July was a tough month for some classic Houston establishments, but it was also a second chance time. The second oldest Tex-Mex restaurant in Bayou City has announced its closure, but hope is on the horizon. Earlier this month, members of two of Houston’s most prestigious restaurant families announced they were closing their restaurant but looking for a new location. A chef with over 40 years of experience opened a new restaurant in his old area. And hopefully a Vietnamese favorite will see a similar rebirth after it closes in July.
Spanish village has a last minute stay
On July 17th, Spanish village, an institution in Houston at 4720 Almeda, closed as reported by Loretta Ruggiero of the Houston Press. However, there is good news: Spanish Village was bought and It is scheduled to reopen on August 1st.
The name of the new owner was not disclosed (and despite rumors, Turkey Leg Hut’s marketing company, Boost One Marketing, has denied being a buyer). Current owner Abhi Sreerama says, “For the time being, they have said that they plan to operate it as it is. But improvements to the building are imminent as they can bring the plans and permits together. ”
The restaurant opened in 1953 and is the second oldest Mexican restaurant in Houston (after in Molinas). Unfortunately, the time wasn’t good for the building, which is the main reason Sreerama decided to give it up. “After much deliberation, we decided to part with the restaurant and found a buyer for the building,” he said. “The pandemic was obviously very severe, but rather boom / bust and completely stressful. Although we were profitable, we never had an opportunity to invest in our business because there wasn’t enough business to hire people, and both ish [Ishita Chakravarty, Spanish Village’s chef and Sreerama’s wife] and I worked a long time to keep the business going. Operating costs continued to rise and the building around us continued to deteriorate. At one point, I was spending about $ 10,000 a month fixing problems in the building. It wasn’t sustainable, especially as Ish is trying to grow her dessert business and our vegan following, which has proven to be very popular so far. ”
This classic Tex-Mex eatery is known for margaritas, enchiladas, and some of the best fried chicken in town. After Sreerama bought John Medina’s business in 2018, Chakravarty became the chef. She developed a full vegan Tex-Mex menu that became famous itself.
Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen. Courtesy photo.
Tony Mandola’s plans to return to a new location soon
Another longtime Houston classic, Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen, at 1212 Waugh, closes July 26th, as Greg Morago of the Houston Chronicle reported. The restaurant was the brainchild of Phyllis Mandola and her husband Tony, who both come from a long line of legendary Houston restaurateurs. Phyllis is the daughter of “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo, founder of Ninfa is on navigation. Tony is the son of Grace Mandola the responsible matriarch Carrabas, Ninos, Damiens and several other restaurants. Legend has it that Tony grilled Ninfa’s first taco and Phyllis served it to Ninfa’s first customer, her grandmother.
The couple don’t leave the business forever. In an Instagram post announcing the closure, Phyllis Mandola said, “We’re not done yet” and that “a new location will be announced shortly”. Tony Mandola’s is known for Gulf Coast seafood served Italian-style in a romantic setting, including a terrace overlooking Waugh Drive.
The famous banh mi thap cam from Cafe TH. Photo by Phaedra Cook.
Construction problems and more force Cafe TH to close
Popular Vietnamese restaurant in the east of the city center Cafe TH had his last day of service on Thursday, July 15th. Owner and chef, Minh Nguyen, bought the café, which had been a fixture in Houston’s old Chinatown since the 1980s, in 2007. Nguyen breathed new life into TH Café, updated the menu, added gluten-free, vegan and paleo options, and kicked off the community his support together local artists and the sourcing of local ingredients. The result was a unique, Vietnamese-themed fusion menu that had a loyal following.
When contacted by Houston Food Finder, Nguyen lamented attempts with restaurant owners: “Generally, behind every smile, there is someone tinkering with what needs to be ‘fixed’ or improved next. The list goes on and never goes down. Every obstacle that is not taken into account contributes to the stressor course.
In one July 18, 2021 Facebook post, Nguyen stated that problems with a landlord who had not properly maintained and repaired the building were an important factor in the decision to close the apartment. Among other things, Nguyen said he had to replace the air conditioning and sewer pipes at his own expense and deal with a leaky roof. He says: “Know how little you do [the landlord] If I took care of my concerns, I would take care of matters that a landlord should normally address, because then it would simply be dealt with immediately and efficiently. Your contractors were the least competent and while you were saving [money], Your tenants suffered. That’s why I left. Onward and upward. ”Nguyen had also previously announced that his electricity bill was nine times higher than normal after the devastating ice storm that struck Houston in mid-February.
In Another Facebook announcementsaid Nguyen, “From a financial crisis to a pandemic, it’s been a wild roller coaster ride. Many of you have become my friends, family, and even beyond. I can truly say that you gave me more than I can ever imagine. Literally blood, sweat and tears have come into this life that “makes you look easy”. My co-workers have gone through thick and thin with me and I believe that their transition will soon be safe. My family supported me the most in this endeavor. Seriously, TH would never have existed. The future is blurry, but I’ll be back. “
The original Peli Peli at Vintage Park is gone forever, but the chef is starting over
While we wait for each of these Houston favorites to hopefully reopen in new iterations, a favorite chef has returned. Vintage Park in northwest Houston is getting a new concept from the chef Paul Friedmann, The chef’s table, located at 110 Vintage Park. Friedman was the cook / owner of Game game, a South African concept that Houstonians were quick to adopt. As Peli Peli grew into multiple locations, including Galleria and Woodlands locations that are still operating, Friedman and his partner did Thomas nguyen withdrew their positions to devote themselves to other projects. Now Friedman is returning to familiar excavations with a new concept.
The chef’s table has cabins that give every guest the feeling of sitting at a cooking table. Once seated, diners can enjoy an eclectic menu of dishes inspired by Friedman’s over forty years of dining experience on three continents. Appetizers included Bahji onion, Curry onion fritters with Peppadew ranch and mango chutney and Meat pie, Curry beef and carrot bredie (a traditional South African dish that mixes carrots and potatoes) in a batter. Main dishes are sandwiches, Jerk Snapper, Portuguese Chicken Pendurada (marinated chicken curry with guava sauce, garlic butter and a sweet chili sauce) and Beef Osso Buco With Chakalaka stew, a spicy tomato and bean mixture from South Africa. Friedman bit his teeth as a restaurant manager in South Africa and Germany before moving to Houston. He appeared in the “Cutthroat Kitchen” of the Food Network and in the “Restaurant Startup” of CNBC.
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