09/09/16 1:00pm

Cafeza at 1720 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007

As of tomorrow morning, any missed-the-memo visitors to the former Blank Slate Laser Tattoo Removal space at 1720 Houston Ave. will at least have the option to drink to forget (assuming that’s not what got them into trouble in the first place). Spanish-Latin-American-themed cafe Cafeza will open to the public around 6 a.m. with coffee, food, and wine on the menu. The shop is tucked into northern storefront of the 1925 building at the corner with Crockett St., with Belgium-minded companion Cafe Brussels occupying the adjacent space next door. The view above is from the Crockett side, where the scribbles-welcome Grateful Heart chalkboard hangs out these days:


European Influences on Houston Ave
08/11/16 1:45pm

The Cheese Course, 1001 McKinney St., Downtown Tunnel System, Houston, 77002 The Cheese Course, 1001 McKinney St., Downtown Tunnel System, Houston, 77002Swamplot’s anonymous tunnel correspondent sends another dispatch from beneath the former City National Bank building at 1001 McKinney: chain cheesemonger The Cheese Course Bistro & Cheese Market is now open in the nook formerly employed as one of Subway’s more literal Houston locations. Following a spot in Boulder, CO, and another in The Woodlands, the Houston shop makes for chain’s 3rd foray beyond its native Florida.

The basement space doesn’t look to be offering wine pairings like many of the chain’s stores do, perhaps in connection to the shop’s pre-5-o’clock hours of operations; the store will open for breakfast at 7 am and close at 4. Here’s a look around the shop’s interior seating arrangements, allowing cheese-nibblers to see and be seen by the tunnel lobby set:

Underground Cheese Storage
08/01/16 1:00pm

Exxon Gas Station with McDonald's, 11035 Katy Fwy., Wilchester, Houston

Exxon Gas Station with McDonald's, 11035 Katy Fwy., Wilchester, Houston

Do not mourn the Exxon station with the McDonald’s inside on the eastbound feeder road of the Katy Fwy. Yes, there’s a new fence around the property, and it’s about to be demolished. But the replacement is well worth waiting for: It’ll be a brand new Exxon station — with a brand new McDonald’s! Ah, but the more things stay the same, the more they change: A reader who contacted the burger chain’s regional office reports the new McDonald’s will sport McDonald’s “next generation” design, and will feature free wifi when it opens — around mid-October Election Day.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Exxon and McDonald’s, Together Again
08/01/16 10:15am

Hops Meet Barley, 2245 West Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston

It’s a good bet the kiddie playground that once stood in front of the Mission Burrito (and later Überrito, after the Mexican fast-food restaurant changed its name) at 2245 West Alabama St. won’t be returning for the dining and drinking joint now slated to take its place. Überrito shut down that location 11 months ago. But a couple of weeks ago a sign for a grains-and-greetings-themed establishment (above) emerged where once a plastic castle held court in a sea of mulch. And newer signs on the property, reports a Swamplot reader, indicate that staff is now being hired. According to Eater Houston’s Amy McCarthy, incoming beer destination Hops and Barley is a project of Stephen Long, an owner of the Reserve 101 bar at 1201 Caroline St. downtown.

Photo: Hops Meet Barley


Missin’ Burritos
07/08/16 3:15pm

Fairview + Mason renderings

Meteor, 2306 Genesee St, Montrose, HoustonSo You Think You Can Drag hit the stage at  South Beach last night — a permanent move for the event in the wake of  Wednesday‘s permanent closure of Meteor Lounge at 2306 Genesee St. The bar and semi-aquatic drag and dance venue had been renting its space back temporarily while developer Fred Sharifi worked on designs and permits for the redevelopment of the East Montrose neighborhood around Fairview Ave. and Mason St.; Adolfo Pesquera noted in early April that the project (under the name Fairview + Mason) had been granted a variance request.

The application for that request included the drawing above of the 6-story parking garage that’s planned to replace Meteor; the exterior, perhaps following Rice University’s lead on parking garage modesty coverings, appears to be artfully encrusted with bicycles, with the words MONT and ROSE emblazoned beneath.

The variance request asked the city for permission to cross some building setback lines and to add some canopies along 2 different blocks on Fairview — the site plan below points them out, catty-cornered between the block holding the Mason St. electrical substation and the block holding Max’s Wine Dive, Cuchara, and Flow:


Farewell on Fairview
06/23/16 4:45pm

Tout Suite, Memorial City Mall, 303 Memorial City Way, Houston, TX 77024

Tout Suite’s second outpost is now open in the pedestrian crossroads at the west end of Memorial City Mall. The kiosk version of the East Downtown cafe is currently serving drinks and pastries along with at least a few larger entrees. The opening follows the removal of the construction barricades formerly surrounding the space, finishing work previously started by mall vandals or impatient caffeine addicts:


Mall Mini
06/22/16 12:45pm

Tookie's Seafood, 1106 Bayport Blvd., Seabrook, TX, 77586

Seabrook’s Tookie’s Burgers’ new marine-minded companion is up and running this week at 1106 Bayport Blvd. The original rural-drugstore-themed Tookie’s opened in 1975 but was destroyed by Hurricane Ike; Barry and Melissa Terrell bought and reopened the 3,800-sq.-ft.-ish burger stand in 2011 before getting started on an elevated 12,000-sq.-ft. Tookie’s-branded seafood spot (shown above in late spring prior to final construction touches) in the lot next door. 

The new Tookie’s, standing on stilts some 3 blocks from the SH 146 bridge over Clear Lake and Galveston Bay, is more hurricane resistant than the still-functioning original (or at least less flood-prone). The raised space is designed to hold around 400 people (counting a 100-person banquet space), though the company says they’re running at about half capacity for now while the staff gets the hang of things. Here’s a peek at the building from earlier this year, with the yellow signage of the original Tookie’s just visible in the distance to the upper left:


Jumbo Shrimp Shop
06/06/16 12:15pm

Cane Rosso, 1835 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, 77008

Following a few months of permit angst and the placement of a red pig in the parking lot, the N. Shepherd location of Dallas-import pizza join Cane Rosso says it will open this evening at 5pm. Cane Rosso’s other planned Houston spot is still getting worked over on Yoakum St. at Richmond Ave.

Just beating it to the punch this afternoon is the even-longer-delayed 4th location of  Niko Niko’s Greek & American Bakery & Cafe, opening at 3pm in the former Chili’s building across the parking lot from Houston Community College’s Spring Branch campus:


Ovens Finally at the Ready
04/25/16 11:00am

C&D Scrap Metal, 815 W. 25th St., Height, Houston, 77008

The fence around the original home of of C&D Scrap Metal Recyclers at 815 W. 25th St. now hosts signs in English and Spanish announcing the scrapyard’s planned May 12th closure. The metal collectors have spent the last 28 years at the location across Durham St. from Shady Acres Church of Christ, just a few blocks away from the flurry of  redevelopment currently underway on N. Shepherd; since the mid 2000s, the business has also been using an additional lot on the opposite side of W. 25th, next door to Brothers Tire. 

Here’s a look at the company’s new out-of-the-Loop locale, already up and running at 6775 Bingle Rd. just south of Little York Rd.:


Leaving the Loop
04/11/16 10:45am

Conservatory Underground Beer Garden & Food Fall, 1010 Prairie, Downtown, Houston, 77002

This latest report over the wireless from Swamplot’s regular tunnel correspondent comes from a brief venture into nearby subterranean territory this weekend to scope out Conservatory Underground Beer Garden & Food Hall. The basement bar and restaurant collection sits in the former Isis Theater building on Prairie  St., just east of sister-facility Prohibition and Main St.-facing Moonshiner’s Southern Table + Bar. Several of the Conservatory’s restaurant tenants spent last week quietly testing out their setups on diners during limited hours; the shots and commentary below come from a Saturday morning jaunt through the venue:

The entrance is just east of Prohibition, under an awning sporting the marquee “Conservatory/Underground Beer Garden and Food Hall”. The lobby level has a stairwell leading to the main basement area:


In the Conservatory With The Knife
03/22/16 12:45pm

Ruggles Green Alabma, 2305 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Here’s a peek at the new space of Ruggles Green, back open this week at 2305 W. Alabama St. next door to the restaurant’s original shopping center spot by Persona Medical Spa. Ruggles announced the move out of the westernmost suite of 2311 W. Alabama at the end of 2014, and the doors closed on New Year’s Day. The restaurant has now reopened in the street-facing ground floor retail space at the northeastern corner of the 5-story Gables Upper Kirby apartment midrise, which opened across W. Alabama from the less-dense Gables Waterford Square complex last year.


Sprouting Next Door
03/16/16 11:30am

Wells Fargo Plaza Tunnel Entrance, 1000 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

A reader sends the following report of openings, closures, swap-outs, and hanging question marks in the Downtown tunnel system’s restaurant landscape:

The Prince’s Hamburgers location at 930 Main St./McKinney Place Garage (and the associated taco establishment next to it whose name escapes me) both closed a couple of weeks ago. The former location of Mediterranean Grill House in the basement of 919 Milam St. is now a Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet. What was a Ninfa’s Express window next door still sports a sign stating a Bullrito’s is coming soon, while the restaurant space the sit-down Ninfa’s previously occupied remains vacant, with no indication of what may be coming.


News From the Underground
03/03/16 2:15pm

Canyon Cafe, 5000 Westheimer, Galleria, Houston, 77056

Canyon Cafe, 5000 Westheimer, Galleria, Houston, 77056

The Houston location of Canyon Cafe in the Galleria area appears to be closed. A reader sends photos from this morning of locked doors and a leasing sign from Weingarten Realty in the shopping center at the northwest corner of Westheimer Rd. and Post Oak Blvd. The location’s phone number seems to be out of service; also out is serving alcohol, as the restaurant made today’s list of the latest TABC permit delinquencies.

Meanwhile just across Post Oak Blvd., Sports Authority is now sporting signs advertising clearance sales ending May 7th, in the wake of yesterday’s announcement that the chain had gone through with bankruptcy filing and that 140 stores would close in the coming 3 months.


Galleria Groundings
03/02/16 12:30pm

FALLEN SPORTS AUTHORITY FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY, PREPARES FOR 140-STORE SHUTDOWN Sports Authority, Portofino Shopping Center, Shenandoah, Texas, 77385Sports Authority filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this morning, after some January lay-offs and a multi-million-dollar missed interest payment. Sports Authority had already announced the planned closure of some 140 underperforming stores; employees at a Dallas branch were told in February that all Texas stores would close, including the 11 in and around Houston.  The company now says those closings will occur over the next 3 months; CEO Michael Foss told the Denver Post that the timeline will hopefully give the 3,400 employees anticipated to be let go “plenty of time to find their next opportunity, whether it’s in the company, or wherever else it is.” [Denver Post; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Sports Authority in Portofino Shopping Center: Woodlands Monocle

02/18/16 3:15pm

UNDERMINED SPORTS AUTHORITY TO ABANDON TEXAS AS OTHER BIG BOXES ADVANCE WITH GUNS Sports Authority, 2131 Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, Houston, 77056Sports Authority, which in its glory days subsumed East End-based Oshman’s Sporting Goods, is now preparing to pull out of Texas altogether, writes Maria Halkias of the Dallas Morning News. The company laid off 100 employees in January, and was reported to be looking into Chapter 11 after missing a $21-million interest payment on its $643 million debt. Last week the company’s representatives told workers at a store in Dallas that all 25 of the Texas locations would be shuttered, though they didn’t say when. The closures look to include 11 Houston-area shops, part of 140 Sports Authority locations to be culled nationally; Jeff Kittleson of CBRE retail services in Dallas also told the Morning News that there will be “a garden variety of big box users who will want to reposition stores into these locations. Indoor sporting goods not-quite-theme-park Cabela’s is already slated to open up in League City shortly, and Dick’s Sporting Goods signed leases on spaces at Baybrook, Deerbrook, Willowbrook, First Colony, and The Woodlands malls last year. [Dallas Morning News, HBJ] Photo of Sports Authority at 2131 Post Oak Blvd.: Gil G.