biscuit, English muffin and bagel. There is a variety of baked goods plus doughnuts and its version of doughnut holes, the Timbit. There are lunch choices, too, including panini, wraps and bagel sandwiches.
Soy Pinoy, 401 Franklin, is lauching a new menu from James Beard Award-winning Filipino chefs, Paul Qui and Tom Cunanan. Located at POST Market, the hotspot is a part of Qui and Johnny Hoang’s FAM Hospitality Group which also operates East Side King, Lea Jane’s Hot Chicken and Golfstrommen at POST. Qui and Cunanan hope to generate buzz around Filipino cuisine which hasn’t seen quite the popularity of other Asian fare over the years.
The new menu revamps five existing items while adding five new dishes. Guests can expect to see starters like a Filipino-style ceviche in coconut-vinegar sauce, Filipino-style egg rolls with banana ketchup and Fried Calamari in a squid adobo sauce. Entree dishes include Fried Shrimp with salted egg sauce, Hermie’s Fried Whole Fish and Tom’s Spaghetti, a Filipino-style spaghetti with hot dog Bolognese and gouda. there are two family-style “Fiesta Platters” including the Kamayan ($65) with fried chicken, chicken insalal, lechon (roasted suckling pig), sisig, oxtail,lumpia, achara and mango pico salad. The Dampa Style Kamayan ($95) is a seafood platter of whole fish, fried shrimp, calamari adobo and tuna and shrimp ceviche.
The new collaborative menu is just a hint at what is to come. Qui and Cunanan are also planning a new concept together top open in Houston.
Clean Eatz, 2705 Town center Boulevard N., is coming soon and its part of the company’s planned expansion into the Houston market. The first Texas location opened in Flower Mound in September 2021. Another is planned soon for Austin.
Founded in 2011, the Clean Eatz brand began franchising in 2015 and now has more than 70 locations, most situated in the Southeast United States. It offers chef-prepared meals that are perfectly portioned and balance protein, carb and fat in the dishes, giving customers access to nutritious and convenient food choices. Guests can check the menu for the nutritional information for each item served.
Its Cafe menu offers snacks like Buffalo Cauliflower, Boneless Wingz and “Good for You” Nachos made with sweet potato fries. Customers can build their own bowls or burgers or choose from a variety of flatbreads, salads and wraps. There is a kids menu plus a selection of protein smoothies. Meal plans are available for busy bees.
Wild Oats, 2520 Airline, has launched its Sunday Brunch buffet. The restaurant from Underbelly Hospitality just opened February 11, as we reported here in the Houston Press. With executive chef Nick Fine at the helm, there will be an ever changing line-up of dishes. The brunch buffet is available every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is $55. For kids 10 and under, the buffet is $25 and it’s free for children under three.
Cafe Leonelli, 5500 Main, has a happy hour Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Known for its breakfast pastries and lunch dishes, the cafe is extending its appeal as a convenient eatery for museum visitors to also bring in office employees who need a bite to eat and a glass of wine to relax. Guests can enjoy select glasses of wine for $5 and also its delicious fresh focaccia for $5.