08/17/18 11:30am

Pictured above is the first action this shuttered Macaroni Grill by the Galleria has seen since changing hands last October: the erection of new green fencing around its empty stone and stucco building. Its new-ish owner is Hillstone Hospitality, the group behind the Houston’s restaurant chain as well as several other single-location eateries across the country.

Hillstone has been in the neighborhood even before getting its hands on the empty restaurant, however; the nearest Houston’s is just west on the corner of Fountain View Dr.:

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New Westheimer Barricades
08/17/18 10:00am

MONTROSE SHAKE SHACK CONSTRUCTION IS ABOUT TO BEGIN A building permit filed yesterday for the corner where Burger King’s been lying in pieces on Westheimer near Montrose Blvd. reveals construction is imminent on the Shack Shake set to replace it. Upon completion, it’ll be Houston’s fourth Shake Shack location, after the one in Rice Village, at the Galleria, and in section 157 at Minute Maid Park. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplox inbox

08/16/18 4:00pm

Orange fencing is condoning off the corner of the Westchase Shopping Center where a new Regions Bank is planned in place of the El Palenque that shuttered there in May. A demolition permit issued for the restaurant building exactly a week ago means its days are numbered. But for now it’s still standing, fronted by landscaping and the new Port-o-Potty pair visible in the photo at top from Walnut Bend Ln., just shy of Westheimer.

Also on its last legs: the bank’s nearest existing branch on S. Kirkwood near the Westheimer H-E-B. A company spokesperson told the HBJ‘s Olivia Pulsinelli in June that the planned new branch will take over business in the area.

Photos: Jose Galvan (fencing); Troy M. (El Palenque)

Branching Out
08/14/18 5:15pm

The biggest eye-level change to the former Social Junkie restaurant building is the one shown over the Acura in the photo at top. And while it’s definitely less of a statement than its predecessor — a nod to the Texas Real Estate & Co. office across the parking lot — what exactly it means is more of a mystery. Renovators are still putting the finishing touches on the structure — blackwashed earlier this year — so the lettering could just be a sign of things to come.

Or maybe it’s there to stay, like the 2 Shell Shack signs and adjacent menu teasers that went up not long ago beneath the butterfly roof:

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Art Goes Here
08/09/18 2:15pm

A Swamplot reader sends a photo (top) of the trees that appear to have grown up outside the former McGowen Cleaners real fast since plant life was first added to the bed (above) earlier this year. That’s because the crew now converting the place into a restaurant called Vibrant tore out the bushier trees just over a week ago and replaced them with a row of taller new cedars.

The swap-out left the bed short on plant life last Wednesday and Thursday:

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Growth Spurt
08/09/18 9:45am

Ground beef chain BuffBurger is about to move into the new Citywest Retail Center 3 blocks outside Beltway 8 and just down the street from Phillips’s year-old headquarters and garage-top sports complex. So far, the strip center’s lineup includes almost exclusively food joints of the fast-casual variety, with a lone Ideal Dental office in middle of the east building. Its coming soon sign is pictured in the photo above, west of Yogurtland.

BuffBurger’s spot — its third since opening in the new Alabama Row strip across W. Alabama from the Menil in March — is in the shorter and stouter east building, where it’ll fill in corner at the far end from Panera’s already-open endcap:

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Westchase
08/07/18 1:00pm

Memorial Dr.’s Tres Market Foods is expanding to the pair of black and off-white buildings pictured above at 2620 Joanel St. behind the Westheimer strip home to River Oaks Donuts and across the street from the 2-story building housing the Honorary Consulate of Ghana. Formerly a row of separate lots, Houston’s city planning commission approved a request to consolidate the warehouse parcels all into a single property earlier this year. Since then, a handful of permits have come through as part the paperwork to prep the structures for remodeling.

Together, they total 5,400 sq.-ft.:

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Prepared Food Preparations
08/02/18 1:00pm

Both Pi Pizza and Star Fish have been locked out of their leases in the Washington Heights shopping center building on Heights Blvd. just south of White Oak Bayou and roughly across the street from the Art Car Museum, leaving the strip absent its 2 endcap tenants. Star Fish picked up where Bradley’s Fine Diner left off in the building’s north side about a year and a half ago, and the pizza parlor took over from Funky Chicken on the south end of things in 2016.

Pictured below is the notice a Swamplot reader found stuck to Pi’s storefront right around lunchtime:

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Off the Menu
08/02/18 12:30pm

Magnolia’s Ice Cream & More is now grooming the former Park Place Pharmacy building 2 blocks west of the Gulf Fwy. for what’ll be its second creamery. Although the pharmacy building lost its original signage — pictured above in 2012 — sometime before MMA gym Metro Fight Club took it over a few years ago (to be followed briefly by Friends Lifestyle Lounge), the rest of the exterior has remained more or less frozen in time since its construction in 1950.

Already the corner of the building has earned its stripes (and drive-thru window) as part of its entry into food service. In its final form, the structure will also feature a new ice cream sign in place of the former RX mark:

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The Best Medicine
07/30/18 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: NOT THE ONLY BURGER JOINT OFF 20TH ST. “Really needed another burger option in that area. So within a couple minutes drive of each other there will now be The Burger Joint, Balls Out Burger, Hubcap, Bernie’s Burger Bus, Becks Prime, Christian’s Tailgate, Whataburger, Cedar Creek, and all the other fast food options.” [DL, commenting on Blank Abel Motors Sign Now Directing N. Shepherd Traffic to Its Burger Joint Replacement] Illustration: Lulu

07/30/18 4:15pm

A Swamplot reader sends photos of a few street-fronting changes over at the new Pizza Motus moving in next to West University Masonic Lodge No. 1292: There’s now a sign on the storefront and some benches on the sidewalk outside it. A bit tougher to spot is the door in the middle of the concave façade; it recently turned green.

Former tenant Edloe St. Cafe had the whole place painted red during its time inside:

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On Deck in West U.
07/30/18 12:00pm

The owner of the vacant, 3,476-sq.-ft. King’s Center retail building a few blocks outside Beltway 8 has installed Smoothie King as its first new tenant. But the beverage chain doesn’t quite have the place under sovereign domain: developer Ancorian is still marketing the structure’s 2,400-sq.-ft. vacant majority.

In the photo above, you can see some of the circular residue on the tower left behind by previous tenant Logan Farms Honey Glazed Hams & Market Café. The less-aptly-named restaurant left the building it had occupied in full for greener strip center pastures down the street on the corner of Wilcrest Dr. at the end of 2016.

It had the place done up like this during its residency:

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By Royal Decree
07/30/18 10:15am

The complicated thing about trying to turn an old Heights home — like this one at 733 W. 24th St. — into a coffee shop is that the neighborhood’s original lots are smaller than Houston allows for commercial use. Although the house pictured at top sits on a pair of adjacent 25-ft. lots, their combined frontage still falls short of the 60-ft. minimum required to lump them together into a space for something other than single-family residential.

But that’s not stopping the owner that bought the house earlier this year from seeking an exception to the rule. On Thursday, Houston’s city planning commission will consider a variance that’d allow the plans to go ahead anyway by consolidating the lots into a single 50-ft.-wide, business-friendly parcel.

Then comes the question of parking. Right now, a driveway leads up to a carport on the west side of the house:

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Cafe Conversion
07/27/18 1:45pm

Here’s another Midtown development development: Georgian breakfast restaurant Flying Biscuit Café is the first tenant to line up for a spot in the tower Caydon Property’s putting up off Main St., between Drew and Tuam streets. The 27-story building — viewed above from the east side of Fannin St. — is just south of the Art Supply on Main store that Caydon just recently snatched up and plans to replace with one in the threesome of towers that’ll eventually stretch up to McGowen.

Flying Biscuit’s other destination as part of its 2-pronged Houston entrance strategy: the west side of the strip on Kingsride Ln. off Gessner where Reginelli’s Pizzeria decamped earlier this month:

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Flightplans
07/27/18 11:45am

Although the lettering’s been gone from Abel Motors’ roadside sign since the auto shop moved in 2016, it’s still got a helpful pointer for passers-by: The Burger Joint is about to take the place over. Pictured above is what the dealership looked like on the northeast corner of Shepherd and 20th St. in its heyday. Since peeling out for a new spot at 9102 Airline Dr., its old digs have been transformed by the brick strip center pictured at top — soon to house the burger restaurant’s first venture north from its sole existing location on Montrose at Westheimer.

Another view of the new burger sign shows it’s still drawing a blank on lower-level messaging:

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Shifting Gears