I’m a little late to the party on this, but I felt it worth mentioning anyway…
Rhea Wheeler (the Houston entrepreneur-cum-restauranteur responsible for the award-winning Ibiza) is opening a “mixed-use” restaurant in Midtown that will include — among other things — private wine lockers, an upscale restaurant, a club and a sushi bar. While that should be interesting in and of itself, what really intrigues me is the location.
No, it’s not new construction! I know — unheard of! It’s…wait for it…in the old Boy Scout headquarters on Bagby. No news yet on what the restaurant will be called, but I’m giddy with anticipation.
The real estate and development hawks over at Swamplot have additional details here: Secret Midtown Boy Scout Sushi Location Revealed. The headline itself just makes me giggle.
In addition to the mixed-use restaurant (which I’m not-so-secretly and desperately hoping will be Scout-themed — can you imagine the possibilities of the staff uniforms alone??), Wheeler is also opening a downtown gastropub called Hearsay and another Midtown restaurant, to be called the White House. All three are being established in “historically significant properties,” which gives me a small hope that perhaps we won’t tear down every single structure built prior to 1980 during this building frenzy that has currently enveloped the city.
Hearsay will serve — as expected — gastropub fare, which is classic English pub fare done in a much more upscale manner and with the addition of unexpected, high-end menu items. Gastropubs began making headway in the United States in 2004 after being imported from the U.K. with great caché, the food trend equivalent of The Beatles. Houston, being a bit behind the times in most things, has been somewhat slower to cotton on. As previously noted, The Red Lion has made a feeble attempt at this trend. Let’s hope that Hearsay does a better job, because I’d love to have a quality gastropub in town.
The White House is still a bit shrouded in mystery, too. All we know at this point is that it will be located in an eponymous white mansion on Austin at Elgin and will serve “Texas cuisine,” a descriptive phrase that annoys me almost as much as the hollow “California cuisine.” We’ll see what comes of it. As for now, I’m hoping for something a bit like The Inn at Hunt Phelan in Memphis which, despite its rather dull and pedestrian website, is actually beautiful inside and out. The Inn at Hunt Phelan, a restored Civil War-era mansion, specializes in Creole/southern cuisine and their food is subtly magnificent. You might see where I’m drawing a few parallels here.
Rhea Wheeler appears to me to be almost the antithesis of Tilman Fertitta (whose vile, greedy building projects and painfully, nauseatingly gaudy yet utterly-devoid-of quality restaurants are permeating the city). Wheeler’s zeal for good food and his seemingly true appreciation for the city make me eager to support his restaurant endeavors, entirely absent of any acclaim that Ibiza has received. That is to say: even if Ibiza weren’t the huge success that it is, I love the direction that Wheeler is taking and I’ll happily follow him along the journey.