It’s going to be an exciting spring for foodies in Houston. Some of the city’s best-known restaurateurs have new projects in the works, and high-profile exports from cities like Austin and New Orleans are set to hit the city of Bayou this year. After a terrible 2020, the Houston dining scene is definitely looking good.
To be clear, this is not an exhaustive list of restaurants that will open their doors in Houston in 2021 – that would be much longer. Instead, let’s take a look at the projects we’re most excited about, with updated details on when guests can expect these highly anticipated newcomers.
Acme Oyster House
Acme Oyster Houston, the centuries-old seafood restaurant first established in New Orleans, is almost complete with a makeover of the Montrose Tower Theater, which was last inhabited by El Real. The oyster house posted on Facebook earlier this month that it will open in April. An official opening date has not yet been set, but the restaurant is expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
Cafe Leonelli and Le Jardinier
Arriving at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston very soon, this duo of newcomers brings chic settings and haute cuisine to the museum district. Italian dishes such as focaccia and fresh pasta await you at Cafe Leonelli, an offshoot of New York’s Leonelli Bakery.
At Le Jardinier, the focus is on French cuisine. Chef Alain Verzeroli is in charge of the kitchen. Verzeroli is an alum of the acclaimed French chef Alain Passard’s Arpege and will prepare a menu of “plant-rich” dishes with products and proteins from the region. Cafe Leonelli will open on Friday April 16. Le Jardinier will follow soon in the spring.
Space cowboy and trash panda
Chef Lyle Bento, formerly of Southern Goods and Underbelly Hospitality, and Greg Perez, who helped found Northside Bar Monkey’s Tail, have announced the creation of a new group, Night Moves Hospitality, with at least four bars. The first will be Space Cowboy, a tropical bar slated for the new Heights House Hotel (a revamped version of the former Astro Inn) at 100 Cavalcade. The bar offers Polynesian cocktails and food inspired by Bento’s Hawaiian roots. It is scheduled to open at the end of April.
Shortly thereafter, the group plans to open the Trash Panda Drinking Club at 4203 Edison Street, a laid-back bar with a Mediterranean comfort menu and a raccoon mascot. Two more projects, which are still in development, are expected to open at the end of the year.
NoPo Café, Market & Bar
The latest project from Ben Berg, founder of BB Italia and B & B Butchers, is expected to open at 1244 North Post Oak Road in May. NoPo (short for North Post Oak) offers counter breakfast, lunch, and full-service dinner, plus an all-day market and 10-seat bar. Last month, Berg also announced two new restaurants planned for The Heights. First up is Trattoria Sofia, an Italian restaurant that will take over the space previously occupied by Presidio in the Heights.
By the time this Houston BBQ favorite’s Spring Branch outpost finally arrives, Erin Smith and Patrick Feges’ smoked meats and side dishes will finally have the sprawling homes they deserve. Guests can look forward to an all-day menu of burgers, sandwiches and wings, and Smith-selected wines. If the current construction times are adhered to, Feges BBQ will open in June.
This much-anticipated Middle East restaurant, behind the Doris Metropolitan Steakhouse, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, is likely to arrive at Rice Village sometime this summer. Expect Israeli cuisine, tons of wines, and an expansive space. A bakery called Badolina opens right next door and serves sweet and savory pastries like babka, as well as croissants and sourdough breads.
Ken Bridge, who has raised a number of restaurants over the years including Witchcraft Tavern, Blackbird Izakaya, and Lola, is planning big changes to his steakhouse ritual. Culturemap reports that Ritual will close this weekend, April 4th, and will reopen sometime in the second half of May as a Korean grill place called Mapojeong Galbijib. According to the website, the new restaurant will focus on USDA Prime dry-aged beef and feature a bar of infused soyuz and homemade banchan.
Chef Aaron Franklin and Tyson Cole’s outpost in Houston has been in operation since 2019 and is due to arrive in fall 2021. Upon arrival, guests can look forward to an abundance of smoked meats and dishes such as garlic rice noodles, pork shoulder char siu and brisket served with nuoc cham.
Chris Shepherd’s trio of new restaurants
It’s going to be a busy year for Chris Shepherd, the ghost behind spots like Georgia James, One Fifth and UB Preserv. He has three new restaurants in the works that are expected to arrive in 2021. Details can be found here:
- Wild oats – A new restaurant in the Houston Farmers Market under the direction of One Fifth Chef Nick Fine. In keeping with its location, Wild Oats will source ingredients from local farmers and suppliers and focus on Texan cuisine. It is expected to open in August.
- Georgia James Tavern – A casual spin on Shepherd’s indulgent Georgia James steakhouse, this restaurant marks Underbelly Hospitality’s first in Downtown Houston. Chef Matthew Coburn will oversee a menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and steaks. It should arrive in June.
- As yet unnamed restaurant in Regent Square – Details on this upcoming restaurant are sparse – it doesn’t even have a name yet – but the restaurant will be located in the new Regent Square development on Dunlavy and Allen Parkway and will focus on live fire cooking. The restaurant is inspired by the grilling and smoking that Shepherd made at home last year of the pandemic. It is expected to open in autumn 2021.
This long-awaited food hall, slated to take over Barbara Jordan’s vacant post office building near downtown Houston, is slated to open in late 2021. In this case, it will host an outpost of the renowned Salt & Time butcher shop in Austin. A burger spot called Butcher’s Burger from the minds behind Salt & Time. There will also be a Vietnamese restaurant serving Pho and Bun Bo Hue, Lea Jane’s Hot Chicken, and an outpost of the Taco Fuego food truck.
The Afro-Asian restaurant and the collaboration between Lucille’s Chef Chris Williams and top chef contestant Dawn Burrell will debut in Midtown on multipurpose Ion development in late August. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the old Sears building around which the Ion is located, and little details on its menu are as yet known. The opening is expected for the end of August at the end of 2021.