There's a ray of sunshine through the clouds in this case. A collective cheer from the foodie community went up when Culturemap reported mere hours later that El Real's new neighbor is going to be the second location of Mala Sichuan, named Best Chinese Restaurant by the Houston Press in both 2012 and 2014.
Mala Sichuan's original location in Bellaire quickly made a name for itselfboth for its unapologetic, tongue-tingling use of its namesake peppercorns and an all-around hearty, flavorful, reasonably-priced menu. Soon, the owners retained PSA Wine sommelier Justin Vann (who can now also be found in his own new place at Public Services Wine & Whisky bar in the Cotton Exchange building downtown). It led to an almost unheard of accolade for a Chinese restuaurant: a nod for Best Wine List this past year. That, along with its shareable dishes, like Three Oil Beef Tripe, House Special Cold Noodle and Tea Smoked Duck, made it a Houston culinary destination. Vann, honored this year by Bon Appetit as a sommelier to watch in 2015, will be developing the wine program for the second location as well.
In other opening news, another community is rejoicing--the Jewish one--over the news that a Kosher steakhouse has opened. At Genesis Steakhouse & Wine Bar in the Bellaire Triangle area (5427 Bissonnet), there's no need to worry about milk and meat being mixed, nor is there shellfish or pork in the house. Culturemap Houston writer Eric Sandler's dined there and found good food and service that helped offset a lackluster interior.
As reported by the Houston Press last week, Los Dos Amigos, open on Washington Avenue since 1976, is closing in February. Reader Connie Castillo was the first to inform us about the loss of this classic Mexican restaurant. She says, "I wish something could be done to help them survive in another location. They are wonderful women who have worked hard for years. They raised families and provided us with many delicious, affordable meals. This is the last of their kind on Washington Avenue and probably one of the last in this town. I will miss their carne guisada." She's not the only one. The comments section of our original article has been filled with laments from people who will miss the cheese enchiladas, menudo and breakfast tacos, too.
A new Snap Kitchen location is now open in The Heights at 250 W. 20th Street. The company specializes in pre-portioned, healthy meals, appetizers and desserts clearly labeled with the calorie count. The Grass-fed Bison Quinoa "Hash" (a medium has 380 calories) is a perpetual customer favorite. The company is rapidly expanding, as this the the third recently-announced new location.
Also reported last week: Toby Keith's, "I Love This Bar & Grill" at West Oaks Mall was locked out for non-payment of rent. It's not much of a loss. It earned a bad review from former Houston Press restaurant critic Kaitlin Steinberg last year for its "sickeningly sweet" barbecue sauce and burgers she was informed "came off a truck." A press release says it's a "strategic" closing while the chain focuses on more receptive areas like San Antonio. We're not sure our neighbors to the west are going to like it any more than we did, but more power to them.
CRAVE Cupcakes is expanding again as well, but the new location has a twist. CRAVE currently has two locations: the original at 1151 Uptown Parkand a second that opened in the West University area at 5600 Kirby. They've announced that their upcoming third location in The Woodlands at 2501 Research Forest Drive in "will go beyond their award-winning cupcakes, and will feature a new lineup of pastries and cakes, as well as a more in-depth coffee program." More details are expected later this month.