The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit in July 2019

Snapper at Reef

The dog days of summer are here. Luckily for Houstonians, this year these bring not just oppressive heat but also a whole bunch of new restaurant openings. These include some that specialize in cooling raw oysters big whiskey selections, dog-friendly patios or many food choices all in one convenient spot. One thing is for sure: if you have the means, you won’t be hungry for long.

Calamari at 1751. Photo courtesy of 1751 Sea and Bar.

1751 Sea and Bar, 191 Heights: Sambrooks Management Company, the new restaurant group formed by Michael Sambrooks — founder of popular barbecue joint The Pit Room — transformed Heights restaurant Star Fish into 1751 Sea and Bar. Culinary director Lyle Bento and head chef J. D. Woodward developed a seafood menu that includes Gulf oysters, New Zealand rainbow clams and uni from the raw bar and the 1751 Charcuterie Board. Rather than traditional meat options, the board features salmon gravlax, cured tuna, scallop conserva, pistou mussels, smoked oysters, and boquerones. From the small plates, the Crawfish Soufflé and Char Siu Pork Belly are must-haves, but save room for entrées such as the Crispy Snapper and the Tom Yum Hot Pot with lobster, langoustines, rock shrimp, New Zealand clams, mussels and scallops. The gin-focused cocktail program includes sip-worthy standouts such as Gin Lane, a cocktail centered around rhubarb-infused Sipsmith gin, and the Storm’s End, which features apricot-infused ROXOR, a gin developed by Houston chef Robert Del Grande.

Bacon Parmigiana at B.B. Italia. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam.

B.B. Italia, 14795 Memorial: The latest restaurant from Berg Hospitality Group (the team behind B&B Butchers & Restaurant and B.B. Lemon) is serving hungry Houstonians classic Italian-American fare. Housed in the former Carmelo’s space, it offers diners a brighter dining room as well as a brand-new bar and patio. Open for lunch (with convenient to-go pizza and sub sandwich options) and dinner, the menu features appetizers such as whipped ricotta (as luscious as butter) with Sicilian oregano, olive oil and bread and Bacon Parmigiana, thick cut slices of bacon layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella, that debuted at B.B. Lemon. Housemade pastas include traditional dishes such as carbonara and bolognese and new selections like Grandma’s Ravioli stuffed with short ribs and topped with mushroom marsala ragù. Those looking for something besides pasta or Italian classics can try Italian fried chicken or pork ribs made with a hot Italian cherry pepper glaze.

A bevy of classic choices at B.B. Montrose. Photo by Jenn Duncan.

B.B. Lemon (Montrose Location), 4319 Montrose: The Berg Hospitality Group continues to expand (B&B Butchers, B.B. Italia, B.B. Lemon) with the opening of their second B.B. Lemon location. Located in the former Pax Americana space, the Montrose outpost features many of the dishes from the Washington location, while introducing new seafood dishes such as flounder stuffed with creamy mascarpone and crab. For non seafood lovers, highlights include D.W.B. Mac & Cheese named after Berg’s brother Daniel Berg, responsible for the fresh pasta program as executive chef of B.B. Italia. Emily Trusler, the executive chef of the original B.B. Lemon, is also helming the new location along with beverage director Monique Cioffi-Hernandez. Cocktail lovers can sip on Soho’s Banker made with bourbon, turbinado, lemon, egg whites and red wine, and Belle of the Ball with gin, lemon, lavender and champagne. You can read more about what Houston Food Finder’s Carlos Brandon had to say about that mac & cheese.

This Sneaky Pancake Robot is coming soon to the kids menu at Atlas Diner. It’s a fair bet that it’s going to end up in front of some grown-ups, too. Photo by Richard Knight.

Bravery Chef Hall, 409 Travis: We don’t know about you, but we’ve been waiting for downtown’s latest (and frequently written about) food hall to open their doors. Word has it, July is finally the month. Developed by partners Anh Mai, Lian Pham and Shepard Ross, Bravery Chef Hall will be home to six restaurants: Atlas Diner by Richard Knight , The Blind Goat by Christine Ha, BOH Pasta & Pizza by Ben McPherson, Cherry Block Craft Butcher & Kitchen by Felix Florez & Jess DeSham Timmons, Kokoro by Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee and Gaggenau Concept Kitchen (with a rotating roster of guest chefs); and three bars, Bravery Wine Bar by Shepard Ross, Lockwood Station @ Indie Bar by David Daquiri and Secret Garden by Jonathan Gallardo. That’s a lot of talent one roof, so you’ll probably want to go more than once.

Loch Bar Restaurant and Ouzo Bay, 4444 Westheimer: From the Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group comes Loch Bar and Ouzo Bay, in the River Oaks District. At Ouzo Bay, brothers Eric and Alex Smith are offering Houstonians a menu focused on Mediterranean cuisine. Committed to fresh sourcing, they fly in fish daily: langoustines from Norway, jumbo prawns from Madagascar, Dover sole from Holland and branzino from the Aegean. While seafood is the menu’s focal point, there are still ample selections for meat lovers with options like locally raised lamb shank with toasted orzo and roasted vegetables, as well as steak and chicken dishes. There is also an ample selection of mezes such as the House Spreads served with toasted pita. To accompany the hearty fare at Ouzo Bay, the Smiths tapped local sommelier Evan Turner to develop the beverage program, which features Greek wine and cocktails such as Phanes Poison made with Belvedere citron vodka, honey, basil, and lime and Milos’ Flame with Rittenhouse bonded rye, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Lapsang souchong foam and Angostura bitters.

Loch Bar is where the brothers are continuing to unveil one of the largest raw seafood selections in town. The menu focuses on traditional New England fare such as lobster rolls and Maryland-style crab cakes, while also incorporating locally influenced dishes such as Viet-Cajun crawfish. Loch Bar also plans to showcase over 400 whiskeys (at press time, they were at 350 and counting), local craft beers, and curated cocktails like The Olive Branch made with The Botanist gin, olive-infused vermouth and salt and the Foregone Conclusion with Tito’s vodka, Pimm’s No. 1, peach, lemon and soda.

The crispy smoked potatoes. Photo courtesy of Lotti Dotti.

Lotti Dotti Patio Bar, 601 Richmond: From executive chef Adam Dorris and general manager Michael Riojas comes Lotti Dotti Patio Bar that brings the real deal to Montrose with a great selection of curated cocktails and one heck of a patio. This “barstaurant“offers diners four dining categories: Bar Snacks, Salty Meats, Cheese, and Plates. The cocktail menu includes frozen, draft (available as individual, carafe, and a group-sized punch bowl for $10, $33 and $66, respectively) and house cocktails. Food highlights include Black Currant Honey Chicken Wings and Crispy Smoked Potatoes made with crescenza, black garlic, chermoula and herbs. The Texas Hammer (with Lunazul tequila, grapefruit, pink peppercorn, lime and jicama soda) and the Little Spoon (with sotol, marigold, blackberry and lemon) are high on originality and showcase fresh ingredients like Mexican mint marigold. Lotti Dotti is open till 2 a.m. seven days a week so late night eaters, this patio’s for you.

Cigala Tio Pepe at MAD. Photo by Julie Soefer.

MAD, 4444 Westheimer: From the duo behind BCN Taste and Tradition and veteran general manager and sommelier Sébastien Laval, comes MAD, opening later this month. Located in the multi-use River Oaks District complex, MAD features two kitchens surrounding a central bar and a full-service patio. Chef Luis Roger‘s menu includes standouts such as Foie Gras Cornetto, Cigala Tio Pepe and a rotating selection of paellas. Partners Rogers and Ignacio Torras tapped cocktail consultant Jerry Arguelles to develop a drink menu that focuses on gin. A section titled Gin Revolution includes signature libations such as Green Tea Gin & Tonic and experimental creations like the Paella Gin & Tonic made with Gabriel Boudier Saffron Gin, tomato, lemon, egg whites, smoked paprika, 1724 tonic water and a candied dried shrimp garnish. Late-night service is also offered on select nights of the week. Check out the full pre-opening article for details.

Ninfa’s beef fajitas. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam.

The Original Ninfa’s Uptown, 1700 Post Oak: The new outpost from Houston classic, The Original Ninfa’s, which was founded on Navigation in 1973 by “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo, opened its doors June 10 in BLVD Place in the space that was occupied by Peska. It features over 6,000 square feet, three covered patio areas and a flexible 50-seat private dining room. The menu mirrors the original and includes favorites like marinated and grilled skirt steak fajitas and tacos al carbon. There are plans for an additional happy hour menu in the bar with cocktails developed to draw inspiration from the surrounding Uptown area. The new location is currently open for lunch and dinner during the week, with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. There are also plans to launch Ninfa’s first ever breakfast service later this year.

crab fat dough at Reef
The Crab Fat Dough is already gathering fans from those who got an early look at the new Reef. Photo by Shawn Chippendale.

Reef, 2600 Travis: Almost two years after Harvey forced the closure of this local favorite, Reef reopened its doors this past month. Celebrity chef-restaurateur Bryan Caswell  gave both the restaurant and the website a new look, but as Houston Food Finder founder Phaedra Cook notes, one thing hasn’t changed: Caswell’s intense focus on Gulf seafood.  New dishes like the Crab Fat Dough starter and Snapper in an Envelope (en papillote) with grapefruit, hon shimeji (brown beech mushrooms) and herb salad have been receiving high praises from Houston diners alongside familiar dishes like Caswell’s seafood gumbo. From the bar, Reef offers cocktails like the Hemingway Daiquiri with white rum, maraschino, lime and grapefruit and the Purple Drank with gin, lime and grape soda as well as a selection of wine and craft beers.

A spread of assorted dishes at Squable in The Heights. Photo by Jenn Duncan.

Squable, 632 West 19th: This new restaurant in the former Southern Goods space in the Heights is backed by Bobby Heugel, James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Yu and Steve Flippo, but operated by co-chefs Mark Clayton (formerly of Oxheart), Drew Gimma (the opening baker for Common Bond) and operations manager Terry Williams. The menu showcases “European fare with American influences”, while incorporating locally sourced ingredients. Taking full advantage of Gimma’s baking experience, Squable features rotating seasonal breads and standout dishes like the Dutch baby pancake made with fresh cheese, black pepper and honey. For entrees, Clayton’s handmade pasta and Pork Neck Schnitzel take center stage. The menu also includes a dozen or so shareable plates, such as the maltagliati (Italian for “badly cut”) pasta, and big plates such as the schnitzel and half a heritage chicken served with bread dumplings and chicory tossed with a Parmesan-soy dressing. Get more details in our full article on Squable’s opening.

Dumplings and more at Trendy Dumpling. Photo courtesy of Trendy Dumpling.

Trendy Dumpling3285 Southwest Freeway: The team behind Spicy Girl recently transformed their West University location into Houston’s latest Chinese cuisine hot spot, Trendy Dumpling. There is a lot to choose from with an assortment of pork and chicken soup dumplings sitting alongside Sichuan classics like salt and pepper shrimp, orange chicken and mapo tofu and fish. Dumpling highlights include the Truffle Steamed Soup Bao, a special soup dumpling made with uni and shrimp, and the pan-fried pork bao.  Appetizers such as smoked eggplant, cucumber salad and couples tendon are standouts and great for sharing. The restaurant is currently B.Y.O.B in addition to in-house selections of wine and beer.

Pan Con Agucata at Tropicales
Pan Con Aguacate at Tropicales. Photo by Hank Lewis.

Tropicales, 2132 Bissonnet: The Latin-inspired Tropicales from Greenway Coffee-owner David Buehrer, Carlos Ballon of Morningstar, James Beard semi-finalist pastry chef Jill Bartolome and bartender Kenny Freeman, formerly of Julep, is already a neighborhood favorite. Located between Greenway Plaza and Rice University, the café was developed in conjunction with nearby residents Steve and Hilary Ybarra and offers diners a beautifully designed space resplendent with rich wood tones, muted pastels and a full-service outdoor patio. Standouts include salmon ceviche made with sweet mango and sour red onions in a spicy jalapeño, lime, guava and coconut milk sauce. For cocktail lovers, Freeman has created drinks with Mexican, South American and Asian influences. Try the Powers of Peru made with pisco, bell pepper extract, lemon, agave and cava. For more details, read our full article on the opening.

About the author: Beth Levine writes about food, drinks, lifestyle and travel for local and national publications including My Red Glasses, Houstonia, Local Houston Magazine, Charlotte’s Book and Houston Food Finder. An executive assistant by day and freelance writer by night, Beth is originally from both New Jersey and California, but currently calls Houston home. You can follow her on IG @Yogaspots.

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