This Winter, we saw heavy-hitters Killen’s BBQ, Coltivare, and Caracol splash into the bar and resto scene. And the waves just kept on coming this Spring. But in a good way, not in like a scary, tidal-wavey kinda way. Here are the 12 most exciting bar and restaurant openings that have graced Houston recently, which should help with your Summer eating and drinking plans.
The 12 best openings of the Spring, just in time for Summer
Punk’s Simple Southern Food (address and info)
Grandma’s fried chicken, sweet corn hushpuppies, and redfish on-the-half-shell are allllll on the menu at this punky new Southern soul food spot from Clark Cooper Concepts. Chef Brandi Key’s buttermilk biscuits will soon be available -- stuffed and smothered -- in a mix & match biscuit bar, which sounds like it belongs in fat kid heaven.
Lillo & Ella (address and info)
Garden Oaks/Oak Forest
Meanwhile, in the Heights, a giant yellow Buddha head sits housed in the former El Gran Malo space. With his second concept, Roost Chef and owner Kevin Naderi focuses on pan-Asian street food that you definitely want to eat. Share crispy Vietnamese chicken wings, braised bacon bao, Thai muu noodles, and blue crab fried rice. Bonus: it’s open for lunch.
Ninja Ramen (address and info)
These ramen masters take the ninja thing to heart, from Ninja Turtles-themed cocktails to scratch-made noodles and broth with so much umami flavor only a true ninja could have made it. There’re also posters of Homer as a ninja, packets of ramen stealthily hidden in the lights, and (and this is not a joke) a discount if you dress like a ninja.
Siphon Coffee (address and info)
The latest concept from Michael Caplan, of Club Uropa fame, isn’t a night club -- it’s a coffee shop. A coffee shop that keeps late hours, serves craft brews and wine on tap, and has a food menu designed by former Brasserie 19 Chef Amanda McGraw (think pastries, panini, and cowboy eggs Bennies). But it’s the Walter-White-esque siphon machine that really sets it apart. This is all you need to know: the bulbous brewer looks cool as hell, then mad science happens and bold and beautiful coffee is born.
VERTS (address and info)
The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: if you live in Houston, you do not talk about when something cool came from Austin. But yeah, VERTS (which may or may not be a world-dominating chain from Austin) brought us döner kebaps and we love them for it. These Berlin-inspired street food shops are popping up all over the city, so grab a delicious meat sandwich, curse the state capitol, and be on your way.
Common Bond (address and info)
If it hasn’t yet, we have a feeling the word kugelhopf (those babies seen above) will soon be entering your vocabulary. This bakery may be fresh outta the oven, but you’ll already find a line out the door of people waiting to get their greedy little fingers on anything butter-brushed, sugar-glazed, and chocolate-drenched. Trust us when we say you’ll want to get in this line.
Beer Market Co. (address and info)
The guys that brought us Pub Fiction, Celtic, and all other sorts of sweet drinking holes are at it again, this time with a focus on craft beer. We’re cool with that. The bar, which rotates through 365 kinds of beers on the reg “so you won’t get bored,” also has a killer TV setup, a small stage for live music, and a food menu that really makes you want to stay all day eating and drinking tons of beer.
Bradley's Fine Diner (address and info)
Double James Beard-winner Bradley Ogden got us all greased up with his first Houston eatery, Funky Chicken. Now, he and his son show off the best of San Francisco with their "fine" diner. Emphasis on the fine, because it’s in no way like that diner you hit up late-night in a last ditch effort to sober up every other Friday. Go for mod-inspired comfort food like slabs of toast smothered with bone marrow, pork belly, and grits, and a strawberry rhubarb pie that will make you forget anything bad ever happens in this sweet, sweet world.
Midtown Mobile Cuisine (address and info)
Midtown’s first food truck park plans to be a major party scene. It’s got picnic tables (with umbrellas!!!) and an urban vibe (i.e. a highway) to remind you that you live in Houston, but in a good way. It’s also got late-night hours and a stage for live performances. Go for an awesome rotation of trucks, crawfish boils, mini concerts, DJs, and even the occasional moonwalk, which was totally meant for kids but whatever, you do what you want.
Gyu-Kaku (address and info)
If there’s anything you need to learn in life, it’s how to cook your own Japanese barbecue that has already been carefully prepped for you. Thankfully, this 700+ location international chain has arrived, so we can all breathe a little lighter. Get the bibimbap, a fried rice dish that you’d be stupid not to get, then order a metric crapton of meat and veggies and DO NOT overcook them. Finally, finish with s’mores, which are not super Japanese but there are hot grills so we get it. Hope that helped.
Songkran Thai Kitchen (address and info)
Former Gigi's Asian Bistro and BLU Chef Jiten Karnani had his new Thai restaurant blessed by a Buddhist monk before opening. Apparently it worked. Along with good karma, you’ll find fantastic takes on the food the Bangkok-born chef grew up eating, from authentic homemade curries and tom yum goong to shrimp cakes and crispy duck.
Julep (address and info)
Okay, so this isn't QUITE open yet, but we're too excited not to talk about it. If you love Anvil, you’ll love Julep, the bourbon-centric cocktail bar from former Anvil GM Alba Huerta and the Clumsy Butcher team. The bar has an old-school, punky Southern charm that we haven’t seen the likes of in Houston before (think big back porch and a copper-accented historic space). Come for masterfully crafted cocktails and cold seafood dishes from former Pass & Provisions Chef Adam Garcia.
Bonus -- Spring’s best re-openings: Thien An, MF Sushi, and ToreOre.
Fan-favorite Vietnamese sandwich and pho shop Thien An reopened on San Jacinto in April after closing in 2012. The highly-touted MF Sushi is finally back in action after it suffered devastating fire damage last Fall. And thankfully (because we love the fried chicken more than a fat kid loves cake), Korean fried chicken joint ToreOre reopened inside the Super H Mart.
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1. Punk's Simple Southern Food5212 Morningside Dr, Houston
2. Lillo & Ella2307 Ella Blvd, Houston
3. Ninja Ramen4219 Washington Ave, Houston
4. Siphon Coffee701 W Alabama St, Houston
5. Common Bond1706 Westheimer Rd, Houston
6. Beer Market Co.920 Studemont St, Houston
7. Bradley's Fine Diner191 Heights Blvd, Houston
8. Midtown Mobile Cuisine4002 Almeda Rd, Houston
9. Gyu-Kaku510 Gray St Ste A, Houston
10. Songkran Thai Kitchen1101 Uptown Park Blvd Ste 8, Houston
11. Julep1919 Washington Ave, Houston
Grandma’s fried chicken, sweet corn hushpuppies, and other Southern favorites are on the menu at this spunky Rice Village soul food spot from Clark Cooper Concepts. All the recipes have been handed down for generations, including Chef Brandi Key’s buttermilk biscuits which are offered -- stuffed and smothered -- in a mix & match biscuit bar, which sounds like it belongs in fat kid heaven. The interior feels like a modernized version of a Western saloon, carrying the restaurant's concept through both space and cuisine.
At Lillo & Ella you can expect delicious takes on pan-asian street food from Chef and owner Kevin Naderi, like crispy Vietnamese chicken wings, braised bacon bao, Thai muu noodles, and blue crab fried rice.
Ninja Ramen is a name that should get you pretty excited about two things, and this spot doesn't disappoint in either arena -- from Ninja Turtles-themed cocktails to scratch-made noodles and broth, these guys aren't messing around.
This coffee shop, coming from club-owner Michael Caplan, is naturally stepped up a few notches. Get yourself some coffee, craft brews, or wine on tap -- along with eats from a food menu designed by former Brasserie 19 Chef Amanda McGraw. That makes the coffee experience unique is the shop's namesake siphon, which is used in the roasting process to brew them longer for an extra kick
Once you get your hands on the kugelhopf, you'll understand why this Montrose bakery and breakfast-ery has lines out the door. Butter-brushed and sugar-glazed, this German marble Bundt cake only rivals one other item on the menu: fried egg on a croissant bigger than your head. This breakfast sandwich is made with a perfectly yolky 63 degree egg that blends harmoniously with a slab of pork sausage, melted cheddar, aioli, and a buttery, fluffy sesame roll. A number of pastries and savory dishes are also available at Common Bond.
The cozy drinkery in Washington houses the largest selection of brews in the city – 365 to be exact – which it rotates regularly so that "you won’t get bored." It also has TVs flanking every inch of wall space, plenty of covered outdoor seating, and seriously good pub grub, from burgers to wings. There's even a stage set up for live music when there are no big games on.
Double James Beard-winner Bradley Ogden brings us his eponymous fine diner, and the name doesn't lie. Hit up comfort food like slabs of toast smothered with bone marrow, pork belly, and grits, and a next-level strawberry rhubarb pie.
Midtown Mobile Cuisine is a food truck park that's got a rotating schedule of participating trucks, plenty of picnic tables where you can enjoy your culinary discoveries, and you can expect crawfish boils, mini concerts, DJs, and even the occasional moonwalk.
Gyu-Kaku puts you in the driver's seat of your own Japanese BBQ adventure. Get the bibimbap, a fried rice dish that you’d be stupid not to get, then order a metric crapton of meat and veggies and DO NOT overcook them.
Former Gigi's Asian Bistro and BLU Chef Jiten Karnani opened this Thai joint with fantastic takes on the food he grew up eating, from authentic homemade curries and tom yum goong to shrimp cakes and crispy duck.
Julep's got an old-school, punky Southern charm that's soaked in bourbon, just like you'll be after a few masterfully crafted cocktails and cold seafood dishes from former Pass & Provisions Chef Adam Garcia. Housed in an industrial 1880s uniform factory, the space features a gorgeous copper bar and a sophisticated back porch. There are masterful odes to the bar’s namesake drink, but the list runs on into a boozy Southern history book with classics born in the region and a seasonal lineup that plays with Southern inspirations.