Fall Beckons with New Restaurant Openings and Expansions

Cherry Block Smokehouse (photo by Becca Wright)

THERE WASN’T MUCH of a summer slowdown for Houston’s restaurant scene, and fall promises to be just as busy and tasty. Here’s what’s simmering in September!


Il Bracco

The Uptown area just got a little glitzier with buzzy Il Bracco, an ambitious Italian restaurant located in the former California Pizza Kitchen space. It marks the first Houston location for the popular Dallas-based eatery, which opened in 2019. Expect a fresh take on classic Italian cuisine on the menu designed by owners and longtime hospitality veterans chef Robert Quick and Matt Gottlieb. All pastas, breads and desserts are prepared in-house, and prime beef is butchered on site. Starters like crispy artichokes and meatballs share menu space with Mediterranean sea bass and chicken piccata. The chic, sweeping space designed by prodigious Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, sports custom furniture and light fixtures throughout the bar, lounge and dining room.

Cherry Block Smokehouse

Cherry Block (photo by Becca Wright)

On Tuesday, Cherry Block Smokehouse swung open its doors at the Stomping Grounds development in Garden Oaks. Owner Felix Florez, founder of the original Cherry Block location in Bravery Chef Hall, decided to expand after the pandemic wreaked havoc on Downtown’s food scene. “We’re just getting started, and there is more to come,” Florez said in a statement. Cherry Block's kitchen features a Texas-style mish mash of pecan-smoked meats, pork ribs and smoked sausage, as well as steaks, gumbo, seafood cocktails, crawfish eggrolls, a gussied-up double cheeseburger and more. There will also be a small section in the 2,600-square-foot restaurant called The Market, where diners can purchase meats, bread, cheese and other items to take home. Conveniently, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Aya Sushi

Aya Sushi

Tokyo-trained chef Pak Tsui has teamed up with Kau Ba Saigon partners Bruce Kish and Minette Corpuz to bring elevated sushi to Bellaire (finally!). Tsui, who spent four years working at Uchi, is known for his colorful personality and over-the-top omakase. For now, the 19-course omakse meal will take center stage, and eventually diners will have the option to order a la carte hot and cold nigiri, maki and sashimi. In addition to specialty cocktails, the bar at Aya will showcase more than 200 wines, 50 sake choices and 80 Japanese whiskies, all curated with the restaurant’s sushi in mind.

Gatsby's Prime Seafood

Gatsby's Prime Seafood (photo by Raydon Creative)

Gatsby Hospitality Group has plans for a new upscale food and beverage concept scheduled to open at the end of September. Occupying the former Tony Mandola’s on Waugh and drawing upon the economic prowess and positivity of the roaring ’20s, Gatsby’s Prime Seafood will seek to amplify the standard of excellence established by its sister steakhouse concept. Executive chef Erick Anaya, who boasts more than 20 years of food and beverage leadership, will helm the kitchen. The menu will showcase oceanic dishes prepared with fresh seafood brought in daily including a branzino filet, Bedford scallops, sea bass, a showy seafood tower, and caviar offerings. Prime steakhouse aficionados can get their fill with a filet, ribeye, and NY strip. Front-of-house operations will be led by hospitality veteran Patrick Smith, who previously was with Morton’s Steakhouse for 24 years. “We’ve been elated with the success of Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse up to this point, and Gatsby’s Prime Seafood is our chance to prove that the brand is here to stay,” says Gatsby Hospitality owner Luis Rangel.

Local Table

Local Table (photo by Jenn Duncan)

One of Katy’s most beloved family restaurants, Local Table, is gearing up for a big move early this fall. The relocation of their popular Cinco Ranch location comes on the cusp of a major expansion for the restaurant group called Eat Local Concepts. As the group prepares to expand into The Woodlands later this year, they first wanted to reestablish the original location. “As we began to prioritize, we realized we wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of our Cinco Ranch neighbors. They’ve really laid the foundation for us to create a fresh and sustainable brand,” said brothers Neima and Shervin Sharifi, co-owners of Local Table. At the new Cinco Ranch location, expect a massive patio and the largest private dining room of all the locations. Guests can expect a variety of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian dishes including Texas caviar salad, honey ginger-roasted brussels sprouts salad and the local farmers market salad, a variety of wood stone pizzas, wraps, tacos, sandwiches, and pitas.

Se7en

A rendering of Se7en

Coming soon to Upper Kirby: A high-end restaurant with an entertainment component from Seven Hospitality Group. Dubbed Se7en, the Miami-lounge-inspired concept will serve Asian-Mediterranean fusion fare; food, cocktails and desserts will be inspired by the seven deadly sins and the seven wonders of the world. The "entertainment" portion remains under wraps, but with more than 5,000 square feet inside and an 1,100-square-foot patio, it promises to be exciting and dramatic.

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