This street- and car-front spot now occupying the ground floor of the Chase Bank building parking garage at 2900 Weslayan, just down the road from Central Market, smelled like pancakes this morning, an actual human reader (and photographer) tells Swamplot.
And so it is likely to continue throughout the day and week: Baggy’s Grill, which opened for business here over the weekend, serves breakfast all day. You’ll also find burgers, sandwiches, and some Greek dishes on the menu. The new restaurant takes over from the shuttered Weslayan Café.
Breakfast in the Air
TRUE ANOMALY IN LOCAL ROBO-JOURNALISM New sour-beer hotspot True Anomaly Brewing Company, which opened last month in the former electrical warehouse at 2012 Dallas St. just west of the main East Village campus in East Downtown (and possibly in the path of the planned expansion of I-45) “seems to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood,” declares a writeup appearing on the Houston Chronicle website. But this is not your average new-place-opening report — well, at least not yet. A note at the bottom indicates the report was “created automatically using local business data” (presumably from the Eater Houston story and 3 Yelp reviews noted in the text), “then reviewed and augmented by an editor.” The source: Local-story bot purveyor Hoodline, “a collaboration between experienced local reporters and innovative data scientists and engineers, combining the latest computational methods and tools with journalistic insights, news judgment, and thoughtful design to develop a new form of news reporting.” Hoodline has been quietly feeding stories and listicles to both ABC News and Hearst Media since last year — but you can skip the middlemen and soak up the company’s regular stream of assembled and ready-for-publication Houston auto-stories directly from this link. [Houston Chronicle; Eater Houston; Hoodline] Photo of True Anomaly Brewing Company: Charles W.
International fitness chain Barry’s Bootcamp plans to pick up where Luke’s Locker left off in the easternmost portion of the River Oaks Shopping Center south of W. Gray, and before doing so, will dress the storefront in the full military-style regalia that’s typical of its existing locations. The photo above looks south to show the space shortly after the former running store left it. At top: Barry’s’s chevron-heavy vision for what it will become.
As indicated by the awning on the right, some kind of retail component appears to be planned inside, along with room for a fitness studio. With a just a bit more detail, the windows drawing might also show a reflection of the new 30-story highrise, dubbed The Driscoll, that Weingarten’s got going on the opposite of W. Gray, in place of Café Ginger and a few of its former neighbors.
Photo: Katie Schon. Drawing: Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission
And that’s a wrap over at the 18th St. H-E-B, closed since yesterday so as not to distract from the new, double-decker H-E-B that opened today at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr. between 23rd and 24th streets. The photos above show the old store’s front entrance stripped of all red, hyphenated signage, blockaded by shopping carts, plastered with closure notices, and — in case that wasn’t enough — fronted by stack of wooden pallets with a blaze yellow flyer addressing anyone who’d still hoped to get inside. A few weeks ago, workers inside stopped restocking the aisles, slapped a few discounts on what they had left, and watched as the store’s inventory dwindled up until it shut down.
By 5 p.m. yesterday, reports a Swamplot reader, the parking lot was mostly empty:
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1511 W. 18th St.
A Swamplot reader who for the past few days has been monitoring changes at the intersection of Westheimer and Voss roads sends the photo at top showing a new Taco Cabana banner strung up on the roadside fast food pad that Pollo Tropical left in 2017. Although the new restaurant’s flavor profile won’t be much different from that of its predecessor, the look of the place appears to be changing quite a bit. So far, the white pergola fronted by Pollo Tropical’s signage on the east side of the structure has been removed and a fresh coat of gray paint has been applied to all sides of building, including the one home to that blue tagline and accompanying palm tree illustration shown opposite the sedan in the photo above.
Also gone: the 4 painted palm-tree window awnings along the south and east sides of the building, each of which fronted its very own live palm tree as shown in the photo. The trees themselves don’t appear to have been disturbed since Pollo Tropical left:
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Staying South of the Border
A new restaurant calling itself Taste Bar + Kitchen now has dibs on the very old, 2-story house on Bagby St. a block north of Elgin that’s been dark (but glowing in its listing photo) since Sterling House closed in it last month. The venture is backed by local chef Don Bowie who’s currently in charge of the kitchen at Flower Child, the good-for-you restaurant that took over BB1 Classic’s spot in Uptown Park last year. (It’s now got another location in the works up in The Woodlands.) On the less healthy side of things, Bowie also had a hand in bringing reality TV star and former Ikette Robbie Montgomery’s St. Louis soul food spot Sweetie Pies to Houston in 2017.
Specific menu items for the new spot at 3015 Bagby haven’t yet been revealed, but on his LinkedIn page Bowie boils it down to “Crafted Cocktails and Food.”
Photos: LoopNet (aerial); Swamplot inbox (close-up)
Coming Midtown Attractions
The last remaining Sears Appliance & Hardware store in the vicinity of Houston — and one of the last dozen or so left in the country — sits in the Mason Center at the corner of S. Mason Rd. and Kingsland Blvd. out in Katy. And it’s a goner. Management began liquidating everything inside last Thursday and has been advertising discounts on its Facebook page in the days since.
The store, shown above, and its counterparts were spun off from the parent company behind full-sized Sears stores in 2012. (Along with Sears Outlets, Sears Hometown, and Sears Home Appliance Showrooms, the hardware stores are now folded under Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc., while standard Searses answer to the recently-auctioned-off Sears Holdings Corporation.) At one time, the Appliance and Hardware stores — which carry the full line of Sears hardware and appliances, but in smaller, often less urban locations — blanketed the Houston area, with spots in The Woodlands’ Panther Creek Village Center, in First Colony Marketplace off Hwy. 6 in Sugar Land, in the Northpark Plaza shopping center in Kingwood, in the Corum Station shopping center in Spring, in the Crossroads Centre in Pasadena, in the strip building off Fuqua St. just west of I-45 by Almeda Mall, and where West Rd. meets Hwy. 6 north in northwest Houston.
Statewide, the only other remaining Appliance and Hardware store is in Huntsville, at the south end of the Sears- and Target-anchored shopping center on the southbound side of I-45.
Photo: Sears Appliance and Hardware
Another One Bites the Dust
A Swamplot reader sends the photo at top showing new Korean barbecue signage up on the Louisiana and Elgin St. spot that Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar left in late 2017, following a 4 year run inside. The inbound chain has most of its restaurants in southern California, with additional locations in Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, and the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton.
Photos: ThaChadwick (sign); Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar (Holley’s)
Those dark green awnings and the sign shown below are now the only exterior traces of Barnes & Noble’s multi-decade presence in the east-facing building in the Westheimer Crossing shopping center just west of Voss Rd. It’s the only business ever to inhabit the 38,700-sq.-ft. standalone structure since it went up along with the rest of the retail complex in the mid-90s.
Unlike the rest of the shopping center — now home to Academy Sports + Outdoors, Michaels, REI, Designer Shoe Warehouse, Petco, Thai Spice and a smattering of roadside fast food and retail buildings — the former bookstore is owned separately by National Retail Properties, a real estate investment trust that puts money into shopping centers across the U.S.
Photos: Rex Solomon
BUC-EE’S HAS OPENED ITS FIRST BRANCH OUTSIDE OF TEXAS, AND MORE ARE TO COME
Buc-ee’s opened its fourth location along I-10 yesterday morning at 6 a.m. . . . in Robertsdale, Alabama. With 124 gas pumps, the new 50,000-sq.-ft. store, writes the Chronicle’s Julian Gill, “is almost identical to the one that recently opened in Katy,” except it doesn’t have a car wash. Next up: another out-of-state Buc-ee’s in Daytona Beach, Florida according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, whose reporter Clayton Park notes that it too will have a 120-pump setup. “Plans also show a 125-foot-tall sign pole for Buc-ee’s,” he adds, “featuring the head of a cartoon beaver above the word ‘Daytona.’” [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Lake Jackson Buc-ee’s: Judy Baxter [license]
Jim McIngvale, more widely known as Mattress Mack, told radio host Michael Berry this morning on KTRH that Gallery Furniture’s 30,000-sq.-ft. store at 2411 Post Oak Blvd., shown above, will close following the end of its lease in a year. “The traffic went down by half because they tore up the road,” said Mack, referring to the construction on the new Uptown BRT that now has the street peppered with blaze orange cones and barricades. Gallery Furniture opened the Uptown location in 2009 inside what used to be a Pier One at the Post Oak Shopping Center. The closure will bring the chain down to 2 branches: the one in Richmond off the Grand Pkwy. and its original spot on I-45.
Photo: Isiah Carey
Mattress Pad Available
TIMBERGROVE H-E-B TO CLOSE JUST AHEAD OF SHEPHERD H-E-B’S END-OF-MONTH OPENING
January 29 will be the last day of service at the 1511 W. 18th St. H-E-B, reports The Leader’s Landan Kuhlman. And the next day, he writes, H-E-B’s new double-decker location at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr. will open just under a mile away (with legally-offered beer and wine on the shelves). It’s the second 2-story store the grocer has opened in Houston — the first was in Bellaire — and has been in the making between 23rd and 24th streets since late 2017, by which time the block had been devoid of its former Fiesta tenant for over a year. A third H-E-B of the same breed is currently on the rise in Meyerland Plaza. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo of new H-E-B at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr.: Brandon DuBois
Shuttered Rice Village pizza parlor Pizza L’Vino is set to become the second Reach Stretch Studio in Houston and fifth across the greater Houston area: Katy, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, and Memorial branches of the wellness chain are already up and running. A building permit filed last Friday for the 2,100-sq.-ft. storefront at 2524 Rice Blvd. — across the street from Buffalo Wild Wings — indicates conversion work is about to begin.
Pizza L’Vino’s other location has also closed down in the Waugh Dr. shopping center it once shared with competitive axe-throwing venue The Ratchet Hatchet.
Photo: Pizza L’Vino
2524 Rice Blvd.
NINTH HOUSTON-AREA SPROUTS DEBUTS IN SUGAR LAND THIS MONTH
Workers are putting the finishing touches on the Sprouts Farmers Market inside Sugar Land’s new University Commons Shopping Center off 59, a 150,000-sq.-ft. complex that includes everything depicted in the rendering above, plus a whole extra crop of retailers and restaurants that are already open on the other side of University Blvd. The grocery store’s opening date: January 16, at which time it’ll become the ninth Sprouts store operating in the Houston area (and the
only second one in Fort Bend County). About 150 new hires will be on duty inside following a successful job fair Sprouts hosted on December 6 at the Hilton Garden Inn Houston-Sugar Land just up the street in the University Plaza shopping center. [Houston Chronicle] Site plan of University Commons Shopping Center Phase II: Capital Retail Properties
This just in from Eater: One of those alliterative spicy chicken spots is now open between Smashburger and Nails By Lily in the standalone retail building across Town Center Blvd. from Sugar Land’s city hall; its name: Porto’s Peri Peri. Note: That’s not to be confused with The Peri Peri Factory — which opened on Westheimer near Hillcroft in April — nor Chick’n Cone, a NYC import that debuted its chicken with peri-peri sauce in the Woodlands in August,” according to Eater’s Alaena Hostetter; nor the Peli Peli Kitchen that opened around the same time inside the new 365 by Whole Foods Market off 610 as spin-off of the more formal Peli Peli sit-down restaurant at The Galleria. (The spelling of their names notwithstanding, both Peli Peli locations still refer to their chicken as peri peri.)
The common ingredient in all authentic peri peri dishes: bird’s eye chili, reports Eater’s Amy McCarthy. According to her, the Portuguese recipe was first brought to the U.S. by Nando’s Peri Peri, a South African chain that started outside Johannesburg in 1987 and now has more than a thousand locations across the globe — but none in Houston. Not to worry though, our local operators plan to continue filling in the gap. Porto’s Peri Peri’s owner told Hostetter in November that he’d follow-up the Sugar Land location with more spots inside and outside the 610 Loop. And Peli Peli’s owner told McCarthy last summer that he planned to start franchising after the new year.
Photos: Nisha B. (Porto’s Peri Peri); Nails By Lily (Nails By Lily)
Porto’s Peri Peri