There’s a new contender for best barbecue in town. Phil’s Texas Barbecue, housed in a 1930s garage in The Heights, is a real slice of Texacana. Outside it’s all agaves, mesquite trees and native grasses and inside pure Texas barbecue joint. Pitmaster Gilbert Arismendez spends hours smoking beef, pork and sausage over aged hickory, luring real barbecue fans. Phil is Phil Stephenson, a native Houstonian who owns the place with his two cousins. This is a great spot for families and out-of-towners alike, or just a place for a cold beer, of which they have plenty of choices on tap or by the bottle. Phil’s Texas Barbecue, 110 S. Heights Blvd., Houston, TX 77007, 713-862-8600.
Mai's Will Rebuild
It’s been more than three months since a fire gutted the popular Mai’s eatery in Midtown, but on Thursday, June 3 general manager Anna Pham issued a statement that rebuilding had finally begun. No word yet on when the restaurant will reopen, but damage to the second floor had been extensive and the roof destroyed in the multiple alarm blaze. Mai's, 3403 Milam St., Houston, TX 77002, 713-520-7684.
The gorgeous Voice in the Hotel Icon is turning into a hybrid restaurant/lounge, most likely the reason celebrated chef Michael Kramer left. But days after The Tasting Room announced it had snapped up Kramer, Voice announced it had hired chef Greg Lowry, former executive sous chef at the now shuttered The Rockwood Room. Lowry’s previous Houston work included stints as a pastry chef for the Vallone empire and, interestingly enough, he was also executive sous chef of Max’s Wine Dive in Austin, which is owned by Lasco LLP, which owns The Tasting Rooms. Voice, Hotel ICON, 220 Main St., Houston, TX 77002, 832-667-4470.
Chef Michael Kramer, formerly of Voice at the Hotel Icon, has just been named executive chef of The Tasting Rooms. Lasco Enterprises, LLC, which owns two Houston Tasting Rooms, including the Uptown location with The Reserve Room restaurant, as well Max’s Wine Dives, has put Kramer in charge of updating the menus and helping to develop a new concept this year, rumored to be a fine-dining restaurant. “We are taking our culinary program to its highest level ever,” says founder and CEO, Jerry Lasco. “Our original location in Uptown Park is almost seven years old and has a wonderfully loyal and supportive following, but we feel there still is improvement to be made with the culinary program, we know that Michael’s considerable talent and experience will help us achieve our goals there,” says Lasco’s business partner Jonathan Horowitz. “We are opening a third Max’s Wine Dive in San Antonio this fall, expanding the existing Max’s in Austin, we have introduced The Black Door retail wine sales concept and we have a number of other projects on the drawing board. It’s an exciting time for us, and we’re extremely fortunate to have someone with chef Kramer’s talent and experience on our team.” The Reserve Room at Uptown Park, 1101 Uptown Park Blvd., Ste. 18, Houston, TX 77056, 713-993-9800.
Tony’s new head chef is the baby-faced Grant Gordon. He may look too young to have much experience, but he really does. Previously with Cafe Boulud in New York City, Cyrus in California and La Toque in California, Gordon knows his way around a kitchen. A 2006 CIA graduate, Gordon has been with Tony’s since 2009 and worked his way up to running the kitchen at the signature restaurant. No word yet on who the head chef will be at Vallone’s latest venture, the soon-to-open Caffe Bello in the old La Strada location on lower Westheimer in the heart of Montrose. Tony's, 3755 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX 77046, 713-622-6778.
Rumors have been swirling about chef Scott Tycer’s Textile since executive sous chef Dax McAnear left for San Francisco and Tycer brought in chef Ryan Hildebrand back in February. Now, Tycer has announced he’s shuttering the intimate, high-end restaurant in the 115-year-old former textile mill that houses his Kraftsmen Baking. But, he says he’s looking for another location for a similar concept. “We have been planning this for awhile,” Tycer said. “But during the summer down months, we have decided to temporarily shutter the restaurant while we step up our efforts to find the perfect location for the new concept that would include a gastropub.” In the meantime, Tycer can be found at his other eatery, Gravitas, along with chef Ryan Hildebrand. Textile Restaurant, Kraftsmen Baking, 611 W. 22nd St., Houston, TX 77008, no phone.
The Houston foodie scene got rocked when chef Michael Dei Maggi announced---via Facebook---that The Rockwood Room was closing. The Tanglewood area eatery was lauded for its iconic Rat Pack motif, strong cocktails and retro menu. Known for its oysters Rockwoodfellers, big slabs of prime rib and Kobe meatballs, the open kitchen dished out '50s classic dishes with regional touches. Despite national attention, Dei Maggi admitted that business had slipped and he hadn't been able to secure further financing from his investors. Loyal fans flocked to the last supper, where it was a pay-what-you-want menu as Dei Maggi tried to clean out the kitchen. The Rockwood Room, 5709 Woodway Dr., Ste. J, Houston, TX 77057, no phone.
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