02/21/18 11:30am

La Calle Tacos & Tortas has opened a hole in the wall to allow customers to get to its new space: Cantina La Calle, shown to the right of the original restaurant on Franklin St. in the photo at top. Interior renovations on the new cantina at 911 Franklin began late last year in the spot that PI Lounge once occupied and a planned English-themed bar dubbed The Brit eyed but never landed in. The photo above looks into the taco shop — opened in 2016 — from the new cantina next door to it.

Photos: La Calle Tacos

Bayou Lofts Eats
02/16/18 10:30am

Shake Shack has taken over the lease on the building Burger King left last month at the corner of Westheimer and Lincoln, a block west of Montrose. The fast-casual restaurant with 2 current Houston locations and one in the works signed off last week on at least a 15-year residency at 1002 Westheimer, next to Blacksmith. Behind the soon-to-be re-burgerized building’s frontage on Westheimer — shown above — a parking lot backs up to California St. along Lincoln.

Photo: MontroseResident

Fast Food Turnover
02/13/18 3:45pm

4 new restaurants of 4 different culinary persuasions are planning their migration to the Galleria’s coming chow center — beyond the curved wall that fronted Saks Fifth Avenue before the department store moved to a straighter-edged building just next door along Westheimer. Renovations to transform the building’s face into something new tenants could get behind have been in progress for the past few years. The site plan above from Simon Properties shows where Blanco Tacos + Tequila will arrive below Japanese restaurant Nobu, east of the building’s main entrance hall. West of the hall is where Fig & Olive as well as its upstairs Indian neighbor Spice Route will move in. They’ll go behind and in front of the new first- and second-story windows pictured at top — punched in the building’s facade last year.

Heavily blanched renderings put out by Fig & Olive show the patio fronting its 7,000-sq.-ft. interior:

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Multicultural Cook Off
02/06/18 5:00pm

The glassy storefront shown on the far right in the photo at top — on Ella Blvd. just south of W. 34th St. — is where Vietnamese restaurant Les Ba’get plans to move in once construction on the new 33 1/3 @ Thirtyfourth shopping center is complete. The restaurant’s existing location on Montrose Blvd. closed down last Friday ahead of the planned move. In its new life inside the shopping center [which is — disclosure — a past Swamplot Sponsor], Les Ba’get will have double the space it did in its former 1717 Montrose location as well as 80 seats, according to Eater.

The new 2.5-acre development shown from the north in the aerial above has been in the works since last year on the site formerly shared between That Pizza Place on Ella, the Century Marking stamp company office, and an El Rey Taqueria. Les Ba’get’s spot is pictured on the right in that photo, at the end of the brick strip adjacent to Ella.

Here’s the site plan for the whole complex:

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Montrose Moveout
02/02/18 5:00pm

Construction on Shake Shack’s new burger hub in Rice Village — next door to the coming Rice University clothing boutique on Amherst — looks about medium well now that the brick building has been blackened, stripped of its awnings, and shielded by a metal frame bearing all-caps signage. La Madeleine restaurant left the building last March ahead of renovations planned for the entire Village Arcade structure between Kirby and Kelvin.

A Rice Village property manager announced in 2016 that the born-in-Manhattan chain with current locations as far-flung as Bahrain was on its way to Kirby. Back then, Houston was completely Shack-less, but that changed when a debut location opened in a Galleria parking lot later that year. Since then, one other Shake Shack has cropped up in the city — behind center field in Minute Maid Park.

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Faster Food
01/25/18 11:30am

A Swamplot reader sends photos of the now see-through drive-thru signage on the north side of Burger King’s former building at 1002 Westheimer, across the street from the Westmont Shopping Center home to Spec’s, Half Price Books, and a Mattress Firm. The restaurant abdicated earlier this week. Yesterday morning, surveyors showed up to look around the property, leaving behind the wooden marker shown at the bottom of the image at top.

Another shot from the fast food lane adjacent to Blacksmith looks toward the restaurant’s parking lot on California St.:

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Whopper
01/23/18 11:45am

Note: Story updated below.

There’s a new sign on a curved portion of H-E-B’s facade at 5895 San Felipe, marking a replacement for the former Table 57 in-store restaurant, which closed quietly sometime shortly before the new year. The supermarket’s new curbside service area is taking over the restaurant’s old space along the northwest corner of store.

Table 57 opened along with the rest of the H-E-B on the corner of San Felipe and Fountain View back in 2015. At the time, it was Houston’s first sit-down dining destination inside an H-E-B store. (The supermarket had already debuted similar venues in Austin and San Antonio.) The photo above shows the restaurant’s automatic entryway and patio frontage extending west towards Fountain View.

Here’s what the doorway to the former restaurant looks like now, stripped of its overhead signage:

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Cleanup on Table 57
01/22/18 11:15am

A note taped to the window of Chinese Cafe announces that the restaurant at 5888 Richmond has shuttered. The counter-service spot took over its location between Chimney Rock and Fountain View from a McDonald’s after moving out of the shopping center 2 blocks east on the corner of Richmond and Sage Rd. in 2014. HS Green has since cropped up in the restaurant’s old shopping center storefront.

The photo at top looks east to show Chinese Cafe’s signage still shining beneath a starless sky last Friday, although the inside of the restaurant appears to have gone dark. The 3,756-sq.-ft. building sits between Taco Bell and the Houston Camera Exchange.

Photos: Rex Solomon

Briarmeadow
01/09/18 12:30pm

Just how many would-be customers have been pulling up to the Golden Bagels & Coffee storefront at the corner of White Oak and Oxford, yanking on the locked front door, then walking away? Enough that the proprietors have seen fit to post a handwritten sign this morning telling them they’ll SEE YOU TOMORROW. The Heights’ first-ever bagel shop has already received 3 reviews on Yelp — one a 1-star rating (since upgraded to 3 stars) knocking the establishment for not being open this past Sunday even though the hours painted on the front door suggest otherwise, and two 5-star reviews submitted with the intention to counterbalance the first, noting that the shop at 3119 White Oak Dr. has not yet opened for business.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Heights Bagel Stakeout
12/26/17 12:30pm

A FLOOD OF CHRISTMAS DINERS AT VIETOPIA An impromptu performance surrounding a centerpiece aquarium greeted Christmas dinner diners at Vietopia yesterday. Loud screams accompanied the appearance of twin streams springing from a leak in the glass on the dining side of freestanding structure at the Vietnamese restaurant in the Plaza in the Park (better known as the Kroger shopping center just south of the Southwest Fwy. on Buffalo Spdwy.) As a steady fountain of fishwater aimed itself at a nearby table or 2, the restaurant’s staff sprung into action: Large plastic garbage cans were deployed quickly to catch the water, and waiters used nets to collect the fish and transport them to new homes. [Wendy G Young Lightwalker, via abc13] Video: Wendy G Young LightWalker

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.

11/07/17 4:00pm

Interior demo work is mostly complete on a 75-year-old single-story brick warehouse lining Walker St. in East Downtown, ahead of its opening next spring as what its promoters are calling Houston’s premier soccer bar and restaurant. What might confer premier status on this venue, called Pitch 25  — beyond its location across the street from BBVA Compass Stadium? Perhaps the presence of an actual indoor soccer field inside, hosting league play.

Among the transformations planned for the 25,000-sq.-ft. structure in its coming rehab: knocking a large hole in the roof off the building’s Hutchins St.–facing west end — to let sunlight and rain into an outdoorish beer garden planned for the interior. Also, to provide sunlight for the interior trees:

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And a Hole in the Roof
11/06/17 2:15pm

Latest promised opening date for the new beer-and-wine serving, credit-card accepting (cash still preferred, and please pay before eating) Cleburne Cafeteria, now appearing in the late stages of construction at the corner of Bissonnet and Edloe St.: sometime this month. Photos from the scene show a new sidewalk, accompanied by 8 new trees from Trees for Houston, making an appearance along the Bissonnet frontage, in place of what used to be a portion of the restaurant’s parking area.

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Opening in November
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