It was bound to happen.
After opening so many concepts in only four years -- and taking over operations of two other longtime Houston institutions -- Bobby Heugel, Kevin Floyd and Michael Burnett have announced the creation of restaurant group Clumsy Butcher to hem everything into one tidy package. Admit that it was getting old referring to Underbelly or The Hay Merchant or Blacksmith as "sort of owned by Bobby and Kevin and those guys."
Along with those three spots, Clumsy Butcher's portfolio also includes the OKRA Charity Saloon, bartender Alba Huerta's upcoming cocktail bar Julep, Anvil Bar & Refuge (the bar that started it all four years ago) and the two restaurants owned by Legacy Restaurants: the Original Ninfa's on Navigation and Antone's. The latter two are still co-owned by Niel Morgan, who turned over operational oversight to the Clumsy Butcher team last fall.
In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, Heugel described the decision to finally create a tangible restaurant group as a step that was necessary to "take advantage of opportunities that push Houston forward, to invest in talent, and to be part of the dreams our employees have for the future, whether that's with us or by supporting them in pursuing other opportunities."
Heugel also used the press release to announce the addition of one more establishment to the Clumsy Butcher's already-growing portfolio of bars, restaurants and coffee shops: a tequila bar located at 310 Main that's scheduled to open in July or August. Heugel has long been an avid supporter of Mexico's fragile tequila industry -- the Houston Chronicle's Alison Cook once called him the "Paul Revere of tequila" -- so the bar comes as no surprise.
"When Alba Huerta, who was born in Mexico, is fluent in Spanish, and is a tequila freak herself came to manage Anvil," says Heugel, "I knew it was only a matter of time before we built a mezcal and tequila bar."
While Heugel and Huerta work to open the as-yet-unnamed tequila bar -- which will be the latest entry into the blossoming Main Street scene downtown -- Huerta will also be kept busy with her new role as Clumsy Butcher's bar director.
She's joined by Erin Smith as Clumsy Butcher's culinary director, who also serves as sort of a de facto replacement for Hay Merchant's departing chef Antoine Ware. In her new role, Smith will "assist other talented folks such as Chris Shepherd, Ryan Lachaine, and Lyle Bento in continuing Hay Merchant's progressive approach to bar food," says the press release.
As long as Smith -- who left the executive chef position at Plonk last fall -- leaves the pig ears on Hay Merchant's menu, I'm happy. (And I have a feeling she will.) In the meantime, let's take a look at the growth spurt that's happened in the Market Square Park/Main Street area in just the past few months:
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- blind item restaurant - 801 Congress - opening soon in the old Les Givral's space
- Batanga - 908 Congress - opening in April
- OKRA Charity Saloon - 924 Congress - open now
- blind item dessert and coffee cafe - 300 Main - opening in the old Cielo space
- Goro & Gun - 306 Main - open now
- Bad News Bar - 308 Main - opening soon
- Clutch City Squire - 410 Main - open now
If this is the sort of progressive accretion that's possible when Houston bar and restaurant owners band together, I can't wait to see what Clumsy Butcher does next.