Spring for These New Italian, Mediterranean and Mexican Eateries! All the Best Food News Now

Spring for These New Italian, Mediterranean and Mexican Eateries! All the Best Food News Now

Wagyu Tartare at Albi (photo by Michael Anthony)

THE BEES ARE buzzing, flowers are blooming — rain, rain, go away! — and the restaurants keep sprouting. Here’s a taste of what’s new.


Spinach and feta bulema (photo by Michael Anthony)

Intimate and elaborate Albi recently joined restaurants like Brasserie 19 and Zanti on West Gray’s hopping corridor in River Oaks. Tucked away on the second floor of the center, it sports lush interiors in jewel tones with red-silk-shade lamps, velveteen banquettes, chandeliers and ambient lighting. Named after the Arabic word, “my heart,” Albi is a labor of love between siblings Nano and Jimy Fakhoury, operators of Mary’z Mediterranean restaurants, and partner Aladdin Nimri. Chef-consultant Mark Cox worked with executive chef Christian Hernandez, former chef de cuisine of March, on the menu. Albi strives to bridge Middle Eastern cultures including Lebanese, Turkish and Greek, turning out dishes like shrimp falafel with taratorsauce and heirloom tomatoes; beets bil tahini, and bluefin tuna tartar with apricot coulis. Tempting mains include king trumpet mushroom shawarma with tzatziki, and Jidori chicken roulade stuffed with house made turmeric and chicken sausage. The seasonally driven cocktail program also aligns with Mediterranean influences with an array of signature cocktails, fresh mocktails and wine.


Dante's (photo courtesy Bear Media Group)

Dante’s will open in the shuttered Concura space off Mid Lane May 16. Longtime restaurateur Brian Doke, a Tiny Boxwoods alum, has a passion for Italian food and wine and was a regular at Concura. “The combination of a charming and quaint interior coupled with an airy patio for dining al fresco makes for a wonderful dining experience,” says Doke. To helm the kitchen, Doke tapped Ilias Gugole, who attended culinary school in Verona and cooked for top restaurants in Italy. Expect shareable starters, salads which highlight various regions of Italy including Rome, Venice and Naples, and six different pastas. A rotating “catch of the day” main courses might include duck breast, roasted salmon and ribeye steak. As far as design is concerned, the space has undergone a bright transformation with white walls, greenery, and a more open patio area, while beautiful tilework and an open kitchen remain.

Little Rey

Ford Fry (State of Grace, Superica) returns with a new-to-Houston concept, Little Rey, in early 2024. Designed by Michael Hsu, it'll be a Northern Mexican-inspired place with casual street eats (tacos, salads) and inventive soft-serve ice cream. A walk-up window emphasizes the casual, indoor-outdoor feel, which will also be achieved through accents of reclaimed wood, vintage Mexican festival masks, a soundtrack of Willie and Waylon, and a simple drink menu of aqua frescas, margs and Mexican beers.


FRNDS fried snapper bites

Rice Village just got friendlier. Located in the former Mi Luna space on University Blvd, FRNDS (a.k.a. friends) aims to be a gathering spot for groups. Expect a softly lit clubby vibe with spins on cocktail classics like a tequila-based Lemon Drop martini and the signature Friends with Benefits cocktail. The shareable menu created by chef Mark Holley of Davis Street at Hermann Park features tapas-style eats. Come hungry for Creole shrimp cocktail, steamed dumplings, and buttermilk fried chicken tenders. Hearty entrees include brick lemon chicken, Thai salmon and more.

Bari Ristorante

Branzino at Bari (Photo by Debora Smail)

Elegant, high-end Italian restaurant Bari will open May 15 in the River Oaks District. The hotly anticipated spot, located in the former Tom Ford boutique, promises an atmosphere brimming with Milan and Rome glamour. The menu was designed by chef Renato De Pirro, certified Italian Master Chef and formerly with Ristorante Cavour at Hotel Granduca. A peek at the opening menu reveals a spread of antipasti ranging from foie gras terrine with strawberry compote to beef carpaccio with lemon truffle dressing, as well as pizzas, salads and raw bar offerings. Expect mains like seafood and mushroom risotto; Chianti-braised short ribs with polenta; filet mignon with Borolo demiglace, and veal scallopine. Naturally, there will be pasta — think lobster ravioli, pappardelle Bolognese and spaghetti with clam sauce. The restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Ojo de Agua

Ojo de Agua

This Miami transplant is readying its debut, also in River Oaks District, and the natives are getting hungry for it. Imagine scratch-made authentic Mexican favorites whipped up fresh, light and health-conscious — we can’t wait!

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