11/22/17 11:00am

The vacant former-ice-house-turned-furniture-store at the corner of W. 15th St. and Prince St. appears ready to serve drinks again: Gregg Goldstein and Katz Coffee owner Avi Katz, the proprietors of the almost-ready-to-open Golden Bagels and Coffee on White Oak and Oxford, bought the former El Viejo Mexico Custom Furniture spot at 1701 W. 15th spot over the summer. (The furniture shop has since decamped outside the South Loop, at 4114 Belk St. near Cullinan Park.)

More has changed in this corner of the Heights near Shady Acres since the building’s ice-house days: “Nearly every home in a block radius has been torn down and 3 put in its place since the time that bar was there,” a neighbor tells Swamplot. Now posted to the façade of the 1,344-sq.-ft. structure: a TABC license application for mixed-beverage permits at this location — under the name of Birdocks 50 Fifty.

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Birdocks 50/Fifty
11/20/17 11:00am

LIBERTY KITCHEN NOW FREE FROM GARDEN OAKS 5 months after a grand reopening to celebrate the end of road construction along Alba Rd. that had been hindering access to the restaurant, Liberty Kitchen Garden Oaks has shut down. Last night was its last meal. The restaurant had opened at 3715 Alba Rd. in June 2016, taking over a renovation of the property (and demolition of an adjacent Quonset hut to make room for parking) originally intended to house a Facundo Restaurante. “We debuted a new menu, a new beer garden and a new parking lot in an effort to revitalize patronage” after the road construction ended earlier this year, write the owners of Liberty Kitchen. But that wasn’t enough, and Hurricane Harvey “served as an additional financial hurdle company-wide.” The Liberty Kitchen Heights, San Felipe, and Memorial City locations remain open; the Little Liberty in the Rice Village closed this past March. Photo: Oksana W.

11/16/17 2:45pm

Teevee station KHOU is giving up on its 3.2-acre bayou-side home on Allen Pkwy. after repeated flooding and will soon be listing it for sale, according to a staff member’s Facebook post. The organization did file a permit for $594,740 worth of restoration work after Harvey between August and October, and hired 2 services to help with the clean-up — including Lewisville-based MrRestore, pictured above outside the building on August 30. Before Harvey, the studio enjoyed a 16-year dry run bookended by waters from Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.

The 52,000-sq.-ft. studio, home to Channel 11 for 57 years, took on 5 ft. of water during the recent storm, forcing its staff to relocate broadcasting activity 3 times within the same day: first to a second floor conference room, then 2 blocks east on Allen Pkwy. to the Federal Reserve Bank, and finally to Houston Public Media’s office on Elgin St. just off I-45, where the news operation has now been headquartered for just over 2 months. That co-location wouldn’t be permanent, KHOU meteorologist Brooks Garner reported last month, although he indicated at that time that the station had not as yet decided whether to return home or seek a new venue.

Photos tweeted out by KHOU reporters of their original home showed the building at 1945 Allen Pkwy. taking on water during the storm. Here’s what the lobby looked like:

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Anchors Away
11/15/17 3:00pm

It’s official: the 255-ft.-long drive-thru car wash at Buc-ee’s’s new Katy location off I-10 at Cane Island Pkwy. now qualifies as the longest in the world, according to Guinness World Records. Traversing the tunnel takes cars about 5 minutes, during which time in-wash light effects entertain. Don’t have a dirty car of your own in Katy? There are videos.

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Buc-ee’s World Record
11/13/17 1:00pm

The retirement sale sign up now in front of Montalbano Tire and Auto Service at 1302 Houston Ave isn’t just advertising tire replacement: Owner Tony Montalbano sent out a letter last week to customers informing them that the 76-year-old business would close on November 17, though a source tells Swamplot that date has since been pushed back about a week. The 13,915 sq.-ft. car care building on the corner of Houston Ave and Dart St. went up in 1960 and sits on just over three-quarters of an acre. The first photo above shows the store’s front entrance on the corner looking north up Houston Ave.

Across Houston Ave, Montalbano’s much larger neighbor of the same surname — Montalbano Lumber — remains open for business.

Photos: Marc Longoria

First Ward
11/03/17 4:45pm

Sable Gate Winery, a local affiliate of the Waters Edge chain of franchised vineyard-less wineries, has its grand opening tomorrow at 2600 Travis St., just south of McGowen and behind Reef in Midtown. The new wine spot, which began serving last weekend, took over the space from GAGE Lounge. Customers who want to make, cork, and bottle their own-label varieties at Sable Gate can choose from the chain’s selection of pre-crushed grapes shipped in from more vineyard-friendly climes around the world; if you’re in a greater hurry than the 5 to 7 weeks it normally takes to ferment and blend a batch of imported grape must, you can commandeer one Sable Gate’s already got going — or just order a glass at the bar.

Photos: Sable Gate Winery

Sable Gate Winery
11/03/17 1:00pm

A fourth Candy Shack Daiquiris To Go is planning to open next year on Washington Ave, just 2-and-a-half blocks to the west of the existing W Grill Margaritas To Go drive-thru at Washington and Durham.

Candy Shack is slated to take over the property at 5111 Washington Ave (pictured above), where Coast Eatery + Bar both opened and closed this year. (The property was listed for lease in August.) Before Coast’s tenure, the space was occupied by itinerant Mexican-food joint Taqueria La Macro.

There’s much more than just a drive-thru going into this location, however: The Washington Ave Candy Shack will include a bar, for drinkers not speeding off to their next appointment.

Photo: LoopNet

Packing a Punch
11/02/17 11:30am

Specialty hot dog shop and bakery Happy Fatz closed its bungalow doors for good yesterday at 3510 White Oak Dr. — after 6 and a half years in the Heights. “The uphill battle with the ‘neighboring’ house for the last 2 years became a greater challenge than expected,” reads a brief announcement posted yesterday to the restaurant’s Facebook page. A new 2-story, 4,400-sq.-ft. home was constructed last year on an adjacent property — a portion of which formerly served as a patio and parking lot for the restaurant. It’s currently listed for sale.

Happy Fatz’s owners write that they’ll continue to open pop-up shops in the Houston area. But they say they’ll be turning their attention to the Hill Country, opening a restaurant called Wildflour Artisan Bakery & Grill in Canyon Lake.

Photo: Kim W.

Out of the Dog House
10/30/17 3:30pm

A 2-page letter posted to the front door of the Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill in the Westside Plaza shopping center at 8383 Westheimer on Friday explains that the landlord has terminated the lease on the property and is demanding the tenant pay close to $71,000 in back rent. Fadi Dimassi opened the first Fadi’s at this location in 1996; with this closing Fadi’s is now down to 8 locations, including 3 franchised spots in Dallas.

According to the letter, the lease term officially expired at the end of January. Since that time, Texadelphia has moved into the spot next door, replacing the Potbelly Sandwich shop shown in the photo above.

A Swamplot tipster notes the restaurant was open for business on Saturday but locked out on Sunday, with all tables, chairs, and restaurant property still inside. In an interview with the Houston Press in 2015, Dimassi noted that the $18,000-a-month rent his company was paying for the Dunvale location had spurred his interest in purchasing real estate for subsequent locations.

Photo: Miguel Paez

Done with Dunvale
10/27/17 1:30pm

Here’s the other new purveyor of brownish fluids at the corner of Richmond Ave and Woodhead: The 13th area Take 5 Oil Change — and the chain’s fifth location in Houston proper — is now open for business, a few steps ahead of the adjacent new Starbucks. The building takes the place of a pair of 2-story brick 4-plexes at 1823 and 1827 Richmond torn down last year.

Take 5’s leaky-oil-can logo will greet drivers lined up for the Starbucks drive-thru, as this site plan shows:

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Now Open and For Sale
10/26/17 4:15pm

The mocha-colored drive-thru Starbucks that’s been brewing at 1801 Richmond Ave. since its predecessor building was torn down in January now appears just about ready to serve. Landscape crews are plopping in plants on the Richmond Ave. side; this view taken from an upper floor of the nearby Fairmont Museum District Apartments shows how the new building looks nestled next to its notable neighbors, which include the Big Tex Storage facility and King Cole liquor store across Richmond and Mexican restaurant La Tapatia just across Woodhead:

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Montrose Drive-Thru
10/25/17 1:45pm

An intrepid mattress-store-monitoring reader notes that the Mattress 1 One (yeah, that’s how the company spells it out) in the northernmost spot of the strip center at S. Shepherd and W. Alabama across from CVS has closed down. Desperate mattress seekers need not worry, though: Plenty more outlets are available to pick up the slack. A note taped to the front door of the spot at 3101 S. Shepherd Dr., which despite the prominently placed Kensinger Donnelly FOR LEASE signs on the space insists that the location is only “closed for renovation,” directs would-be customers to the chain’s nearest still-open store: a full 3 blocks north on Shepherd, just south of Westheimer.

If that location doesn’t work for you, the Texas-and-Florida mattress chain lists a total of 16 Mattress 1 One locations within a 5-mile radius — though that includes the still-listed Shepherd-and-Alabama spot. And don’t forget competitor Mattress Firm, which has 18 locations of its own within that same area.

Photos: Margo

Mattrose
10/19/17 11:00am

Here are a few shots of 195 Yale St. just south of I-10 from yesterday afternoon, showing workers a few letters away from spelling out the long-delayed LA Fitness at the Yale Street Market shopping center. The sign, which faces the freeway, was completed by the end of the day:

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Fitn In
10/16/17 3:30pm

There’s a lockout notice posted to the front door of the ground-floor retail space of the 1100 Smith Garage Downtown on the corner of Dallas St. and Brazos St. Droubi Brothers Mediterranean Grill, at 507A Dallas St. — shown open in the older photo above — is now closed; the restaurant’s website has been taken down.

Here’s the notice:

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Shawarma Gone
10/02/17 1:30pm

Pet Supermarket in Meyerland Plaza has reopened after taking on water after Hurricane Harvey, but it appears to be an exception among big-box stores lined in a row on the former mall site. Signs in front of Old Navy, OfficeMax, and Dressbarn declare the stores are closed — and direct customers to other locations, according to these photos and a report from a Swamplot reader. Here’s the scene in front of Old Navy, where notes in the window declare the store is closed “until further notice“:

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Old Navy Underwater