07/06/17 4:15pm

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

06/29/17 11:00am

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

06/28/17 3:00pm

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
06/21/17 4:45pm

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
06/20/17 10:15am

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

06/16/17 11:30am

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
06/15/17 2:30pm

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
06/14/17 3:30pm

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 HAIFPhoto: Bernie’s Burger Bus

06/12/17 11:45am

Another round of changes appears to be on the horizon for the oft-swapped Asian fusion joint just south of the former Alabama Theater, a reader notes — a leasing sign advertising the shopping center’s (only) restaurant endcap spot was spotted behind the center along W. Alabama St. last week. The space has been serving under the banner of Maiko Bar + Bistro since 2014 (reportedly acting as a test kitchen for the restaurant’s Austin location of similar name); Maiko replaced short-lived Onaga Pan Asian Bistro, which took over from Zake Sushi Lounge.

Any swapouts in the space will follow in the wake of some more skin-deep touchups the shopping center received back in January — the pastel rainbow forehead of Trader Joe’s was redone in a monotone grey-brown, as was the pale yellow block behind Petsmart‘s logo:

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S. Shepherd Restaurant Sequels
06/09/17 2:30pm

Has any former Wendy’s drive-thru — or really, any fast-food joint anywhere — ever had such an illustrious culinary afterlife as the one that once stood at 2300 Westheimer, halfway between Kirby and Shepherd? The standalone burger stand never left us — it just went upscale, time and time again: To Torcello’s. To Armando’s. To Dish. To Two Chefs Bistro. To Beso. To Palazzo’s Trattoria. To 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. (Did we miss any?) To the Harwood Grill.

Then there was the time last year when it was supposed to go Berryhill. But that was not to be.

Instead, this extremely mutable property is now on its way to becoming a champagne-themed restaurant called a’Bouzy (pronounced as you’d expect).

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Cheers to A’Bouzy
06/09/17 11:30am

A segment of the Heights Waterworks properties at 20th and Nicholson St. should be making its way into the hands of Braun Enterprises later this year, Katherine Feser reports this morning in the Chronicle. Building on Houston’s budding tradition of high profile redevelopment of decommissioned water storage tanks, the company will be turning the handful of pump station and reservoir structures on the block southeast of 20th and Nicholson into a handful of restaurants and bars, catty-corner from Alliance’s planned apartments.

One of the features called out in the city’s 2015 declaration of the property as a protected landmark was the “unusual grass roof” atop the reservoir itself; Tipps Architecture’s design for the structure’s redevelopment shows some grass in place on a rooftop patio, as well as a 3-story glassy extension protruding from the east face of the 2-story building. Other views of the complex show a lawn in between the building labeled Heights Tap & Bar above and the pumphouse to the south:

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Turning the Waterworks Back On
06/08/17 10:15am

The structure now being finalized at the once-on-Cleburne-St. Cleburne Cafeteria’s space at 3606 Bissonnet St. is notably bigger than the single-story building it’s replacing — a 2-story steel frame went up around the beginning of February, and the restaurant is shooting to open in its newest home by the end of the summer. (The view included here of the old building shows it just shy of the restaurant’s 75th anniversary, last spring; the shot up top shows progress on the new building just shy of the fire’s 1-year anniversary in late April.) Other reasons why this round of recovery has taken longer than the 3-month closure that followed the restaurant’s 1990 fire at the same address: Owner George Mickelis tells Katherine Feser this week that (relatively) new regulations and inspection requirements have drawn out the process, too.

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From the Ashes Near West U
06/07/17 1:45pm

One of the hazards of having a street-facing 3,000-sq.-ft. garden adjacent to your restaurant’s back patio: plant theft. But Coltivare chef Ryan Pera tells Bloomberg reporter Kate Krader that the Heights restaurant has more to watch out for than your typical fruit-off-the-vine snatchings by grabby customers. Namely: 3 of the restaurant’s fruit trees have gone missing, including “a 6-ft.-tall kumquat tree, worth about $175.” Pera tells Krader he was “stunned and hurt, but more awed by the fact that it was obviously planned. I mean, someone had to come prepared with proper garden tools, a truck, and the know-how on how to steal a tree.

Photo of Coltivare, 3320 White Oak Dr.: Coltivare

Grand Theft Citrus Japonica
06/07/17 10:45am

It’s been the better part of a year since Pepino’s on Richmond Ave. started showing signs of closure (namely, since its name signage came down, signaling the end of the joint’s nearly decade-and-a-half run in Castle Court). A nearby reader spotted what looks to be some work to prep the stripmall spot for its next occupant, which was issued a few permits last week under the name Miss Saigon. (That name shows up in Braun’s leasing flier for its newly acquired property, too, though it’s not clear yet whether the name is connected to one of the other Houston Miss Saigon-inspired Vietnamese restaurants, or is merely another independent nod to the musical.)

Speaking of musicals, part of the former Pepino’s space looks to have been absorbed by nextdoor piano cabaret Michael’s Outpost, whose red door is visible above and in a few of the leasing shots of the remodeled center (below):

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Braun Goes Gray
06/06/17 9:15am

Another potential future target in striking walking range of that 542-space parking lot Lovett Commercial looks to be planning at Center and Silver streets: the color-splashed warehouse redo sketched out above, as seen in another of the company’s current leasing fliers. This one is for a facelift of the 1970s building former occupied by Mass Electric Construction Company at 1201 Oliver St., a few blocks west down the railroad tracks past Sawyer St. Clustered nearby are a fair number of other Lovett-affiliated developments (including some of the artsy hubbub between Sawyer and Silver).

Renderings and site plans suggest a cidery could be taking over the west end of the building — the flier includes a north-is-down look at plans for splitting up the space, including a cutout for a breezeway:

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Wash Ave Sketch