The Bull and The Pearl: Meet Houston's Latest Hip Pop-Up

They're not recreating the wheel, they're building a new one.

It turns out the space for Julep was secured even before Clumsy Butcher started extending its reach downtown with The Pastry War, so Huerta frequently has to defend the Washington Corridor as a hip spot for a new bar.

"I really liked the neighborhood, and the people who live there are really wonderful," Huerta says. "It fit the concept well. I felt like I wanted it to be a neighborhood bar more than anything else. And I think the neighborhood will really welcome it. Downtown wasn't an option at the time, but it turned out for the best. The layout of the space and the type of building — there aren't a lot of spaces like that in Houston."

Befitting Clumsy Butcher's ideals about historic spaces, the building that will house Julep was a uniform factory when it was constructed in the 1880s. Now, according to a press release, "Alba's feminine touch is prevalent with lace curtains, light colors, large windows and other textures. The center bar with a copper bar top complements the Southern cabinetry behind it." And, most important, "There's a large porch in the back, perfect for sipping a julep or a Champagne cocktail."

Ben McPherson, left, and Matt Wommack are building a fan base for an eventual restaurant.
Courtesy of The Bull and the Pearl
Ben McPherson, left, and Matt Wommack are building a fan base for an eventual restaurant.
All this drink needs is a stick of sugar cane.
All this drink needs is a stick of sugar cane.

To create the signature juleps and other cocktails on the menu, Huerta turned to vintage Ladies' Home Journals, where she found recipes for drinks even she wasn't completely familiar with, like a cherry bounce. This ingredient can trace its roots all the way back to Martha Washington, but a more recent recipe in Ladies' Home Journal and Southern cookbooks called for cherries to be soaked in bourbon, rum or cognac, then allowed to rot and ferment, imbuing the liquor with a sour-cherry flavor.

Huerta's favorite drink on the menu is the Embers of Paradise, a julep made with the spices you might find in a classic Christmas Tom & Jerry punch. Burnt cinnamon, allspice and cloves are added to a mixture of rum, applejack and falernum, then combined with the mint and simple syrup, which are necessary for a drink to be called a julep. Huerta says this drink has a nice, smoky flavor that you don't often find in a julep.

Of course, no Southern cocktail bar would be complete without some Southern food, but Huerta's interpretation of that is different from the usual grits and barbecue and fried-chicken sensibility. She notes that throughout most of the 19th century, ice was the greatest symbol of wealth in the South. Juleps indicated a drinker was well-to-do thanks to the large quantity of ice served in a silver cup, but seafood was also a telltale sign of affluence.

The kitchen will be run by Adam Garcia, formerly of Revival Market and The Pass & Provisions, who will create "raw options of every sort — oysters; razor clams; mussels, and a classic, decadent caviar service."

As for Huerta, well, she's just as excited as the rest of us for Julep to finally open. She's looking forward to introducing Houston to her carefully crafted cocktail menu at last.

"Every single drink is the same way — we really thought about it," Huerta says. "I mean, I had two years to think about it!"

Once it opens (we'll let you know as soon as we know), Julep's hours will be 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week.

Restaurant News

Openings & Closings
Crapitto's closes after 19 years; Kevin Naderi opens Lillo & Ella.

Molly Dunn

After nearly two decades of service, Crapitto's Cucina Italiana was due to close on May 24 thanks to a construction project in River Oaks. The Italian restaurant shared the disappointing news on Facebook, saying that the last supper would be held on that date. Other establishments located around Crapitto's are set to be torn down as well.

Kevin Naderi's Lillo & Ella opened on May 20 at 2307 Ella Boulevard. Naderi's new concept has taken over the space that previously housed El Gran Malo and is open for lunch and dinner, serving a multitude of Pan-Asian street-food dishes. Choose from items such as basil flat-iron beef with steamed rice and baby spinach, and blue crab fried rice for lunch, or feast on tuna tartare with shrimp chips, yogurt and curry shrimp skewers, and cane sugar and black pepper rib eye for ­dinner.

Common Bond is now officially open. The highly anticipated bakery and cafe from pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel is located at 1706 West­heimer. CultureMap Houston reports that customers can choose from a selection of sweet and savory items such as sandwiches, biscuits with bacon gravy, croissants and sticky buns.

Sal y Pimienta is now open in CityCentre at 818 Town & Country Boulevard, Suite 105. The new South American restaurant recently held its grand opening and shared the news on its Facebook page. In a statement, owner and restaurateur Gianfranco Percovich says Sal y Pimienta will serve a variety of products (fish, meat and produce) from all over the world — pair any dish with one of the outstanding South American wines.

After Ace Chinese Restaurant in The Woodlands closed, the space at 4775 West Panther Creek, Suite 490, was transformed into The Republic Grille. This new addition to The Woodlands serves down-home Texas food such as shrimp and grits with pecan-smoked bacon and andouille sausage, chicken-fried steak and peach cobbler — H-Town Chow Down noted that the CFC was one of its favorite dishes. Currently The Republic Grille serves only lunch and dinner, but a lineup of breakfast options will become available in late June.

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