Here’s a glance at how the now-redone North Shepherd strip center that used to house the Texas Cafeteria is looking this week, about a month before the second-ever location of sandwich joint Krisp Chicken & Batter opens up on the building’s south end. A raised bit of concrete slab seen on the near side of the building in the photo above will form the foundation of a planned dining patio. According to the building’s leasing flyer, a 1,825-sq.-ft. space in the building is still available for lease adjacent to Krisp; the rest of the building will become a Verizon store.
The center at 2400 N. Shepherd Dr. is immediately north of the former Fiesta lot where H-E-B plans to start construction on a new Heights market late this summer.
According to Culturemap’s Eric Sandler, the owners of Krisp are already planning to open additional locations in Memorial, Bellaire, and Downtown in the next few years — and possibly Pearland and Cinco Ranch after that.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
EMPTY ‘END HUNGER’ WAREHOUSE BY I-45 NORTH TO BE FILLED WITH WORKERS MAKING SOUTH AFRICAN FOOD AND SEASONINGS The former Mary Barden Keegan building at 2445 North Fwy. a couple of exits north of Downtown that for more than 10 years was home to the Houston Food Bank will soon make some adjustments to its culinary mission. The Peli Peli restaurant group has announced that the 15,000-sq.-ft. building — which includes a 9,362-sq.-ft. commercial kitchen as well as office and warehouse space — will henceforth become the food-preparation hub of the growing 5-restaurant chain’s Houston operations. The kitchen that once provided space for the creation of 5,000 meals a day for needy individuals will soon house Peli Peli’s catering operation and provide space for the production of Peli Peli–brand bottled sauces and spices. (“That includes piri piri pepper, also known as bird’s-eye chili, which is used to flavor chicken and seafood and to rim martini glasses,” notes the Chronicle‘s Katherine Feser.) Peli Peli partner Thomas Nguyen tells Feser the company plans to keep the building’s signature END HUNGER graphic embedded into the building’s tilt-up-concrete panels on its freeway side, which were originally painted red when the building was constructed in 2006 but are now rendered in green. “We’re not messing with it,” he tells her. “If anything, we would like to enhance it later on.” The Houston Food Bank sold the building to Virgata Property Company last year, leasing it back until it could complete construction of an even larger kitchen operation in the much larger facility it constructed out of the former Sysco warehouse at 535 Portwall St. near I-10 and the West Loop. [Houston Chronicle; PR Newswire; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Virgata Property
SWEET MESQUITE REBIRTHING IN RAGIN’ CAJUN’S ABANDONED UNDERGROUND LAIR BELOW MAIN A sign advertising a new Sweet Mesquite Grill has appeared in the tunnel-facing storefront under the McKinney Place Garage where Ragin’ Cajun shut down a few months ago. The spot below 930 Main St. Downtown is scheduled to open in a month as a Sweet Mesquite do-over. The restaurant in the shopping center at 1570 S. Dairy Ashford near Briar Forest Dr. was a Sweet Mesquite Grill before it became Mesquite Cottage; the new tunnel location henceforth will be the only Sweet Mesquite Grill in town, but is expected to be a bit of a reboot from the original. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
DOWNTOWN HOUSTON IS NOW DOWN TO A SINGLE STREET-LEVEL SUBWAY With the shuttering last week of the Subway sandwich shop at the corner of Milam and Rusk streets — catty corner from Pennzoil Place, in the ground-floor space below the Level Office at 720 Rusk St. (pictured here) — the national sandwich chain is now down to a single Downtown location that can be accessed from a sidewalk. Another streetside Subway, in the ground floor of the Americana Building 5 blocks to the south at the corner of Milam and Dallas, exited its space before demolition began on that structure in February. A total of 8 Subways are located Downtown, but they’re all now harbored in tunnels or lobbies or food courts — except the lone fresh-air holdout at 405 Main St., at the corner of Preston. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Subway space at 802 Milam St.: cmoney_htx
The former Heights Finance Station post office at the corner of Heights Blvd. and 11th St. — its parking lot and front door face Yale St. — is coming down in a hail of lovingly painted bricks today. The post office was closed at the end of 2015 and subsequently purchased by developer MFT Interests. The single-story building was later festooned with an assortment of romance– and ZIP-code-themed murals.
MFT is calling the new development it has planned for the 1050 Yale St. site Heights Central Station. It’ll consist of two 2-story painted-brick buildings fronting 11th St.:
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Heights Central Station
The neon signage facing the I-10 feeder road at the former home of the Mason Jar has been stripped off, as the spot gets built out for a takeover by the Goode folks (as seen in this shot captured by a reader this week). After the ongoing expansion and patio-making wraps up, the spot will offer a menu at least somewhat reminiscent of the company’s Kirby Dr. taqueria, based on barbecue heir and current owner Levi Goode’s musings to Eric Sandler last month. The new brand’ll be called the Goode Company Kitchen & Cantina; Goode told Sandler there’s a second one planned for the Woodlands.
A few old Mason Jar labels are still visible to the east of the building:
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Kitchen & Cantina Conversion
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.
ADDING NEEDED FAST-FOOD DIVERSITY TO THE NRG PARK—SOUTH MAIN DONUT NEXUS “At least, an Arby’s will add a different fast-food chain to the area. Another donut shop would have been useless with the Shipley’s (Murworth/Main: SW corner), Dawn Donut (Murworth/Main: NW corner), and Glazed (Old Spanish Trail near Kirby) giving them a run for their money.” [Major Market, commenting on A Peek Inside the Half-Baked Krispy Kreme near NRG Stadium] Illustration: Lulu
THE BRAND NEW LAURENZO’S ON BAGBY ST. IS ALREADY CLOSED Not to be outdone by the sudden departures of the last 2 occupants of the retail spot tucked below the parking garage at 1910 Bagby St., the Laurenzo’s offshoot which opened in the space this past January has now closed indefinitely, a passing reader reports. The eponymous Laurenzo family announced the spot around the start of this year, telling Greg Morago of the Chronicle that they had originally been approached to put an El Tiempo in the space by Landmark Hospitality (the folks behind borderline barbecue breastaurant The Republic Smokehouse & Saloon, which previously occupied 1910 Bagby). The space, just outside the elbow of the Pierce Elevated, sits directly across the street from the former Boyscout office that briefly hosted glitzy steakhouse Mr. Peeple’s (also a Landmark project). [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
The latest of Gensler’s renderings of that midrise parking garage planned atop the recently evacuated location of nightclub and drag venue Meteor shows the structure rocking a swath of greenery in place of the decorative bicycles pictured across the facade in earlier drafts. Cara Smith reports in the Houston Business Journal this week that the garage is one of the projects that Gensler is “future proofing” — that is, designing with an eye to an eventual decline in Houston parking garage needs, whether spurred by the rise of self-driving cars or other shifts in transportation patterns. The firm was featured by Web Urbanist last month in an article discussing some of its other current garage projects, some of which are being outfitted with conversion-minded utility hookup spacing, as well as ceiling heights suited to something other than car stacking; modular features like easy-to-tack-on facades and removable ramps are also in the mix.
There appear to be 6 retail spots in the foot of the garage that will be ready for tenants before such time as the rest of the garage might hypothetically be repurposed (along with a slew of other spaces in the development, per Edge Realty’s leasing flier):
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Prepped for Obsolescence in Fourth Ward
It may not look like a hole lot is going on in there in this photo taken a few months ago, but the 2,492-sq.-ft. 1940-vintage retail building at the southeast corner of White Oak Dr. and Oxford St. in the Heights — a crooked saunter across the street from Onion Creek Coffee House and a lot and a street down from the Heights hike-and-bike trail (and this) — will be filled with bagels this summer, promises its new proprietor. Behind its plywood poker face, the property at 3119 White Oak Dr. has been stuffed with a bagel oven, tile-front counters, and a walk-in refrigerator, according to the social media accounts of the establishment, known as Golden Bagels and Coffee. Soon to be on the menu, in addition to the comestibles promised in the shop’s name: local cured and smoked fish.
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Bagels for the Heights
THESE ARE THE SALAD DAYS FOR EMANCIPATION PARK Covering the reopening of Emancipation Park, on Elgin St. east of 59, Michael Hardy surveys the adjacent eats: “Even before the park reopened, a number of businesses catering to the neighborhood’s newest residents had appeared. Across the street from the park, below the old Eldorado Ballroom, are the Crumbville, TX bakery, which sells vegan cookies and brownies, and the NuWaters food co-op. A few blocks down Emancipation Avenue, Doshi House serves sustainably sourced coffee and vegetarian meals. (Emancipation Avenue used to be called Dowling Street, after a local Confederate officer; the Houston City Council voted in January to change the name.)
The latest business to open on the park periphery is the Rustic Oak Seafood Boiler Shack, which serves coastal Cajun cuisine. The owner and chef, Wendell Price, grew up on MacGregor Way, a more affluent part of Third Ward, and remembers the area around Emancipation Park as a food desert. ‘When I came down to hang in this area, you literally couldn’t get a salad,’ he said.
Mr. Price, who previously operated a restaurant in Houston’s trendy Montrose neighborhood, said he would never have considered setting up shop in Third Ward if not for the Emancipation Park renovation.” [New York Times; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Doshi House: OffCite/Raj Mankad
If you’re just coming up to speed on the whole food hall thing, remember this: It’s not a food court, it’s a food hall. And in the case of Bravery Chef Hall, planned for a 9,000-sq.-ft. space in the ground floor of the Aris Market Square tower Hines is completing at the corner of Preston and Travis Downtown, it’s not just a food hall but “the world’s first chef hall.” Or, as the founders explain, “a curated food hall where all vendors are operated and owned by chefs, employing only cooks, and where a large percentage of the seats are chef counter seating.” So maybe think of it as a huddle of 5 independently operated chef’s tables, each surrounding an open kitchen, in one streetfront retail space. (Plus additional adjacent seating — and outside, a patio garden and sidewalk café dining space totaling 3,000 sq. ft.)
How real is this thing? Well, it’s coming from the team behind the Conservatory, Downtown’s only other currently operating food hall (as well as Prohibition Supperclub and its accompanying Oyster Bar) — and yesterday the Downtown Management District approved a $140,000 “catalytic retail grant” towards the estimated $1.8 million buildout.
Here’s a peek at the construction currently going on in the space:
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Bravery Chef Hall
Just opened this week in Re:Vive Development’s new add-on strip center at 721 W. 19th St., just west of Shepherd Dr.: the first Houston outpost of Austin’s Tarka Indian Kitchen chain, a Chipotle-style “fast casual” restaurant serving curries, kabobs, and — yes — naaninis. Next door to diners in the 4,295-sq.-ft. steel-frame building, the new Benjamin Moore Paints store (seen here under construction last year) is also open, a reader reports.
In lieu of a parking-space-and-a-half on the side of the building facing past more parking onto the more sugary part of the center closer to Shepherd (home to Fat Cat Creamery, Hugs and Donuts, Smoothie King, and KA Sushi) is this dusty square, designated for a future patio:
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Tarka Indian Kitchen in the Heights
BERNIE’S BURGER BUS ALCOHOL LICENSE DETAINED AFTER PROXIMITY TO SCHOOL Maybe you’ve heard the rumor — that the opening of the Bernie’s Burger Bus wheels-off location now all but complete next to the pediatric clinic in the new Braun Enterprises commercial building constructed on the former Alabama Furniture spot at 2200 Yale St. in the Heights has been delayed on account of the owners having trouble getting a beer and wine license because they didn’t take into consideration the fact that the restaurant’s 22nd St. side (pictured above under construction in April) would be across the street from Hamilton Junior High School? It’s true — well sort of, but not entirely. “The rumors are correct,” Bus chef Justin Turner explains on the restaurant’s Facebook page. There have indeed been “issues with the timeliness of getting our license due to the proximity of the school.” But, Turner writes, “We had all that info even before signing the lease.” What’s the issue then? The laws regarding alcohol sales near schools “are vague and very subjective . . . different people had different interpretations,” Turner notes. The owners were “told the variance that had to be filed with city of Houston would only take 30-45 days and it went on just over 120. . . . Long story short we’re [past] the city of Houston and on to Austin where we expect no or very little delays.” Best guesses for an opening date? “Our hope is end of July or early August but unfortunately at this time it is out of our control and left up to the guidance of our legal team and the information they provide us from the city and the state.” [Bernie’s Burger Bus via HAIF] Photo: Bernie’s Burger Bus