10/20/16 12:30pm

Cowboys & Indians, 1901 Taft St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77006

The palm-tree-garnished signage for Juan Mon’s International Sandwiches is now down at 1901 Taft St., shown above near the tail end of the space’s conversion into Cowboys & Indians Indo-Tex Kitchen. The 1920s building hit LoopNet in the spring after about 7 years of serving globally-themed lunch options, and the Juan Mon’s folks appear to be helping to ease neighborhood diplomatic relations for the space’s new Texan-South-Asian-fusion operators. The space has been remodeled during the transfer of power: those covered drivethru lanes out front at the corner with W. Webster St. are now serving as a covered patio, and the building’s coat of flag-worthy primary colors have been replaced with a more neutral suite of grey-browns. Here’s the old look, for comparison:


Culinary Alliances
10/18/16 11:00am

Worcester's Annex site, 1433 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, 77008

The Kirby Group folks (behind Midtown beer and cocktail bar Wooster’s Garden and those since-demolished converted funeral home bars in Upper Kirby) look to be setting up for their Worcester’s Annex cocktail project south of N. Shepherd and 15th St.  The new bar (which is taking off the linguistic gloves and using the full-on British spelling of the name) is being built on the far southern end of the former Longhorn Motor Company lot at 1433 N. Shepherd, previously tapped as the intended site of the Heights Bier Garten; Greg Morago reported this summer that the 2 developments would be near one another. The bar is going up across the street from legally-tangled tortilla factory La Espiga De Oro (which was infiltrated and raided by ICE officers last year, after which the company’s owners were indicted for allegedly hiring undocumented immigrants).

Photo: Worcester’s Annex

Seeding the Heights
10/17/16 12:15pm

5404 Almeda Rd., Museum Park, Houston, 77004

The fenced-off L-shaped strip center that previously hosted a string of smoked meat vendors at 5404 Almeda Rd. looks to be the planned site of a new restaurant connected to Breakfast Klub owner Marcus Davis. The strip center got a new roof during the summer of 2014, after permits were issued with Davis’s name in the occupant spot; plans to remodel the space for a new restaurant and bar were moving through the city review system again as recently as last month, and a tipster tells Swamplot the place could open early next year (if all goes as planned).

The site sits about 6 blocks south down Almeda from Davis’s Reggae Hut; the shot above looks west from Almeda down Prospect St. (not even a quarter mile down the road from that trio of light-up townhomes that just went on sale). The once-Green’s space became a Harlon’s Bar-B-Que for a few years before it was turned into Bar B-Que Blues (which shut down by early 2011). Here’s what the space looked like circa 2010, when the strip was also occupied by the Black Heritage Gallery and the Grape & Grain Liquor Store:


Joining the Klub
09/28/16 3:30pm

2700 Polk St., East Downtown, Houston, 77003

A construction fence has gone up around the former King’s Wholesale building in East Downtown, a reader tells Swamplot. The rendering above shows a planned renovation for the structure at the corner of Polk and Nagle streets, just a few blocks northwest of the purportedly-reopening-in-October Ivy Lofts sales center. The curved awning-fin isn’t new, but the glass storefronts are — below is a shot of the building’s pre-redo state, from when it last hit the market:

Opening Up in East Downtown
09/26/16 5:15pm

Pi Pizza, 181 Heights Blvd., Brunner, Houston, 77007

The newly opened stationary location of former food truck Pi Pizza got a huge boost in business this weekend after pro-gun-carry groups began leaving hundreds of negative online reviews of the restaurant, Eric Sandler reports this morning. Owner Anthony Calleo tells Sandler that Pi’s sales at the strip center spot south of I-10 where Funky Chicken used to roost were up nearly 20 percent on Saturday and 40 percent on Sunday.

What exactly triggered waves of gun activists (and counter-protesting pizza-supporters) to take to the restaurant’s Facebook and Yelp pages en masse? A casually dismissive and — sure — less-than-completely-diplomatic response to an initial 1-star review of the restaurant, by a user who had never visited, based solely on Pi’s decision to opt out of open and concealed carry. Sandler notes that Pi’s Facebook review page has been temporarily taken down, as the hundreds of negative reviews (and even larger numbers of positive comments and counterreviews, at least some of which also appear to be from people who have never visited the restaurant) eventually escalated to public searches for Calleo’s home address by some of the more enthusiastic pro-carriers; the pizza joint’s Yelp page was still in lockdown as of this afternoon.


Booming on Heights Blvd.
09/14/16 4:45pm

Rendering of under-construction Kirby Collection, Kirby Dr. at Colquitt St., Upper Kirby, Houston

Rolling-sphere-themed restaurant and entertainment chain Pinstripes has just leased up some space in the under-construction Kirby Collection (and hey — there might even be some bocce players nearby still looking for a new court!) That’s the first confirmed tenant for the project, which Thor Equities wants to open by the end of next year; the 33,600 sq. ft. of leased space makes up around half of the total retail space available, and is split across both retail floors of the complex (shown in the foreground above, with a row of trees peeking down at Kirby Dr. from the edge of the roof). Pinstripes will take over a 7,260-sq.-ft. subdivision of first floor space, out of the segment labeled 23,900 in the ground floor plan below:


Leasing Ball Rolling
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
08/31/16 10:45am

Krispy Kreme shell, 4601 Spencer Hwy., Pasadena, TX 77504

A field of rippling grass between the Denny’s and the Comerica Bank branch on Spencer Hwy. currently holds the half-finished form of one of the Krispy Kreme donut shops planned as part of the chain’s post-lawsuit re-emergence into the Houston market. The chain still has the location on its list of upcoming grand opening donut-campouts (labeled as down-the-street 4601 Spencer Hwy., though both Eater Houston and a look at neighboring addresses put the property number at or around 4061), but arch-ive-ist and daily demo reporter Lauren Meyers notes the overgrown site is pretty light on signs of active work.

Some of Fisher Elementary’s T-buildings can be seen loitering to the left, with the stadium lights of the McGuire baseball field and track facility rising distantly in the background on the right; on the west side of the building is a would-be drive-thru window:


Cold Now on Spencer Hwy.
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
08/10/16 10:15am

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008A reader caught sight of some recent stirrings at the southwest corner of W. 20th St. and Rutland, where food truck The Rice Box looks to be setting up a second non-mobile operation in the former home of Chirps Chicken and Rice. Braun Enterprises snapped up the 1,584-sq.-ft. building in mid-2015, when Chirps flew the coop; a TABC permit for the dry zone address was issued to Black Dragon Private Club — an entity listing The Rice Box as a trade name — in early May. Braun also owns the retail strip across Rutland, which replaced those Baptist Temple buildings that were demolished in 2013; the photo above was taken from the Zoe’s Kitchen at the corner.

Photos: Jason B. Cockerell (top), Chirps Chicken and Rice (bottom)

Rutland Remake
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
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
07/05/16 4:45pm

Site of Nosh in Tunnel beneath 919 Milam, Downtown, Houston, 77002

The subterranean snapshot above comes from a reader roaming the Downtown tunnels, where a curved privacy-please construction barrier for a coffee-snacks-and-breakfast operation labeled Nosh now arcs around the spot formerly occupied by the ATM beneath 919 Milam. The change comes in the wake of other food-related shuffling beneath the 24-story tower this year; Genesis Energy also spread out onto another of the tower’s floors back in February.

Photo: ThaChadwick

Downtown Down Low
07/05/16 11:15am

Liberty Kitchen in MetroNational Treehouse, 936 Bunker Hill Rd., Houston, 77024

treehouse-memorial-cityA reader not at liberty to reveal his or her identity sends along this shot from inside of Liberty Kitchen’s under-development location inside the green-hued (and -intentioned) MetroNational Treehouse at 936 Bunker Hill Rd. The restaurant is moving into a 5,600-sq.-ft. spot on the ground floor of the building. Below is a floor plan of the space from architect Kevin Stewart:


Liberty at Bunker Hill
06/28/16 11:45am

Rendering of Heights Mercantile Building 3, 3A

Experimental ice cream shop Cloud 10 Creamery looks to be collecting building permits for a space at 711 Heights Blvd., one of the 1920s bungalows prepping for a second career in retail (as shown above) as part of the Heights Mercantile development. The project, which straddles 7th St. and its bike trail companion between Yale St. and Heights Blvd., hit a potential snag last year when the city didn’t approve a variance request that would have lowered the number of required new parking spaces. But the updated site plan below shows the workaround — the Golden Eagle Binder & Tab Co.’s former spots at 717 and 724 Heights, which were purchased by the developers last May, are depicted as additional parking lots:


7th at Yale