DIRK’S COFFEE ON MONTROSE IS SHUTTING DOWN TODAY The Dirk’s Coffee drive-up spot on the corner of Montrose and Branard is closing its business today, reports Eater’s Darla Guillen — along with a number of disappointed caffeine-starved fans on Twitter and Facebook. Opened as an outpost of the Diedrich Coffee chain in the
mid-aughts mid-nineties, the 4005 Montrose Blvd. location changed its name to Dirk’s Coffee a few years ago after its former parent company exited the retail hot-brew-serving business. “No word yet on why they’re closing, if they’re moving to a new location or if they plan to rebrand yet again,” writes Guillen. Swamplot reader (and social media director at the mayor’s office) Melissa Ragsdale Darragh notes a Dirk’s employee confirms that they will close at the end of the day today: “He stated they would love to reopen at a new location in the future however nothing is planned at this time.” [Eater] Photo: Jazi H.
The sign has been changed and the green hues have been removed from the mansard-roofed exterior of the former First Stop Food Store at the corner of Stanford and Hawthorne in Audubon Place. That’s where the Montrose Mercantile is set to hold its grand opening this weekend — though the combo espresso bar and mini-mart at 3321 Stanford St.
created by the owner of Washington Ave’s Catalina Coffee has already been open for a couple of weeks. The original Mercantile opened in the Rice Village last fall.
Photos: Montrose Mercantile
Drive Up, Sit Down
A northern branch of Mercantile, the combo espresso bar and mini-mart that opened a few months ago in the Rice Village, will be opening up in the vacant First Stop Food Store spot shown above at the corner of Stanford St. and Hawthorne in Audubon Place, its owner confirmed this week. Mercantile could be described as the upscale version of Washington Ave’s Catalina Coffee (they’re run by the same owner). And that’s exactly what Houstonia‘s Katharine Shilcutt felt free to do: “Catalina Coffee is the brooding, sensitive, bookish older sister, while Mercantile is the peppy younger sister who wears Ralph Lauren and daydreams about horses and joins a sorority in college yet is no less intelligent or passionate than her sibling.” The perky youngster also carries more baked goods, groceries, and gift items on her dainty shelves.
Photo of First Stop Food Mart at 3321 Stanford St.: Swamplot inbox
Groceries in Small Packages
Going into the 2,034-sq.-ft. former Washateria space at the back of the little shopping strip across Greeley St. from the Blue Bird Circle Shop on West Alabama: a soon-to-be beer-and-wine-licensed coffee shop called Siphon Coffee, set to open late this year or early next. The space is shown on the far left of the photo above. Owners Michael Caplan and Edward Treistman write on the coffee house’s Facebook page that there’ll be food enough for breakfast and lunch too, once the place opens, after they get help from former Brasserie 19 chef Amanda McGraw with the menu and training.
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THE GAS STATION COFFEE PATIO COMING SOON TO MIDTOWN The Houston Chronicle reports a few more matter-of-fact details about Retrospect Coffee, the cafe that Tacos-A-Go-Go owners are planning to open in — but primarily around, it appears — that oft-painted former gas station at the corner of W. Alabama and La Branch near HCC and the Station Museum in Midtown: “It will serve beer and wine in addition to coffee. . . . The building will hold espresso machines and perhaps a counter for patrons. . . . Most of the seating will be outdoors. Furniture will be bright orange to represent the old Gulf logo that once hung on the gas station.” [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: Allyn West
COMMON BOND COMING TOGETHER IN MONTROSE Culturemap reports a few more details about Chef Roy Shvartzapel’s new pastry cafe, dubbed Common Bond, that’s moving into that 2-suite retail center (with plenty of parking in the back) that’s been going up on the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy — including the co-aspirants Shvartzapel has persuaded to join him in his lofty quest “to make the best croissants you’ve ever had:” “[The team will] include executive pastry sous chef Jillian Bartolome (Bouchon Bakery at Rockefeller Center, Cyrus), chef de cuisine David Morgan (August Restaurant, Cyrus), head bread baker Drew Gimma (Bouchon, Per Se), assistant bread baker Tony Stein (Bouchon Beverly Hills) and assistant bread baker Alec Bartee (Cyrus).” And when is this place gonna open? “Although he says the bakery ‘will not open before we’re ready,’ Shvartzapel hopes to welcome customers in November to demonstrate Common Bond’s ideas about Thanksgiving pies.” [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West
COMMENT OF THE DAY: IF YOU’RE STILL STUCK ON CAFE ARTISTE “I used to work at (for a year) and frequent (10+ years) Café Artiste. Bill — the coffee you miss is Southern Pecan by Lola Savannah. You may find it at Central Market or can order it from their website (now renamed Texas Pecan). It actually had real slivers of pecan in it. Artiste was a great place to hang out but it never did well financially aside from weekend breakfast rushes. When they had to furlough everyone just to afford getting the AC fixed (which is like life support in Houston), it was the warning sign the end was near. I would assume Black Hole coffee, just blocks away, is the spiritual successor and it seems much better run/organized. I’ve since moved on in life and out of Montrose, but will always have special memories of Artiste.” [SL, commenting on West Main Standalone Now Available for Next Restaurant]
LITTLE HOUSE OF COFFEE AND DRINKS OPENS BEHIND UCHI Friday was a grand grand opening day in the Inner Loop. The big bear-hug welcomes may have been for the long-awaited Washington Heights Walmart and the Studemont Kroger — but also making its debut on that day was tiny Southside Espresso, the little up-Grant-St.-behind-Uchi coffee place Fusion Beans proprietor Sean Marshall has been working on since signing a lease for the 714-sq.-ft. space labeled 904-C Westheimer 15 months ago. The tiny coffee house will be open until midnight every night — in part to flex its newly acquired beer-and-wine license. [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: David Buehrer
MORE HOUSES WANTED FOR MORE PIES HBJ food-beat reporter Allison Wollam, who’s heard recently that “pies are the ‘new cupcakes,’” reports that San Antonio pie chain Tootie Pies is scouring Houston for locations to build 8 new Tootie Pie Gourmet Cafés here over the next 2 years. That would more than double the new chain’s current lineup: The sixth Tootie location recently opened in Austin’s Westlake Village; other stores are in San Antonio, Austin, Fredericksburg, and the Dallas area. [Houston Business Journal] Photo of Austin store: Dan B.
EATSIE BOYS TAKING OVER KRAFTSMEN CAFE SPACE IN MONTROSE The end of the month will mark the end of a 10-year run for the cafe run by Kraftsmen Bakery in the small enclave of eateries carved out of the former Church of Christ building at 4100 Montrose, just north of Richmond. But Eater Houston reports Scott Tycer’s bakery operation plans to keep its Heights cafe and open an additional location within the next few months. Meanwhile, moving into the space next to the Black Lab, beginning in June: the first non-mobile location for the Eatsie Boys. Ryan Soroka and Matt Marcus say they’ll keep their original food truck available for private events, but otherwise will keep it parked outside Agora on Westheimer or their not-yet-opened 8th Wonder Brewery in East Downtown. Their new Montrose cafe will add pastries and coffee to the food truck’s sandwiches-and-ice-cream mix. [Eater Houston] Photo: Emily Duff
Who’s going to lease those small retail spaces being developed along with Uchi’s takeover of the former Felix Mexican Restaurant space in Montrose? Here’s one answer: Opening later this year just behind the restaurant will be Southside Espresso, a new retail coffee house venture (and beer-and-wine bar) from Sean Marshall, the proprietor of Fusion Beans. The 714-sq.-ft. space has an address of 904B Westheimer, but the front door faces Grant St. The coffee shop will be open from 7 am to 11 pm and allow customers to use the same bathroom facilities as Uchi patrons.
Also helping to tip Westheimer’s boiling point a little further east: another new coffee shop, just announced for the recently re-muraled former Mary’s, Naturally space at 1018 Westheimer. Picky caffeine prophets David Buehrer and Ecky Prabanto will be moving up from their popular perch at Greenway Coffee & Tea in the basement food court of Greenway Plaza building number 5. (They plan to keep that small but popular shop running, though.) Their new Montrose venture, Blacksmith, will likely include “a small, but full kitchen” when it opens next spring, Buehrer reports.
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AND A CORNER BAKERY ON EVERY CORNER A new franchisee of Dallas’s Corner Bakery Cafe chain has bought the company’s 2 Houston restaurants — one in the Reliant Energy Plaza building Downtown and the other downstairs from Dowling Music in that double-decker strip mall facing the 59 feeder near Kirby. Next step for Fairview Capital Management Group: Open 19 new Corner Bakery locations in Houston over the next 8 years. Watch your endcaps: Franchisees in other cities are planning to add an additional 31 corner locations in Texas over the same period. [Business Wire; previously on Swamplot]
That phoenix carefully painted only a week and a half ago onto the side of the Agora Cafe at 1712 Westheimer near Dunlavy is now gone, reports the camera of Swamplot photographer Candace Garcia. Agora and the Antique Warehaus that used to be next door donned extremely realistic fire costumes for this past Halloween. In place of the firebird, which onlookers took as a sign the cafe might soon reopen: A new sign for the cafe itself, probably a clearer indication. It looks like more paint has found its way to the front of the Montrose hotspot too:
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Swamplot’s Candace Garcia sends in these pix of the scene on the north side of Westheimer between Park St. and Dunlavy, the morning after a Halloween inferno destroyed an antique store and the Agora cafe next door. There’s not much left to shop for at Gordon Greenleaf’s Antique Warehaus at 1714 Westheimer, a woodframe residence pressed into used-furniture service more than 50 years ago. That’s where the fire started shortly after midnight Sunday morning. Agora’s brick structure appears to have fared better, and may be rebuilt. Everyone in the 2-story cafe was able to get out safely, but 2 firefighters were later treated for heat exhaustion. “Thanks to the Halloween holiday it was one of the most well-documented fires in recent Houston history,” writes the Houston Press’s Craig Hlavaty, who watched the flames from across the street, dressed in drag, along with a small crowd of participants in the Montrose Costume Crawl — none of them dressed as firefighters.
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Strictly speaking, Starbucks number 3 at the corner of West Gray and Shepherd is the new “Barnes and Noble Cafe” inside the just-opened bookstore. But we all know who calls the shots there.
And now we know: The universe is without end.
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