Blue skies, temperatures staying below 90, and—can it be?—Covid-19 vaccinations. Spring is turning out to be a good season in Houston (we needed one), and with it comes a smattering of restaurant openings. Some have unveiled themselves over the last few months, while even more are about to begin service.
So, we'll offer a refresher so that you can get back into the dining room. Here are some restaurants we're excited about this spring:
The New Orleans-based seafood restaurant, open at the same French Quarter spot since 1924, has opened its doors at the former Tower Theatre (and El Real) on Westheimer in Montrose. You know the drill here: Get raw and grilled oysters, gumbo, boudin jalapeño poppers, po' boys, and seafood platters. It enters a crowded Houston field of restaurants specializing in Gulf fare, but Acme's reputation should carry it a distance.
Opening Friday, April 16, the Bastion Collection's Cafe Leonelli at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will serve Italian-inspired sandwiches, salads, soups, pastas, and meat dishes, along with homemade focaccia. Michelin Star chef Jonathan Benno is behind the concept, and fellow Michelin Star chef Salvatore Martone is in front of the pastry offerings. Hopefully there'll be pizzelle on offer.
The former Liberty Kitchen at 1050 Studewood St in the Heights is now Fegen's and a chance for chef and co-partner Lance Fegen to flex his muscles with an interpretation of classic American fare. There's filet mignon, king salmon, and a number of salads, but also look for Italian inflections including Calabrese spaghetti, carbonara bucatini, and a host of pizzas. The old Liberty Kitchen got a facelift for the occasion, too, with leather booths, big windows, and snazzy floor tile patterns.
It's Café 80s from Back to the Future II come to life. Hungry Like The Wolf, its name obviously taken from the Duran Duran song of the same name, opened in March at 920 Studemont St, #900, in Montrose (the former Beer Market Co.). The place is all neon purple and green, with school-style tables and chairs and '80s-inspired art (look for Prince, a cassette, and a giant Rubik cube). It actually looks like you've been thrown into the Saved By the Bell title card for all eternity.
As for the food, it's a diner, so you'll get classic breakfast fare, including Belgian waffles, sandwiches, burgers, and salads for lunch, and homestyle dinner meals, like chicken-fried steak and spaghetti and meatballs.
Arguably the most anticipated opening of the year, March comes from the folks at Goodnight Hospitality. And it's fine dining with a capital F. We're talking a six- or nine-course meal focusing on the crossing of cultures in the Mediterranean (think goat dumplings in lamb consommé and beef rib with beet pavé), along with optional wine pairings and a pre-dinner cocktail at March's lounge. Be sure to dress nice for the occasion, and if you happen to want more food and drink afterward, there's always Rosie Cannonball downstairs.
Attempting to level the wine discovery playing field a bit, Roots over at 3107 Leeland St in EaDo opened in February, and it promises to be an approachable spot for sipping a mix of wines and bites. One way to do it: a try-before-you-buy process using automated wine-dispensing machines. It's like a frozen yogurt shop, but way classier. Food at Roots, from chef JD Fouché, includes elevated dishes that pair well with wine, like flat iron steak, fried oysters, cavatelli, and foie gras PB&J. Plus, there's a nice patio for lounging and slowly sipping all of the wines.
Quietly, an Old Town Spring favorite has come back to life. Wunsche Bros., which dates back to 1902 and was destroyed by a fire in 2015, reopened in February. Located at 103 Midway St in Old Town Spring, the restaurant leans into classic Texas fare like chicken-fried steak, fried catfish, and smoked chicken. No order is complete here without Wunsche Bros.'s famous beer bread, served with honey butter.
In early March the doors finally swung open at this banh mi project from chef Cuc Lam and Alex Au-Yeung of Phat Eatery. If you're out near Katy Asian Town, this might be your favorite new lunch spot. It has fresh crispy bread; awesome specials, like a Chinese barbecue-marinated pork meatball banh mi and a curry chicken banh mi; big rice and noodle bowls; and both Vietnamese iced coffee and fresh juices.