03/12/18 4:00pm

A building permit filed recently on the Central Square Plaza complex that takes up the block of Travis St. between Gray and Webster reveals Kraftsmen Coffee as the latest restaurant slated for the renovated tower’s empty ground floor. Work to install plumbing for the 1,768-sq.-ft. space that the owners of coffee shop plan to take over began last year.

The photo at top views the west portion of the building’s ground floor, which sits about halfway down the block on Gray St. and faces Milam. A parking garage is off-camera to the right. Around the corner — on the building’s north side — a TABC flyer for Malawi’s Pizza still hangs in the window of the empty storefront on Gray where it was originally posted back in 2016:



Kraftsmen Coffee
03/12/18 10:30am

Banners for Cedars Tapas Bar — the new restaurant on its way to 403 W. Gray — are now covering up both the plywood board on the building’s forehead and the sign left over from Ship & Shield’s tenancy in the space. The Viking-themed restaurant abandoned the building last December, and property owner Braun Realty is now waiting on the new Lebanese bakery to move in.

Braun bought the the 2,055-sq.-ft. restaurant building in 2016, the same year Ship & Shield took it over from Byzantio’s. Since then, the developer has put up a new retail building on the once-vacant lot just east of restaurant, near Taft St. Its west side is visible beyond Cedars’ sign in the photo above.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

North Montrose Makeover
03/07/18 1:30pm

Skinny Rita’s is about halfway through its last stand in Montrose this afternoon, thanks to the excavator now parked on what used to be its patio. The health-minded Mexican restaurant at 607 W. Gray St. sat vacant since its owners closed the place down last February. Nine months later, The Platform Group snatched up the former cantina along with its neighbor, the Traci Scott Hair Salon (visible beyond the wrecking arm in the photo at top), where business is proceeding as usual despite the racket next door.

A few more angles on the tear down show piles of rubble getting ready to overflow the patio fencing:


Montrose Pair Minus One
03/05/18 4:45pm

Now that construction work on the new retail structure Braun Enterprises is developing at 311 W. Gray has headed indoors, a collection of building permits up on the window near the building’s northwest corner names one of its occupants: Me’Lange Restaurant. Last spring, the Chronicle reported that a second location of Kirby fast food spot Viet’s Express would move into the new strip alongside an office of Feather & Fur Animal Hospital. Back then, the 18,221-sq.-ft. plot just west of West Gray Cleaners on the corner of Taft St. was still just a vacant lot; construction began later in 2017.

A parking lot that runs lengthwise behind the building wraps around its west side as it heads for the curb cut on W. Gray:


Cultural Melange
03/05/18 3:00pm

Changes are now slated to turn the Highland Village building at 2701 Drexel Dr. that Kate Spade took off from last year into what Sweet Paris Crepes & Café is calling its flagship location. The French pastry chain with 2 locations in Houston (and one in Mexico) plans to stuff a 136-seat restaurant into the former boutique just south of Westheimer in the fashion depicted at top, although some of those chairs will sit outside on the patio that’s planned in place of current slant parking spots. The fiery neon display behind the store’s transom window — pictured above with the lights off — will be removed, as will the lifesavers grids up above the storefront’s windows. Inside, the location’s 2,364 sq. ft. will include both a regular eating area and a private dining room.

Rendering: Sweet Paris Crepes & Café. Photo: Swamplot inbox.

03/05/18 11:45am

A new banner is up in place of La Baguette’s lettering in the Mekong Center — on Milam St. between Drew and Tuam — announcing the coming Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill. The former Vietnamese sandwich shop shuttered in the space at the end of last year, leaving a void between Pho Saigon and the dentist’s office in the L-shaped retail center which includes parking on its roof. When the new raw fishery moves in at 2808 Milam, it’ll bring the Mekong Center back to full occupancy.

Photos: Chibuike O. (Mekong Center); Natalie W (Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill)

Below the Parking Pad
02/28/18 1:30pm

Facial adjustments to the building at 3701 N. Main have left it rustier than it was when El Taquito Rico shuttered in the same space last May. The former Woodland Heights Mexican restaurant’s yellow sign has been removed, as has the standing seam mansard roof-style awning that wrapped its frontage on N. Main. In their place, a headband of corrugated metal now hugs the top of the structure — which sits on a narrow 8,375-sq.-ft. lot at the end of Pecore St., just west of I-45 (and across the street from the O’Reilly Auto Parts building that Asia Market is moving into).

Floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the restaurant’s entryway have also been truncated:


Heights Wrap-Up
02/28/18 11:45am

Cricket Wireless shuttered in the northwest corner of the building on N. Main at Pecore St. a few years ago, leaving O’Reilly Auto Parts alone in the structure. Now, signage for Asia Market Thai-Lao Food is up on the carrier’s former location. The aerial photo above views the building at 3600 N. Main adjacent to Whataburger from up over El Taquito Rico’s former spot (also undergoing a turnover) on the narrow corner across the street.

The original Asia Market included a store in addition to the restaurant. Here’s what it looked like in the strip on Cavalcade between Norhill Blvd. and Michaux St. it occupied since 1987:


Under the Hood
02/26/18 11:45am

Postino hasn’t opened yet, but there’s already been a notable change to the decor at the Arizona-based wine cafe chain’s first Texas location. Gone from the construction fencing outside the restaurant’s patio are the signs pictured at top that read, “DRINKING WINE AT LUNCH IS NOT A CRIME.” In their place, new banners featuring only Postino’s name and social media handle have appeared. The photo above views them from the west side of the Heights Mercantile development at the corner of 7th St. and Yale.

Here’s another look at the current fence abutting Rye 51’s storefront on 7th St.:


Restaurant Rebranding
02/21/18 11:30am

La Calle Tacos & Tortas has opened a hole in the wall to allow customers to get to its new space: Cantina La Calle, shown to the right of the original restaurant on Franklin St. in the photo at top. Interior renovations on the new cantina at 911 Franklin began late last year in the spot that PI Lounge once occupied and a planned English-themed bar dubbed The Brit eyed but never landed in. The photo above looks into the taco shop — opened in 2016 — from the new cantina next door to it.

Photos: La Calle Tacos

Bayou Lofts Eats
02/13/18 3:45pm

4 new restaurants of 4 different culinary persuasions are planning their migration to the Galleria’s coming chow center — beyond the curved wall that fronted Saks Fifth Avenue before the department store moved to a straighter-edged building just next door along Westheimer. Renovations to transform the building’s face into something new tenants could get behind have been in progress for the past few years. The site plan above from Simon Properties shows where Blanco Tacos + Tequila will arrive below Japanese restaurant Nobu, east of the building’s main entrance hall. West of the hall is where Fig & Olive as well as its upstairs Indian neighbor Spice Route will move in. They’ll go behind and in front of the new first- and second-story windows pictured at top — punched in the building’s facade last year.

Heavily blanched renderings put out by Fig & Olive show the patio fronting its 7,000-sq.-ft. interior:


Multicultural Cook Off
02/06/18 5:00pm

The glassy storefront shown on the far right in the photo at top — on Ella Blvd. just south of W. 34th St. — is where Vietnamese restaurant Les Ba’get plans to move in once construction on the new 33 1/3 @ Thirtyfourth shopping center is complete. The restaurant’s existing location on Montrose Blvd. closed down last Friday ahead of the planned move. In its new life inside the shopping center [which is — disclosure — a past Swamplot Sponsor], Les Ba’get will have double the space it did in its former 1717 Montrose location as well as 80 seats, according to Eater.

The new 2.5-acre development shown from the north in the aerial above has been in the works since last year on the site formerly shared between That Pizza Place on Ella, the Century Marking stamp company office, and an El Rey Taqueria. Les Ba’get’s spot is pictured on the right in that photo, at the end of the brick strip adjacent to Ella.

Here’s the site plan for the whole complex:


Montrose Moveout
02/06/18 12:00pm

A sideways glance at the renovations underway on 1815 Washington — formerly home to the Pandora Lounge nightclub, and even more formerly to Throne Ultra Lounge — reveals 2 new openings in the building’s east side ahead of its coming grand opening as Houston’s first Gus’s Fried Chicken location. The older listing photo above depicts the full building on the block between Silver and Sabine back when its street frontage was a wall of bricks. The white wall and front door shown on the right in the photo at top had replaced the brick face and garage entrance by the time Braun Enterprises bought the place in late 2015.

Renderings of the building released by Braun around the time Gus’s signed up for it in 2016, however, showed plans to rebrick it, as well as add new windows and a patio on its east side:


Tennessee Transplant
02/02/18 5:00pm

Construction on Shake Shack’s new burger hub in Rice Village — next door to the coming Rice University clothing boutique on Amherst — looks about medium well now that the brick building has been blackened, stripped of its awnings, and shielded by a metal frame bearing all-caps signage. La Madeleine restaurant left the building last March ahead of renovations planned for the entire Village Arcade structure between Kirby and Kelvin.

A Rice Village property manager announced in 2016 that the born-in-Manhattan chain with current locations as far-flung as Bahrain was on its way to Kirby. Back then, Houston was completely Shack-less, but that changed when a debut location opened in a Galleria parking lot later that year. Since then, one other Shake Shack has cropped up in the city — behind center field in Minute Maid Park.


Faster Food
02/01/18 3:45pm

Update: Despite Swamplot’s earlier report, The Ginger Man’s Rice Village building is not up for lease, says a Braun Enterprises representative. The W. Gray location will be an expansion for The Ginger Man.

A flyer now being passed around by Braun Enterprises shows The Ginger Man’s 1,907-sq.-ft. house and outdoor furnishings in Rice Village up for lease ahead of its planned relocation expansion to a vacant Fourth Ward building. An entity connected to Braun bought the tap house at 5607 Morningside Dr. last December.

Renovations are now underway on a soon-to-be new location of The Ginger Man at the crossroads of W. Gray and Webster — in the building where the Junction Bar & Grill shuttered last year. When it opens, the expansion will be the 7th Ginger Man in Texas. 4 exist in and around Dallas and Fort Worth, and one is located in Austin. The chain also claims a more tenuous connection to a group of restaurants on the East Coast.

The photo below shows the Fourth Ward building with a new green paint job:


Village Bar Expansion