Restaurant Reviews

Dish

Broken Heart, Tired Soul
Sad news for the Heights: One of its most promising new restaurants, the Heart and Soul Cafe, closed its doors September 20. In less than a year, Heart and Soul had garnered glowing reviews and a growing, loyal clientele. The announcement was even more surprising because it followed weeks of speculation that sisters Wendy and April Cohen were planning to move into a larger building.

The partners had, in fact, recently purchased the old Dollar Store building to be the new home for Heart and Soul. Their original building, at 6500 North Main, was "just inadequate," says April. But to make the quantum leap from cozy cafe to large-scale restaurant would have cost at least $200,000. "We realized we had to either enlarge or close," says April, "and we just weren't willing to make that huge commitment. We decided we wanted our lives back."

The Cohen sisters will lease out the Dollar Store, and April will return to full-time interior-design work (which she never really left in the first place). As for Wendy, who spent all summer in a hot kitchen -- well, she may just take a vacation.

Ready for the Big Time?
When one door closes, another opens, at least in the Houston restaurant biz. Keith Coit's new Big Time Cafe (3700 Washington Avenue, 861-3010) embodies a completely different solution to landlord problems: a portable restaurant.

"I lease the land," Coit explains, "but I built the building to take with me. My landlady is the sweetest person in the world, but if something goes wrong or she gets a better offer, I can just pick it up and move on."

"What you see is what you get" is Coit's motto. At the Big Time, you can perch on one of a dozen counter stools and see all the ingredients for gumbo or po' boys lined up and waiting, or get a taste of whatever new treat Coit's cooking up. ("We don't have any storage, so you know it's fresh," he says.) You can also admire his growing collection of hot sauces -- 63 varieties, at last count.

Dishing out lunch and dinner is a new gig for Coit, a familiar face on Houston's nightclub circuit. He's still a partner in the rockin' Fabulous Satellite Lounge, just down the street; before that he was a night manager at the UT alumni hangout Hofbrau Steaks, and he also ran Sam's Place for a time. ("I built that boat," he says. "But that's another long story.")

Apparently you can take the animal out of the party, but not the party out of the animal. Coit's future plans include live music on weekends, and "all kinds of other fun stuff. That's why I call it the 'Big Time.' "

-- Margaret L. Briggs

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Margaret L.Briggs