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
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.
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
HOUSTON’S LAST TEXADELPHIA HAS SERVED ITS FINAL CHEESESTEAK Texas cheesesteak sports bar Texadelphia has closed, a couple of readers tell Swamplot. The spot at 6025 Westheimer Rd., west of Fountainview, was the first and last of the Houston locations for the Austin-born franchise. This spot had been open for about 20 years. Photo: Jack S.
Fresh 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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The City of Houston intends to proceed with legal action in connection with the overnight disappearance of half a dozen oak trees from the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr., according to 2 separate sources. The trees were chopped down and ground up on site under cover of darkness Tuesday night as part of a renovation of the fast-food spot, which sits at the corner of Kirby and North Blvd. The removals took place on city property, but had not been permitted by the city.
“I have already been assured by the City of Houston’s enforcement officer that the city intends to proceed with a civil case,” writes Trees for Houston executive director Barry Ward in an email sent to members of the canopy-enhancement organization this morning. He calls plans to pursue legal action “a continuation of the recent, positive trend by the current administration to put an end to illegal tree removal in the City right-of-way or on city property.”
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$150K for More Sunlight
A reader who’s already delved a bit into the menu at the “definitely not fine dining, but really tasty stuff” offered at the Maxwell Street Grill walkup (or more likely, driveup) that opened up last Saturday in the former Discount Liquor store spot at 4902 Almeda Rd. between Wichita and Rosedale has a few tips for follow-on sausage samplers: “A big pro is that it’s open late every night: until midnight Monday through Wednesday, and until 3am Thursday through Sunday. Definitely decent fare along the Almeda/Museum District corridor, for which there’s a demand. Happy to have it close to my house, especially since I’m from Chicago originally.”
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From Maxwell St. to Almeda Rd.
If tracking the comings and goings of Bennigan’s in Houston has become a little confusing , that’s understandable. The Irish-stewish bankruptish restaurant chain suddenly shuttered all of its U.S. locations — including 20 in Houston — back in 2008; 3 years later, the chain’s new owners announced the impending arrival of as many as 10 new restaurants in Houston alone. The first of these new-concept franchises appeared under the tower sign of a strip-center endcap at Westheimer and Dunvale (above) in 2012. A second location opened just a couple of weeks ago in a former Aldo’s spot on the feeder road across I-45 from The Woodlands. And yesterday the company announced it had “nearly 100 restaurants under contract for development over the next several years worldwide,” including a new grand opening in Houston to be announced soon. Bennigan’s is also planning a comeback for its sister Steak & Ale chain, which had packed out of Houston with the Bennigan’s retreat in 2008. President and CEO Paul Mangiamele is planning a “big announcement” about Steak & Ale’s future on Friday.
But in the meantime, the comeback Bennigan’s at 8401 Westheimer has shut down, the always-checking-it-3-times staffers behind the b4-u-eat restaurant newsletter now report. A new location of smaller scale chain 59 Diner has already signed up to replace it.
Photo of Bennigan’s at Westheimer and Dunvale: Laina C.
Bennigan’s Begin Again
Looks like Weingarten has lured another tenant into the Kohl’s-anchored Tomball Marketplace at the southwest corner of the Tomball Pkwy. and FM 2920: Super Yummy Mongolian Grill. The somewhat self-aggrandizing chain restaurant is expected to open in Suite 160 in early October or November, according to Community Impact News.
Photo of Tomball Marketplace: Weingarten Realty
RICK’S CABARET REVEALS PLANS FOR REVEALING RESTAURANT NEAR JOHNSON SPACE CENTER The owners of that family of strip clubs, Rick’s Cabaret, plan to build a new restaurant called Bombshells in Webster near the Johnson Space Center. The pun-intended eatery appears to bring together army surplus and boobs; this would be its second location; the original, shown here, can be found up in Dallas. Culturemap’s Tyler Rudick reasons out how Rick’s chose the new suburban spot: “With both Bone Daddy’s and Twin Peaks thriving in Webster, Rick’s Cabaret president Eric Langan explains . . . that the area was a logical choice.” [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Bombshells at 7501 N. Stemmons Fwy.: Facebook
A reader sends this photo of the work in progress at the former Blockbuster at 8001 S. Main St., which in September will open as Jollibee Chicken & Burgers, the first Texas location of the largest fast-food chain in the Philippines. It will be located right next door to the Jersey Mike’s there in the crotch of S. Main and O.S.T., just northwest of Reliant Park.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Here come more billboard double entendres: The Baytown Sun reports that Buc-ee’s is building a big ’un on the I-10 feeder and John Martin Rd. later this year. And, apparently, the proposed 60,000-sq.-ft. convenience store, gas station, and jerky trafficker will get top billing: Part of the deal — a Chapter 380 Agreement — involves a waived height restriction for the store’s beaver beacon, so Buc-ee’s can raise one 100 ft. into the air. In return, Baytown will get a bit of room to put its own name up there too. (This will be the first time, the Sun reports, that Buc-ee’s will share its sign.) The store’s planned for about 18 acres on the southwest corner of John Martin Rd. and I-10 near the San Jacinto Mall. The Sun reports that it’s expected to open in 2014.
Photo of Lake Jackson Buc-ee’s: Judy Baxter [license]
The folks at the Chick-fil-A rising at the corner of Spring and Sawyer in the First Ward (across from the Sawyer Heights Shopping Center) aren’t quite ready to take your order, but judging from this photo it looks like they might be sometime soon. The fast-food drive-thru is going up on the site of the former Riviana Foods warehouse at 2222 Shearn St., which was demo’ed last fall. Now if they’d just add a second Starbucks somewhere near the giant parking lot, comments Twitter photographer knittykat (there’s one inside the Target already), the area would truly fulfill its destiny as stay-at-home mom mecca of the Heights.
Photo: Twitter user knittykat
COMMENT OF THE DAY: EASIER TO CONCEAL THOSE SECRET YOGURT BEHAVIORS “I prefer the self-service kind of yogurt place. That way I can put blueberries, white chocolate chips, cap’n crunch and cheesecake bites on my chocolate and pistachio flavored froyo mix – and not get that judgement from the person making it.” [Britt A, commenting on Rice Village TCBY Leaves Franchise, Avoiding Self-Serve Fro-Yo Redo]