04/04/17 2:30pm

Ragin' Cajun tunnel location beneath 930 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Ragin' Cajun tunnel location beneath 930 Main St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Ragin’ Cajun, likely Downtown’s most subterranean crawfish vendor, is packing up and crawling out of the tunnels beneath the McKinney Place Garage at 930 Main St., a reader notes this week. (That’ll leave its French-Quarter-evocative retail space open for more underground restaurant turnover; the garage most recently saw the swapout of a Prince’s Hamburgers branch for Time for Thai, amid other nearby culinary tunnel shuffles). The shop’s other locations are still open, per signage left behind at the scene.

Photos: Dave

Crawfish Digout
03/27/17 3:00pm

Houston City Club, 1 City Club Dr., Greenway Plaza, Houston

Houston City Club, 1 City Club Dr., Greenway Plaza, Houston

The Houston City Club, best known to passersby as that parking-garage-like building tucked deep in Greenway Plaza across Norfolk St. from Lakewood Church — and to members and guests as perhaps the best indoor tennis venue in the city — will be shutting down forever on June 12th. On the sorta-main-entrance side off City Club Dr. between Edloe and Timmons, the athletic club and event venue has this classic view onto the Greenway Plaza plaza between office buildings Greenway 9 and 11:

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Club Turnover of a Life Time
03/27/17 11:00am

Mascalzone Ristorante Italiano, 1500 Shepherd Dr., Cottage Grove, Houston

The multinational dalliances of the restaurant building at 1500 Shepherd Dr., a parking lot away from the corner of Maxie, have come to an end — for now. The management of the outpost of British restaurant chain Mascalzone Ristorante Italiano announced the closure of the location over the weekend, not long after rumors of the shutdown were reported on Houston Food Finder. According to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, the Shepherd location will be “merging” with the still-operating Mascalzone location in the shopping center at 12126 Westheimer Rd., west of Kirkwood and across from the Phoenicia parking lot.

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Arrivederci, British Italian Style
03/16/17 3:30pm

6749 Airline Dr., Northline, Houston, 77076

6749 Airline Dr., Northline, Houston, 77076The Kroger Market at the not-quite-intersection of Airline Dr., Parker Rd., and Fulton St. in Northline is shutting down next month, an employee at the store tells Swamplot this afternoon (confirming a rumor from a reader in the vicinity). The store’s last day is planned for April 20th, after which it will cede the area to its nearest grocer competitors: the Food Town just over half a mile up Airline, at the intersection with Little York Rd.; the other Food Town a little over a mile further west down Little York; and the not-quite-an-H-E-B Joe V’s Smart Shop on N. Shepherd Dr., just across I-45.

Behind its cube-on-a-spindle signage, the store sits at the northern end of a classic array of strip mall companions (capped to the south by South Texas Dental, whose space and streetside signpost once belonged to a Blockbuster Video); standing alone at the southeast corner of the center sits El Muelle Seafood & Oysters, housed in a former Taco Bell.

Photos: James T.

Northline Line Drawn
02/24/17 4:30pm

5922 Richmond Ave., Uptown, Houston, 770575922 Richmond Ave., Uptown, Houston, 77057

The markings left behind by the Key Maps store in the wake of its second move since 2015 are still hanging out this afternoon alongside the leasing notice near the shop’s former place at the east end of the Richmond Avenue Shopping Center strip mall, just east of Fountainview Dr. The Key Maps folks are back inside the Inner Loop again, this time on Durham St. next door to the Dirty Hairy Dog Wash. The most recently former Key Maps location, shown above, has picked up a new neighbor itself since the cartographymonger’s departure: the ex-Subway at the end of the strip is about to reopen as essentialist fried chicken joint Krisp Bird & Batter. A sign on the door says Krisp will be open on Monday: 

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Fried Birdwatching
01/09/17 4:00pm

Kroger Signature Grocery Store, 1990 Old Spanish Trail at Cambridge St., Houston

An employee confirms to Swamplot this afternoon that the Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr. will be shutting down on January 24th. The formerly 24-hour grocery store (referred to previously as Slow Jam Kroger in Jeff Balke’s 2010 Inner Loop Kroger census, though arguably having earned the nickname Bank Robbery Kroger in the years since) has already reduced its hours and is closing up at midnight these days. Readers report low morale among car-less residents of the nearby apartments; they also report a few slightly mismatched rumors that the land has been sold to a big name  in the Medical Center.

Photo of Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr.: Edgar V.

Slow Jam Countdown
01/04/17 4:15pm

Harlow's in Edwards Grand Palace 24, 3839 Weslayan St., Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77027

Harlow's in Edwards Grand Palace 24, 3839 Weslayan St., Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77027Tilman Fertitta’s Harlow’s Food & Fun arcade-bar-restaurant, located since the mid-aughts inside the southwest corner of the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 on Weslayan St., is now closed forever, a woulda-been visitor reports. The entertainment-complex-within-an-entertainment-complex shut down by New Year’s Eve, and signage has already been pulled from the main entrance (though the explanatory yellow placard shown here is still visible behind the space’s security grate at the other entrance). The Harlow’s website has already been scrubbed and redirected to the main Landry’s page; some folks operating out of a Landry’s-branded pickup truck were spotted this afternoon cleaning up at the scene (above).

The signage on the Norfolk St. side of the theater has been removed as well:

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Grand Palace Exit
12/28/16 11:30am

El Beso Cantina, 3801 Farnham St,, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

A reader on the inside sends a shot of the ex-59 Diner on Farnham St., now up and running as El Beso Cantina. As of Christmas, the space is once again open 24 hours a day, though the pale turquoise paint and Elvis kitsch have been swapped out for warmer earth tones and decorative sombreros. The new occupants also appear to be attempting to fill the area’s 3am pancake niche, covered for nearly 30 years by the departed diner, by offering an array of American breakfast items along with the Tex-Mex fare.

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Shepherd Triangle Swap-In
12/15/16 4:45pm

Bird Barbershop, 420 E. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Remodel of Heights Plaza, 420 E. 20th St., Heights, Houston, 77008Austin-based Shiner-wielding Bird’s Barbershop opened up its first Houston location last week in the remodeled 1955 retail strip at 420 E. 20th St., on the end of the building formerly home to J & R Boudin and Frenchy’s Sausage Co. The bubblegum pink parking stripes were joined by the spots above over the summer, as well as the circular window now floating in the middle of a wall where the facade’s westernmost door used to be.

A rep from the company says the Houston store was designed with community swimming pools in mind, which explains the interior tile scheme and watery motifs:

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420 in the Heights
12/09/16 12:15pm

ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE SAYS IT’LL OPEN 4 MORE HOUSTON SPOTS NOW THAT VINTAGE PARK IS OFF ITS HANDS Imperial Market, Sugar Land, TX  77478Alamo Drafthouse followed up this week’s confirmation that its Vintage Park theater is becoming a Star Cinema Grill by announcing that it plans to open 4 more Houston area locations. Details on where and when are still murky (other than a reiteration that plans for the Imperial Market spot in Sugar Land are still on), but a rep told Kyle Hagerty earlier this week that the company has already signed 3 leases. That may or may not include the 10-year lease signed back in 2013 for a spot in the long-stalled Regent Square development — which did get some permits this fall, as somebody at Morris Architects previously claimed would happen. [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed Alamo Drafthouse in Sugar Land: Imperial Market

12/02/16 5:45pm

JUSTIN YU TO CLOSE OXHEART, SPEND SOME TIME IN THE HEIGHTS Oxheart, 1302 Nance St., Warehouse District, Downtown HoustonNext in the line of succession for the corner spot at 1302 Nance St. currently occupied by Oxheart: . . . well, something else. So says James-Beard-ed chef and owner Justin Yu, who announced today that the restaurant will close on its 5th birthday in mid-March — to reopen with a new name, a redone interior, and former Oxheart sous chef Jason White at the helm in the kitchen. Eric Sandler notes that Yu will eventually be splitting his hours between the yet-unnamed redo of the Nance space, wine and whiskey bar Public Services in the Cotton Exchange building on Travis, and whatever he’s doing with Bobby Heugel over on Yale St., in the former home of Dry Creek Cafe. [CultureMap; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 1302 Nance St.: Ken L.

11/14/16 10:45am

Winburn Mess Hall, 3701 Travis St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

The brick building at Travis and Winbern streets, wedged between the Breakfast Klub to the south and Continental Club to the east, is occupied these days by Winbern Mess Hall — a joint truck-to-brick-and-mortar project involving both Korean-Mexican fusion truck Oh My Gogi! and Asian-fusion hotdog truck Happy Endings. The fused fusion truckers quietly opened shop in October, with plans for a grander opening tentatively planned for mid-December. A rep tells Swamplot that items from both trucks are on the menu, and a bar is also in the works.

Winbern has moved into the spot in the wake of the sudden May flight of Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, another animal-mascotted endeavor of Beaver’s chef Monica Pope. The red banner by the tucked-away front door on Travis (above) has been updated to reflect the switchover, though the new occupants say they haven’t changed too much inside the place. Here’s a shot of the spot (from back when it still played host to the avian theme):

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Winbern Fusion Fusion Joint
11/10/16 3:30pm

Hubcap Grill at IAH

Hubcap Grill at IAHThe 5th link in Ricky Craig’s Hubcap Grill chain is opening next week to travelers through Terminal A at IAH. The former food truck expanded from its first permanent Downtown spot to a Shady Acres location in 2011, and a Kemah spot in 2014. Craig also recently converted Harborside Mercantile  — which Craig opened in January in a renovated Galveston Strand spot, with Modular chicken rancher Joshua Martinez — into a cocktail bar version of Hubcap as well; following the seafood restaurant’s August shutdown, the remodeled joint reopened as a burger place in late October.

Photos: Ricky Craig

Food Truck Links
11/01/16 10:45am

KFC at 2359 S. Shepherd Dr., Vermont Commons, Houston, 77019

The Colonel is still hanging around by the door, but KFC is in the process of leaving the building at 2359 S. Shepherd Dr., a few readers report. The spot at the corner with Fairview Dr. has been sporting now closed signage, and the location has already been eradicated from the annals of KFC’s store database. The chicken shop’s decommissioning follows the late-June sale of the property to an entity called 2359 S. Shepherd, which shares a Smith St. address with Crosspoint Properties (responsible for the redevelopment of a number of Midtown and properties, including the building that now houses Reef and Proof).

The drive-thru sits just south of the Shepherd Place office tower (once the site of those 1960s lesbian bar raids, in its pre-highrise days), and across Shepherd from the former Arby’s, converted to the Inner Loop’s first-ish Dunkin’ Donuts back in 2013.

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S. Shepherd Retreat
10/28/16 12:45pm

Rendering of Shake Shack Houston, 5015 Westheimer Rd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

The first Houston Shake Shack will be opening on November 4th near the mall’s new parking lot jewel box pad site, a rep for the New York burger chain announced this morning. On the menu, on top of the usual fare: a handful of concretes made with donuts from Morningstar on N. Main, Houston roaster Greenway Coffee‘s coffee, and baked goods from Fluff Bake Bar on the western edge of Midtown. On the exterior: a living moss wall created by Austin-based Articulture Designs, as seen in the rendering released back in January. The firm designed a plant-covered wall for the Shake Shack that opened in Austin last year as well — here’s a shot of how that one turned out, with an accompanying succulent planter out front:

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Side of Greens