02/01/17 11:30am

Rice Box, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Rice Box, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008The Chinese chicken takeout swapout at 300 W. 20th St. is now more or less complete, as of the space’s soft opening on Saturday (just in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which kicked off, as it happens, the start of the year of the rooster). The restaurant’s official kickoff is planned for this weekend, the day before the Super Bowl. Rice Box owner John Peterson told the Chronicle years ago that the now-catering-only food truck was loosely inspired by the movie’s White Dragon noodle shop; the new restaurant’s prominent neon signage and dense Asiatic business district patio mural offer a more overt visual cue. (Incidentally, Peterson isn’t the only person interested in ushering in the movie’s dystopian aesthetic for culinary purposes — celebrity food guy Anthony Bourdain is reportedly working on a whole Blade Runner-themed food marketplace on a pier in New York.)

Interior renovations include the addition of several beer taps, in line with that TABC permit notice spotted last year (though some of the taps reportedly dispense nitrogenated tea.) Here’s a look from W. 20th St. at the refurbished exterior, and the building’s new side patio:

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Heights Chicken Switch
01/24/17 12:30pm

Yale St. at I-10, Heights, Houston, 77007

The crossing of Yale St. over White Oak Bayou is open again as of yesterday, beating that initially announced estimated reopening date by close to a year. The new structure should reduce the chronic weight anxieties of those using the crossing, which has been subject to various pounds-per-axle limits for years.

And what of the original 1931 Yale St. bridge bricks, and their fundraising Friend group?  The online component of the crowdfunded save-the-bricks campaign launched last year fell short of that $100,000 goal by more than a bit, but the organization says that pretty much all of the bricks are still being preserved — most of them were just bought by someone else, for incorporation into a not-yet-officially-announced “art-centered mixed use project in First Ward.” Boulevard Realty, headed by Bricks and Fountain Friend and instigator Bill Baldwin, also recently posted a photo purportedly showing the incorporation of some of the bricks into new segments of the White Oak Bayou greenway trail, something the crowdfunding effort helped pay for:

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White Oak Crossing
01/11/17 5:15pm

Leasing Materials for former Foreign Correspondents site, Norhill, Houston

The split space occupied until late December by Northern Thai restaurant Foreign Correspondents and its also-freshly-shut-down cocktail bar companion Canard may be up for lease now, a reader notes. Treadsack suffix provider and co-owner Chris Cusack told CultureMap after the restaurant’s closure (spurred in the moment by the resignation of the head chefs, and trailing a few months after the previous departure of the company’s head beverage person) that the company would likely be trying out another concept in the space; that claim, however, was made before the details of years of behind-the-scenes financial turmoil hit the Internet.

listing flier from Braun Enterprise, showing the center’s updates since the original marketing materials for 4721 N. Main were released, now advertises the restaurant’s space as up for grabs; the recent photo above is included, alongside the accompanying site plans of the 4,742-sq.-ft. space. A plan view of the rest of the shopping center is included as well, showing the currently solidifying new location of Austin-based gelato chain Dolce Neve:

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Iced in Norhill
01/09/17 4:00pm

Kroger Signature Grocery Store, 1990 Old Spanish Trail at Cambridge St., Houston

An employee confirms to Swamplot this afternoon that the Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr. will be shutting down on January 24th. The formerly 24-hour grocery store (referred to previously as Slow Jam Kroger in Jeff Balke’s 2010 Inner Loop Kroger census, though arguably having earned the nickname Bank Robbery Kroger in the years since) has already reduced its hours and is closing up at midnight these days. Readers report low morale among car-less residents of the nearby apartments; they also report a few slightly mismatched rumors that the land has been sold to a big name  in the Medical Center.

Photo of Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr.: Edgar V.

Slow Jam Countdown
01/06/17 11:30am

Former Earthman Bellaire Funeral Home at 6700 Ferris St., Bellaire, TX 77401
Former Earthman Bellaire Funeral Home at 6700 Ferris St., Bellaire, TX 77401Making way for new happenings in the old chapel and mortuary, Earthman Bellaire Funeral Home has departed from its longtime space at 6700 Ferris St. and moved into the younger, broader building at 4525 Bissonnet St. formerly housing Levy Funeral Directors. (Levy, for its part, has scooted over to nextdoor 4539 Bissonnet, the brick 4-plex just east of Candy’s Nails.) Earthman’s empty space was sold in October to United Equities, and Ralph Bivins reports this week that the slope-roofed mid-1950s building will be put back to use by 2 new tenants: yoga and fitness chain Define Body & Mind and a zip-code-enthused restaurant going by 401. The Define folks have already marked their territory on the Ferris side of the building, atop the ghost of Earthman’s scripty logo:

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Bissonnet Funeral Home Shuffle
01/04/17 4:15pm

Harlow's in Edwards Grand Palace 24, 3839 Weslayan St., Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77027

Harlow's in Edwards Grand Palace 24, 3839 Weslayan St., Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77027Tilman Fertitta’s Harlow’s Food & Fun arcade-bar-restaurant, located since the mid-aughts inside the southwest corner of the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 on Weslayan St., is now closed forever, a woulda-been visitor reports. The entertainment-complex-within-an-entertainment-complex shut down by New Year’s Eve, and signage has already been pulled from the main entrance (though the explanatory yellow placard shown here is still visible behind the space’s security grate at the other entrance). The Harlow’s website has already been scrubbed and redirected to the main Landry’s page; some folks operating out of a Landry’s-branded pickup truck were spotted this afternoon cleaning up at the scene (above).

The signage on the Norfolk St. side of the theater has been removed as well:

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Grand Palace Exit
12/28/16 11:30am

El Beso Cantina, 3801 Farnham St,, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

A reader on the inside sends a shot of the ex-59 Diner on Farnham St., now up and running as El Beso Cantina. As of Christmas, the space is once again open 24 hours a day, though the pale turquoise paint and Elvis kitsch have been swapped out for warmer earth tones and decorative sombreros. The new occupants also appear to be attempting to fill the area’s 3am pancake niche, covered for nearly 30 years by the departed diner, by offering an array of American breakfast items along with the Tex-Mex fare.

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Shepherd Triangle Swap-In
12/27/16 5:00pm

Carvana vending machine, 10939 Katy Fwy., Memorial, Houston, 77079

Along with starting up service at the new 8-story glass car dispensation machine on the former Big Tex Tree Nursery lot on I-10 this month, Carvana has released a bit of drone footage of the new facility (shown above). It doesn’t show the tower in action (though a video of a coin-triggered run-through of the original Nashville machine, which boasts only 5 stories of car-storage tower space, can be found here). The fly-by does show off some new grassy parking lot landscaping and the billboard that Carvana leased out to explain themselves, as well as a few of the residences on Lasso Ln. directly behind the machine. (That’s the east-bound Katy Fwy. on the left, with the flying ramps of Beltway 8 visible in the early morning haze.)

Photo of Carvana facility at 10939 Katy Fwy.: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Video: Carvana

I-10 Stackup
12/21/16 11:15am

Triple Chicken junction on S. Rice, Gulfton, Houston, 77081

The density of fast-food chicken options at S. Rice Ave. just south of 59 is increasing precipitously, a couple of readers note. The most recent addition: the newly-constructed Chik-Fil-A at 5325 S. Rice Ave. (visible above on the right, just south of Pollo Loco and across the street from Raising Cane’s). The Chik-Fil-A is not yet officially open for fowl distribution (though it does appear to be giving away prizes on Facebook. The Pollo Loco and Chik-Fil-A represent the fulfillment of the Wal-Mart Supercenter version of the Shoppes at Uptown Crossing site plan, passed around back in 2014; the Marriott Town & Place shown on that plan has since come to be as well:

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Flocking Together in Gulfton
12/15/16 4:45pm

Bird Barbershop, 420 E. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Remodel of Heights Plaza, 420 E. 20th St., Heights, Houston, 77008Austin-based Shiner-wielding Bird’s Barbershop opened up its first Houston location last week in the remodeled 1955 retail strip at 420 E. 20th St., on the end of the building formerly home to J & R Boudin and Frenchy’s Sausage Co. The bubblegum pink parking stripes were joined by the spots above over the summer, as well as the circular window now floating in the middle of a wall where the facade’s westernmost door used to be.

A rep from the company says the Houston store was designed with community swimming pools in mind, which explains the interior tile scheme and watery motifs:

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420 in the Heights
12/14/16 6:00pm

Total Wine & More, 7640 Cypress Creek Pkwy., Willowbrook, Houston, 77070

There’s a 7-entry roster of Total Wine & More locations now included in the Yellow Pages listing for the Houston area — though the first Houston outpost of the Maryland-based liquor store only opened up in late October, in the decommissioned Office Max near Willowbrook Mall. But apparent new addresses for the store (known in Connecticut for its run of criminally low alcohol prices) include the former sites of 3 of Houston’s 4 remaining Fresh Market locales (all of which shut down in May).  Those old Fresh spots (the ones of Holcome Blvd., Memorial Dr., and San Felipe St.) have all been issued recent remodeling permits with Total Wine noted as the occupant. Other locations apparently in the works are in Baybrook Mall (which is hiring) and a box site in Richmond at 5472 W Grand Pkwy., reclaimed following Sports Authority’s fall and retreat from Texas.

Photo of Total Wine & More at 7640 Cypress Creek Pkwy. in Willowbrook: Total Wine & More

Box Wine Refresh
12/06/16 11:00am

Former Alamo Drafthouse, 114 Vintage Park Blvd Bldg H, Ste J, Vintage Park, Houston, 77070

As of a few minutes ago, Star Cinema Grill has officially announced its purchase and takeover of the Alamo Drafthouse in Vintage Park, plus plans to redo the interior with some “modern decór”. An unusually-light-and-getting-lighter December schedule tipped some movie hounds off to an impending change, though neither company was ready to confirm anything by the end of last week; Alamo closed as Alamo for the last time on Sunday, however, and as of earlier today the theater appeared to have completed its Facebook identity swap (and to have fielded answers to at least one skeptical Alamo customer’s since-deleted commentary on the matter).

The shift knocks Alamo back down to just 1 Houston-area location in Mason Park, following several years of floated potential expansion plans for Midtown and maybe-moving-forward-again Regent Square; the Austin export still has plans listed for a new theater in Sugar Land’s Imperial Market complex. Star Cinema, meanwhile, says the Vintage Park spot will reopen under the new name by Friday, and claims the chain’ll be up to 6 Houston-ish locations by the end of 2017. 

Photo of former Alamo Drafthouse in Vintage Park: Casey W.

Vintage Update
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
12/02/16 5:45pm

JUSTIN YU TO CLOSE OXHEART, SPEND SOME TIME IN THE HEIGHTS Oxheart, 1302 Nance St., Warehouse District, Downtown HoustonNext in the line of succession for the corner spot at 1302 Nance St. currently occupied by Oxheart: . . . well, something else. So says James-Beard-ed chef and owner Justin Yu, who announced today that the restaurant will close on its 5th birthday in mid-March — to reopen with a new name, a redone interior, and former Oxheart sous chef Jason White at the helm in the kitchen. Eric Sandler notes that Yu will eventually be splitting his hours between the yet-unnamed redo of the Nance space, wine and whiskey bar Public Services in the Cotton Exchange building on Travis, and whatever he’s doing with Bobby Heugel over on Yale St., in the former home of Dry Creek Cafe. [CultureMap; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 1302 Nance St.: Ken L.

12/01/16 4:15pm

Big Tex Montrose, 1810 Richmond Ave., Dearborn Place, Houston, 77006

richwood-market-freaky-foods-west-viewThe doors opened last week at that 4-story 100,000-sq.-ft. storage facility that has replaced the boarded-up Shell Food Mart just west of the corner of Richmond  and Woodhead — itself a makeover of the 24-hour Richwood Market, known back in the day as Freaky Foods (affectionately or not). The 4-story building started going up next to King Cole Liquor some time after the nearby trees got cleared out about a year ago (with the city’s OK, Annise Parker said at the time).

Big Tex has since widened the sidewalks and added some new baby trees in a series of landscaped rectangles along Richmond; the company’s press release also says there’s gonna be an Art Wall.

Photos: Big Tex Storage via Urbannizer (panoramic of Big Tex at 1810 Richmond Ave.), Swamplot inbox (2014 shot of 1810 Richmond Ave.)

Boxes on Richmond