A reader tip led us to confirm that the last day of business for Cook & Collins is tomorrow, January 31. The closing is coming almost exactly two years after it opened. An employee we spoke with by phone said it is being changed to a new concept that will open in a few months.
Thankfully, Spare Key, the bar upstairs, will remain open. The notable bar that specializes in craft cocktails has been featured in national publications, including Imbibe magazine, and was named one of the Houston Press's “Best New Bars of 2015."
Updated, 2/3/2016, 10:20 a.m. with Spare Key statement and Culturemap Houston information on the new restaurant concept.
Chris Frankel of Spare Key gave us this statement regarding the bar's operations. Take note of a few dates when Spare Key will be closed for some minor remodeling.
"Spare Key will stay open during the remodeling phase downstairs. I will still be overseeing the bar and concept and our current bartenders will still be working here.
The 'Unlock the States' menu has been really popular, so it's definitely not going anywhere. We will be putting out our next seasonal menu in February and it will include some cocktails to preview the new concept downstairs. I will be overseeing the drink program there, so that should be an exciting project.
One note, however: Spare Key will be closed for some light remodeling starting Monday, February 8, and we will reopen the night of Wednesday, February 17.
Also, we've been getting a lot of party and event requests lately, so I'd like to stress that Spare Key is indeed honoring its existing reservations and taking new ones, with the only exception being that remodel week."
So, what is the "new concept downstairs?" Culturemap Houston reports that it will be called Stoked Tacos & Tequila. Described as a "rock and roll taqueria," it will serve a custom menu of drinks by Spare Key that feature tequila and mezcal.
No restaurant has found stable ground at the former El Patio space in recent years. Initially, El Patio was re-concepted as Xuco Xicana. Even universal praise from restaurant critics couldn't keep it open. Chef Jonathan Jones (now at El Big Bad) left, and the spot briefly went back to being an El Patio. It still didn't survive. Cook & Collins gave it the good old college try with its New American cuisine, but it just never inspired the same level of endearment as its predecessors.
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The corner of Brazos and Bremond is likely to continue to be a head-scratcher for restaurant owners. It’s in a bar-heavy, clubby corner of Midtown — and its next-door neighbor is Gaslamp, the controversial club that has drawn heavy public criticism, a high-profile protest led by rapper Bun B and a federal discrimination lawsuit for its cover charge policies that allegedly favor whites over minorities. In September 2015, Gaslamp owner Ayman Jarrah claimed he was getting out of his lease, but there's no evidence that ever actually happened — or is going to happen.
It’s hard to say what kind of restaurant will succeed in the Cook & Collins space, although, just a few blocks away, Izakaya seems to be enjoying both critical acclaim and a steady stream of guests. Cyclone Anaya’s usually looks busy, too.
We’ve requested a call back from the owners of Cook & Collins and are scheduled to speak with Spare Key proprietor Chris Frankel later today. This story will be updated with more details if they are received.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming follow-up on the Stoked Tacos & Tequila concept.