Houston Restaurant News Bites: Another Closure in the Same Memorial Location & More
Houston’s food scene is always changing. Just one week into 2023, which will be a busy year, there are already some notable openings and, unfortunately, closings to report. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
Chef Fabian Saldana of the Now Closed Corn. Photo by Becca Wright.
Corn, Memorial 14795: The closing of this progressive Mexican restaurant in the Energy Corridor comes as a shock, given how well-received and relatively new it was. It was a strong contender for our list of the best new restaurants of 2022 and was frequently discussed. Fabian Saldaña was Xochi’s executive chef before opening Maize in 2021. The restaurant aimed to highlight cuisine from different regions of Mexico, as well as coastal Mexican dishes and interpretations of Mexican street food.
Many were already familiar with the location. It was Carmelo’s for over 30 years, then Berg Hospitably briefly opened BB Italia in the same space. (That restaurant recently reopened in Sugar Land). There is speculation that the restaurant’s large square footage may have been a challenge to fill seats and turn a profit. Through a press release, Saldaña says, “Closing Maize has been difficult for me and my team, but we all see this as an opportunity to continue growing in our craft. I am very grateful to the team and customers at Maize who made the past year a dream come true for me.” We’ll be on the lookout for this talented chef’s next move.
Cherry Block Smokehouse, 1223 West 34th: Owner Felix Florez opened this casual craft steakhouse in the Stomping Grounds mixed-use development in September. Just four months later, it already has to close. The menu included affordable steakhouses, Texas barbecue and hamburgers. In a lengthy social media post, Florez announced that December 31 was the last day of service, citing financial reasons for the closure: “The restaurant industry right now and in recent years has been tough. Our passion and determination do not always overcome our challenges and circumstances. An unfortunate accumulation of insurmountable losses and delays leading up to our opening consumed our operating capital, and these setbacks we experienced left us extremely short of our cash flow target.” On the plus side, Florez’s Meat Market in Katy is still open. Additionally, we are excited to feature the former Brennan’s of Houston “boy of the summer” at our upcoming gala on January 17th.
Thankfully, it wasn’t all doom and gloom this past week, as the new year brings new ventures from big names.
Gatsby’s Grill, 2929 Navigation: Gatsby Hospitality Group opened its third concept Dec. 29. While his other restaurants, Gatsby Prime Seafood and Gatsby Prime Steak are upscale, fine dining, Gatsby’s Grill is established as an approachable neighborhood restaurant with attractive prices and elevated comfort food. Located in the space that used to be the Acadian Coast in the El Segundo neighborhood, Gatsby’s Grill is spacious inside and boasts a spacious patio. Although casual, it will have the same elegant aesthetic that Gatsby’s is known for.
Executive chef Erick Anaya, who also heads the kitchen at the sister restaurants, has developed a menu that includes seafood, steak, burgers, sandwiches, wings and tacos. Gatsby’s beverage director Benjamin Harris has curated a full drink menu, and Jessica Wells, Gatsby’s master mixologist, is serving up cocktails such as spicy watermelon and pineapple margaritas and house-made sangria. Partner Luis Rangel says in a press release, “We wanted to create an unmatched contemporary restaurant with an upscale spin on traditional menu items you’d normally find on the grill, while also paying homage to the El Segundo neighborhood, with some Latin-driven offerings. He added, “This is a neighborhood I’ve been coming to almost my entire life, so I’m excited to join our culinary neighbors in this area and bring the Gatsby experience to this part of town.” Gatsby’s Grill is open for lunch and dinner from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM Sunday through Thursday and from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Mondays.
The ornate interior of Little Hen, now open in River Oaks. Photo courtesy of Chicken Little.
The Little Chicken, 4444 Westheimer: Whether you fancy yourself an Anglophile or just feeling fancy, this English-inspired breakfast and brunch boutique has opened in the River Oaks District. The Miami-based concept has found an ideal location in Houston for its whimsical aesthetic of floral prints, soft pastels, marble and gold tables and romantic chandeliers. Along with the popular baby chicken dish, rose petal pancakes, maple syrup-glazed pancakes topped with rose water and dusted with powdered sugar, the menu includes a full range of breakfast and brunch dishes. Highlights include Avocado Salmon Toast, Caviar Omelets, Truffle Huevos Rotos, Cuban Bagels, Eggs Benedict with Crab Cake, Nutella French Toast, Street Tacos and Israeli Salad.
Brunch isn’t complete without cocktails like mimosas and Bloody Marys. Signature cocktails will also be flowing. However, the main draw is the afternoon tea, served from opening to closing. Tea service is priced at three levels, $35 per person, $45 per person with a glass of prosecco and $55 per person with a glass of champagne. Each tier comes with a selection of small quads and French macarons, as well as a selection of mini sandwiches and scones. An outdoor champagne garden will open in the spring. The Little Chicken will be open from 08:00 to 15:00 Monday to Friday and from 08:00 to 16:00 on Saturday and Sunday.
Half-Maine lobster will be on the menu at Little’s Oyster Bar, which is set to open this spring. Photo by Arturo Olmos.
Little’s Oyster Bar, 3001 S. Shepherd: Little Pappas Food House closed in 2020, leaving loyal Pappas followers and free-range oyster lovers to wonder if it will ever reopen. There was news that it would be in 2021, but there was no withdrawal, until now. Pappas Restaurants has officially announced that it will reopen the location in the spring as Little’s Oyster Bar. According to a press release, it will be a chef-driven concept with a focus on oysters and raw seafood. Jason Ryczek, a veteran of California seafood cuisines will be at the helm. No menu is available yet, but the restaurant will feature Gulf fish like snapper, grouper and plaice (all sourced from Pappas’ own boats) as well as king salmon, Spanish octopus and fish from sustainable farms around the country. Expect caviar to be a staple on the menu and of course oysters. Robert Smith, Pappas Restaurants’ director of fine-beverage wines and expanded concepts, is curating a wine list that will include selections from Europe and the United States. There will also be 10 to 15 classic and creative cocktails. The iconic sign we’re used to seeing as we drive down Shepard will remain as a mark of the location’s history. We will keep you informed of their opening date.
And finally: if you are a frequent flyer, this one is for you.
LaTrelle’s, a Houston-based firm that operates franchises and licensed restaurants at major airports, has announced a new $334 million contract with the City of Houston for William P. Hobby Airport. That’s quite a success story for founder WA James, Sr., who opened LaTrelle’s as a bakery at Hobby Airport almost 40 years ago. Adding to LaTrelle’s, the contract will provide 17,000 square feet of restaurant space for local brands and national favorites that include Common Bond, The Rustic, Velvet Taco, Dish Society, Pinks Pizza and Fat Cat Creamery, as well as Peet’s Coffee, Jersey Mike’s, Wendy’s and Dunkin’. Each space will have its own distinct feel and offer most of the same dishes as the main locations. Rustic Post will also feature live music performances. It will take roughly two years to complete construction on the massive space, but travelers will continue to have other options until completion.