12/13/18 5:00pm

“What, after all, is the majesty of the Hill Country compared to the majesty of the orange and white Whataburger logo?asks Texas Monthlys Dan Solomon. It’s a question that feels wrong to poseHow dare you put Texas’s natural charm on the same plane as the sprawl we’ve layered over it — but also feels wrong to ignore. “Texans often display their enthusiasm for homegrown chains without a hint of irony,” writes Solomon. So why not just embrace our freeway-side icons in good-old-fashioned oil-and-canvas style?

San Antonio artist Antonio Esparza’s done just that with his work, which the internet recently discovered after one well-followed editor tweeted out a link to his Etsy shop. There, he offers prints of paintings like the ones above that range from, er . . . hyper-realist:

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Texana, Reimagined
12/11/18 10:45am

A Swamplot reader writes in to report that the JCI Grill across I-45 from the Home Depot near Gulfgate Mall is now closed. No need to get too close in order to tell; the electronic sign fronting the feeder road gets the message across to highway drivers as shown above. Behind it, you can see the new ramp TxDOT’s been working on to connect 610 eastbound to I-45 northbound — as well as the shadow it’s cast on the restaurant’s parking lot.

A flyer posted on the building says the construction was in part what inspired the closure:

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The Dog Days Are Over
12/10/18 1:00pm

You may remember the Jack in the Box at 2001 N. Shepherd that was left high and dry in September after shutting down. It’s got a new owner: an entity connected to New York brokerage firm Edry Real Estate. The sale closed last month and includes just over half an acre at the northwest corner of Shepherd Dr. and W. 20th St.

Photo: Swamplox inbox

Burger Flip
10/29/18 10:30am

Here’s what the restaurant just west of the Meyer Park Shopping Center looks like in its afterlife. Signage came down the same day that the store closed, last Wednesday. It’s now listed for lease by the franchisee that owns the land at 4904 W. Bellfort as well as that beneath about 70 other Taco Bells, KFCs, and Pizza Huts in and around Houston: KorMex Foods.

KorMex grabbed this location along with 15 other existing stores when it went into business in 2000. By then, the building itself had been around for 7 years.

Photo: Jason Karwacki

W. Bellfort and S. Post Oak
10/17/18 1:30pm

ON THE PEARLAND ARBY’S MENU THIS WEEKEND: DUCK SANDWICH SPECIAL Saturday is Duck Sandwich debut day at the Pearland Arby’s on Shadow Creek Pkwy., one of just 16 locations across the U.S. chosen for the promo — a chain spokeswoman tells Nations Restaurant News reporter Bret Thorn — because of their proximity to “waterfowl migration flyways,” areas where duck-hunting is a popular pastime. “Based on past experience from similar Arby’s LTOs [Limited Time Offerings],” like the venison sandwich special of 2016 and elk offering the following year, Thorn expects supplies to sell out in “less than a day.” After arriving in-store from global, Indiana-headquartered duck supplier Maple Leaf Farms, the breasts will be seared and cooked in sous-vide (sealed in pouches and placed in hot water) before landing on a bun along with “fried onions and smoked cherry sauce.” [Nation’s Restaurant News; list of participating Arby’s] Video: Arby’s

09/20/18 11:15am

In the span of just 3 days, the Heights Jack in the Box has closed down and abandoned both its sky- and street-level boxes. The photo above shows the empty store and its parking lot off Shepherd, where a green cherry-picker‘s now the only vehicle present.

The property’s longtime owner — a national real estate firm that owns the land beneath lots of fast food joints — sold it in 2016, which was a transformational year for the rest of the intersection as well. A few months later, Abel Motors left its spot across Shepherd, making way for the Burger Joint that’s now moving in. And on the south side of 20th St., pizza joint Mellow Mushroom and adjacent desert shop Moody Ice opened up — in what used to be Dealer Sales‘ garage and office building.

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The Leftovers
09/06/18 11:15am

Make that 55 days that the prank poster installed by UH student Jevh Maravilla and a group of accomplices has been hanging in the Shadow Creek Ranch McDonald’s. And there’ll be plenty more time to see it: An unidentified McDonald’s representative tells Eater Houston that the store at 2815 Business Center Dr. has no plans to take it down, noting however that renovations are planned in the future.

Maravilla (right) took the photo of him and his friend Christian Toledo (left) at the Westside Event Center — just a mile away on the opposite side of 288. He then added graphic elements to mimic the other wall art in the store and ordered a print through Office Depot’s online service. Clad in a McDonald’s employee shirt he picked up for $7 at a nearby thrift store — along with a tie, clip-on walkie-talkie, and fake nametag dubbing him a “Regional Interior Coordinator” — Maravilla entered the store and hung the poster with the help of a few more friends.

He describes the undercover op beginning at the one-minute mark in this video:

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See the McPrank Yourself
08/27/18 12:00pm

A pile of building parts is now all that stands in the way of the 4,500-sq.-ft. strip that Houston developer Ancorian wants to place at Yale and E. 27th, opposite the other shopping center it’s now ushering tenants into across the street. In place of the standalone Church’s Fried Chicken drive-thru — pictured above before and after its demo last week — a rendering now shows 3 newcomers lined up next to each other at 2702 Yale.

One of them carries on the site’s fast-food legacy with more of a niche focus:

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Chickening Out on Yale
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

07/19/18 4:00pm

In other abandoned Montrose restaurant news: crews have finished smashing up the Burger King on Westheimer a block west of Montrose Blvd., leaving the property in fast food limbo ahead of its planned takeover by Houston’s fourth Shake Shack location. Pictured above is the restaurant’s drive-thru lane minus the accompanying drive-thru infrastructure.

A Cherry Demolition excavator is still picking through scraps left behind from the teardown; they’re now spread out atop the former building’s foundation, visible below:

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Nothing-Burger
05/04/18 4:15pm

The 2 new METRO bus lanes — linking a proposed Bellaire transit center to the new middle-of-the-road path up Post Oak Blvd. — won’t run over the actual building at Chick-fil-A’s Richmond Ave location, but they will cut through the property. Last month, the fast-food company agreed to vacate its spot at 5005 Richmond after the State of Texas initiated an eminent domain proceeding against it — and the location subsequently closed. (The 4 strip tenants in Weingarten Realty’s surrounding Richmond Square Shopping CenterBestBuy, Mattress1One, Cost Plus World Market, and Luggage & Leather — are also targeted in the proceeding.)

Adding the new transit route (shown in the map below as a vertical orange line partly covered-over with yellowish-gray) is part of a whole tangle of changes TxDOT has planned for the 610-59 interchange:

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Eminent Domain
02/16/18 10:30am

Shake Shack has taken over the lease on the building Burger King left last month at the corner of Westheimer and Lincoln, a block west of Montrose. The fast-casual restaurant with 2 current Houston locations and one in the works signed off last week on at least a 15-year residency at 1002 Westheimer, next to Blacksmith. Behind the soon-to-be re-burgerized building’s frontage on Westheimer — shown above — a parking lot backs up to California St. along Lincoln.

Photo: MontroseResident

Fast Food Turnover
01/25/18 11:30am

A Swamplot reader sends photos of the now see-through drive-thru signage on the north side of Burger King’s former building at 1002 Westheimer, across the street from the Westmont Shopping Center home to Spec’s, Half Price Books, and a Mattress Firm. The restaurant abdicated earlier this week. Yesterday morning, surveyors showed up to look around the property, leaving behind the wooden marker shown at the bottom of the image at top.

Another shot from the fast food lane adjacent to Blacksmith looks toward the restaurant’s parking lot on California St.:

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Whopper
09/15/17 4:45pm

POLLO TROPICAL SUNSET Citing “limited awareness” of the brand, the corporate parent of Pollo Tropical has decided not to reopen the last 2 remaining Houston-area locations of the Caribbean chicken fast-food chain after they were both damaged by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey. Gone for good: the Pollo Tropical on Westheimer Rd. just west of Eldridge and the other at 11400 Broadway just east of Kirby Dr. in Pearland (pictured here). Three other Houston-area Pollo Tropicals closed in April. Fiesta Restaurant Group, which also owns the Taco Cabana chain, said in a release that it was also closing all 4 locations in San Antonio but might reopen as many as 2 of the shuttered restaurants in the region as Taco Cabanas. [BusinessWire; Houston Press] Photo: Fernando C.

08/31/17 11:15am

How’s this image for establishing flood cred? The photo above — of the submerged Whataburger at 4545 Kingwood Dr. in Kingwood — accompanied the fast-food chain’s announcement yesterday of plans to spend a million bucks helping its own employees recover from Hurricane Harvey and donate half a million to local food banks and $150K to the Red Cross. If the water-waisted burger joint located near the intersection of the appropriately named W. Lake Houston Pkwy. otherwise looks kinda shiny and new in the pic (you can see more of its flooding experience here, here, and here), it’s because it is. Whataburger Unit 1125 at this location opened for the first time on July 31.

Photo: Whataburger

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