TUCKED IN BETWEEN the oak-lined avenues of fine residences, the medical district, and the leafy reaches of Rice University, Rice Village has remained an iconic shopping destination since 1938. Houston’s walkable garden district has recently been refreshed with more sidewalks, storefronts, landscaping, parking and new retail. With a growing global array of eateries including Spanish, French, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines — plus sweets galore — there’s no need to have a dining plan upon arrival. Just follow your cravings! Here’s what’s cooking.
Hamsa (photo by Kirsten Gilliam)
Hamsa Following the success of its recently debuted Badolina Bakery & Café in Rice Village, Sof Hospitality (also behind Doris Metropolitan on Shepherd) is opening a modern Israeli restaurant adjacent to the bakery in March or April. Expect a sharp focus on Israeli food with an emphasis on vegetable-centric and shareable dishes. Hamsa’s wine list, which includes many by Middle Eastern producers, should be a real eye-opener for oenophiles.
The Rice Box
The Rice Box Look inside the packed-to-the-brim Chinese to-go cartons and you’ll find a lot to love. The quick wok-fired, Asian-inspired fare is top quality, from the seasonal veggies to the local 44 Farms beef (try it with the silky noodle dishes). The Rice Box will offer counter pick-up, drive-through or delivery from Favor and also phone orders. Opening date early spring.
Cherif Mbjodi, Victoria Bludorn and Aaron Bludorn (photo by Michael Anthony)
Chef Aaron Bludorn’s Unnamed Project The prime 7,100-square-foot space formerly home to the Politan Row food hall has been leased by acclaimed chef Aaron Bludorn and his restaurateur wife Victoria Pappas Bludorn for a yet-to-be-named concept coming this summer. Highly pedigreed manager Cherif Mbodji will serve as a partner in the project. The Bludorns fell in love with the Rice Village location for their second concept, particularly the vintage nature of the standalone building and the neighborhood charm and pedestrian orientation of the retail area. The new concept will join recent brand extensions including Bludorn Catering and Events and Bludorn at Home, an upscale, chef-prepared meal program.
Sprinkles Cupcakes L.A’s most beloved cupcake boutique has just arrived in Rice Village. Over the years, Sprinkles Cupcakes has added cookies, brownies, and ice cream to its portfolio. For more icing on the cake, recently it introduced a line of chocolates inspired by its cupcake flavors. “That Sprinkles has chosen Rice Village for its next location is a testament to the continued evolution of Rice Village and its ability to attract top-quality tenants,” said Morgan Lera, investment manager of Rice Management Company, in a statement.
Van Leeuwan Ice Cream
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Here’s the scoop on seasonal flavors at this still-new shop known for made-from-scratch, decadent, dairy and vegan ice cream. Exotic winter selections include blue jasmine tea; vegan yuzu and sake; Fior di Latte chip; and blood-orange Creamsicle. We still love you, chocolate-fudge-brownie ice cream, and struggle not to take a pint or two home. Another new outpost will grace The Montrose Collective this March (more on this soon).
ACASA margaritas in mason jars
Rice Village Farmers Market The open-air market tempts with new discoveries every week, ranging from sustainably sourced produce and chef-made plates to fresh morning coffee and made-to-order Acasa margaritas sold in mason jars. First and third Sundays, 9am-1pm, Kelvin Dr. and Amherst St.
Isidora Flower & Gift Shop
Isidora Flower and Gift Shop After moving to Houston from Peru to seek medical treatment, Isidora Flower Shop owner Thalia Jaguande decided to stay and “give back” to the city in a beautiful way: with flowers! Jaguande’s philosophy is that “every day is a special day for celebrating life.” The team curates its selection of blooms weekly and designs all arrangements inspired by color palettes. Stop and smell the roses, but also find gifts produced by small businesses in the U.S., a succulents bar, plants, and gift boxes. Isidora surely will create a stunning Valentine’s bouquet for that special someone: Its Valentine’s Day collection launches 1/24.
S'mores at Sweet Paris (photo by Julie Soefer)
Sweet Paris Creperie & Café This year, Sweet Paris will relocate its original outpost to a brand-new building with a sidewalk patio on Morningside in Rice Village. The Sweet Paris brand was founded in 2012 by Allison and Ivan Chavez “to revive the art of eating crepes.” In addition to sweet and savory crepes, Sweet Paris offers waffles, salads, paninis, soups, milkshakes, mimosas, hot espresso and French Riviera cocktails. "It is an exciting time as Sweet Paris continues to expand and lay down roots within Rice Village, where we were originally founded," Allison Chavez said in a news release. Sweet Paris currently operates 10 locations.
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