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Openings and Closings: Berg Hospitality's New Concepts, Down House Closes, Midway BBQ Burns

Benjamin Berg, Neil Martin and Michael Sperandio stand in the space where Trattoria Sofia will launch.EXPAND
Benjamin Berg, Neil Martin and Michael Sperandio stand in the space where Trattoria Sofia will launch.
Photo by Daniel Ortiz
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Berg Hospitality is uniting with Ancorian to bring two new restaurants to W. 11th in the Heights. Owner and founder Benjamin Berg is teaming up with the Houston-based Ancorian, a regional investment and development company, to open Trattoria Sofia, an Italian restaurant at 911 W. 11th in the space formerly occupied by Presidio, which closed in October 2018. Berg is completely remodeling the existing 2,500 square feet with all-new interiors, lighting and furnishings. The restaurateur is also adding an outdoor patio and bar with landscaping meant to evoke a feeling of a lost garden. Named after his firstborn daughter, Trattoria Sofia is slated to open in May 2021.

The other Heights project, The Docks at Timbergrove, is an even bigger venture. Ancorian partners Michael Sperandio and Neil Martin are developing the 50,000 square foot warehouse space at 2505 W. 11th into a mixed-use development which will feature retail shops, restaurants, bars and possibly co-working spaces. The project will feature 30,000 square feet dedicated to retail space and 20,000 square feet to covered parking. Berg Hospitality Group will have 8,000 square feet for its restaurant concept with more details forthcoming later in the year.  The plans are to maintain the industrial character of the building which once housed a commercial door and hardware company. Construction begins in March 2021 and the restaurant is expected to open in January 2022.

Berg said in a press release, “To have two outposts in one of Houston’s most dynamic and fastest growing neighborhoods is an incredible opportunity for us. I have really fallen in love with the area, and I am excited to partner with Ancorian to create a new, lively dining and social scene for not only Timbergrove/Heights residents, but all Houstonians.”  Berg Hospitality Group's current portfolio includes B&B Butchers & Restaurant, in Houston and Fort Worth, B.B. Lemon, B.B. Italia Kitchen & Bar, The Annie Café & Bar and Turner’s.

The Katy Fire Department responds to a fire at Midway BBQ.EXPAND
The Katy Fire Department responds to a fire at Midway BBQ.
Photo by Jason Carlisle

Midway BBQ, 6025 Highway Boulevard, suffered a devastating fire February 20. According to the Katy Fire Department, the fire is believed to have started in the office. KFD responded to the call at 2:52 a.m. and was on the scene by 2:58 a.m. The timeline is still under investigation but the restaurant's network, including its phones, cameras and computers went down around 1:40 a.m.

At 4 p.m. that day, owner Herman Meyer arrived to survey the damage. Operations Manager Jason Carlisle told the Houston Press that Meyer was emotional about the building but the "loss of the trophy elk, deer and fish brought him the most grief". The restaurant showcased 80 percent of Meyer's wild game and fish taxidermy collection from his many years as a hunter.

Mardi Gras beads still hang from some of Herman Meyer's prized game trophies.EXPAND
Mardi Gras beads still hang from some of Herman Meyer's prized game trophies.
Photo by Jason Carlisle

Meyer began the business as Midway Grocery Store in 1967 and soon began doing wild game processing. In the mid-'90s, he opened a shack in front of the store to sell barbecue. Eventually, it expanded to a purpose-built 8,500 square foot building serving the quickly-growing population in Katy. In 2019, the Midway Grocery Store rebranded as Midway Meat Market and Burger-Deli.

Currently, the family is in the process of renting out another restaurant down the road for the next year and hope to close the deal February 26 and begin retro-fitting the new space to fit its needs. The company is bringing in employees from Midway to expedite the process. All employees were paid for the previous ice storm week and the week of the fire. The company is working to schedule displaced staff at the other two businesses and have already moved managers and key employees to the meat market and deli.

There is a planned benefit for Midway BBQ at MKT Distillery, 5373 1st, March 6. Hayden Baker, the local musician who actually first spotted the fire in the early morning hours and called 911, according to the Houston Chronicle, will provide live music from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Darrell Wayne will also be performing at the event.

Chris Cusack in happier days.
Chris Cusack in happier days.
Photo by Chuck Cook

Down House, 1801 Yale, closed February 21, according to a post on its Facebook page. The Heights restaurant and bar began as a coffeehouse on the forefront of the emerging restaurant scene in Houston and was the flagship venture for the now defunct Treadsack Management from Mothership LLC.  Founded by Chris Cusack and Joey Treadway, the restaurant group also spawned Hunky Dory and Bernadine's which would rise to the top of the critics' favorites list only to shutter almost as quickly. Down House, however, remained a fixture in the Heights despite bankruptcies, lawsuits and other behind-the-scenes drama at Treadway, as reported by the Houston Press in 2017.  Its Chicken and Waffles and stellar Bloody Marys kept Heights residents happy within its vine-covered brick walls.

As for its most recent announcement, Cusack told the Press, " In short, our business just wasn't designed for the year we've had. Between the shutdowns and restrictions in service, there just wasn't enough business for us to make sense of moving forward long term. I feel so lucky that we had ten great years serving the Heights and we are all excited to turn the page to the next chapter." He added that he hopes to find "homes" for his amazing staff and that anyone interested should contact him at chris@downhousehou.com. His final comment was " Support Southern Smoke and the Independent Restaurant Coalition!"

B.B. Italia is in search of new digs.
B.B. Italia is in search of new digs.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

B.B. Italia, 14795 Memorial, will close temporarily for two to three months as owner Benjamin Berg of Berg Hospitality scouts out a more suitable building for the company's Italian concept which replaced Carmelo's Cucina Italiana in May 2019. In the meantime, the concept will run out of a cloud kitchen at Fair Food Co., 5832 Fairdale Lane.

Much of the menu will be the same including New York-style pizza and its Italian Classics like Parmigiana available in four versions: eggplant, chicken, meatball or sausage. Other Italian dishes include fresh pasta such as the 20 Layer Lasagna, Basil Pesto and Clam Sauce. There are calzones, heroes, subs and salads, too. To order, go to berghospitality.olo.com.

Roots has a large, handicapped-accessible patio for al fresco dining and drinking.
Roots has a large, handicapped-accessible patio for al fresco dining and drinking.
Photo by Lori Hernandez

Roots Wine Bar HTX, 3701 Leeland,  began its soft opening February 12. The wine bar and restaurant offers an automated self-pour system that is activated by a card that guests enter into the slot of their chosen wine. The system offers more than 50 rotating wines that are delivered in one ounce, three ounce and five ounce pours. It allows patrons to sample the various wines on offer without committing to a whole glass or bottle. However, the wines are also available by the bottle for retail or drinking at the restaurant.

Fried Oysters beg for sparkling wine or champagne.
Fried Oysters beg for sparkling wine or champagne.
Photo by Lori Hernandez

Co-owners Lori Hernandez and Paul Siwek have brought in chef JD Fouche to create a menu of Gulf Coast dishes that are wine-friendly including starters like Caramelized Brussels Sprouts or Smoked Beets Salad with goat yogurt and dishes such as Cavatelli with Gulf shrimp or Fried Oysters with sugar cane-crystal crema and peppadew relish.

There's an expansive outdoor patio which wraps around the building offering plenty of space for social distancing plus more intimate space for wine-sipping with your favorite pod pal. Roots has a private dining room available for special events.

Besides wine on tap and by the bottle, there's a variety of craft beer, cider, mead and non-alcoholic wine.

The pulled pork sandwich at Citadel BBQ gets topped with coleslaw.EXPAND
The pulled pork sandwich at Citadel BBQ gets topped with coleslaw.
Photo by Emily Cottingham

Citadel BBQ, 6601 Main, opened in the Medical Center January 12. The new barbecue restaurant comes from Citadel Hospitality Group which operates several catering and event venues including Dukessa and also its 2840 Restaurant and Bar. It is open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It has a weekday happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with $9.95 specials like Smoked and Fried Wings, Smoked Meat tacos and Pulled Pork or Chopped Beef Nachos.

Citadel BBQ has meat plates for hearty appetites.EXPAND
Citadel BBQ has meat plates for hearty appetites.
Photo by Emily Cottingham

Local office workers can grab a BBQ Breakfast Taco in the morning or stop by after work for a drink at its full  bar or lounge on the patio. It offers Texas barbecue favorites like Prime brisket, ribs, smoked sausage, pulled pork plus chicken and turkey. There are Southern sides including fried okra, Texas jambalaya and mac 'n cheese. Its dessert options include banana pudding, pecan pie and carrot cake.

Citadel also has full-service catering for breakfast, lunch and dinner including pre-boxed meals and a baked potato bar.

Ebony Food and Music creates an atmosphere of inclusion.
Ebony Food and Music creates an atmosphere of inclusion.
Photo by Ikem Onyekwena@indmix1

Ebony Food and Music, 11681 Westheimer, opened in January. The restaurant was founded on the ideas of diversity and inclusion and its goal is to make its guests feel at home in one of the nation's most multi-cultural cities. The restaurant's menu starts off with appetizers like calamari, crab cakes and coconut shrimp then goes onto entrees such as Blackened Salmon, Texas Waffle with Crispy Chicken Tenders and its Food and Music Jambalaya, a melody of crawfish, blackened chicken, jalapeno sausage, onions and peppers. Its Fusion Taste section offers Ebony Jerk Chicken, Suya Flank Steak Fajitas and Anderson's Ambrosial Oxtail served with jollof rice.

Fusion flavor at Ebony includes Texas-shaped waffles.
Fusion flavor at Ebony includes Texas-shaped waffles.
Photo by Ikem Onyekwena@indmix1

In addition to its food menu, Ebony has its bar staff creating signature cocktails with house-made syrups, spice blends and homemade mixes. The mixologists are always experimenting with flavors so patrons are welcome to ask about new concoctions.

The music part of its name comes from entertainment which can vary from house music to jazz or R&B, usually by a saxophonist or a DJ. The venue is always looking for new, local talent as well.

The Burger Ranch, 16702 House and Hahl, opened February 6. The family-owned burger joint is kid-friendly with plenty of outdoor space for rugrats to play while parents sip a cold beer and enjoy one of its juicy burgers. The Ranch Hand is a classic burger on a brioche bun with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. The King Ranch is a half-pound beef patty topped with bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and an onion ring served on a jalapeno-cheese bun. The McCoy is served with Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms and onions in teriyaki sauce. In addition to burgers, there are chicken sandwiches, wings and a couple of salad options. There's also the Little Wranglers menu for kids with choices such as corn dog, chicken strips, sliders and grilled cheese. there are plenty of local and national brews on tap and in cans.

Chipotle goes luxe.EXPAND
Chipotle goes luxe.
Photo by Alex Montoya

Chipotle, 1400 Lake Plaza, opened February 17 at CityPlace Springwoods Village. Located at The Mark, a 268 unit multi-family luxury property from Fein, it occupies 2,695 square feet of space on the ground floor. It makes number thirty-three for the Houston area.

The fast casual build-your-own burrito concept also offers salads, bowls, tacos and sides. Protein options include carnitas, steak, barbacoa and chicken plus its plant-based sofritas. Guests can add beans and rice, including its new Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice. Guac, however, is gonna cost you a couple of extra bucks.

Wolfie's in Sugar Land brings a little elegance to the sports bar theme.EXPAND
Wolfie's in Sugar Land brings a little elegance to the sports bar theme.
Photo by BJ McKinney

Wolfie's, 2329 Highway 6, opened January 23 in Sugar Land in a newly renovated building which once housed a Cafe Adobe Mexican restaurant. This is the fifth location for the sports bar and restaurant. This location, like its Lake Conroe spot, is waterside offering a view over the lake from its large patio. It has twenty-six televisions for game-watching and live music on the patio is planned for the future. And Wolfie's is already geared up for crawfish season.

The menu at Wolfie's ranges from standard sports bar favorites like fried appetizers, wings and burgers to more restaurant fare like seafood entrees, chicken fried steak and dinner salads. There are plenty of belt-busting dishes such as The West Texas Redneck Burger, a double-meat monster topped with French fries and queso, surrounded by fried pickles and jalapenos or " The Really Big Wedgie" for wedge salad fans.

Sports, crawfish and cold beer await at Wolfie's.EXPAND
Sports, crawfish and cold beer await at Wolfie's.
Photo by BJ McKinney

There are over a dozen wings sauces to choose from, oysters fried or on the half shell and different combinations of appetizer platters for feeding a crowd. The Cubs Menu ($4.50) is available for children 12 and under with choices like chicken nuggets, pizza, grilled cheese and mini corn dogs. There are lunch special Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the prices can't be beat. The Monte Cristo ($7.99), the Gordo Burrito ($7.99), the French Dip ($6.99) and the Hamburger ($6.99) all come with fries or chips. There are also Daily Specials.

Smoothie King, 2710 W. Lake Houston Parkway, opened February 15 in Kingwood. The Dallas-based franchise chain known for its purposely blended fruit and vegetable smoothies, has expanded to over 1000 units nationwide since its founding in 1973.

The new drive-thru Kingwood store is owned by Warren and Linda Alberty, two professionals who opened their first Smoothie King in New Caney in March 2020.

If you're looking for "The One", it's coming soon.
If you're looking for "The One", it's coming soon.
Photo by Bob Ruggiero

The One Crawfish and Seafood, 10511 Jones, is coming soon. It has crawfish and seafood and it's The One. That's all we know at this point.

Houston's Mardi Gras fun was bombed by a winter storm.EXPAND
Houston's Mardi Gras fun was bombed by a winter storm.
Photo by Cristobal Zelaya/Zelaya Visuals

Krewe de Plethora, 711 Main, the Mardi Gras pop-up from Asha Holloway cancelled the rest of its dates due to issues from Houston's freak winter storm. It was originally scheduled to run through February 28. According to a spokesperson, Holloway has other pop-ups in the works.

David Oglesby, pictured here, with his family.
David Oglesby, pictured here, with his family.
Photo by The Union Kitchen

David Oglesby, manager at The Union Kitchen Katy, passed away February 19 after battling complications from COVID-19 since December 31, 2020.

Paul Miller, owner of Gr8Plate Hospitality said, "David Oglesby was a valued employee and more than that, a great friend to the staff and managers. I never once saw him without a smile on his face. He will be missed."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to provide for expenses for his wife Denise and their daughters: gofundme.com/support-for-david-oglesby-family

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