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Helen in the Heights has already replaced Arthur Ave.

Image: Alice Levitt

We come to bury these closed restaurants, not praise them, but in many cases, we're already salivating about what's to come. And so as not to be all gloom and doom, we've got some exciting rumors to whet your appetite for everything from international tacos to cookie dough.

Closings

Justin Yu and Karen Man’s critically acclaimed Oxheart shuttered at 1302 Nance Street on March 15, nearly a year after Yu’s James Beard win for Best Chef Southwest. The inevitable closure clears the way for a new, unnamed restaurant from the powerhouse duo, which could open as early as May. Expect a different concept, along with fresh offerings in a redesigned space. 

Opened for less than a year, Arthur Ave, the Italian American sibling to Helen Greek Food and Wine, closed its doors at 1111 Studewood Street. Helen in the Heights recently opened in its place. It’s an iteration of the crowd-pleasing Rice Village Greek taverna. 

Local restaurant group F.E.E.D. TX has closed Little Liberty (2365 Rice Boulevard), a Rice Village spin-off of its popular Liberty Kitchen spots. In its place, expect another location for Houston-based Mediterranean casual cafe Island Grill

Mascalzone has served its last handmade pastas on Shepherd Drive. The London import from former boxer Andrea Magi closed its 1500 Shepherd location in March. For those seeking veal scallopini, black squid ink pasta, and other authentic Italian favorites, look no further than the 12126 Westheimer Road outpost, which also features a massive brick pizza oven.

Hong Kong-style diner Ding Ding closed its doors at 9398 Bellaire Boulevard in March. The Chinatown restaurant opened in 2015 serving dim sum, roasted duck, along with a variety of Cantonese and Hong Kong-style fare.

Hello Taco, The Woodlands taco hub featuring scratch-made tortillas, shuttered after three years at 25114 Grogans Mill. 

La Madeleine, the fast-casual French countryside-inspired chain, has closed its Rice Village outpost at 6205 Kirby Drive. The closure paves the way NYC’s cultish burger joint Shake Shack, which is expected to open later this year.

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More international tacos to come from Velvet Taco?

Image: Alice Levitt

Rumor Mill

Ready for a second helping of globally-inspired tacos from Velvet Taco? Rumors are swirling (and job postings seem to confirm) that the hip taqueria mini-chain from Dallas-based restaurant operator Front Burner is expanding its presence in Houston. There are speculations that a second outpost is headed for Montrose, purportedly opening at a new retail complex currently under construction at 900 Westheimer Road. 

Having conquered the Heights with three highly successful concepts, Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber of Agricole Hospitality (Revival Market, Coltivare, Eight Row Flint) are bringing their Midas touch to East Downtown. The duo is reportedly opening multiple concepts at EaDo’s emerging East Village project. Details remain under wraps, but a pizzeria may be on the horizon.

Halcyon Coffee, an Austin-based coffee shop and cocktail bar, is possibly exploring options to expand into the Houston market by 2020. Likewise, its pizza-centric sibling Stella Public House may follow suit, with both concepts potentially slated for Rice Village District. 

Rumor has it there may be a second Juiceland opening in Houston. The health-minded Austin import, which debuted its first Houston outpost in the Heights last year, may be expanding to Montrose. Keep an eye out for cold-pressed juices and acai bowls to possibly touchdown at 1340 Westheimer Road.

A newly established Instagram account seems to indicate NYC’s hottest dessert shop of the moment, DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections, is considering a Houston outpost, among other metropolitan cities. The sweet spot from owner Kristen Tomlan serves up safe-to-eat cookie dough by the scoop. While the expansion is unconfirmed, a web domain registered to Tomlan further fuels speculations. If true, with local cookie dough peddler Jolly Roger Sweets plotting to go brick-and-mortar, exciting times are ahead as Houston could possibly have two places to indulge in the edible treat on the daily.

Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar, the Plano-based gastropub full of down home charm, may be heading to Webster, Baybrook Mall in particular, joining its first local location in Katy. Plans are pretty hush-hush for now, but according to public records, an outpost is possibly in the works. The farm-to-table concept is best known for its namesake dessert, scratch-made Southern dishes, and small-batch whiskey offerings.

Changes

After the departure of Prohibition’s opening chefs Ben McPherson and Matt Wommack last year – both of whom are now involved in different projects, Krisp Bird & Batter (McPherson) and Broken Barrel (Wommack) – the downtown restaurant at 1010 Prairie has tapped Jordan Economy (Bar Boheme) as its new chef. Bringing in Economy is not the only change on the menu. The restaurant has refreshed its concept and debuted a new name: The Oyster Bar at Prohibition (theater services will continue to operate as Prohibition Supperclub & Bar). Expect more seafood dishes with a slight Louisiana bent and small plates.

Conservatory, The Oyster Bar at Prohibition’s subterranean sister concept, is rolling out changes of its own. In addition to new poke spot Moku Bar, the food hall will debut two new vendors: Mars Bakery, a doughnut and kolache kiosk from Maryssa Maize (State of Grace, Fat Cat Creamery); and Arte Pizzeria from pastry chef Kelsey Hawkins (Osteria Mazzantini, The Union Kitchen).  Additionally,  plans are in place to turn the greenhouse space into a wine bar dubbed Noble Rot.  Keep an eye out for more possible changes to come at the 1010 Prairie spot.

Replacing Arthur Ave, the short-lived Italian restaurant at 1111 Studewood, is another Greek taverna concept from the Helen Green Food and Wine folks: Helen in the Heights. The new spot will feature Greece’s “greatest hits,”  while its acclaimed Rice Village sister concept continues highlighting regional Greek fare. Doors are open now.

A new concept from chef Rabih Salibi (Flo Bakery) and wife Florelle replaces Corner Table at 2736 Virginia. The husband-wife team recently debuted Salmontin, a new restaurant with a French-and-seafood focus serving varied salmon dishes (think grilled salmon, smoked salmon tartine, gravlax), alongside French classics.
 
The deluge of build-it-yourself poke concepts has two anticipated Pacific Rim-inspired spots combining their culinary forces on a joint venture. Poku Poke from upcoming chef Vuthy Srey (MF Sushi) has quietly partnered with SeaSide Poke. The two poke concepts will open a brick-and-mortar version of SeaSide Poke, on track to open this spring in the new East Downtown development East Village (2118 Lamar, Suite 101). SeaSide Poke — the blockbuster pop-up from owners Alex Boquiren, Ben Baek, and Kristy Nguyen, which was initially slated for Lowell Street Market in the Heights  — will feature custom bowls and signature chef-driven dishes from Srey and Tai Nguyen (Uchi, Soma Sushi).

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Say goodbye to Houston Panini & Provisions and howdy to Pop & Pan.

Changes

The panini experts of Garden Oaks’ Houston Panini & Provisions closed the 1727 West 34th shop in March with plans to relocate nearby. The beloved popcorn emporium and sandwich spot from brothers David and Alex Colby—which will reopen as Pop & Pan later this year—is moving to the redeveloped retail center at West 34th and Ella (1227 West 34th Street). The new 50-seat space will feature an expanded menu that includes dinner, a full bar and a “shared outdoor space.”  

Kingwood Asian spot JoJo’s Asian Bistro is now Yama S Fusion Sushi, a hibachi restaurant and sushi bar at 23940 Highway 59 North.

New Pho Katy has replaced Pho Katy at 811 South Mason, Suite 155, with new owners at the helm. Aside from a slight name change, the menu remains mostly intact with familiar Vietnamese fare.

Habanera and the Gringo, an under-the-radar Mexican restaurant located in the Hobby Airport-area (9902 Gulf Freeway), is now Habanera and the Guero. The new name is a result of trademark infringement lawsuit launched last year by Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen, a locally owned chain serving the Greater Houston-area for over two decades. 

Wunsche Bros. Cafe & Saloon is reopening next year at 103 Midway in Spring. The home-style restaurant closed in 2015 after sustaining severe fire damage. Expect many of the comfort food favorites to remain when the Kosh family, who also own Amerigo’s Grille in The Woodlands, take over the beloved eatery. 

Dan Electro’s Guitar Bar, a longtime Heights fixture at 1031 East 24th Street, returns to the dive bar scene after closing early last year. Behind the dive’s revival are four Heights residents, Jennifer Caldwell, Scott Fix, and John and April King, who will keep much of the bar’s charm intact, including its bring-your-own-liquor policy. 

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Now it will be easier to score a seat at Cali Sandwich.

Relocations

Cali Sandwich closed its popular Midtown spot at 3030 Travis Street in late March; however, this is not the end for the cozy bare-bones eatery. Best known for its stuffed Vietnamese sandwiches and filling bowls of pho, the Vietnamese cafe from Nga Chung is moving close by into the former Crave Sushi space at 2900 Travis Street. Aside from the bigger digs, other changes could possibly be on the horizon, including the addition of beer and wine when the lunch-crowd favorite reopens later this spring. 

Cabo Baja Grill, the Baja-style eatery that relocated from Spring to Houston, is now cranking out fish tacos and burrito bowls in its new digs at 4520 Washington Avenue. 

The Hot Bagel Shop, a Houston bagel stalwart since the early '80s, has moved its storefront to the recently built Shepherds Common retail development at 2015 South Shepherd Drive. The Montrose bagel dispensary offers varied flavors of the New York staple including onion, garlic and jalapeño.

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In this Article

Hot Bagel Shop

$ Bakeries, Sandwiches 2009 S. Shepherd Dr.

Since 1984, Houstonians have been living like New Yorkers thanks to the freshly boiled bagels at this breakfast and lunch spot. A bagel served sandwich-style...

Editor’s Pick

Cali Sandwich & Fast Food

$ Sandwiches, Vietnamese 2900 Travis St.

While Cali, a strip-center spot on Travis St. downtown, offers a full menu of traditional Vietnamese food, the banh mi sandwiches rule the menu at lunch. The...

Houston Panini & Provisions

$ Sandwiches 1727 W. 34th St.

Among the panini, we like the venison-pineapple with venison sausage, aged cheddar, caramelized onions and pineapple jam and the Oaxacan, which pairs smoked ...

Editor’s Pick

Soma Sushi

$$$ Japanese 4820 Washington

Chef Gabe Medina brings his Filipino traditions to the Asian food fest at the five-year-old Soma Sushi, which was first opened by celebrity chef Robert Gadsb...

Editor’s Pick

Uchi

$$$$ Japanese 904 Westheimer Rd.

The original Uchi in Austin earned chef Tyson Cole a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest. The Houston location of this Japanese gem resides in the stil...

Editor’s Pick

MF Sushi

$$$$ Japanese 1401 Binz St.

All bets are off, this being the third launch since brothers Alex and Chris Kinjo moved here from Atlanta in 2012, but MF Sushi is back, this time in the Mus...

Editor’s Pick

Fat Cat Creamery

$ Dessert 1901 N. Shepherd Dr.

Once only available in pints at a few area stores, Fat Cat Creamery has finally expanded into a shop of its own. The three signature flavors—Mexican Vanilla,...

Editor’s Pick

State of Grace

$$$ American/New American, Southern 3258 Westheimer Rd.

Diners may know James Beard Foundation award nominee Ford Fry as an Atlanta chef, but he grew up in River Oaks. His high school is across the street from Sta...

Editor’s Pick

Conservatory Food Hall & Beer Garden

$$ American/New American, Barbecue, Greek, Japanese 1010 Prairie St.

A chic underground beer garden boasting 60 taps—plus a ramen bar, ’cue joint, crêperie, coffee shop, Greek café and paleta cart—may sound like the stuff of d...

Editor’s Pick

Eight Row Flint

$ Mexican/Tex-Mex 1039 Yale St.

The concept may be that of an ice house, but coming from Agricole Hospitality, the team behind Revival Market and Coltivare, you can certainly expect somethi...

Editor’s Pick

Coltivare

$$ Italian 3320 White Oak Dr

Morgan Weber, who, along with chef Ryan Pera, also owns Revival Market a few blocks down the street, designed Coltivare’s handsome worn-wood interior. Outdoo...

Editor’s Pick

Revival Market

$$ American/New American, Café 550 Heights Blvd.

Since 2011, co-owners Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber have been bringing back the neighborhood butcher shop with house-cured meat and carefully curated specialty ...

Velvet Taco

$ American/New American, Mexican/Tex-Mex 4819 Washington Ave.

Travel the world in a tortilla at this link in the small, Dallas-based chain. There are Mexican-style tacos, but others include Israeli couscous, chicken tik...

Mascalzone

$$ Italian, Pizza Multiple Locations

Pizza innovator Raimondo Rosmini (affectionately known as Mr. Ray) invented the pizza-calzone hybrid that gives the restaurant its name. New pizza creations ...

Island Grill

$ Juice, Mediterranean, Sandwiches Multiple Locations

This Greek-inspired casual eatery specializes in healthy Mediterranean diet options. At breakfast, a salmon omelette and a smoothie can help start the day of...

Little Liberty Closed

$$ American/New American 2365 Rice Blvd.

At F.E.E.D. TX’s quirky eatery, it’s possible to pair a customized pokê bowl, charred okra with chiles, and crackly bread and Irish butter with a coffee egg ...

Helen in the Heights

$$ Greek 1111 Studewood St.

Just because it's the little sister to James Beard Foundation award-nominated Helen Greek Food & Wine doesn't mean the cuisine is any less serious at thi...

Arthur Ave Closed

$$$ Italian 1111 Studewood St.

The team behind Helen Greek Food & Wine heads to the Bronx's Little Italy with this ode to sausage-and-peppers, chicken Parm and cannoli. Try the Caprese...

Oxheart Closed

$$$$ American/New American 1302 Nance St.

When Justin Yu came back to Houston from Copenhagen and opened Oxheart in early 2012, detractors claimed that a multicultural, vegetable-focused, tasting men...

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