10/24/16 12:30pm

Riel Restaurant under construction at 1927 Fairview, Montrose, Houston, 77006

French-Canadian-Ukrainian-Texan fusion restaurant Riel is still being installed at 1927 Fairview St., formerly home to Te House of Tea and Trudy’s Boutique Re Sale at the corner with Woodhead St. A reader snagged the shot above yesterday afternoon, showing the former mid-60’s retail strip dressed up in green construction fencing and still sporting that above-it-all street number signage. Ex-Reef chef Ryan Lachaine last said in September that the place should be opening some time next month.

Photo: Mosaic Clinic Dermatology

Fairview Preview
09/23/16 2:30pm

BJ's Oldies Antiques, 1726 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

This morning a reader spotted some cleaning out going on at the Westheimer Rd. storefront of BJ’s Oldies Antiques. The shop isn’t closing down, a rep tells Swamplot — just moving next door for a month or so (into the storefront spot formerly occupied by now-on-Taft-St. Cool Stuff) while some building repairs get finished up. The shop’s current location — immediately east of Empire Cafe — is a metal rooster’s throw from where owner Becky Pieniadz ran the business in the 1990s out of a section of the flea market at 1733 Westheimer (directly across the street from Empire). The shop moved down the street for a few years to the building down the road at 1435 Westheimer (currently occupied by bedding store Biscuit) before downsizing back to the 1700 block in 2013.

Photo: Carson Lucarelli 

There and Back Again
08/24/16 10:30am

La Tapatia, 1749 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston, 77098 La Tapatia, 1749 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston, 77098

The Richmond Ave branch of La Tapatia at the corner of Woodhead St. is back in operation this week after the late summer toasting of its 1969 building, a few readers report. Up top is a shot of the July 22 response from the Houston Fire Department (whose Station 16 is located a convenient half-block away across Richmond at the corner with Dunlavy St.). That’s Fairmont Museum District looking on worriedly from the background; the poop-scrutinizing Richwood Place apartment complex’s older half would have had a clear view of the action from the western turret. 

Photos: Marcie Newton (top), James Glassman (sign)

Where There’s Queso, There Was Fire
08/22/16 11:30am

Richmont Square apartments, 1400 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Richmont Square apartments, 1400 Richmond Ave., Montrose, Houston, 77006The remaining 2 thirds of the vacant Richmont Square complex are getting a few exterior decorating touches, a reader notes — among the increasingly wild parking lot median strips, many of the trees lining the Richmond-facing parking lot are sporting some new ribbons as of last week. The complex’s final tenants received an early-spring everybody-out notice, with the promise of demolition left hanging some time after the now-past May 1 move-out deadline.

What’s planned next for the space, once the last of the late-1960s apartment buildings are cleared out? Some clues come from the campus master plan map released in the Menil Collection’s 2014 annual report — 2 separate blocks south of the under-construction Drawing Institute are depicted where Richmont Square’s leftovers still stand, respectively hosting a wiggly-trailed park and a pale blue rectangle labeled for “future mixed-use” development:


Menil Collection Curation
08/08/16 1:30pm

Honey Art Cafe space, 3516 S. Shepherd Dr., Montrose, Houston, 77098

Some yellow and white stripes have appeared recently at the northwest corner of Shepherd Dr. and Richmond Ave., just north of the similarly colored Subway signage. The upside-down Vs mark the spot where Honey Art Cafe is setting up shop in the former home of Ace Cash Express, next to Cigar Emporium in the retail strip bookended by Mattress Overstock and Accents By Phillipe. Longtime readers may be interested to note that the storefront is being painted up and built out by art duo Lulu Lin — which includes the same Lulu whose doodles and digital paintings often jazz up Swamplot’s Comments of the Day.

The pair is pulling their Houston Art Lessons business out of its River Oaks Shopping Center home to expand both the size and scope of operations under the new name; on top of regular classes, plans for the new space include gallery shows, artsy food and drinks, and meetups for creative types. The cafe is also looking for a leg up from the local Internet — the duo’s Kickstarter campaign, which is offering sweets, art, and classes in trade for some help with buildout costs, is running from now through early September.


Sweetening Up S. Shepherd
07/26/16 10:45am

LIFE HTX, 2512 Woodhead St., Montrose, Houston, 77019

An evening update on that wood-adorned metal structure at 2512 Woodhead St., behind The Upper Hand salon: all of the slats are in place along with the LIFE HTX signage, and the company appears to have hosted its first event in late May. The venue’s website says that the 4,000-sq.-ft. space can hold up to 250 people, though you’ll have to start hiring extra security guards if you tip past 100. The setup also allows renters to project the giant images of their choice onto the interior walls (or just hang things on them instead).

The space is across Woodhead from the Eagle Express Cleaners, the AZ Food Mart, and Bravo Key & Lock, at the Shamrock gas station:


Marked Up in Montrose
07/25/16 10:45am

3rd incarnation of Georges Bistro, 219 Westheimer Rd., Lower Westheimer, Montrose, Houston

3rd incarnation of Georges Bistro, 219 Westheimer Rd., Lower Westheimer, Montrose, HoustonHere’s the freshest shot out there of the house-turned-restaurant at 219 Westheimer Rd. between Mason and Helena streets, now open once again as Georges Bistro (but no longer under the management of Georges and Monique Guy, who previously opened and later reopened the spot with Georges-centric names.) After some months of shopping the place around, the Guys closed the French cafe near the end of March to move back to France. The restaurant has since reopened with a hybrid Mediterranean menu, live music, and an upstairs hookah lounge.

Photos of Georges Bistro at 219 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox

Bon Voyage and Bienvenue
07/22/16 5:15pm

Yucatan Taco Stand, 3407 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006

The strip-center position formerly held by Berryhill Baja Grill at the corner of Montrose Blvd. and Hawthorne St. is getting new signage this afternoon, a reader notes. The spot appears to be shifting from West Coast to Gulf Coast culinary traditions under the impending occupation of Yucatan Taco Stand. The chain, whose name (almost) maintains all the rhythm and rhyme of the last taco-wielding tenant, was started in Fort Worth by the late founder of Fuzzy’s Tacos, and already has a spot open in the Woodlands.

Here’s a wider view of the scene, showing the restaurant in place next to Nails by TM and back-to-back with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China:


Going Yucateca
06/27/16 1:15pm

Good Dog, 1318 W. Alabama St., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Good Dog, 1318 W. Alabama St., Montrose, Houston, 77006The second non-mobile location of Good Dog  is now hiring, per the signage spotted by a reader at 1312 W. Alabama St. The food truck that started the chain camped out in the building’s driveway on Father’s Day, but no official opening date for the new space itself has been announced yet.


Montrose Rollover
03/29/16 9:15am

2512 Woodhead St., Montrose, Houston, 77019

A reader took advantage of an opportunity to peek inside the 1945 warehouse at 2512 Woodhead St., now painted black and getting done up with decorative wooden siding: “A door literally blew open as I was poking around the exterior,” writes the tipster, going on to describe a mostly-open interior and a double staircase leading to a balcony. A building permit was issued in February for the conversion of the warehouse into a ballroom by Life HTX; another earlier permit references future use of the space as a 225-occupant banquet hall, and the as-yet-skeletal Facebook page for the venue also implies plans for a rentable events space.

The building sits just north of the parking lot for The Upper Hand salon, at the corner with Westheimer across from to-be-remonikered Lanier Middle School. Here’s another shot of the redone exterior, followed by a few of the mural that previously faced Bravo Key & Lock and the Shamrock gas station from across Woodhead:


Woodhead at Westheimer
03/22/16 10:45am

Side-by-side Mattress Firms, Westheimer Rd. at Montrose Blvd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Former Mattress Firm CEO Steve Stagner (now swapped to executive chairman status) told investors yesterday that the increasingly ubiquitous bedding retailer is now planning to identify “duplicative” stores and shut them down, even potentially paying fees to break some leases early. The tactical reversal comes after last year’s rebranding of Mattress Firm’s Mattress Pro subsidiary as additional Mattress Firms, leaving even more Mattress Firm storefronts in even closer proximity than before (including the side-by-side-but-independent storefronts at the corner of Westheimer Rd. and Montrose Blvd., pictured above). Mattress Firm also recently purchased its largest national competitor, Sleepy’s; Bloomberg reports that the purchase brought Houston-based Mattress Firm’s total holdings to about 3,500 retail stores and 80 distribution centers across 48 states.

How many stores will close, and when? Mattress Firm will release the numbers (and the expected closure costs) after it wraps up a portfolio review; the plan is to start shutting underperforming doors within the fiscal year. Mattress Firm currently lists 147 Mattress Firm-branded storefronts between The Woodlands and Lake Jackson.

Mattress Plan Recall
02/12/16 10:00am

ROTHKO CHAPEL LIGHTING COULD GET REDONE WITH FUNDS FROM ONLINE CLOTHING AUCTION Rothko Chapel, 3900 Yupon St., Montrose, Houston, 77006Reworking the Rothko Chapel’s lighting scheme is high on the wishlist of things to fund with proceeds from an online auction opening this Monday, David Leslie tells Cara Smith of the HBJ. While no specific plans to modify the space are set yet, the chapel’s executive director hopes changes over the next few years will help with “presenting the chapel in a holistic way that’s inviting, regardless of the day, time or lighting” — though Leslie also reflects that “the mystery of the chapel is that it does change with the light throughout the day, and it’s not static.” The auction is the brainchild of international socialite and chapel board member Lynn Wyatt, who will be putting some of her own high-end couture and art prints on the docket, alongside contributions from a few friends (including Wes Anderson, Elton John, and Tilda Swinton). Other items on the 1971 chapel’s maybe-to-do list: visitors services infrastructure for its 90,000-plus annual pilgrims, conference space, and some pool maintenance. [HBJ] Photo of the Rothko Chapel: Brandi Lynn via Swamplot Flickr pool

12/24/15 10:00am

Work at 528 Westheimer, Montrose, Houston, 77006

An excavator and friends were spotted on Westheimer this week having a go at the long-empty lot directly next to upscale Indian-fusion spot Indika.  Also on the agenda were the freshly-empty and moderate-length-of-empty lots next door — all three spaces (520, 524, and 528 Westheimer) are currently held by Rok Bros Holdings.

The central lot, at 524 Westheimer, was demolished shortly after mid-2011; the more recently demolished house on the westernmost lot (528 Westheimer) held LV Massage and a psychic, after the 524 house crossed over into the great beyond.  A request to merge the 3 lots was approved at a Houston Planning Commission meeting on July 10, 2014; the request refers to the space as Rok Bros Westheimer Plaza, and was filed in conjunction with Houston-based Momentum Engineering.

Swamplot reader sfalumberjack sends the twilight snapshot above, along with a few others of equipment on the site (bounded on the other side by The Cat Doctor):


Plaza Predictions for Avondale
12/23/15 12:30pm

Te House of Tea Grand Opening, 1927  Fairview, Montrose, Houston, 77006

Te House of Tea Grand Opening, 1927 Fairview, Montrose, Houston, 77006

Vegan-friendly dance landmark Te House of Tea, at the corner of Fairview and Woodhead, will officially close its doors tomorrow at 7 PM — then briefly reopen them for an after-Christmas sale of equipment and interior furnishings the following Saturday. According to the restaurant’s December 1st closing announcement, owner Connie Lacobie attempted to sell the nearly 10-year-old business citing health issues, but a buyer couldn’t be found before the landlord made other plans for the space. Te opened in March 2006 with a lion dance for good luck (above); the final weekly swing-blues-fusion dance was held this past Saturday, and Monday was the last Open Mic. Photos: Te House of Tea

Down to the Dregs
12/21/15 1:30pm

Solstice Alignment in Montrose

Still hunting for that perfect spot to boil up some fresh eye of newt during tonight’s winter solstice sunset? Github user and mapping fanatic Demeter Sztanko has you covered, a reader tells Swamplot just in time. Sztanko has programmed an interactive map highlighting all the streets aligned with the summer and winter solstices — so you too can get in on the mystical fun from a bit closer to home than Wilshire. Choice picks for an in-line solstice vantage include that entire off-kilter neighborhood north of Westheimer between Waugh and Mandell (pictured above) and certain segments of the South Loop.


G.I.S. for Druids