POLLO TROPICAL SUNSET Citing “limited awareness” of the brand, the corporate parent of Pollo Tropical has decided not to reopen the last 2 remaining Houston-area locations of the Caribbean chicken fast-food chain after they were both damaged by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey. Gone for good: the Pollo Tropical on Westheimer Rd. just west of Eldridge and the other at 11400 Broadway just east of Kirby Dr. in Pearland (pictured here). Three other Houston-area Pollo Tropicals closed in April. Fiesta Restaurant Group, which also owns the Taco Cabana chain, said in a release that it was also closing all 4 locations in San Antonio but might reopen as many as 2 of the shuttered restaurants in the region as Taco Cabanas. [BusinessWire; Houston Press] Photo: Fernando C.
A new banner advertising a Christian’s Tailgate (pictured above) went up today on the vine-covered fence in front of the Amazón Grill at 5114 Kirby Dr., directly across from the Burger King between North Blvd. and Bissonnet St. The Cordúa Restaurants fast-casual outlet shut down yesterday after 15 years in the same location. The restaurants’ parent company, which also operates Américas, Artista, and Churrascos, plans to continue Amazón Grill as a delivery-only business.
As of today, the space is being renovated — with plans for a quick turnover and reopening as a fifth location of Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill on October 1st.
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Lower Upper Kirby
Here, courtesy of a Swamplot reader, are a few exterior views of the building at 1318 Westheimer after its weekend fire. “The damage is pretty severe,” Shawn Bermudez wrote on Facebook Saturday evening. The owner of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which shut down in this location last September, had been renovating the property in order to reopen it as a bar named Present Company. That work was a month from completion, Bermudez estimates. Among the additions to the former 1950s home: new steel doors and windows. And here’s a view showing the current state of the new piggyback patio added in back:
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Bar and Grill
How’s this image for establishing flood cred? The photo above — of the submerged Whataburger at 4545 Kingwood Dr. in Kingwood — accompanied the fast-food chain’s announcement yesterday of plans to spend a million bucks helping its own employees recover from Hurricane Harvey and donate half a million to local food banks and $150K to the Red Cross. If the water-waisted burger joint located near the intersection of the appropriately named W. Lake Houston Pkwy. otherwise looks kinda shiny and new in the pic (you can see more of its flooding experience here, here, and here), it’s because it is. Whataburger Unit 1125 at this location opened for the first time on July 31.
In and Out
Just days before Harvey hit Houston, the newest corner restaurant at 1302 Nance St. in Downtown’s old warehouse district looked ready to debut. The photos here, taken by Swamplot reader Will Breaux shortly before the rains came and the waters swelled, show the spot formerly occupied by Oxheart sporting a new exterior paint job and window nameplate.
Inside, renovations had been taking place for months. Proprietor Justin Yu had plans to open Theodore Rex later in August. But the restaurant flooded. Now, he writes, “it might take a little more time to open.”
Photos: Will Breaux
To Redo Again
The last pair of remaining Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants in Houston — at 2120 S. Hwy. 6, just north of the West Oaks Mall (pictured above), and at 20100 Hwy. 59 in Humble — closed this week, leaving the Seawall location in Galveston as the region’s sole outpost of the seafood chain. Three other Houston-area locations shut down earlier this month, ahead of the chain’s repurchase — approved in bankruptcy court last Thursday — by restaurant and entertainment giant Landry’s.
The original Joe’s Crab Shack opened in 1991 at 6218 Richmond Ave. (between Hillcroft and Fountain View); it was bought by Landry’s 3 years later and by 2006 had transformed into a 120-restaurant chain.
According to the Joe’s website, which for the most part appears to be keeping up with the latest unannounced closings, the chain is now down to 66 locations nationwide (14 in Texas) — though more may drop before Landry’s officially takes over early next week.
Photo of Joe’s Crab Shack at 2120 S. Hwy. 6: CREXi
Gone for Shore
POPEYES, BURGER KING KING TAKING A BIG BITE OF LA MADELEINE, SWALLOWING CYCLONE ANAYA’S Sugar Land’s Dhanani Group, owner of 501 Burger Kings and 240 Popeyes as well as 130 Houston-area convenience stores — and ranked as the country’s third-largest restaurant franchisee — has just added all 16 Houston-area La Madeleines to its holdings (plus 10 more in Austin and Louisiana), as well as the entire Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen chain. The La Madeleine purchase, which includes the right to open an additional 57 locations of the French bakery-café chain, was completed by Sugar Land-based HZ LM Casual Foods, whose owner, Amin Dhanani, is a Dhanani Group general partner. Another Dhanani Group entity, Heritage Restaurant Group, is buying all 6 Houston-area locations of Cyclone Anaya’s from Ricardo Valencia, the youngest son of wrestling champ Cyclone Anaya, and says it has plans to open additional locations. It was Dhanani Group’s Houston Foods unit — the owner of its local Burger King franchises — that was cited by city officials in 2014 for excessive oak-hacking, after street trees surrounding several of the company’s restaurants were found cut back to tall-stump status. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo of original Cyclone Anaya’s at 1710 Durham Dr.: Accent Graphics
The new name for the area restaurants formerly known as Ruggles Green is part of a strategy for the Houston-based chain to disassociate itself with local chef Bruce Molzan, its CEO admits. “Yes, we want to distance ourselves from him,” Jason Morgan tells Chronicle reporter Andrea Rumbaugh. Morgan’s investment firm, Hargett Hunter Capital Partners, purchased Ruggles Green last October. Today the firm announced it is rebranding all 5 area restaurants as Bellagreen, a move presaged by the publication in its social media feeds earlier this month of the photo above — showing its patio at CityCentre while artfully eliding the signage.
Molzan, the longtime chef at the former Ruggles Grill on Westheimer, is no longer an owner of the Ruggles Green chain he cofounded, but he and his ex-wife retain rights to the Ruggles name. But there’s more than the risk of too many confusing Ruggleses for Bellagreen to contend with; there’s also the issue of Molzan’s fish-y reputation: Molzan was accused by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department earlier this year of operating Texas’s largest-ever unlicensed seafood network, selling illegally caught finfish to restaurants, including Ruggles Black and Ruggles Green, for almost 4 years.
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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