Explanation of a timeline of Houston's old and new dining halls

Explanation of a timeline of Houston’s old and new dining halls

The mega-project was announced in 2018 by Houston real estate developer Jonathan Inav, but has since been acquired by Brooklyn-based Hospitality HQ, a consulting and creative management group that operates collective dining projects across the country. Lyric Market premieres this fall.

So, in a city that has seen an influx of dining halls in the past five years, what’s so special about these halls? The Lyric Market will feature nine food stalls and a bar in a space that spans an entire apartment block. The impressive building includes a 7,500-square-foot rooftop, public plaza, street-side terrace, and space for private events. The food court is connected to the Lyric Tower, and is adjacent to the Lyric Garage, a technically advanced structure in its own right, which features a large glass display case displaying works by local artists, including Alex Arzu’s current feature.

Press Waffles is one of the food vendors that opens inside Lyric Market.

Song Market

Dining options will feature a mix of out-of-state concepts like New York City-based Sushi Muse from chef Hiroki Odo and local options including Lottie’s Smokehouse, a grill from veteran pitmaster maker Scott Lottie; BAD CHX, Nashville’s spicy chicken restaurant; 1929 Po-boy Kitchen by Chef Monica Landry; and Alenbi Falafel + Hummus, a popular Middle Eastern vegetarian food stall from Houston-based Sof Hospitality (Doris Metropolitan, Hamsa).

There is certainly some intrigue in exploring a new dining hub, but in the past, Houston’s food courts have proven unpredictable. Whether it is due to the sudden departure of the vendors or the hall closing completely, it can be difficult to keep up with what is and which is worth a visit. Here’s a look back at when food courts first started popping up across town, and the various changes, additions, and closures that occurred along the way.

first wave

Nectarine crepe at Melange Creperie, a former salesman at a now closed Conservatory.

Nectarine crepe at Melange Creperie, a former salesman at a now closed Conservatory.

Nick de la Torre

The Conservatory, Houston’s first food court, opened its doors in April 2016, giving diners the opportunity to experience a variety of restaurants and cuisines in one location. Food vendors such as Melange Creperie and Burro & the Bull roamed at dinner among the herds. It’s located below street level on Prairie and Main, has its own bar, has plenty of communal seating, and stays up late at night, making it a watering hole for downtown club dwellers.

The conservatory closed at the end of 2019, with owner Anh Mae announcing that he hoped to reopen elsewhere in Houston. In March 2020, a new launcher was launched underground hall In the same place that is still open today.

second wave

Two years after the conservatory opened, the city saw a large number of new dining halls, three in the city center and one in Rice Village.

Finn Hall still operates in downtown Houston.

Finn Hall still operates in downtown Houston.

Finn Hall via Yelp

Finn Hall Opened in December 2018 on the ground floor of the Chase Tower, it offers 20,000 square feet of communal dining and two bars in an Art Deco space. It’s a popular destination among the brunch crowd, and it recently announced plans to boost its vendor lineup this fall. Chef Shannen Tune will reopen Craft Burger (one of the inaugural Finnish vendors, which has been temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic) and also launch Pecking Order, a chicken concept focused on chicken dishes, sandwiches, and salads; Maui Bento Box will offer Hawaiian-inspired bento boxes; Cranky Carrot Juice Co. will combine cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, nut milks and cold latte drinks.

The Masterchef award-winning restaurant, The Blind Gate, is the main stall in the Bravery Chef Hall.

The Masterchef award-winning restaurant, The Blind Gate, is the main stall in the Bravery Chef Hall.

Karen Warren, Houston Chronicle photographer/staff

Brave Chef’s Hall And the Understory Opened sporadic weeks in the summer of 2019, diversifying the options downtown. Chef-led Bravery Hall, located on the ground floor of the luxury Aris condominium tower, features exciting concepts from big names including The Blind Goat by Christine Ha; Cherry Block Craft Butcher + Kitchen by Felix Florez; Diner Atlas by Richard Knight; Kokoro by Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee; And Pasta Pooh from Ben McPherson. Among these, The Blind Goat and Kokoro continue to operate within Bravery today, along with a rotating group of others.

Understory is a food court connected to the city center tunnels.

Understory is a food court connected to the city center tunnels.

John Chapley, Houston Chronicle photographer/staff

As its name hints, the Understory is located below street level within the Bank of America Tower. An oversized, eye-catching stairwell leads into the hall, which showcases meals from Italian Mona, Seaside Poke, Boomtown Coffee, and Flip ‘n’ Patties. Mama Ninfa’s Tacos & Tortas was originally part of the opening lineup, but is not currently open for business.

Across town in Rice Village, Politan Row opened in November 2019 with eight food counters and one pub under one roof. Notably, Chef Evelyn Garcia ran a booth called Kane here before competing in Bravo’s “Top Chef”, and Masaru Fukuda ran Pacha Nikai, which has since opened as a brick-and-mortar in West Chase. Politan Row closed just a year later, and the space has been hijacked by Chef Aaron Bloodorn, who will open a concept with his restaurateur wife, Victoria Papas Bloodorn, and Bludoorne manager Sheriff Mbudji.

third wave

An art display inside the Railroad Heights Market prior to its opening.

An art display inside the Railroad Heights Market prior to its opening.

Railroad Heights Market

The latest developments, railway heights Post Houston joined the Houston Food Court scene last year. The railway, co-founded by Sheppard Ross and Anne May, who also currently operates Bravery Chef Hall, is located in Timbergrove in a space that spans two levels. The first has coffee and juice bars with stalls from local market vendors, and the second features over a dozen restaurant vendors, including Drunken Pho, Takitoland and IYKYK Ice Cream.

Big-name vents such as the outpost of Queen Pierogi and BOH, are called BOH . slideaccompanying the unveiling, but both have since left the dining hall.

Back to sender in Post Houston.

Back to sender in Post Houston.

FAM Hospitality / POST HOUSTON

Postal market It differs from the railroad, both in its more iconic concepts and a unique space within the former Barbara Jordan Post Office downtown. Culinary director Paul Qui curated the restaurant menu, which combines local gems like Chop ‘n’ Block and Rollin’ Phatties with patriotic names like Roberta’s Brooklyn pizospital, as well as Qui concepts for East Side King and Austin’s Thai Kun, Soy Pinoy outside Colorado. Guests can order food from any of the food stalls and dine anywhere throughout the venue, but The Post also offers an original concept from Paul Qui and Norwegian chef Christopher Haatuft, Golfstrømmen, which has its own dining room.

Austin-based Salt & Time opened in Post Houston and closed shortly after.

Austin-based Salt & Time opened in Post Houston and closed shortly after.

howling

While the assortment of food vendors looks well rounded now, the landscape could change at any moment. Opening in less than a year, the hall has already seen two major departures, as Austin-based Salt & Time and Butcher’s Burger ceased operations at The Post after just four months.



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