The current pallor of the departed Whataburger #292 (on Mt. Houston Rd. between the Veterans Memorial Dr. Fiesta shopping center and the Templo Aposento Alto) offers a stark, ethereal contrast the structure’s previous traditional getup of What-a-Orange stripes. The restaurant has stood in the spot since the early eighties, surrounded by a heavy salting of auto garages and related businesses; it appears to have been operational through at least November of last year before blanking out. Will the peaked bones of the fast food joint be reanimated to new purpose? Or is the new coat of whitewash merely a shroud, applied before the building is allowed to rest in pieces at last?
Photos: Swamplot inbox
Late Fast Food on W. Mt. Houston
TACOS A GO GO IS A GO BENEATH DOWNTOWN Tacos A Go Go’s latest location is currently being set up in the tunnel spot beneath soon-to-be-Shell-free One Shell Plaza at 910 Louisiana St. The permitting process for the remodel of the space (centered roughly between branches of Murphy’s Deli, Starbucks, and the People’s Trust Co-op) kicked off late last year, around the time Tacos a Go Go’s third location opened in the now-thoroughly disguised former Roznovsky’s Hamburgers spot in Garden Oaks. The company’s website currently says the fourth spot’ll open Downtown later this month, operating on breakfast and lunch taco hours (from 7 to 3). [Previously on Swamplot; tunnel coverage] Image of One Shell Plaza leasing flier: LoopNet
Roostar Vietnamese Grill is just about done moving into the southern slot of the perpendicular 2-man segment of the Richmond Ave. strip center east of Chimney Rock Rd., a reader notes. The Vietnamese kinda-fusion restaurant’s first location opened in Spring Branch a few years ago as Vietnam Poblano, swapping to the new name and stylized but literal melded bird-star logo not long after. Ronnie Nguyen and Linda Nguyen, the 2-link chain’s forgers, had hoped the new location (in the space formerly occupied by Napoli) would be up and running in time for all that Super Bowl hubbub; looks like the new plan is for an April opening.
Next door to the nearly-hatched restaurant is the former Starbucks spot, which had shut down by the time that shiny new freestanding one opened up on the corner across the street last year:
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Coffee Out, Roostar In
Retail plans along the stretch of E. 11th St. west of Beverly St. look to be moving in a more concrete direction once again — SRS has started advertising available square footage in a double-decker strip center planned on the eastern half of the block. The design for the site has been totally overhauled since the original ads for a Park Place on 11th development (the weathered signage for which is still hanging around on the property, and has been for the better part of a decade.)
The potential footprint of the retail space spreads all the way from Beverly St. to just east of metals brightener Bright Metals of the Heights. A leasing siteplan shows the center insulated from the 11th St. traffic by a breathable dual layer of parking spaces — and even a triple layer on the Beverly St. side:
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TPWD: CHEF INVOLVED IN RUGGLES ESTABLISHMENTS INVOLVED IN GIANT ILLEGAL FISH NETWORK, TOO Following 2 years of investigation — and the discovery of some 1,900 pounds of illegal red snapper on an unlicensed boat near Freeport — the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department alleged today that Bruce Molzan (long one of the main players in most of the Ruggles [Blank] establishments around town, most recently Ruggles Black) is tangled up with what may be the largest illegal seafood network ever uncovered in Texas. A press release from the department says the aquatic activities in question, which so far have warranted the handout of some 200 misdemeanor citations, have been going on since 2013. The state’s allegations toward Molzan include the purchase of illegally harvested finfish, as well as illegal shrimp purchases from another restaurant, for inclusion on Ruggles Black’s and Ruggles Green’s implicitly health– and sustainability-minded menus. (Molzan separated from Ruggles Green back in October, after its original W. Alabama location scooted over into the new midrise down the block; the new owners of Ruggles Green say that fish acquisitions since Molzan left have all been by the books.) [TPWD; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Ruggles Green on W. Alabama: Swamplot inbox
Ragin’ Cajun, likely Downtown’s most subterranean crawfish vendor, is packing up and crawling out of the tunnels beneath the McKinney Place Garage at 930 Main St., a reader notes this week. (That’ll leave its French-Quarter-evocative retail space open for more underground restaurant turnover; the garage most recently saw the swapout of a Prince’s Hamburgers branch for Time for Thai, amid other nearby culinary tunnel shuffles). The shop’s other locations are still open, per signage left behind at the scene.
Down House Ventures, the legal entity behind Treadsack’s oldest Heights-area technically-a-private-club, has filed for bankruptcy this morning, lagging just a few days behind last week’s Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory filings. The company preemptively included Down House in a Facebooked list of Treadsack restaurants that would stay open for now despite the legal and financial question marks now hanging over the company, given the sudden mid-winter departures of side-by-side restaurant and bar duo Foreign Correspondents and Canard and the details of payroll and tax issues subsequently dredged up; D&T Drive Inn and Johnny’s Gold Brick were placed on the still-truckin’ roster as well. This morning’s filings also look to have included a motion asking for funds to pay current Down House employees, as Craig Malisow reports was granted in the case of last week’s Chapter 11 initiates.
Photo: Down House
Going Down in the Heights
COMMENT OF THE DAY: FOR IF YOU GAZE LONGINGLY AT TRENDY DEVELOPMENT, IT GAZES ALSO BACK AT YOU “All you ‘trendy people’ in Spring Branch need to bear in mind that even though your property values have risen dramatically, legacy homeowners don’t just immediately convert or turn over into ‘trendy people.’ That’s a process that takes time — [and] once it happens, you’ll feel nostalgia for the way things were. The newcomers won’t be ‘trendy’ — that term has positive connotations and you’ll reserve it for yourself. You will speak of them in derogatory tones, using words like yuppie and hipster. You’ll complain about how they’ve overrun your neighborhood, creating parking SNAFUs, cyclist-disrespecting traffic, and drunk drivers. You’ll complain about how closely packed the new townhomes are, even though you live in one; and about how loud the bars are, even though you bought a house next to one that had been there for 20 years. You’ll complain about how your property taxes rise 10 percent per year every year, and simultaneously protest new public housing, even though your unrealized capital gains are being subsidized by state statue — and you’ll demand even more subsidy! You might even vote for Dan Patrick. You’ll vote for localized prohibition and think that it’s ‘weird,’ kind of like living in Austin would be, except you don’t live in Austin and aren’t as weird as them — which is a terrible thing because they aren’t very weird either. You will have been co-opted by the powers that be. This is understandable. You were trendy, and will fall in line with somebody, sort of thoughtlessly, and complain relentlessly. That’s what it is to be trendy. It’s what you always wanted.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: Send the Trendies Outside the Loop, Please] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: SEND THE TRENDIES OUTSIDE THE LOOP, PLEASE “Ridiculous that all trendy restaurants must be packed in the same area. Move out of the Loop and dominate. Spring Branch north of I-10 for example has Heights-y demographics but the restaurant dollars go elsewhere for the most part. Take a risk like some are already doing and venture out. The old Hollister Grill location is getting a trendy new restaurant and one of the bartenders from Anvil (I think it is) is opening up shop on Long Point Rd. Karbach’s already has a new restaurant on Karbach Street in Spring Branch. Sheesh people. Move outward!” [Spring Branch, commenting on Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s Are Not Dead Yet] Illustration: Lulu
HUNKY DORY AND BERNADINE’S ARE NOT DEAD YET In a statement posted simultaneously yesterday to the Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory Tavern Facebook pages, Treadsack’s management team says the twin restaurants at 1801 N. Shepherd (along with the company’s remaining establishments: Down House, D&T Tavern, and Johnny’s Gold Brick) remain open — and that it’s hoping customers will support the decision by continuing to eat there: “We’ve filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s so we can restructure our debt and continue to operate. This was a very difficult decision, and not one we came to lightly, but the chance to save the businesses that all of our employees have worked so hard to build and so many of you, our guests, have supported, made it a risk worth taking. We love these restaurants and will continue to fight for them.” [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hunky Dory
WITH BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, DRY CREEK IS ABOUT TO GET VERY WET LATER THIS MONTH The spot on the corner of White Oak Dr. and Yale St. where Dry Creek Cafe (pictured) closed down last year is expected to open next month as a “neighborhood bar with food that meets restaurant standards.” Proprietors Bobby Heugel (who got his start at Anvil) and Justin Yu (who shut down Oxheart) know a bit about each, respectively. The newly renovated space at 544 Yale will be called Better Luck Tomorrow, they announced today. [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Andy M.
WE’VE REACHED CHAPTER 11 IN THE HUNKY DORY, BERNADINE’S STORY Here’s an update to continuing reports on the financial health of the Treadsack restaurant group, the company behind Heights-area establishments Down House, D&T Drive Inn, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s, Foreign Correspondents, and Canard: Mothership Ventures, LLC, an entity owned by Treadsack partner Chris Cusack and — according to Houston Press reporter Craig Malisow, the business entity that operates as Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over this past weekend. Foreign Correspondents and its next-door-neighbor bar Canard closed for business in the shopping center at 4721 N. Main St. suddenly at the end of last year; in February, Malisow published a detailed saga of payroll and tax problems behind the shutdown, alleging Treadsack restaurants had become subject to IRS and state liens totaling more than $1.3 million, and that at one point the Texas Comptroller’s office had threatened a seizure of assets at Down House if taxes were not paid. Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory have been operating since late 2015 in a new building constructed for them at the corner of 18th St. and N. Shepherd. Update, 1:30 pm: An investor has filed suit against the owners of Treadsack, the Houston Press now reports. Craig Malisow also notes that the debtor in the bankruptcy filing has been granted funds to pay for the next employee paychecks. Photo: Hunky Dory
The multinational dalliances of the restaurant building at 1500 Shepherd Dr., a parking lot away from the corner of Maxie, have come to an end — for now. The management of the outpost of British restaurant chain Mascalzone Ristorante Italiano announced the closure of the location over the weekend, not long after rumors of the shutdown were reported on Houston Food Finder. According to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, the Shepherd location will be “merging” with the still-operating Mascalzone location in the shopping center at 12126 Westheimer Rd., west of Kirkwood and across from the Phoenicia parking lot.
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Arrivederci, British Italian Style
One of the low-slung spots fringing Portsmouth Square (the gravelly picket-fenced space between Portsmouth St. and Richmond Ave. which a reader refers to as “arguably Houston’s worst parking lot”) has been getting worked over for an identity swapout planned to take effect later this month. The former Blue Fish House sushi restaurant, just north of vegetarian- and Lord-of-the-Rings-geek-friendly Hobbit Cafe and facing off with Capone’s Oven and Bar, is now decked out in signage for Rim Tanon, billed by its Richmond-facing banner as a Thai street food joint.
Some of the Blue Fish’s old signage was still visible on the back side of the building as of earlier this week (as seen above), though the space’s hanging placard sign has already been replaced. And the building’s trees-in-the-holes front patio area has been getting a little bit of retooling:
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Tradeoff on Richmond Ave
Work has moved into the buildout and dressup phase for Phase II of the high-glycemic-index strip center at the corner of W. 19th St. and N. Shepherd Dr., a reader notes during a recent catty-corner oil change. The Benjamin Moore signage spotted around the new second building last year during the site’s flat-slab days is now reflected by buildout permits for the paint store, which should take up about 1,820 sq.ft. of the building’s 4,298. What’ll be filling up the rest of the space? Looks like the leftovers will house Austin export Tarka Indian Kitchen’s first inside-the-Beltway location.
The cameraman also captured a glimpse of Dallas pizzeria Cane Rosso‘s statue of a somewhat confusingly labeled suina rosso, which overlooks the intersection from its browsing position near the parking lot:
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