05/25/17 10:45am

The Refinery Burgers & Whiskey is currently in the process of moving past its oil theme dependency and rebranding to pay homage to a different set of Gulf Coast-al tropes: the new name of the joint at 702 W. Dallas St. will be South Bank Seafood Bar, and a menu including some Asian and Cajun-Creole nods is purportedly in the works.

The patio in front of the 2-spot retail strip (which the restaurant shares with barber and beardwrangler Shave) has been getting dressed up and expanded as part of the remodel. And just this morning, a reader caught sight of what may be preparations to slice a service-window-shaped hole into the shipping container now sitting out front:

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Habitat Alteration at Downtown’s Edge
05/24/17 3:30pm

It doesn’t take effect until August — but a new sales permit looks to have been okayed last month for 160 W. Gray St., bearing the name The Ginger Man – West Gray. The Rice Village bar has previously established outposts in locales as far-flung as Austin, Dallas, and Plano (and claims a somewhat looser connection to a trio of spots in New York and Connecticut), but a West Gray location would be the chain’s second spot inside the Loop(s). That spot, meanwhile, is still the home of Junction Bar & Grill, just north of the W. Gray Y with Webster St. — though the building itself (shown above) was listed for lease on LoopNet earlier this spring. Prior to the turn of the decade, the space previously went by The Wet Spot. 

A recent-ish photo from the lease listing (above) shows off the wrapping up of the Dolce Living apartments next door.  Not pictured, just beyond the duo of homes visible to the east below: the charred skeleton of Fuzzy’s Tacos, which was cleared out some time after its November flameout. 

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Midtown Fourth Ward Junction
05/18/17 1:30pm

A permit was issued yesterday to knock out some walls at the former medical clinic at 820 Holman St., remodeled back in 2015 into abbreviated-French-themed nightclub VrSi. The club (shown here as it looked in its early days) seems to have stopped promoting itself right after Mardi Gras, and a new business name for the address was registered with the county clerk’s office late last month: Holman Draft Hall. That new moniker is still connected to VrSi co-owner Andy Aweida, part of the group that owns nearby Wooster’s Garden and used to own those demolished Kirby funeral parlor bars; the same folks are also behind the Heights Bier Garten, which opened last month in the former Longhorn Motor Company spot on N. Shepherd (now full of parked picnic tables):

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Signs of Life on Holman St.
05/03/17 1:45pm

The drive-your-drinks-home daquiri shop planned for former MJ Motorcars office island at 8275 Beechnut St. (in the parking lot of stripmall nightclub Club Tequila) isn’t just going to be a drive-thru bar, a media rep for Prime Daquiri tells Swamplot. The rep says it’ll have a full kitchen, too — and that the company will be opting for screwtop bottles for their drinks instead of a Louisiana-style tape-on-the-top arrangement, as far as legal distribution goes. The landscaping and portico in the above rendering of the remodel show options for customers on foot, as well — or perhaps even those who want to dine (or drink) in. The bar is planned near the parking lot’s Watermill Express kiosk, though going the nonalcoholic route will require self-service.

Images: John Mene (rendering); Erick Ganzo (photo)

Prime Location
04/13/17 1:30pm

Former Tree at Axelrad Beer Garden, 1517 Alabama St., Midtown, Houston, TX 77004Swapping in for the tubelight-bedecked elm that’s been standing in the middle of Axelrad Beer Garden at the corner of Almeda Rd. and Alabama St.: this way-past-sapling Shumard red oak, carefully trucked, tipped, and dropped into place earlier this week, as captured in the Yakety-Sax-tracked video montage above. The changeover comes at the end of the original tree’s years-long shuffle toward death, per the bar’s telling: the group was advised to evict the tree when they first started setting up the space — as it was already old, and had been hit pretty hard by that tire-revealing 2011 drought — but opted to keep it around for a few years instead.

Following a recent lightning strike from which it would never quite recover, the tree finally lost enough branches that the bar owners opted to put it out of its misery:

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Series of Tubes in Midtown
03/31/17 11:45am

HUNKY DORY AND BERNADINE’S ARE NOT DEAD YET Patio, Hunky Dory Tavern, 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston HeightsIn a statement posted simultaneously yesterday to the Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory Tavern Facebook pages, Treadsack’s management team says the twin restaurants at 1801 N. Shepherd (along with the company’s remaining establishments: Down House, D&T Tavern, and Johnny’s Gold Brick) remain open — and that it’s hoping customers will support the decision by continuing to eat there:We’ve filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s so we can restructure our debt and continue to operate. This was a very difficult decision, and not one we came to lightly, but the chance to save the businesses that all of our employees have worked so hard to build and so many of you, our guests, have supported, made it a risk worth taking. We love these restaurants and will continue to fight for them.” [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hunky Dory

03/29/17 2:30pm

WITH BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, DRY CREEK IS ABOUT TO GET VERY WET LATER THIS MONTH Dry Creek Cafe, 544 Yale St., Houston HeightsThe spot on the corner of White Oak Dr. and Yale St. where Dry Creek Cafe (pictured) closed down last year is expected to open next month as a “neighborhood bar with food that meets restaurant standards.” Proprietors Bobby Heugel (who got his start at Anvil) and Justin Yu (who shut down Oxheart) know a bit about each, respectively. The newly renovated space at 544 Yale will be called Better Luck Tomorrow, they announced today. [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Andy M.

03/20/17 11:15am

1318 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Just in time for the spring equinox, a reader sends shots of some recent trimming back at the former home of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which may soon sprout a 2-story patio if permits issued over the last few months tell true. The bar and restaurant (right across Westheimer Rd. from the Doc’s formerly known as Wendy’s and that long-tarped turret of the Tremont Tower condo building) was closed down last September by owner Shawn Bermudez, who told Eric Sandler he planned to reopen the space under a new name and theme. The late-1950s house (previously converted into dance club Bartini, before the structure’s Royal Oak days began in the early 2010s) has since had its nose cut off; some larger holes on both stories have also been wooded over, over on the parking lot side:

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New Growth in Hyde Park
02/22/17 5:30pm

BRAD MOORE AND FRIENDS SNATCH EMPTY BODY OF INVASION ICE HOUSE Invasion Ice House, 823 Dumble St., Eastwood, Houston, 77023 Formerly apostrophe-averse Grand Prize co-owner Brad Moore and his business partners have a new bar now up and running in the work-out-the-kinks, wait-for-the-liquor-license phase. The business, operating under the syllable-rich name Lil’ Danny Speedo’s Go Fly a Kite Lounge, has taken over the space in the 1950s building at 823 Dumble St. (shown here as seen early last year in its then-new alien mural skin). Danny Speedo’s is the latest link in a long chain of bars on the property — most recently including Invasion Ice House, which the Ramos family opened last spring before shutting it down at the end of October. Phaedra Cook reports that Lil’ Danny Speedos is limiting the alcohol menu to beer, wine, and frozen shandies until the liquor permit comes through. [Houston Foodfinder; previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Invasion Ice House at 823 Dumble St.: Swamplot inbox

02/16/17 3:00pm

Saint Arnold Brewing Company Expansion renderings, 2104 Lyons Ave., Near Northside, Houston, 77020Saint Arnold Brewing Company Expansion renderings, 2104 Lyons Ave., Near Northside, Houston, 77020

A fresh batch of renderings from the Office of James Burnett have been filed with the city planning commission this month as part of Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s request for a setback variance for that previously mentioned beer garden next door. Early permits have been trickling in since last fall for the ex-tow lot at 2104 Lyons Ave., across Semmes St. from the brewery’s new-ish downtown headquarters in the former HISD Food Service building (even more formerly the home of the Bemis Bag Company).

The new designs show what might be the site’s intended layout, including a restaurant structure which dissolves into an outdoor patio and garden space, a set of bocce courts, and more parking, including an area set aside for display of art cars (as shown up top featuring the company’s own tie-dye vehicles). Here’s the full tentative layout:

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Gardens of Fifth Ward
01/18/17 2:30pm

Spire Houston in former First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002

Spire Houston in former First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002Steeple-themed nightclub and Swampies also-ran Spire is now up and running in Downtown’s converted First Church of Christ, Scientist at 1720 Main St., following last winter’s covert purchase by the group running Clé bar. The remodeled Mod space officially opened last weekend and is currently advertising upcoming events on a marquee along Jefferson St., including a Playboy-sponsored pre-Super Bowl party (scheduled against the Taylor Swift concert at temporary 3-story nightclub Club Nomadic, among other goings-on).  Other upcoming Spire events include this weekend’s Waka Flocka Flame concert and the VS vs Fredericks Lingerie Contest scheduled for next Wednesday.

Some promotional photos from the club provide a few views of the former altar (above, with a view of the original for comparison), as well as the added balconies and new seating arrangement possibilities in the main sanctuary:

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Downtown Conversions
01/17/17 10:45am

Hamburger Mary's Houston ad

The latest ad for the in-the-works Houston franchise of restaurant and periodic drag venue Hamburger Mary’s includes a collection of cartoonified downtown landmarks (among them Pennzoil Place and Bank of America Center), with an Astrodome tacked onto one side of the abbreviated skyline for good measure. As to where exactly the restaurant and bar is settling in — what with the old Mary’s spot already taken, and all — permits have been issued for the Converse St. end of the strip center at 2409 Grant St., a block east of Montrose Blvd. That’s where not-safe-for-work clothing and accessories shop Hollywood Super Center previously operated, before moving next door into the former Hollywood Investments & Realty space):
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Marys of Avondale
12/12/16 1:00pm

HTX Sports Creek, 2619 Polk St., East Downtown, Houston, 77003

A 3-block jaunt from the proposed site of the recently reincarnated Ivy Lofts development will land you at 2619 Polk St., where do-it-yourself sports bar Sports Creek is setting up. The developers look to be planting a series of sand volleyball courts and blue-turfed soccer fields on the long-paved-over block bounded by Polk, Live Oak, Nagle, and Dallas streets (catty-corner from the former Kings warehouse building slated for a wholesale-to-retail makeover).

One of the involved developers recently told Maggie Gordon that the new place should open in January, and that there will be 3 volleyball courts; the above rendering shows the latest published update to the bar’s planned layout of the space (though it appears to show 4 courts instead). It’s also not totally clear which side of the development that drawing is meant to show, as none of the site’s depicted neighbors appear to quite match up with the array of townhomes, warehouses, and electrical substation that ring the block.

Older renderings released earlier this year showed the business with only 1 and 2 fields and courts respectively, on a much skinnier piece of land:

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Courting Polk St.
12/05/16 5:00pm

Merchant, 1707 Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

The back-alley Post Oak strip center corner previously occupied by a franchise of not-quite-ice-cream purveyor Tasti D-Lite appears now to be operating under the banner of New Orleans-based Merchant Cafe, whose signature noun list was spotted over the weekend by a reader in the shopping center. The new cafe is catty-corner to Berryhill Baja Grill, and flanked by Five Guys Burgers and Fries and The UPS Store. The city planning department  started issuing permits for a remodel of the space by September of last year, though some appear to have been given the OK as recently as October. 

The vicinity’s softserve niche is currently filled by a branch of pay-by-the-pile California frozen yogurt shop Pinkberry, facing San Felipe right across Post Oak Blvd. Tasti D-Lite, meanwhile, appears to have largely pulled out of Houston altogether over the last few years, with a lone holdout franchise remaining in Katy.

Photo: jatorres

NY to NOLA
11/29/16 1:45pm

7710 Long Point Rd., Spring Branch, Houston, 77055

7710 Long Point Rd., Spring Branch, Houston, 77055The new lessees of 7710 Long Point Rd. — formerly home to all-Mex-no-Tex Otilia’s Mexican Restaurantannounced last week that they’ll be filling the spot with a craft beer bar and restaurant called The Branch. The folks in charge appear to be former Hay Merchant-slash-Underbelly catering head Madeline Cabezut, current Hay Merchant bar manager Kyle Pierson (though Hay Merchant itself is not involved in the project), and former Miller/Coors spokesmodel Amanda Mixon. An entity linked to serial redeveloper Braun Enterprises bought the place last year, after Otilia’s 2014 for-real-this-time shutdown. The trio formally leased the space around the end of September, and plan to have the place open early next year.

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Branching Out to Long Point Rd.