A Daunting List of Martinis

Quick!  Someone call Bret Easton Ellis!  Insufferable pompousness, desperate and clawing attempts at coolness, and plastically-pretty young things who wish desperately that they were in LA (or even Dallas) instead of Houston will have a new home soon.

All of that monstrous development going on at Westheimer and Kirby — the mixed-use development calling itself “West Ave” — recently announced the restaurants and bars that will be occupying the ground floor of the complex.  Cleverley and Swamplot were both there, with details on the new entrants to the Houston restaurant scene:

All are culinary imports from Dallas, San Antonio, or California, though one has already moved nearby… — Swamplot

Uh-oh.  This doesn’t bode well.  San Antonio, I can live with.  But the last thing I’m interested in are imports from our tacky sister to the north or the preening navel-gazers in California.  Cleverley had even more to share:

Cru
Established January 2002 in Dallas’s West Village, Cru was conceived as an exciting urban destination to experience and explore the fascinating world of wine.

The Social House at WEST AVE
Syn Group, the creators of Clear Ultra Lounge and The Social House at West Village in Dallas (just opened) will be debuting their premier gastropub concept in Houston.

Swig will feature a “daunting” list of martinis…

Maybe I’m just feeling grumpy and uncharitable today, but I have always felt that one of the things that made Houston an amazing city for restauranteurs and foodies was its welcoming attitude towards new chefs, untested ventures and local flavor.  And one of the things that I, personally, love about Houston is their unwelcoming attitude towards most chain restaurants and chain concepts — until recently.

We are a city of constantly-shifting crust and mantle, a volcanic city, a city constantly reworking itself and remaking itself and never standing still.  And somehow, to me, that existence doesn’t fit with Applebee’s and On The Border.  Chain restaurants pin you down, make you like every other city and every other suburb and every other useless nightmare of concrete and strip malls.  “Concepts” and “areas” and “neighborhoods” that developers shove down your throat — that DON’T develop organically — kill a city like Houston.

Why are we trying to be like Dallas?  Why are we trying to be like Los Angeles?  More importantly, why would we want to?  Why do we want stucco houses and chains?  Why do we want their restaurants and their concepts and their fake, mass-patented neighborhoods that a bunch of guys in a boardroom developed in hopes of lining their own pockets with more money while destroying the soul of a city?

“West Ave” isn’t the bad guy here.  It’s just a symptom of a larger problem, of people trying to make Houston into something she isn’t.  Kristen Mack had it right in her column last year (bolding is mine):

Houston’s experiencing its biennial identity crisis.

We’re going through that period when we try to define the city — or worse, allow outsiders to do it for us.

What we don’t need is anyone telling us how to sell ourselves, whether to attract people to visit or stay. We can do without the pointers on how to promote our city or build our collective self-esteem.

Houstonians should stop trying to package and prettify the city for others and focus on making it better for people who are already here.

The first thing we need to realize is that people come here to work. If you aren’t from these parts, there is no other reason to be drawn to this city.

Washington, D.C., is defined by government and politics. Los Angeles has entertainment and film as its top draws. New York is all about finance and fashion.

Houston’s not a great place to visit, unless all you want to do is eat out and shop. You have to stay here a while to appreciate the place.

Anyone who gives it a chance comes to find that, unlike any other major city, Houston grants easy entree to people who work hard.

This city always has been guided by a laissez-faire mentality.

Besides, people who try too hard or politicians that desperately strive to make Houston “world class” are just plain tiresome.

When are people going to learn?  Houston will define itselfWe don’t want or need your input, guidance or suggestions.  And shame on the Houstonians who are accepting them, instead of allowing our city to move forward and recreate herself as she always has.

And in ten years, with any luck, West Ave and its ilk will be on the same chopping block as the Memorial Heights Apartments.

One response to “A Daunting List of Martinis

  1. It’d be different if Houston was glomming off some of the better restaurants and chef’s, say if…Mario Batali decided to come to town. That’d be cool.

    Instead we’re being stuck with cocktails wrongly identified as martinis (a pet peeve btw) and lampshades masquerading as the Belle of the Ball.

    There was a time that Houston’s upper crust was a lot of fun and had the scandal scars to prove it.

    Today sadly they’re about as exciting as Cru.

    Which has been done, repeatedly.

    Houston is now suffering the pain of the focus group. It killed Rock n’ Roll, television, and movies, why shouldn’t Cities themselves be next on the list?

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