Conservatory, Houston’s First Food Hall, Now Open In Downtown Houston

Conservatory, Houston's first dining hall located downtown, offers a bar with 60 taps and four different restaurant stands to choose from.
Conservatory, Houston's first dining hall located downtown, offers a bar with 60 taps and four different restaurant stands to choose from.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

The long-awaited underground dining option from the owners of Prohibition Supperclub + Bar is now open at 1010 Main Prairie for both lunch and dinner. That means food stands from four popular restaurants and an extensive beer and wine selection are all available under one roof, right next door to Prohibition.

Downtown explorers who wander into the new food hall will be able to order from Myth Café, El Burro & The Bull, Melange Creperie and Samurai Ramen. It’s an great option for groups, office workers, casual diners and those who simply don’t want to make tough dining choices. It’s entirely possible to order from any or all of the restaurants in one visit.

Conservatory is also a boon to people who don’t get off work until late in the evening. Starting today, it is open 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Chicken roasted with lemon, garlic and rosemary with lemon potatoes from Greek restaurant Myth Café.
Chicken roasted with lemon, garlic and rosemary with lemon potatoes from Greek restaurant Myth Café.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

Among the initial menu offerings for the grand opening: an excellent smoked, chopped brisket sandwich with celery seed-tinged mustard potato salad from El Burro & The Bull; a Papa Poulaki plate with roasted lemon, garlic, and rosemary chicken from Myth Café; and Chinese-influenced Jian Bing crepes stuffed with egg, crunchy wonton chips, green onion and plum jam from Melange Creperie. Samurai Noodle was not able to open today due to an issue with their kitchen’s burners, but starting tomorrow they will offer authentic Japanese ramen and side dishes.

There’s no shortage of beers, either. While many of the taps on the 60-count wall are still empty and Conservatory is still awaiting their wine delivery, no one has to go thirsty. There are already about 20 beers available. Some of the interesting selections include Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company’s coffee- and vanilla-infused “Sam’s Wake & Bake” and Karbach’s “Kentucky Habit,” installment number 13 in their F.U.N. series of beers. For those who do not want beer or wine, non-alcoholic drinks are available at the individual food stands. Additionally, there are plans for Maine Root sodas to be available on-tap.

Ben McPherson, the culinary director both of Conservatory and of Prohibition Supperclub + Bar, gave us a tour of the facility pointing out specific features. “So many people did so much on this I want to try and name them all,” he said. He and owner Anh Mai mentioned several craftspeople, including some who are now some of the most-requested by restaurant owners when it comes design work.

This art deco staircase leading down to the dining hall is the first thing visitors to Conservatory will see.
This art deco staircase leading down to the dining hall is the first thing visitors to Conservatory will see.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

Steve Walters, who has also worked on The Hay Merchant, Blacksmith and 8 Row Flint, created the wooden countertops and some of the metalwork, including the metal tap handles. Erin Hicks, whose design work can also be seen at Helen Greek Food & Wine, found rustic barstools with curved wooden seats and legs made out of rebar. The gentleman who installed the sprinkler systems jumped at the chance to construct faucets from pipes. The impeccably neat and organized overall tap system was created and installed by Texas Draught Specialists. NAVA Ornamentals constructed the soon-to-be-complete greenhouse under the stairs.

Two walls are filled with plants in black fabric pouches and surround a seating area. At first, it appears they are lit by skylights in the ceiling. It turns out they are actually LED plant lights, but it’s still a cheerful effect.

The first thing visitors will notice when entering the space is the big, glass and metal cube anchored to the high ceiling above the stairwell. It’s destined to someday be a terrarium. “We’re going to put plants in there too,” said McPherson.

Two employees making crepes at the Melange Creperie stand. This is the first permanent storefront option for notable crepe maker Sean Carroll, who became well-known at his former stand at Taft and Westheimer.
Two employees making crepes at the Melange Creperie stand. This is the first permanent storefront option for notable crepe maker Sean Carroll, who became well-known at his former stand at Taft and Westheimer.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

The owners have taken the name “Conservatory” seriously. They kept and reused features of the former Mercury Room as much as they could. In the exposed ceiling, purple-painted beams from that place are still visible, and there are some tables and chairs around, too. Other areas of the ceiling are covered in wood reclaimed from shipping pallets. (Fun fact: the “shorthand” for Prohibition and Conservatory is “Pros & Cons.”)

All available restaurant spots are filled now (there are only four stands) but plans are already underway for a cart to be set up by the front doors. It will accommodate guest chefs, pop-ups and food truck operators. “It will kind of be like an incubator,” explained McPherson. The cart still needs to be built but Mai is hopeful it might be ready in a month. At some point in the future, breakfast and weekend brunch will be offered as well.

Conservatory has seating for about 350 people and it will be no surprise if it doesn’t soon become one of Houston’s most popular hangouts.

Disclosure: Author has a financial interest in Melange Creperie, a company included in this article. 

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