Sonoma’s New Plans, Soto is Back, STM Closes

Sonoma Wine Bar, 1223 W. 34th, is shooting to open at The Stomping Grounds in Garden Oaks in December 2022. The announcement for the new location comes on the heels of the wine bar’s impending closure of its Heights location June 26,  which we announced recently here in the Houston Press.

The Heights location opened in 2012 and was the second spot for the Sonoma Wine concept which opened its first location at 2720 Richmond in 2007. Owner Farrah Cauley said that they are sad to leave the Heights. ” We’d like to thank all the wonderful people of the Heights community, we had a long run of 10 years-you will always hold a special place in our hearts.”

The new Stomping Grounds location will be in the style of the Katy location, its third, which opened in June 2021 at 9920 Gaston. Just like the Katy wine bar, it will focus on small batch, boutique varieties with rotating by-the-glass selections and wine flights. Guests will also be able to combine the wine experience with a menu of cheeses, charcuterie boards and small snacks.

click to enlarge The Katy location is the inspiration for the new Sonoma at the Stomping Grounds. - PHOTO BY VJ ARIZPE

The Katy location is the inspiration for the new Sonoma at the Stomping Grounds.

Photo by VJ Arizpe

Cauley says that she wants each location to have its own personality. In an email to the Houston Press she said, “My vision for Stomping Grounds is modern, sophisticated and warm with lots of natural light and multiple patios.” Cauley also plans to tap into the help of long tenure Sonoma employees to make the transition smooth and provide the same topnotch service guests are accustomed to at the new Stomping Grounds location.

Cauley says she is excited to have found Revive Development and the Stomping Grounds project for her newest wine bar. It will also be the only freestanding building on the property. Built in the 1960s, there are plans to completely remodel the structure while keeping its original charm.

For Sonoma fans and lovers of wine, the Heights location will ring out its final day June 26 with a big try-before-you-buy wine sale from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

click to enlarge Soto's Cantina sports a new coat of ultra-blue paint. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO

Soto’s Cantina sports a new coat of ultra-blue paint.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Soto’s Cantina, 10609 Grant, reopened June 20. The Mexican restaurant in Cypress has a loyal following and many nearby residents were devastated when the locally-owned business closed due to a fire which resulted in severe water damage to the property June 30, 2021. Now, almost a year later, it has reopened with a refreshed exterior and renovated interior.

click to enlarge Soto's is ready to seat again. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO

Soto’s is ready to seat again.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Soto’s has been a regular favorite on Alison Cook’s Top 100 Restaurants in Houston for the Houston Chronicle since chef/owner Juan Soto opened it in late 2011.  More importantly, it has given the locals a unique Mexican restaurant among a handful of contenders for a weekend meal or happy hour margarita. Whether it’s enchiladas, fajitas or tamales, everyone has their favorites and they have been watching social media for the past year, lamenting the long renovation process.

click to enlarge The bar invites happy hour patrons. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO

The bar invites happy hour patrons.

Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

The menu online looks to be the same as the previous one, though you can expect the Houston Press to be checking it out in the near future to see if anything has changed, especially since Soto’s is in walking distance of this writer’s abode. And they have an awesome wrap-around patio.

click to enlarge It's hard to decide which view is prettier-indoors or out. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM

It’s hard to decide which view is prettier-indoors or out.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Flora, 3422 Allen Parkway, is debuting its Frida Private Room, a private dining spot on Buffalo Bayou. The upscale Mexican restaurant opened March 2022 in the space which formerly housed The Dunlavy, a concept from the former Clark Cooper Concepts. Business partners Charles Clark and Grant Cooper dissolved their business partnership in February of that same year with Cooper launching The Big Vibe Group with Joseph Prats and Marc Cantu, the hospitality company behind Flora.

click to enlarge The Flora is over-lit by chandeliers galore. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM

The Flora is over-lit by chandeliers galore.

Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

The extension takes over a space that was previously used as the Buffalo Bayou Park Lost Lake Visitor’s Center. With a treehouse view of the bayou and surrounding greenery, it will accommodate up to 50 guests with optional use of Flora’s new front patio. However, the main dining room and main patio will be open for service during business hours. The Frida Private Room will not be available for wedding ceremonies.

The private dining will offer a prix-fixe menu of three to four courses or a custom combination of favorite Flora dishes. There is also a variety of signature cocktails, wine and beer available.

Shoot the Moon has served its last shot. - PHOTO BY AMY SCOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

Shoot the Moon has served its last shot.

Photo by Amy Scott Photography

Shoot the Moon, 8115 Long Point, closed June 19. The self-serve tap bar and restaurant was owned by STM Hospitality LLC and was operated by Floyd Ventures LLC. It  first opened in July 2021after much anticipation, delayed for over a year by the COVID pandemic challenges. There were high expectations for the unique concept with three high-profile industry professionals behind the venture. Kevin Floyd served as executive director at STM with co-owners Jonas Herd (owner of Cecil’s Pub Montrose since 2017) and Dax McAnear (The Hay Merchant, Triniti). McAnear served as the executive chef, creating much of the menu.

Guests could get cider, beer, wine and cocktails from self-serve taps. - PHOTO BY AMY SCOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

Guests could get cider, beer, wine and cocktails from self-serve taps.

Photo by Amy Scott Photography

In a press release, the owners stated that the only choice was to take the company into Chapter 7 bankruptcy due to its financial position. The statement cited the weak foot traffic and low sales numbers while also acknowledging that inflation, high food and gas prices plus supply chain distributions have played a major role in the lack of business.

The closing statement read, ” We are thankful to all those who have supported Shoot the Moon’s journey. It pains us to make this decision, but we have no other choice.”

click to enlarge A rainbow of rum drinks at RumShack. - PHOTO BY THE SPOT

A rainbow of rum drinks at RumShack.

Photo by The Spot

Island Famous, the restaurant and hotel group behind the multi-venue bar and restaurant concept, The Spot, is planning an offshoot of its popular Galveston seawall hangout and bar for League City. The new second generation site will be located at 2502 Gulf Freeway South and will have a smaller footprint than the flagship location which includes The Spot, Tiki Bar, SideYard, RumShack and Squeeze Ritas and Tequilas. The upcoming League City hotspot will combine some of the best elements of the other venues like delicious food and a bounty of libations from its parent location with open air patios, a kids play lawn and more than 50 HDTVs for game watching.

Guests can expect to find a similar menu of fresh seafood, burgers, fish tacos, wings and its popular over-the-top, hand-spun milkshakes. There will be happy hour specials at The Spot League City, as well.

click to enlarge Fresh seafood, like these jumbo fried shrimp, will be on the new menu. - PHOTO BY THE SPOT

Fresh seafood, like these jumbo fried shrimp, will be on the new menu.

Photo by The Spot

Owner Dennis Byrd began as a busboy at The Spot in 1998 at the age of 18. When he was just 22 years old, he bought the business in 2002 and has turned it into a beachfront complex that serves an estimated 750,000 visitors and locals every year. With its view over the the Gulf of Mexico, it draws in families at The Spot & Tiki Bar for beachfront dining while also offering a trio of 21 and up bars, SideYard, Squeeze and RumShack, for frozen cocktails, margaritas and 29 degree, ice cold draft beer.

Byrd expects that he will go through several more architectural renditions for the new League City location in the next few months. Unfortunately, that means we Houston landlubbers will have to wait until 2023 for the inland location. The drive to Galveston is not that long.

Davanti Ristorante Italiano, 2900 Weslayan, is expected to open July 6, as reported by CultureMap Houston. The new Italian restaurant comes from Chef Roberto Crescini and Francisco Calza. Readers may remember that Crescini, known for his fresh pasta and tasty Italian fare at Fresco Italiano, was supposedly heading back to Italy to “recharge his batteries” as the owners of the restaurant, Steve and Ruby Gonzales, closed Fresco May 2. Apparently, that is no longer the case.

Calza, meanwhile, helped to open BCN in 2014.  As general manager, he has been an important player in the upscale Spanish restaurant’s reputation as a top-notch fine dining destination. He also served as general manager at Cafe Annie for a number of years prior to his role at BCN. He will continue as general manager at BCN while working with Crescini to offer Houstonians the fresh pasta and authentic ingredients for which Crescini has earned acclaim.

Davanti will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

click to enlarge Babylon brings Ancient Persia to Midtown. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN

Babylon brings Ancient Persia to Midtown.

Photo by Dylan McEwan

Babylon, 612 Hadley is expected to open July 1. The 6,000 square-foot nightclub comes from Jet Hospitality, a premier nightlife group based in Denver, Colorado. The Midtown club’s theme is meant to evoke the hanging gardens of Babylon with gold embellishments that hearken back to the wealthy empire of Ancient Persia.

Jet Hospitality’s expansion director, Maral Pourarfaie, felt that Houston was lacking luxe nightlife and Midtown was the natural step for expanding the brand.  “Babylon will lay the groundwork for what we’re trying to achieve here in Houston. Offering that unique but sophisticated experience you can’t find anywhere in the city,” he says. “We feel as if we can really make an impact here and bring Midtown back as the destination it was once known for.”

click to enlarge Lounge like Babylonian royalty in Midtown. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN

Lounge like Babylonian royalty in Midtown.

Photo by Dylan McEwan

Taking over the former Howl at the Moon space, there are plans for a grand opening celebration over the July 4 holiday weekend with an experience meant to transport patrons back back in time for an immersive Babylonian experience. The interactive and performance-driven adventure includes exotic animals in cages.

Music is a big part of any nightclub’s lure and Babylon will host in-house and celebrity DJs spinning tunes from a variety of genres. And, of course, there’s an inviting dance floor.

Babylon nightclub will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

click to enlarge The James Beard Foundation's Taste America is a one-night only event. - PHOTO BY MARC FIORITO/GAMMA NINE PHOTOGRAPHY

The James Beard Foundation’s Taste America is a one-night only event.

Photo by Marc Fiorito/Gamma Nine Photography

James Beard Foundation’s Taste America will be held June 29 at Silver Street Studios and Houston Press readers have only a few days left to purchase tickets. The event will spotlight some of Houston’s best chefs and James Beard Award winners and nominees. This year Houston only managed to snag Outstanding Bar Program 2022 for Alba Huerta’s Southern boutique bar, Julep, but we had a number of great nominees including Ruben Ortega (Xochi) for Best Pastry Chef, Christine Ha and Tony Nguyen (Xin Chao) and Quy Hoang (Blood Bros. BBQ) for Best Chef: Texas, Hugo’s for Outstanding Hospitality and Chris Williams (Lucille’s) for Outstanding Restaurateur.

click to enlarge Michelle Wallace of Gatlin's BBQ is one of the great chefs headlining the event. - PHOTO BY POINT AND CLICK PHOTOGRAPHY

Michelle Wallace of Gatlin’s BBQ is one of the great chefs headlining the event.

Photo by Point and Click Photography

This past Wednesday, the foundation released the menu for the Taste America Houston event. Chef Dawn Burrell (Late August) will be serving Cured Salmon with Tamarind Tiger Cry while chefs Ha and Nguyen will be dishing out Vietnamese Wagyu Meatball. Evelyn Garcia, fresh off a near-win on Top Chef: Houston, will be teaming with fellow chef, Henry Lu, to offer attendees a sample of what to expect from their upcoming restaurant Kin HTX. The duo will be serving Ceviche with Lemongrass Leche de Tigre.

Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar) will sweeten the evening with her Star Crossed Lover Bars- puffed rice squares with salted caramel and chocolate. Another sweet temptation will be coming from Ortega in the form of a Lemon Ricotta Cake with strawberry consomme, vanilla-orange blossom cream and lemon verbena gel. Other Houston stars like Michelle Wallace of Gatlin’s BBQ will have Hickory-Smoked Catfish with deconstructed dirty rice and Chef Kaitlin Streets of Theodore Rex will have a vegetarian dish of Tomato Toast.

In addition to Houston’s brightest culinary geniuses, Chef Cassie Shortino of Phoenix will offer Smoked Pork Loin with pickled blueberries, tonnato and fennel frond while Gustavo Bahrona of Hinoki Sushiko (presented by Choose Chicago) will be presenting Squid Noodles with wagyu xo sauce.

For more information on tickets, go to jamesbeard.org.

click to enlarge Tacodeli does the blending for you with its new drink. - PHOTO BY KELLY PHILLIPS

Tacodeli does the blending for you with its new drink.

Photo by Kelly Phillips

Tacodeli, 1902 Washington, will launch a new beverage July 5. The ChaCha is a blend of house-made, non-dairy Horchata mixed with cold brew. The combination was so popular with customers across its 11 Texas locations that it has now become part of the drink menu. 

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