The sign at the Skinny Rita’s Grille at 4002 N. Main St. in Brooke Smith now states that the Mexican restaurant inside has closed, but a note on the door from “Management” is a little less definitive: “This location will be rebranding in the next few weeks and will be temporarily closed,” reads the undated notice — already annotated by a handwritten visitor complaint requesting the information be added to the company’s outgoing phone message. “Please come visit us when we reopen in a few weeks.” The restaurant followed in the footsteps of a sequence of differently branded Mexican restaurants in the same location when it opened at the site, which is bounded by Walton and Melwood streets, in 2014. A Montrose Skinny Rita’s Cantina closed down at 607 W. Gray St. earlier this year, after less than a year of operation.
Maybe that for-lease sign up in the window at Tila’s Restaurante and Bar on the Shepherd Curve for the last few months worked: The restaurant closed for business on Sunday — after 20 years at the same location. Owner Tila Hidalgo reports on the restaurant’s Facebook page that her business was given 25 days notice to vacate the property at 1111 S. Shepherd Dr. — it will be out of the space entirely by the end of the month.
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Now on Wheels
JOE’S CRAB SHACK IS ALREADY HALF-GONE FROM HOUSTON If you’re willing to count Galveston, as of this week the number of Houston-area locations of seafood chain Joe’s Crab Shack is down to 3, cut in half after the abrupt closures of the Gulf Fwy. at Fuqua (pictured), North Fwy. at Airtex, and Pearland (3239 Silverlake Village Dr., near 288) restaurants. Nationwide, more than 25 of the chain’s 112 locations have been shuttered, ahead of a scheduled Thursday bankruptcy hearing for chain owner Ignite Restaurant Group at which a $55 million sale to former owner Landry’s is expected to be approved. (Landry’s sold the chain in 2006 for $192 million, to a private equity firm that later spun out Ignite as a separate entity.) The Joe’s Crab Shack locations in Galveston (at Seawall Blvd. near 35th), Humble (across I-69 from the Deerbrook Mall) and on Hwy. 6 (between the West Oaks Mall and Briar Forest Dr.) are still open. [Consumerist, via HBJ] Photo of Joe’s Crab Shack at 12400 Gulf Fwy.: Camren O.
With the newest location coming to the Pearland Pkwy. pad site shown at the center of the image above in the Centre at Pearland Parkway shopping center just behind the H-E-B fronting Broadway, the density of Chick-fil-A restaurants in an axis stretching from FM 518 in Pearland to I-45 in Webster is fast approaching Texas Medical Center–level concentration, and may soon exceed it. (There are 4 Chick-fil-As in the TMC area, 3 of them conveniently located inside hospitals — though no drive-thrus.)
Less than 2 miles to the west along Broadway from the pictured location (expected to open in January) is the Chick-fil-A at FM 518 and Dixie Farm Rd.; further to the east are the spots in the Baybrook Mall and along the Gulf Fwy. at El Dorado Blvd. Between them, and possibly on the horizon, looms the planned Chick Fil A location at the intersection of FM 518 and Leisure Ln. in Friendswood. The owners of that property withdrew a rezoning application that would have allowed restaurant uses on that site after residents complained before the Friendswood City Council in April that adding the Chick-fil-A would make the city too much like Pearland. But a new rezoning request for the same property is up for consideration with the council this week, and the owners tell the Chronicle‘s Dana Guthrie that Chick-fil-A is still very interested in building a restaurant there.
Site plan detail, Centre at Pearland Parkway: Stream Retail
FM 518, Chicken Alley
The 25-story SkyHouse River Oaks apartment tower, completed at the end of 2015 on a portion of the site of the former Westcreek Apartments just west of the San Felipe Target, has actual streetfront retail on its ground floor. And as of last week, it’s all full and open. That’s when Inferno Pizza began serving in the 2,400-sq.-ft. space at 2031 Westcreek Ln. Suite N1. The neighboring space has been a Glow Spa and Nails since last year.
There’s designated parking for spa- and pizza-goers in the first floor of the building’s garage. Pizza Inferno’s interior is organized like most fast-casual you-tell-us-how-to-assemble-it restaurants, though the buildout also added a 600-sq.-ft. mezzanine dining area and some patio seating (tables are coming in a few weeks) in front:
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All construction work appears to have stopped, a reader notes, on the transformation of the former Pilgrim Cleaners and (later) Shriners Hospital clothing donation drop-off building at 4005 N. Braeswood into a second location of the Bacco wine bar. (The building, at the corner of Stella Link, backs up to Brays Bayou.) A red tag from city’s floodplain management office sticky-noted to the window beside the front door and dated July 3 gives a hint as to why: “Remodeling without floodplain permit in the floodplain,” it reads. On the next line, it adds another bit of advice: “Need electrical, plumbing, and structural permits as well.”
Photo: Swamplot inbox
When It Pours
Here’s a glance at how the now-redone North Shepherd strip center that used to house the Texas Cafeteria is looking this week, about a month before the second-ever location of sandwich joint Krisp Chicken & Batter opens up on the building’s south end. A raised bit of concrete slab seen on the near side of the building in the photo above will form the foundation of a planned dining patio. According to the building’s leasing flyer, a 1,825-sq.-ft. space in the building is still available for lease adjacent to Krisp; the rest of the building will become a Verizon store.
The center at 2400 N. Shepherd Dr. is immediately north of the former Fiesta lot where H-E-B plans to start construction on a new Heights market late this summer.
According to Culturemap’s Eric Sandler, the owners of Krisp are already planning to open additional locations in Memorial, Bellaire, and Downtown in the next few years — and possibly Pearland and Cinco Ranch after that.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
SWEET MESQUITE REBIRTHING IN RAGIN’ CAJUN’S ABANDONED UNDERGROUND LAIR BELOW MAIN A sign advertising a new Sweet Mesquite Grill has appeared in the tunnel-facing storefront under the McKinney Place Garage where Ragin’ Cajun shut down a few months ago. The spot below 930 Main St. Downtown is scheduled to open in a month as a Sweet Mesquite do-over. The restaurant in the shopping center at 1570 S. Dairy Ashford near Briar Forest Dr. was a Sweet Mesquite Grill before it became Mesquite Cottage; the new tunnel location henceforth will be the only Sweet Mesquite Grill in town, but is expected to be a bit of a reboot from the original. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
DOWNTOWN HOUSTON IS NOW DOWN TO A SINGLE STREET-LEVEL SUBWAY With the shuttering last week of the Subway sandwich shop at the corner of Milam and Rusk streets — catty corner from Pennzoil Place, in the ground-floor space below the Level Office at 720 Rusk St. (pictured here) — the national sandwich chain is now down to a single Downtown location that can be accessed from a sidewalk. Another streetside Subway, in the ground floor of the Americana Building 5 blocks to the south at the corner of Milam and Dallas, exited its space before demolition began on that structure in February. A total of 8 Subways are located Downtown, but they’re all now harbored in tunnels or lobbies or food courts — except the lone fresh-air holdout at 405 Main St., at the corner of Preston. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Subway space at 802 Milam St.: cmoney_htx
The former Heights Finance Station post office at the corner of Heights Blvd. and 11th St. — its parking lot and front door face Yale St. — is coming down in a hail of lovingly painted bricks today. The post office was closed at the end of 2015 and subsequently purchased by developer MFT Interests. The single-story building was later festooned with an assortment of romance– and ZIP-code-themed murals.
MFT is calling the new development it has planned for the 1050 Yale St. site Heights Central Station. It’ll consist of two 2-story painted-brick buildings fronting 11th St.:
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Heights Central Station
5 SLIM CHICKENS CAUGHT CROSSING HOUSTON BORDER The Slim Chicken drive-ups in Katy, Cypress, Spring, and Humble will soon be joined by 5 new locations of the restaurant franchise inside the Houston city limits. First up: wings and Texas-shaped waffles will become available at 9850 Louetta Rd. in Vintage Lakes, right by Aldi and just down the street from the fast-food mecca known as Vintage Marketplace. A Kingwood location at 30255 Loop 494 should open later this summer, though it isn’t clear if the Arkansas-based chain is counting that location as one of its 5 genuine Houston spots. [Eater Houston] Photo of the Slim Chicken opened late last year at 9255 FM 1960 Bypass Rd. in Humble: Edwin R.
ADDING NEEDED FAST-FOOD DIVERSITY TO THE NRG PARK—SOUTH MAIN DONUT NEXUS “At least, an Arby’s will add a different fast-food chain to the area. Another donut shop would have been useless with the Shipley’s (Murworth/Main: SW corner), Dawn Donut (Murworth/Main: NW corner), and Glazed (Old Spanish Trail near Kirby) giving them a run for their money.” [Major Market, commenting on A Peek Inside the Half-Baked Krispy Kreme near NRG Stadium] Illustration: Lulu
It may not look like a hole lot is going on in there in this photo taken a few months ago, but the 2,492-sq.-ft. 1940-vintage retail building at the southeast corner of White Oak Dr. and Oxford St. in the Heights — a crooked saunter across the street from Onion Creek Coffee House and a lot and a street down from the Heights hike-and-bike trail (and this) — will be filled with bagels this summer, promises its new proprietor. Behind its plywood poker face, the property at 3119 White Oak Dr. has been stuffed with a bagel oven, tile-front counters, and a walk-in refrigerator, according to the social media accounts of the establishment, known as Golden Bagels and Coffee. Soon to be on the menu, in addition to the comestibles promised in the shop’s name: local cured and smoked fish.
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Bagels for the Heights
THESE ARE THE SALAD DAYS FOR EMANCIPATION PARK Covering the reopening of Emancipation Park, on Elgin St. east of 59, Michael Hardy surveys the adjacent eats: “Even before the park reopened, a number of businesses catering to the neighborhood’s newest residents had appeared. Across the street from the park, below the old Eldorado Ballroom, are the Crumbville, TX bakery, which sells vegan cookies and brownies, and the NuWaters food co-op. A few blocks down Emancipation Avenue, Doshi House serves sustainably sourced coffee and vegetarian meals. (Emancipation Avenue used to be called Dowling Street, after a local Confederate officer; the Houston City Council voted in January to change the name.)
The latest business to open on the park periphery is the Rustic Oak Seafood Boiler Shack, which serves coastal Cajun cuisine. The owner and chef, Wendell Price, grew up on MacGregor Way, a more affluent part of Third Ward, and remembers the area around Emancipation Park as a food desert. ‘When I came down to hang in this area, you literally couldn’t get a salad,’ he said.
Mr. Price, who previously operated a restaurant in Houston’s trendy Montrose neighborhood, said he would never have considered setting up shop in Third Ward if not for the Emancipation Park renovation.” [New York Times; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Doshi House: OffCite/Raj Mankad