Big news at Underbelly Hospitality, Mala Sichuan at MKT Heights

This week’s openings and endings begin with big news in the world by Chris Shepherd and Underbelly Hospitality:

click to enlarge UB Preserv will give way to a hiding place.  - PHOTO: JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY

UB Preserv will give way to a hiding place.

Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

UB Preserve, 1609 Westheimer, closes December 23rd. One of Underbelly Hospitality’s more casual eateries, it took over the place from its predecessor Underbelly three years ago, picking up chef Nick Wong and letting the menu reflect his vision of food from Houston. According to a press release, UB Preserv was the hardest hit of the group’s restaurants by the COVID-19 pandemic. There were plans to redesign and rebrand in hopes of revitalizing the concept for Wong and his crew. But with the opening of UH’s Georgia’s James Tavern, other possibilities arose. Wong, who had previously worked a year at the Gramercy Tavern in New York, also spent some time on the line at the Georgia James Tavern. His feedback was invaluable and now he is moving to GJ Tavern as head chef. UB Preservs deputy manager / operations manager Leila Frank will also be responsible for the transition. General manager Tara MacMullen will be a busy bee helping with all transitions and openings before she takes on the role of general manager on Underbelly’s new concept at Regent Square.

But wait. There is more!

Everlong Bar & Hideaway opens in UB Preserv Space in January 2022. Shepherd is a big fan of Foo Fighters, hence the name Everlong, which is also a hint that Shepherd and his team are going for more duration after the last five years of experiments. Now the Underbelly crew believes they have concretized the concepts that will remain forever. Guests can expect the new concept to become a tribute to Shepherd’s rock ‘n roll heroes by pushing boundaries and delivering good food and old school cocktails at the same time. Long Island Iced Tea will be part of the throwback cocktail menu. Feather hair and parachute pants are optional.

Hay Merchant pours its last pint up in January.  - PHOTO: JULIE SOEFER

Hay Merchant pours its last pint up in January.

Photo by Julie Soefer

Hay Grocery, 1600 Westheimer, closes January 2022. The announcement was made in August, as reported by Houston Press. The closure of Shepherd’s casual craft beer bar is sad for its loyal patrons, but a few of its dishes will move to Everlong, including the ever-popular Korean braised goat and dumplings and Muffaletta. The restaurant will debut a brand new burger along with a menu of snacks and shared. Lucas McKinney, former deputy head of Hay Merchant and GJ Tavern, takes to Everlong as chef.

Kyle Rahe and Lisa McCoy move to Everlong as managers and take Trivia Night with them.

Nick Wong likes pubs.  - PHOTO: JULIE SOEFER

Nick Wong likes pubs.

Photo by Julie Soefer

Georgia James Steakhouse, 1600 Westheimer, was to move to Regent Square, 1203 Dunlavy, with a huge new dining area and lounge in late January. However, this opening has been pushed to March 2022 due to City of Houston permits being delayed. Meanwhile, Georgia James Steakhouse will move to Shepherd’s concept restaurant One Fifth, 1658 Westheimer, in early 2022, replacing One Fifth Red Sauce Italian, the final iteration of Shepherd’s multi-concept experiment. Georgia James stays there until the Regent Square site is ready to go.

Undermave Burger, 2520 Airline, is set to open at Houston Farmers Market in December 2021, while Wild Oats, the Texas-inspired restaurant from Underbelly Hospitality’s culinary director Nick Fine, is expected to open in January 2022.

A fifth of red sauce ends, so to speak.  - PHOTO BY TAYLOR HALL

A fifth of red sauce ends, so to speak.

Photo by Taylor Hall

And finally, for those who will be sad to see One Fifth Red Sauce end, they can wipe away their tears. The second Underbelly Hospitality restaurant teased for Regent Square has been announced. Drum roll, please! The new restaurant will be Shepherd, serving red sauce Italian favorites. There will be a focus on family, community and coziness as well as giant portions of lasagna.

The interior of the Pastore is designed by Amanda Medsger as a whimsical ode to traditional Italian-American family dining with a bit of Venetian inspiration from the late Italian architect Carlo Scarpa.

Pastore means shepherd in Italian, so this is Shepherd’s first eponymous restaurant. A kind of.

Mala Sichuan will soon open at MKT Heights.  - PHOTO: HENG CHEN

Mala Sichuan will soon open at MKT Heights.

Photo by Heng Chen

Mala Sichuan Bistro, 600 N. Shepherd, opens in MKT Heights within the next month’s time. Owner Cori Xiong told Press that she expects it to be late December or early January. A spokesman for MKT Heights said in an email that the interior, by the gin design group, is spectacular and unlike anywhere else in the popular Chinese Sichuan restaurant. It will also have a terrace.

We want more information and photos of the restaurant next week, so stay tuned.

click to enlarge BB's is coming to this author's neighborhood.  Ai-yee!  - PHOTO: LORRETTA RUGGIERO

BB’s is coming to this author’s neighborhood. Ai-yee!

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

BB’s Tex-Orleans, 25635 US 59, opened November 15 in Kingwood. This is the 12th location for the Cajun-inspired restaurant, which has 11 in the Houston area. It opened its first San Antonio restaurant last September. Another location at 21441 Highway 249 is nearing completion and will take over the site, which was formerly a Pollo Loco.

The restaurant is popular for its seasonal cooked crawfish, homemade gumbo, fried seafood dishes and boudin balls. It offers a variety of po’dren boys from shrimp or oysters to chicken or roast beef leftovers. There are daily specials and its desserts include Maw Maw’s Bread Pudding and Brooks Brownie Sundae. Maw Maw also makes a little Bayou tea from Voodoo Bar.

The Dutch are coming!  The Dutch are coming!  - PHOTO OF DUTCH BROS.  COFFEE

The Dutch are coming! The Dutch are coming!

Photo by Dutch Bros. Coffee

Dutch Bros. Coffee, 22719 Morton Ranch, opens in Katy by the end of 2021, as reported by Community impact. The drive-through coffee shop is set to have over 500 locations in 11 states within the next few months. For the Houston area, there have been three new stores opened this spring and one in Houston, and another coming soon to Atascocita. There are even more planned for 2022, including one Tomball Square and another at Cypress Village Station on Highway 290, which is currently under construction.

The on-the-go coffee concept was founded by two brothers, Dane and Travis Boersma in 1992. The first Texas location opened at College Station in January last year. The “Broistas” serve coffee drinks, hot or ice cream, tea, cocoa, smoothies and freezers and freezers.

click to enlarge For dogs who like a few cocktails now and then.  - PHOTO: LORRETTA RUGGIERO

For dogs who like a few cocktails now and then.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Ranch Bar and Kitchen, 13245 Jones, has closed and opens instead this month is The drunk dog. We do not have many details yet, other than that it will be dog friendly, have games, drinks and a fully equipped kitchen. In December, it will host an event that includes some guys with not very much clothing.


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