By Eric Sandler
When it comes to new restaurants, 2016 may have gotten off to a slow start, but this summer will be a busy one. Even at 14 restaurants in 13 locations, this list doesn’t even cover everything that’s expected to open between now and mid-September.
Ordered roughly chronologically, the list below only considers concepts that are totally new or new to Houston and fit the timeline. Apologies to places like Beaver’s, Bernie’s Burger Bus, Liberty Kitchen, and Good Dog that are adding additional locations, as well as restaurants like Yauatcha, Tacodeli, and Shake Shack that won’t open until later this year (no matter what’s been published elsewhere).
Whether it’s steakhouses, barbecue, red sauce Italian, or even Asian fusion, these upcoming establishments offer something for just about everyone. Let’s dive in.
The Arizona-based, upscale steakhouse from celebrated restaurateurs Jeffrey and Michael Mastro will make its debut in River Oaks District on June 14. The massive, two-story restaurant feels smaller than its 300-plus capacity suggests, thanks to a design that’s broken into a number of smaller rooms to provide a more intimate feeling. The “dining suites,” six booths with a direct view of the kitchen, should please anyone who’s ever wanted an up-close look inside a working kitchen. The menu, which is under the direction of former Del Frisco’s Grille Jeff Taylor, will offer wet-aged prime beef from boutique ranches in Wisconsin and Michigan, a wide array of both raw and cooked seafood (expect to see the 1/4 lb each shrimp cocktail on Instagram), and an exhaustive list of sides. Don’t miss the Hasselback crispy potatoes that blend the textures of both french fries and a baked potato.
Delicious Concepts owner Ken Bridge has assembled something of a culinary supergroup for his replacement for the El Cantina that’s just entered its invite-only preview phase and is set to open to the public in late June. Black Hill Ranch owner Felix Florez is overseeing the operation, which will blend a casual, steakhouse-style restaurant with an in-house butcher shop where diners will be able to see their entrees created from whole animals hanging from the ceiling. Jordan Asher (Dosi) and Matthew Lovelace (Osteria Mazzantini, Paul’s Kitchen) are working with Florez on a menu that utilizes classics like filet mignon and ribeye as well as off-cut and speciality items that won’t be found anywhere else. Peter Clifton (Radio Milano, The Noble Experiment) leads the bar.
Former Kris Bistro chef Kristofer Jakob will step out on his own at this restaurant in Friendswood. When it opens in late June, Brasserie 1895 will feature “Old World-inspired wood-fired cuisine” prepared in either a wood-burning oven or on a wood-burning grill such as pizza and roasted meats. Jakob has tapped former Phoenicia chef David Berg to oversee breads and his mentor, Certified Master Chef Christian Echterbille, to assist with training. Jakob will oversee service as well as the beverage program.
Arthur Ave Italian American
The team behind Helen Greek Food & Wine will turn their attention to classic red sauce Italian-American cuisine at this restaurant in the Heights. Set to open in mid-to-late July, chef William Wright’s menu will feature dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan, and veal marsala. CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Sommelier of the Year Evan Turner will build a list wine list sourced from both Italy and California, and Lainey Collum is consulting on the cocktails.
The Pit Room
Montrose will get its first Central Texas-style barbecue joint when this adult bookstore turned restaurant opens in July. Of course, brisket, ribs, and housemade beef sausage will be staples, but executive chef Bramwell Tripp and owner Michael Sambrooks’s house-smoked pastrami with mustard made a strong first impression at this year’s RodeoHouston Best Bites event. The restaurant’s plan to leverage Tripp’s experience at Coltivare and Revival Market to create a wide variety of pickled items also bodes well for its prospects.
Snooze: An AM Eatery
Set to open in Montrose in mid-July, Austinites are already raving about the Colorado-based restaurant that’s devoted to serving brunch every day. CultureMap Austin touts dishes like pineapple upside down pancakes, chilaquiles Benedict, and a breakfast pot pie as must order. An extensive cocktail menu includes a number of variations on both the Bloody Mary and the mimosa. Best of all, dishes are made with locally-sourced ingredients when possible.
Jimmy Chew Asian Kitchen
F Bar owner Irwin Palchick and business partner David Truong are bringing this fast casual Asian concept to the former Poscol location on Westheimer near Mandell. Local firm gindesigns (Camerata, Public Services) is handling the interior, which will feature “bright colors, bold murals and fun textures.” When it opens in mid-July, the menu will offer dishes inspired by Vietnamese, Malaysian, Chinese, and Thai street food. The restaurant will be open for dinner and late night dining — tentatively as late as 3 am during the week and 4 am on weekends.
This upscale, French-Vietnamese restaurant will channel the spirit and flavors of 1920s Southeast Asia. Restaurateurs Rick Wahlstedt and Joe King promise “gracious service, exquisite attention to detail and lush spaces meant for lingering and people watching” when the restaurant opens in River Oaks District later this summer. The two-story space will feature a “townhouse” theme with a restaurant on the first floor and a lounge, all-weather terraces and private dining upstairs.
Relish Restaurant & Bar
The River Oaks staple will transition from grab-and-go takeout to a full restaurant when it relocates to the former Bird and the Bear space on Westheimer. Newlyweds Addie D’Agostino and executive chef Dustin Teague will offer “classic and simple American fare with Mediterranean influences” and a full bar when the restaurant opens in August. Fast casual service will remain for lunch and weekend brunch, while dinner will be full service.
SumoMaya Mexican-Asian Kitchen
Like Steak 48, the third restaurant slated to open in River Oaks District hails from Arizona. As the name implies, SumoMaya serves hybrid dishes like pork pastor pad thai and Vietnamese-style shaking beef made with filet mignon. The original location is known for its high-energy atmosphere, which should fit in with the see-and-be-seen crowd that’s already flocking to Toulouse. An August opening is planned.
Anthony Calleo has partnered with Lee Ellis and Cherry Pie Hospitality to bring a brick and mortar version of his popular food truck to former home of Funky Chicken near the Heights. Set to open in August, the restaurant’s design will feature an art installation of skateboard decks that featuring iconic stars from both music and film. On the menu, Pi Pizza will mix a few staple pies with rotating specials and a selection of sandwiches and appetizers from Calleo’s Sandy Witch Sandwich Company.
Grant Pinkerton, the passionate pitmaster who broke Instagram with his smoked alligator at this year’s Houston Barbecue Festival, expects to open his Heights restaurant in late August or early September. In the meantime, look for pop-ups to reintroduce his Central Texas-style barbecue to diners (the next one is June 18). Pinkerton is also using Instagram to preview a full range of dishes, including a Benedict riff where a fried boudain patty substitutes for an English muffin.
Reef partners Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd have teamed up with Astros owner Jim Crane on this duo of Italian restaurants that opening across from Minute Maid Park. As Crane explained to CultureMap editor-at-large Shelby Hodge in March, Brocca (Italian for batter) will be a fine dining restaurant and Il Panchina (Italian for the bench) will be a more casual trattoria “serving breakfast, lunch and dinner and an exceptionally large bar to handle post-game crowds.” If all goes according to plan, the Gensler-designed spaces will open in mid-September, just as the Astros are in the heat of the pennant race.