Restaurants Backfilling Empty Spaces in Houston Eatery Surge

HOUSTON – (Realty News Report) – Hundreds of new restaurants are springing to life in the empty spaces left behind by eateries that closed after Covid emerged.

After Covid hit, restaurateurs removed salt and pepper shakers from the tables, installed plexiglass screens and pushed their to-go business. But the full science of Covid’s spread was unknown and some customers were afraid. Many eateries could not survive. Some 3 million square feet of Houston retail space went dark in 2020.

Lately, hundreds of new restaurateurs have emerged to “backfill” Houston’s empty restaurant spaces with new restaurant concepts and predictable versions of standardized chain outlets, according to Weitzman, a Dallas-based real estate firm that specializes in shopping centers.

2021 – The Year of The Restaurant

“In terms of leasing, the restaurant market created a high level of demand, particularly for second-generation space,”Weitzman said in its annual report on Houston retail real estate.

Weitzman said new Houston restaurant locations opening in second-generation space included: Willie’s Ice House & Grill as well as the Halal Guys, which leased second-generation space at The Crossing at 288 in Pearland;

Southern Yankee Crafthouse,which opened in the former Good Dog Houston space at 1312 W. Alabama Street in Montrose;

 Loro, the famed Austin-based concept, which will open in early 2022 in a renovated 1940s-era sanctuary located at 1001 W. 11thStreet in the Heights;

Hawaiian Bros, which is backfilling a former Taco Cabana at 6522 Westheimer Road for its first Houston location;

Dish Society, which backfilled a 4,100-square-foot space formerly occupied by Blue Fish at LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch in Katy;

Mastro’s Ocean Club high-end restaurant, which backfilled the former Grotto space in Market Street, located at 9595 Six Pines Drive in The Woodlands; 

Bonchon, a Korean fried chicken chain, which opened in an approximately 4,200-square-foot space at 2100 Travis Street in Central Square Midtown;

 Hudson House, a Dallas-based concept, which leased in the River Oaks Shopping Center;

House of Pies Restaurant and Bakery, which will open is fifth location in a former PDQ location at 25686 Northwest Freeway in Cypress;

Back Table Kitchen & Bar, which replaced the former Robard’s Steakhouse in 5,400 square feet at The Woodlands Resort golf-court-view location;

Fegen’s, a steakhouse, which opened in the former Liberty Kitchen in the Heights;

New Orleans-based Acme Oyster Houston, which opened in the former El Real Tex-Mex Café spot (formerly the Tower Theater) on Westheimer;

Tres Amigos Café & Cantina, which opened in the former Shepherd Park Draught House space at 3402 N. Shepherd; 

Voodoo Doughnuts, which opened its second location at 1214 Westheimer Road;

Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen, which is opening in early 2022 in backfilled space formerly occupied by Luby’s at 1743 Post Oak Boulevard;

Project Pollo, a quick-serve vegan chicken concept, which backfilled a vacant Whataburger in Katy.

Other expanding restaurants include Chipotle, with new locations at 4045 Little York Road, 2555 E. League City Parkway and at the southeast corner of IH-10 and SH-146 in Mont Belvieu.

Houston: A National Leader in Eating Out

 “Houstonians dine out nearly more than residents of any other city—6.9 times per week, compared with the national average of 4.9,” according to the Houston First organization.

Houston has more than 10,000 restaurants, “with culinary choices that represent more than 70 countries and American regions,” Houston First says.

Kabul Cuisine on Hillcroft Avenue

The variety includes the Kabul Cuisine restaurant on Hillcroft Avenue in Houston’s Mahatma Gandhi District to the Original Ninfa’s, a pioneer in popularizing fajitas on a national scale.

Sushi Rebel recently opened a 3,800-square-foot restaurant in the City Place development formerly known as Springwoods Village. “We are dedicated to serving the best sushi on the north side, and we believe City Place is the best spot in the area to do that,” according Daniel Chang, who also operates Uptown Sushi with his wife, Peggy.

Second Draught, featuring beers from Houston’s 70 craft brewers, is a new entry at The Ion, which is a redevelopment of the old Sears store in Midtown Houston.

“We will showcase the great beer being made right here in Houston and give smaller operators the chance to be tasted in the city’s most prominent setting for innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Sarah Pope, who co-founded of Second Draught with husband Adam Cryer of Baileson Brewing Company.

Overall, Houston has more than 161 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, Weitzman reported, and vacancy improved to 95 percent in 2021.


Jan. 26, 2022 Realty News Report Copyright 2022

Check out the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up  by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon  http://tiny.cc/4a2g6y  

Houston 2020 Ebook version  https://tinyurl.com/4xm7z8b5      

ECONOMIC FORECAST – The RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast welcomed guest Frank Nothaft, chief economist of CoreLogic. LISTEN:

File: Restaurants Backfilling Empty Spaces in Houston Eatery Surge

Photo credit: John Kim

File: Weitzman. Restaurants Backfilling Empty Spaces. Sarah Pope. Adam Cryer. Baileson Brewing Company. Uptown Sushi.  Daniel Chang. City Place. Chipotle.

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