North Italia's Chef Board
State of Grace
Atlanta star chef and restaurateur Ford Fry returns to his Houston roots (St. John’s, Lamar High School) with his first Texas restaurant, State of Grace. Named for a deer in nature, the menu will encompass dishes inspired by the Texas Gulf Coast and Texas meat. Fry says, “We’ll be inspired by the Hill Country and have a heavy Gulf experience — it’s something we love.” The ingredients will be locally sourced, much like Fry’s other restaurants in Atlanta (El Felix, Superica, St. Cecilia, King + Duke, The Optimist, No. 246 and Jct Kitchen). State of Grace is expected to open this summer in the Lamar River Oaks Shopping Center at 3256 Westheimer Road.
Henke & Pillot
Adding to Downtown’s revitalized restaurant scene, Henke & Pillot finds a home at 809 Congress (formerly ERA). The three-story lounge is named after the local grocery chain started by Henry Henke and Camille Pillot in the late 1800s, and will be housed in the same building the grocery store once occupied. Co-owner Marcus Lam, managing member of construction company Advent Builders, remodeled the historical locale. The restaurant is currently in soft opening with hours from 4 pm to 2 am, Wednesday through Saturday, and is expected to fully open this month, with live music and a rooftop patio on the second and third floors.
Austin-based Snap Kitchen continues to expand with two new Houston sites. Its fresh, healthy prepackaged meals can now be purchased in the Heights at 250 W. 20th Street and the Museum District at 4005 Montrose Boulevard.
Peska Seafood Culture Makes Its American Debut
Mexico City meets Houston with the addition of Peska Seafood Culture in BLVD Place, at 1700 Post Oak Boulevard, the first U.S. location from the Mexico-based Ysitas Family, which is famous for its La Trainera brand (a collection of upscale seafood restaurants with locations in Mexico City and Acapulco). When Peska opens this March, diners will be able to view and select fresh-catch seafood for in-house dining or have it packaged to enjoy at home. Floor chefs assist with daily market offerings and offer suitable preparation options for the seafood. Peska’s executive chef is 22-year-old Omar Pereney, a Venezuelan native who began his career at the age of 12, hosted a Latin American cooking show by 15, acquired his first executive chef position at 16 and became an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu at 18. Peska adds another notch to its belt, with Pereney as one of the youngest executive chefs in the country.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Let the good times roll at Midtown’s newest gastropub, Gray’s Public House. Located at 510 Gray Street, Gray’s offers one of the largest menus of canned beer in town, with more than 50 selections. Cocktails are also sublime, with handcrafted libations prepared with house-made syrups — try the Strawberry Smash, the Midtown Mule or the sinful Blood Orange Margarita. Steak night on Wednesday combines steak, loaded mashed potatoes and grilled veggies with a cocktail for just $13. Gray’s will fête its opening with a Mardi Gras-themed celebration Thursday, February 5; a portion of the proceeds will benefit Urban Green, Hermann Park’s young professionals conservancy group.
Ciao, North Italia
In early March, ever-flourishing BLVD Place on Post Oak Boulevard gains another delicious addition: North Italia, specializing in handcrafted pasta and pizza. This will be North’s second Texas location; the first is in Austin. Led by executive chef Taylor Domet, the 4,500-square-foot eatery will serve up menu items such as a braised beef short rib with roasted root vegetables, Patata pizza topped with Italian bacon, potatoes and farm egg, and Mixologist Mat Snapp rounds out the offerings with a careful selection of wine, beer and handcrafted cocktails.
It’s out with the old and in with the new for a duo of local favorites. Dessert Gallery at 3600 Kirby Drive unveils a new storefront and logo to celebrate its upcoming 20th anniversary. The iconic starburst logo gets a new personality, along with vibrant new packaging. The changes debut this month … After 45 years, The Kolache Shoppe at 3945 Richmond unveils a new look and new ownership. Randy and Lucy Hines have taken over the treasured locale, updating the offerings to include fresh local ingredients combined with the same dough recipe customers have loved for years. The new menu showcases fruit-filled kolaches as well as seasonal varieties such as lemon cream, ginger citrus marmalade and orange cream. Savory items include large sausage kolaches made with signature venison & pork sausage from Wharton, as well as meat-free spinach, egg and cheese fillings, along with house-made ranchero sauce. Grab a pastry from the bakery menu and pair it with a cup of coffee from Heights favorite Boomtown Coffee, the new in-house brew.
Nara Shuts Shop
Nara Sushi and Korean Kitchen in West Ave closed January 31 after unresolved disagreements with its landlord. Chef/owner Donald Chang is scouting locations for a new concept to be announced soon.