Chef Chris Shepherd, formerly of Catalan Food & Wine, is working on opening Underbelly, a Westheimer Road restaurant. It will focus on the same kinds of food he developed at Catalan, combining local ingredients and his love of whole pigs; he even plans to have a full-scale butcher shop onsite.
Taco lovers are lining up at the new Torchy’s Taco in Houston. The Austin import has wowed Tex-Mex fans in the state’s capital for four years, and the first Houston location looks to be just as popular, if opening day--- December 7---was any indication. Torchy’s has moved into the old Grateful Taco’s spot at 2411 S. Shepherd Dr., a location that has been home to numerous restaurants over the past several years. The creative signature tacos include the Dirty Sanchez---scrambled eggs with fried poblano chiles and guacamole---and the Trailer Park made with fried chicken, green chiles and poblano chile sauce. The eatery also offers fajitas and burritos as well as chips and dip. Torchy’s is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Torchy’s Tacos, 2411 S. Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX 77019, 713-595-8226.
Inaugural Galveston Restaurant Week
Come to the island January 15-21, 2012 for the first Galveston Restaurant Week sponsored by Galveston.com. Not only can you make reservations to dine at Galveston’s favorite eateries for special prix-fixe lunches and dinners from $10 to $45, but you can also upload photos of your meals online to compete to win a cruise for two. Participating restaurants include some of the island’s most popular Gulf Coast seafood eateries as well as fine-dining establishments like The Terrace restaurant. The event is designed to boost tourism on the island and allow visitors to sample the diversity of dining experiences in Galveston.
New Restaurant and Bar Organization Forms to Fight Parking Regulations
Who says you can’t fight city hall? When the City of Houston recently decided to revise off-street parking regulations, independent bar and restaurant owners complained that forcing them to add parking spaces at small venues would severely hurt their businesses. Out of that effort came a new collaborative organization: Organized Kooperative on Restaurant Affairs, or OKRA. “We strongly feel that this is something that Houstonians want and will actively support. There’s nothing like this in the country, and that’s because there’s not a restaurant and bar industry that gets more support from its local community than ours,” says OKRA President Bobby Heugel of Anvil Bar & Refuge. Tackling the parking proposals is just the first step for OKRA. The founding members say they also want to stage seasonal food festivals with the proceeds going to charity; launch a non-profit bar to generate funds for a featured charity that will change from month to month; and, in general, serve as a think tank and organizing mechanism for issues affecting the industry.
City Posts List of Dog Friendly Restaurants
Houston Department of Health and Human Services now has a list of dog-friendly restaurant patios on its wesite at www.houstontx.gov. So far there are just a handful of local eateries with city permits, but pups on patios are showing up more and more. The recent change in the city ordinance came after a months-long grassroots effort to allow canines to accompany diners at outdoor venues. The campaign, started by civil engineer Pat Walsh, was dubbed Paws on Patios and garnered thousands of Facebook friends and petition signers. Now, Walsh says, other people across the country are reaching out to him---like a woman in Atlanta, Georgia---asking for help to get their health codes changed to allow dogs on restaurant patios.
Michael Kramer, formerly of Voice and the Tasting Room, has left his post at Felix 55 Restaurant & Bar. Felix 55 Restaurant & Bar, Rice Village, 5510 Morningside, Houston, TX 77005, 713-590-0610.
That was fast! Before we could even report the opening of The Brownstone Café in the old Brownstone restaurant spot in River Oaks, the place closed. Chef Olivier Ciesielski, formerly of Tony’s and La Colombe D’Or, was a partner in the small café on Virginia Street and turned out some wonderful crepes, steaks and a fine appetizer of homemade potato chips covered in melted blue cheese. The café had a good weekend brunch business but weekday lunches were sparse and were dropped a few weeks back. Finally all service was stopped on December 6. The website promises a new concept, while the two nightclubs that shared the sprawling space are still open. As for chef Ciesielski, he’s busy with his own restaurant, L’Olivier, set to open soon.
View our calendar of Wine Dinners & Tastings in Houston