The Honeymoon: Just What Downtown Needs

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Photos by Molly Dunn
From left: Matt Toomey, Charlotte Mitchell and Brad Moore -- business partners establishing The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar.
If you work, live or just spend all of your time downtown, you've probably noticed there aren't that many places to grab a quick bite to eat, sit down for a cup of coffee, or enjoy a casual dinner and dessert before or after a theater performance. Sure, there are lots of restaurants such as The Grove, Batanga, Artista and Sambuca; and there are lots of bars, such as Flying Saucer, Hearsay Gastro Lounge and Reserve 101. But, there's one thing missing from the downtown dining scene -- a casual place to grab a coffee, cocktail and bite to eat.

Let's face it. If you're searching for a laid-back coffee shop in downtown, or along the rail line, you'll be searching for a while. But, that problem will soon be resolved when The Honeymoon Cafe & Bar opens at 300 Main this spring.

The Honeymoon is a partnership between Matt Toomey and Charlotte Mitchell of Boomtown Coffee and Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse of The Corinthian Bar Group (Goro & Gun, Lei Low Bar, OKRA, Bad News Bar, Big Star Bar and Grand Prize Bar). The foursome believes that this establishment will assist in the revitalization of downtown.

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Chris Shepherd Dishes on Underbelly's New Dinner Series

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Photo courtesy Underbelly
The people and places pictured on Underbelly's wall have helped make the restaurant what it is.
If you've ever been to Underbelly, you've seen the wall adorned with photos of Houston culinary personalities and places. Not everyone in the photos is famous; some of the people pictured own small mom-and-pop restaurants that serve authentic ethnic food. There are farmers and fishermen. These are the people from whom chef Chris Shepherd initially drew his inspiration when opening Underbelly.

Now, three years into the restaurant's success as "the story of Houston food," Shepherd wants to pay tribute to those who have influenced him and add some new photos to his wall in the process. To do so, he's launching the Off the Wall dinner series and inviting his friends and colleagues to cook with him at Underbelly for six special dinner parties.

"I thought, let's do a dinner series where we combine people that normally wouldn't associate, but they have an association without really knowing it," Shepherd says. "Let's bring these guys together, because they've all inspired us so much over the years."

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Openings & Closings: Bradley's Fine Diner Is on Hold & Michael's Cookie Jar Opens Downtown

Categories: Restaurant News

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Despite The Fresh Market expanding throughout Houston last year, one of the locations has already closed, and it's the one across the street from Central Market -- a likely reason for the market's closure. CultureMap reports that this is the only Fresh Market location closing in the Houston area; the other three will remain open.

The sign is up outside the soon-to-open Bradley's Fine Diner on Heights Boulevard, but the restaurant won't be opening on March 15 as the owners had originally planned. Eater explains that a damaged water line has forced a postponement. As executive chef Bradley Ogden said in a statement to Eater, you cannot cook without water.


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Openings & Closings: It's the Year of the Bakery

Categories: Restaurant News

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Photo by Molly Dunn
Say goodbye to Hubbell & Hudson Market.
Hubbell & Hudson Market's official last day is Wednesday, March 12, but according to CultureMap's Eric Sandler, from the looks of the market it could close much sooner. Whether it is on or before March 12, Hubbell & Hudson Market is closing. The Kitchen and Bistro are not going anywhere, though. In fact, Sandler writes that the Bistro will use part of the market's space to add private dining rooms and a chef's table for chef Austin Simmons.

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Openings & Closings: El Gran Malo Announces Move & Killen's BBQ Finally Opens

Categories: Restaurant News

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Photo by Troy Fields
No more margaritas from El Gran Malo, or at least until they move.
The popular tequila bar and gastrocantina El Gran Malo held its final day of food service on Sunday, February 23, after its National Margarita Day celebration on Saturday. However, according to Houstonia's food blog, Gastronaut, El Gran Malo is not gone for good. It's just moving. Kevin Naderi of Roost has purchased the El Gran Malo building and plans to open another restaurant there. A Facebook event was created for the moving of El Gran Malo and reads: "We are currently searching for a new home so remember, 'this is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning,'" We'll just have to wait and see what the future holds for El Gran Malo and for Naderi's new restaurant.

Another "closing, but looking for a new place" announcement was made this week, this one by The Usual. Amy Chien of CultureMap reports that the lesbian pub and bar has closed after unsuccessful attempts to remodel. The owners are currently seeking another location in which to reopen.

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Toby Keith Brings His Bar & Grill to Houston

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Photo courtesy Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, Houston
Shut up, beer in mason jars?! I'm THERE.
Full disclosure: I had to Google "Toby Keith" in order to write this article.

Yes, I knew he's a country singer. And I knew he was the guy in that "Red Solo Cup" song. But that was about the extent of my knowledge. I don't really listen to country music (if that makes me a bad Texan, so be it), so my understanding of the genre and its players is lacking.

I went first to Wikipedia, and here is what I learned: Keith is from Oklahoma. He's feuded with the Dixie Chicks over their dislike of former president George W. Bush. He does a lot of philanthropic work. He's one of the wealthiest celebrities in the United States. He's very patriotic. He does not appear to have any culinary background, but he recently opened his 20th Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill (after his song "I Love This Bar"), here at the West Oaks Mall in Houston.

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Finally! Killen's Barbecue to Open Tomorrow

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Photo by Mai Pham
This is "moist" brisket at Killen's Barbecue.

It was a beautiful thing to watch: Ronnie Killen, unwrapping a huge slab of hot-from-the-oven brisket, then lightly shaking it to gauge the consistency of the meat. Moist heat curled upwards as the wrapper was peeled back, and the black-crusted meat jiggled as if it were a big block of Jell-O.

I knew even before he cut into it that it would be exceedingly moist and tender -- it was the jiggle that gave it away. And sure enough, each slice of brisket revealed itself to be oozing with juiciness. In fact, the sight had me in near-convulsions of food ecstasy. If there was ever a definition for "food porn," the food at Killen's Barbecue is it.

And good news for those of you who have never had the pleasure of putting some of that meat in your mouth: Killen's Barbecue is opening in Pearland tomorrow, Saturday, February 22! The build-out is complete. The chairs and the tables have arrived and are in place.

I can tell you without hesitation that it's worth the drive. Killen's is craft barbecue at its absolute best (I say this with utter conviction) -- and it's going to put Pearland -- and with it, Houston -- on the map as one of the nation's top barbecue destinations.


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Openings & Closings: Adios 1252 Tapas in Uptown & Hello Taco in The Woodlands

Categories: Restaurant News

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While it's not a restaurant, it's still a notable closing. B4-U-Eat, an online Houston restaurant guide, announced its own closure on Monday, February 17. For the past 23 years, B4-U-Eat has provided Houstonians with a variety of updates for restaurant openings and closings, reviews and events listings. B4-U-Eat will certainly be missed by many Houston residents.

Mary Lee Donuts, located on the Gulf Freeway, was gutted after an early-morning fire on Friday, February 14. CultureMap reports that no one was inside the 25-year-old restaurant at the time of the fire and that investigators believe the source of the blaze was a fryer or the exhaust system.

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Kata Robata Beverage Director Steven Salazar Headed to Anvil, With Sake on His Mind

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Photo by Paula Murphy
Just call him the Sake King of Houston.
He's not yet 30, but Steven Salazar is already very accomplished in a realm few Houstonians pay attention to: Sake.

Salazar recently returned from Japan, where he took a course and earned his Advanced Sake Professional Certification, making him one of the first 140 people in the world to hold that title. For the past two years, he's been at Kata Robata, serving as the assistant general manager and beverage director of an impressive sake program. Now that he's become a master of his craft, though, he says it's time to move on.

"I feel I have accomplished so much at Kata Robata," Salazar says. "I was allowed to rework the entire beverage program, and I feel like I have made a difference and learned so much. I've made the really hard decision to get out of my comfort zone, humble myself and keep learning and improving myself."

Saturday will be Salazar's final full day at Kata Robata, but he'll continue to do consulting work for the sake program there. After that, he'll start full time as a bartender at Anvil.

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Openings & Closings: Fish & The Knife Finally Opens; Gigi's Closes

Categories: Restaurant News

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The week was filled with openings and upcoming restaurant announcements, as well as one notable closing. Gigi's Asian Bistro and Dumpling Bar has closed after serving customers classic Asian dishes and dumplings for six years inside the Galleria. Houston Chronicle's Greg Morago reported that the restaurant closed on Wednesday, February 12, due to economic issues. But, Morago writes that this might not be the last time we see Gigi Huang in the Houston restaurant scene, as she told customers to "stay tuned on news of the 'Return of the Phoenix.'"

Many of you have been waiting for Pico's Mex-Mex to open on Kirby, and you won't have to wait much longer. According to Eater Houston, Pico's will open on Wednesday, February 19. Despite the fact that Pico's is directly across the street from Pappasito's, chef and owner Arnaldo Richards tells Eater that it is "completely different" than the food served at Pappasito's because Pico's doesn't serve Tex-Mex. Yes, you'll find staple Tex-Mex items such as fajitas, but for the most part it's authentic Mexican cuisine.

Stick around Kirby and visit Oui Desserts, a new French bakery serving a variety of macarons, eclairs, and fruit tarts, as well as American classics such as shortbread cookies and Red Velvet Cake. The bakery opened on Monday, February 3, and already has a following among French-dessert enthusiasts in Houston, including Houston bloggers Patty and David.

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