11/01/16 10:45am

KFC at 2359 S. Shepherd Dr., Vermont Commons, Houston, 77019

The Colonel is still hanging around by the door, but KFC is in the process of leaving the building at 2359 S. Shepherd Dr., a few readers report. The spot at the corner with Fairview Dr. has been sporting now closed signage, and the location has already been eradicated from the annals of KFC’s store database. The chicken shop’s decommissioning follows the late-June sale of the property to an entity called 2359 S. Shepherd, which shares a Smith St. address with Crosspoint Properties (responsible for the redevelopment of a number of Midtown and properties, including the building that now houses Reef and Proof).

The drive-thru sits just south of the Shepherd Place office tower (once the site of those 1960s lesbian bar raids, in its pre-highrise days), and across Shepherd from the former Arby’s, converted to the Inner Loop’s first-ish Dunkin’ Donuts back in 2013.

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S. Shepherd Retreat
08/19/16 4:15pm

Raising Cane's, 1902 Westheimer Rd., Vermont Commons,  Houston, TX 77098

Catty-corner to the middle school both formerly and henceforth to be known as Lanier, another spat of place-name confusion is brewing: A reader notes that the Raising Cane’s (whose Vermont Commons branch sits on the corner of Hazard St. and Westheimer Rd. on the lot previously vacated by Martha Turner Properties) has been pledging its affections to Midtown. But is the message one of tribute or defection? “Do they think they’re in Midtown?” wonders the tipster. “Is there something else I’m not getting?”

Photo of Raising Cane’s at 1902 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox

Midtown Creep
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
07/08/15 4:45pm

Construction Trailer for Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, 1111 N. Dairy Ashford St., Memorial, Houston

From the street, a Swamplot reader notes, the roll-on vehicle pictured here looks just like your typical construction trailer. But come around the side you can see the banner pinned to it, announcing a new Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. The latest link in the growing fast-food chain is about to arrive on the former site of the Lucky Village Chinese Buffet that was torn down at 1111 N. Dairy Ashford last year. The new Freddy’s between St. Mary’s Ln. and Barryknoll will join a parade of beef purveyors (Sam’s Burgers, Lynn’s Steakhouse, Hebert’s Specialty Meats) and fast-food joints (Jack-in-the-Box, Sonic, and the Raising Cane’s right next door) lining the west side of Dairy Ashford, roughly opposite Spring Branch ISD’s AstroTurf-lined Darrell Tully Stadium.

Photo: Brian Walz

Steakburgers
05/05/15 12:00pm

Replacement Oak Tree in Front of Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The sixth and last of the replacement street trees was planted in the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. over the weekend. “It is a big specimen tree, taller than what was removed,” writes the reader who sent in these photos of the installation paid for by a special city fund for Houston parks — so we can all see for ourselves. The previous weekend, 5 replacement oaks were put in along the side street, North Blvd. Crews hired by the franchise owner, Mohammed Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, had chopped down 6 trees on adjacent city property last October. You can compare the current scene in these photos and in our story last week with how it all looked before the chainsaws were fired up.

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Regrowth
04/30/15 1:00pm

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

New Trees at Wendy's Drive-Thru Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonA row of 5 already-growed-up oak trees took up their new home along the North Blvd. flank of the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. last weekend, to replace the same number along the public right-of-way that went missing after dark last Halloween on account of they were chopped into pieces by order of the franchise owner. “The new trees at Wendy’s are so big they had to close the road to install them,” writes the reader who sent in these photos. “. . . almost as big as the ones cut down.

One more tree is still to come — for this spot on Kirby Dr., right in front:

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Fast Landscaping
04/13/15 3:15pm

NEW INSTALLATION MARKS LOCATIONS OF KIRBY DR. WENDY’S OAKS WITH THICK YELLOW RIBBONS Protection for New Trees, Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonSpotted at the corner of North Blvd. and Kirby Dr., just north of Rice Village: 6 holes, 6 staked-off areas, and 6 fabric wraps around the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby. Is this another art installation in memory of the removed oaks? Naaah. Probably just the work of city crews, getting ready to plant their replacements. Expenditure of up to $300K for new live oaks — matching the amount paid by the franchise owner as part of a legal settlement for last year’s nighttime tree-hacking incident — was approved by city council back in February. Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/02/15 4:45pm

Video of this week’s jaw-dropping demolition of the combo Taco Bell and Pizza Hut at 1710 Kingwood Dr. is now featured on the Facebook page of the chewed-up Kingwood restaurant, in 15 separate bite-sized episodes.

Above: Digging those teeth in. Next: Gettin’ some of that yummy filling:

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Kingwood Crunch
03/06/15 11:30am

WHERE MONTROSE’S FAVORITE CREPE STAND WILL GO AFTER SCORING $52K TO MOVE INDOORS Melange Creperie, 403 Westheimer Rd., Lower Westheimer, Montrose, HoustonWith $2,215 to spare and a crepeload of promised food orders to fulfill, Montrose food stand Melange Creperie concluded a successful Kickstarter this morning. Meeting the $50K fundraising goal means the stand will be moving to an actual indoor location . . . somewhere. Owner and chief crepe-folder Sean Carroll tells Swamplot he’d like the restaurant to stay as close to its current regular location (403 Westheimer, at the corner of Taft St.) as possible — but exactly how close depends on the amount of additional investment that comes in. As a result of the Kickstarter, Carroll says, the restaurant has received a lot of inquiries about — and promises of — equity investment. “As we stand now with our Kickstarter plus our current equity promises . . . we can open a restaurant but it will be smaller and not in Montrose.” If he finds sufficient additional investment, he says, he’ll aim for a Montrose spot that’s about 2,000 sq. ft. and has a patio. [Kickstarter] Photo: Suzanne R.  

02/25/15 11:45am

TREE-CUTTING SETTLEMENT BUYS NEW LANDSCAPING AROUND KIRBY DR. WENDY’S Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonCity council approved a measure last week to spend $300,000 from a special fund for Houston parks on the installation of 6 new live-oak trees on the right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru restaurant at 5003 Kirby Dr. That’s the now-mostly treeless corner of North Blvd. pictured here, where crews hired by the franchise owner, Mohammed Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, removed 6 old live-oak trees at night last October. The budget for the replacement includes removing what remains of the 6 stumps, installation of irrigation and subdrainage systems, and a 2-year warranty for the new trees, which will measure between 14 and 16 inches in diameter. The allotted budget matches the amount Dhanani paid in a settlement to the city for the incident last year. Any amount left over will be used for “additional improvements within City rights-of-way or park lands” approved by the Houston Parks Board director. [City of Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox

02/23/15 1:30pm

THE THREE NEW HOLES FORMING IN EINSTEIN BROS. BAGELS’ OUTER BELT COVERAGE Einstein Bros. Bagels, 3375 College Park Dr., The Woodlands, TexasThe parent company of Einstein Bros. Bagels (which also owns Manhattan Bagels, Noah’s Bagels, and Peets Coffee & Tea, and Caribou Coffee as well) announced late last week that 3 far-flung Houston-area stores will be among the 39 “underperforming” stores nationwide the chain will be shuttering. Bagel spots at 6261 Hwy. 6 (off Glen Lakes Ln.) in Missouri City, 2121 W. Davis St. in Conroe, and 3375 College Park Dr. in The Woodlands (pictured here) will be closed by tomorrow. [Culturemap] Photo of College Park Dr. store: Einstein Bros. Bagels

01/27/15 11:45am

Plaque on Wendy's Drive-Thru, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

Oak Tree Stumps, North Blvd. at Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Plaque on Wendy's Drive-Thru, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, HoustonJaws have been dropping along North Blvd. at the intersection of Kirby Dr. at the sight of a prominently placed inscription that now greets drive-thru customers of the Wendy’s at 5003 Kirby Dr. Is this just one of those obliviously coincidental following-corporate-guidelines things, or is the management of this Wendy’s going out of its way to draw attention to the under-cover-of-night street-tree massacre it orchestrated late last year to clear away 6 oaks on the corner and that cost the franchise owners a well-publicized $300,000 settlement from the city’s legal department? Or is the assembly of words attached directly to the brick wall, which honors “SERVICE THAT DOESN’T CUT CORNERS,” meant to apologize for the hired landscaping crew’s actions — which y’know, really did cut a corner — and emphasize that the hardworking burger-makers inside are trying to do something . . . different?

In full, the signage reads, “QUALITY SERVICE THAT DOESN’T CUT CORNERS IS OUR RECIPE,” though the part about corner-cutting service in the middle is clearly meant as an add-on to the fast-food chain’s more famous “Quality is our recipe” tagline. For those of you who haven’t been following the saga closely enough to appreciate the . . . humor? chutzpah? contrition? obliviousness? involved here,  here’s the backstory:

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Corner Cutting
01/12/15 1:46pm

Reopened Wendy's Restaurant at 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Burger King and Diminished Oak Tree at 5115 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

A regular Kirby Dr. street-tree watcher sends in this pair of recent images showing the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of oak-tree-bedecked North Blvd.), which reopened after renovations the week before Christmas, and its neighbor a few driveways down, the Burger King at 5115 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of similarly shaded South Blvd). The photos show the aftermath of a series of chainsaw incidents that took place last year.

The daring but probably not death-inducing trimming of the lone surviving Kirby Dr. street tree in front of Wendy’s (shown at top) took place after the franchise’s owner, Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, paid the city a $300,000 settlement for the nighttime removal of 6 other oaks on city property surrounding the restaurant shortly before Halloween. A report in November indicated that the city’s legal team was investigating the more aggressive paring of oak limbs in front of the neighboring Burger King, as well as another Burger King owned by Houston Foods, the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country, which is run by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

The Giving Trees
11/20/14 12:45pm

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston Heights

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston HeightsFresh off receiving a $300,000 settlement for the unauthorized removal of 6 oak trees in the city right-of-way from Ali Dhanani and Haza Foods, owner of the Wendy’s franchise at the corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd., the city of Houston’s legal staff has turned its attention to 2 other oak-tree-hacking incidents at neighboring Burger Kings — one a couple blocks to the south at 5115 Kirby Dr. at the corner of South Blvd., and the other at 2116 W. Holcombe Blvd. at Main St., next to the Medical Center. At each location, according to a report from the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris, landscapers pruned an oak tree on surrounding public property excessively, making it “likely to die.”

Both Burger Kings, it turns out, are owned by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani, whose company, Houston Foods, happens to be the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country. (And with a just-announced purchase, his Dhanani Group is about to double the number of U.S. Burger Kings it owns, to more than 450.) But this latest scuffle with the city is not Shoukat Dhanani’s first experience with aggressive limb-cutting of city-owned oaks. Two and a half years ago, Swamplot readers reported on the mysterious beheadings of oak trees surrounding 2 other Burger Kings, both of which also happen to be owned by Houston Foods.

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Fast-Food Landscaping
11/19/14 12:00pm

DAYS AFTER $300K TREECUTTING SETTLEMENT, WORKERS ARE BACK ON THE JOB AT THE KIRBY DR. WENDY’S Workers at Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe snapper of this story-in-an-image pic taken of the construction site at 5003 Kirby Dr. tells Swamplot that construction crews went back to work on the stalled renovation of the Wendy’s Tuesday morning. Last Friday Mohammed A. Dhanani and HAZA Foods, the franchise owner, agreed to pay the city of Houston $300,000 for the 6 oak trees removed late last month from the city right-of-way in front of the fast-food franchise along Kirby and North Blvd. A permitting logjam had halted work on the ongoing renovations after city officials learned of the street-tree chop-downs. What’s the worker’s gesture in the pic supposed to mean? “I think it was a ‘right on’ fist pump,” reports the photographer. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox