East End Backyard Opens, Jollof Rice King Debuts Next Week

East End Backyard, 1105 Sampson, opens October 9. The spacious outdoor venue from owner and Houston Dynamo legend Brian Ching offers a bar with a 16,000 square foot dog-friendly patio with a 3,500-square-foot dog park. The massive outdoor space offers plenty of social distancing room for lawn games, relaxing with pod friends and live music. The full bar has 25 beers and ciders on tap, including local selections from 8th Wonder, Saint Arnold, Eureka Heights and No Label plus a cocktail menu. For nosh, there will be a rotating line-up of local food trucks.

Ching, who also owns Pitch 25 Beer Park, launched a NextSeed crowdfunding campaign for East End Backyard last May. In a press release from business partner Nick Scurfield of the Scurfield Group public relations agency, Ching said:  “We wanted to create a laidback outdoor space where people could socialize with friends. Right now, our top priority is to provide a safe, comfortable environment with lots of room for social distancing, and we think it will be the perfect place for that.” Besides Scurfield, Ching has also brought in Jimmy Tzannis as a partner. Tzannis is a former manager at Ching’s Pitch 25 which is a sports-centric bar and beer garden on Walker.

Former Dynamo Brian Ching and son Chase.EXPAND

Former Dynamo Brian Ching and son Chase.

Photo by Wilf Thorne Photography

The outdoor space offers bright-colored furniture such as Adirondack chairs and wood picnic tables with umbrellas. There are also sofas for lounging. The fenced-in dog park features several tables so that patrons can sit and enjoy a drink while watching their pooches play and make new friends. Reservations can also be made in advance for dog parties. Magnolia trees, crape myrtle trees and Spanish sycamores offering shade on a sunny Houston day.

East End Backyard has an interior bar as well.EXPAND

East End Backyard has an interior bar as well.

Photo by Wilf Thorne Photography

The interior bar offers 1,300 square feet of space in a converted bright blue 1930s bungalow. The interior wallpaper brings the outdoor garden vibe inside and seating includes high-top bar tables made from recycled antique bicycles and reclaimed barn wood, made by Inspired Finds out of Des Moines, Iowa.

There are two other 1930s bungalows on the property and Ching has future plans for those, including a taco shop or coffee shop and a merchandise store for artists Donkeeboy and Donkeemom whose studio is in the neighborhood. The mom and son art duo of Alex Roman Jr. and Sylvia Roman is working on a signature mural for East End Backyard’s patio. There are plans for additional murals on the property by other local artists.

Oxtails and jollof rice offer diners a taste of West Africa.

Oxtails and jollof rice offer diners a taste of West Africa.

Photo by Nathan Colbert

Jollof Rice King, 3833 Richmond, opens October 13, as reported by Eater Houston. The new West African restaurant comes from husband and wife Ayo and Tiffaney Odewale who also own Taste of Nigeria and Cafe Abuja. The newest restaurant’s opening was delayed due to the pandemic but the couple saw the chance to open the Greenway Plaza location as a great opportunity.

“We felt that it would be risky to open a third location location but knew that we were what this part of town was missing, ” the owners told the Houston Press. ” With that said we wanted to make a creative entrance to an area of town that would draw some inquisitive palates.”

And that’s exactly what the opening of their second restaurant, Taste of Nigeria, did when it opened in the Galleria area, as celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson noted when he filmed his PBS television show, No Passport Required at the restaurant last year. While there are numerous ethnic restaurants and grocers on the southwest side of Houston with cuisines from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia, to list a few, the rest of Houston abounds with Tex-Mex, Italian and Vietnamese restaurants, all cuisines that themselves were deemed adventurous over the decades. With the opening of Jollof Rice King in Greenway Plaza,  jollof rice and suya skewers may one day become as ubiquitous as cheese enchiladas, pho and lasagna in Houston restaurants.

Greenway Plaza is getting a taste of Nigeria.EXPAND

Greenway Plaza is getting a taste of Nigeria.

Photo by Nathan Colbert

Samuelsson also highlighted the fact that many of staff and chefs at the Odewales’ restaurants come from different regions of West Africa bringing Senegalese and Cameroonian influences as well, However, at the new restaurant, jollof rice is king, as indicated by its name, which the owners chose because jollof rice is the bestseller at its other restaurants. It’s a West African comfort food like macaroni and cheese is to many Americans.

However, there’s much more to try at the new restaurant. Starters include Scotch Egg made with seasoned turkey and pies with fish, chicken or beef. There are suya skewers made with either broiled beef or chicken, rubbed with spices and peanut sauce. The rice plates are served with a choice of white, jollof or coconut rice and offer protein options such as beef, chicken, goat, oxtails or fish. The vibrant and flavorful Pepper Soup is offered with various protein choices as well. Many of the plates come with plantains and moi moi, a Nigerian bean cake.

A look at the online menu shows non-alcoholic beverages such as Nigerian Fanta and Malts plus a couple of Polkadraii wines from South Africa, beer and an African Palm Drink. 

The original TUK has closed.

The original TUK has closed.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

The Union Kitchen, 4057 Bellaire, is closing for good. The Bellaire location was the original for Gr8 Plate Hospitality’s casual, yet sophisticated restaurant known for tasty burgers and its Texas twist on global favorites.. Owner Paul Miller opened The Union Kitchen in 2010, working with fiancee Doris, now his wife. Since then, the concept has added six more locations. The Kingwood, Oak Forest, Memorial, Cypress and Katy locations are all open and the Washington Avenue restaurant is set to reopen soon. Gr8Plate also operates Jax Grill which opened  a new location this past June next door to the new TUK in Katy.

Diane and Willet Feng have plans for burger-chan.

Diane and Willet Feng have plans for burger-chan.

Photo by Troy Fields

Burger-Chan, 4901 Rose Street, opened at Click Virtual Food Hall October 15, according to CultureMap Houston. Click is a ghost kitchen from chef Gabriel Medina and Steven Salazar which began in 2019. Burger-chan makes the ninth concept to sign on with the online food hall which offers a common kitchen for Medina and his staff to create food from various concepts. The dishes are available for pick-up or delivery within an eight-mile radius.

The last day of service for burger-chan at Greenway Plaza was August 28. Owners Willet and Diane Feng first opened the hamburger kiosk in the food court as Kuma Burgers in 2016. It quickly earned a spot as one of the best burgers in town. The Fengs changed the named to burger-chan a year later after a similarly-named restaurant made a complaint. For office workers and burger lovers, it was the quality beef from 44 Farms and housemade sauces that made the burgers so popular. Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to a downward trajectory for lunchtime business at the office complex since many employees are still working from home.

Now, its loyal fans can order burger-chan online from Click Virtual Food Hall.  Plans to open burger-chan II are still in place for early 2021.

Pappas Bros. is open for those desiring a little luxury in their lives.EXPAND

Pappas Bros. is open for those desiring a little luxury in their lives.

Photo by Julie Soefer

Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, 1200 McKinney, has reopened with limited hours. While awaiting the return of downtown business, the upscale dining destination will be open Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The opening hours will increase as more downtown activity resumes.

There's a ribeye with your name on it at Pappas Bros.EXPAND

There’s a ribeye with your name on it at Pappas Bros.

Photo by Julie Soefer

The restaurant will be open for dine-in and curbside pick-up. It is taking strict measures to keep guests and employees safe including staff health and temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, tables and chairs sanitized after each guest and the option of single use utensils or sanitized utensils. We know what option we’d choose because eating a fifty-dollar steak with plastic ware is not a pleasure.

The restaurant has both its dine-in and take-out menus online. If you have been saving your pennies by living off cold cuts and packaged ramen noodles at home, this is the time to pamper yourself with some prime steak and fine wine.

Prince’s Hamburgers, 6600 Harbor Town, has opened at the Sharpstown Park Golf Course, according to ABC13.com. Owner John Broussard closed the last location of Prince’s Hamburgers on Ella in February 2018 months after Hurricane Harvey had taken its toll on local businesses, residents and restaurants alike. Broussard promised the long time burger joint, which first opened in Houston in 1934, would be back. Now, it has returned with its much-loved burgers and hand-battered onion rings.

Chiba Hot Pot, 12426 FM 1960, had its grand opening September 17. The All-You-Can-Eat restaurant uses a conveyor belt to get items like black mussels, taro sticks and hot broths to customers. There is a condiment bar and dessert area, too.

Very Fresh offers ceviche and snacks.EXPAND

Very Fresh offers ceviche and snacks.

Photo by Enrique Soberanes

Very Fresh Ceviches & Snacks, 18379 Kuykendahl, began its soft opening August 19. This is the second location for the business which sells a variety of Mexican snacks, seafood and creative beverages. Owner Enrique Soberanes and his wife opened the first location three years ago serving Clamatos, fruit drinks and snacks. With this new venture, Soberanes told the Press that he is hoping to create a ceviche franchise with more stores in the future and investors. The ceviches on offer include shrimp, fish and octopus plus a Red Tuna ceviche. There are corn snacks like Corn in a Cup or the Loaded Corn Tamale with the traditional elote toppings. There are tostadas, aguachiles and seafood cocktails as well and the restaurant is looking to bring its Baja Tacos from the other location’s menu per the multiple requests from loyal customers.

There are plenty of drinks to choose from like the shakes, frappes and different flavors of horchatas including a cajete option. There are fruit smoothies, mangonadas and micheladas, too.

Coookies.

Coookies.

Photo by Sapna Patel

Tiff’s Treats, 13126 FM 1960, is slated to open this November, according to Community Impact.  The Austin-based cookie and treats shop has a dozen Houston locations. It has stores all over Texas and has expanded to Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Its stores offer a few treats for those stopping in such as the Tiffwich, an ice cream sandwich and brownies and cookies. However, for large orders, it’s best to order online ahead of time for pick-up or delivery. The shops are cashless and take payment from credit, debit and gift cards plus Apple Pay.

The idea began in 1999 when Tiffany Taylor brought fellow University of Texas sophomore Leon Chen freshly-baked cookies as a consolation for standing him up on a date. He persuaded her that she should start her own business. The duo opened their first storefront in 2003 at MLK and Nueces in Austin. Now, the couple are married and keeping life sweet with their ever-expanding cookie deliveries. Cypress residents will also be getting another location at 13201 Fry in December.

Get your freak and your vote on.EXPAND

Get your freak and your vote on.

Photo by Julia Keim

Independence Brewing Co., 3913 Todd Lane, is launching a limited time only brew, Freak Power, to coincide with the upcoming election and the Austin-based brewery’s sixteenth anniversary. It is available through October and November at the tap room and state-wide retailers.

The beer is a blood orange Hefeweizen in a colorful pink and orange can designed by graphic artist Lauren Dickens. The inspiration for the beer comes from Hunter S. Thompson’s campaign in 1970 for sheriff of Aspen on the Freak Power ticket. The gonzo journalist, who died in 2005, is best known for his book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The brewery, founded in 2004 by Amy and Rob Cartwright, hopes that it can spark enthusiasm and political engagement in young voters with its Freak Power launch. Early voting in Texas begins October 13.

Bottled Blonde has happy hour deals on pizza.EXPAND

Bottled Blonde has happy hour deals on pizza.

Photo by Michael Anthony

Bottled Blonde Pizzeria and Beer Garden, 4901 Washington, recently opened September 17 as we reported here in the Press. Now, it has launched its brunch service and new happy hour.

For brunch, guests can choose dishes like buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy and a sunnyside-up egg, the Breakfast Burrito with jalapeno jam, house-made pop tarts or the Butterfinger French Toast.  Try a brunch cocktail like the Casa Amigo’s frozen margarita or bring some quarantine bubble friends and indulge in the Mimosa Tower which is three bottles of champagne plus choice of juice. Brunch is available Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Its happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. with $6 craft beers, $5 domestics, $7 select wines and $2 off well cocktails. Its signature pizzas are half off from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Mochi donuts are a thing.EXPAND

Mochi donuts are a thing.

Photo by Kathy Tran

350 Bakery, 2009 Polk, is hosting mochi donut  pop-ups for Fat Straws Bubble Tea Co. out of Dallas. The pop-ups are Saturday October 17, Sunday October 18 and Saturday October 24 and Sunday October 25. The pop- up lasts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The Chewy Puff Donuts can be preordered by half dozen or dozen at faststraws.co/houston by Thursday before each weekend. The unique donuts will be available singly on site during the pop-up

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