Restaurant Buzz

Houston Dining News for September

Laurann Claridge
September 01, 2012

It’s been a decade since Hugo Ortega and his wife Tracy Vaught (who also own Backstreet Café) opened the beloved authentic Mexican spot Hugo’s on lower Westheimer Road. To mark that milestone, Ortega has published a new cookbook, Hugo Ortega’s Street Foods (Bright Sky Press, $34.95). Each page takes you traveling vicariously with Ortega to his homeland, through the people who keep the rich cooking tradition in Mexico alive — the country’s home cooks. Best yet, Penny de Los Santos’ photos make you crave every dish Ortega recreates in the pages … Speaking of Mexican fare (in this case, Tex-Mex), chef/owner John Sanchez has opened the new Iguanas in the Memorial Drive area east of Town & Country Center, where Indika’s and La Vista’s first locations stood many moons ago. Priding themselves on making everything from ceviche to chicken mole to a black bean burger from scratch, this family restaurant is open for lunch and dinner … Houston-based 1252 Tapas Bar has unveiled its third location, this one in Uptown Park. Houston-born chef Eric McClanahan mans the range at the Spanish-bites concept … Last month, Monica Pope reinvented her T’Afia concept as Sparrow Bar & Cookshop. Becki and Jur van der Oord, owners of Installations Antiques in the Heights, have revamped the interiors with an industrial feel and a dark palette with a splash of red. Look for an expanded bar, as well as menus focused on small bites and tastings. In other Pope news, the soon-to-be-50 chef is celebrating her birthday with the release of her first cookbook, soon to be on Houston bookshelves … Austin-based J. Black’s Feel Good Kitchen & Lounge also debuted in the Heights late this summer. Chef Josie Paredes offers a menu of pub fare fit for sharing and handcrafted cocktails in the Washington corridor bar and restaurant … The Schiller Del Grande Group, operators of two concepts at West Ave, Ava Kitchen and Alto Pizzeria, recently merged the two into the second-floor space of Alto Pizzeria. Look for the best-loved dishes from Ava to take a place on the menu upstairs at Alto while the owners look to expand their successful pizza concept. Access to the new blended concept is through the original blue stair tower; you’ll find a smart-phone activated curbside pickup area at its base for to-go orders.