Not too long ago we Houstonians were patiently waiting the opening of all the food halls we were promised. Well, Understory opened its doors last month, and Bravery Chef Hall, inside Aris Market Square downtown, is now open for dinner service. Lunch is coming July 30.
The food hall revolution has finally arrived.
Bravery, though, is different from the other halls that primarily feature well-established or relatively hot concepts. Here, though, the chef takes center stage, as each vendor is like a miniature restaurant, the first attempt for all of these kitchen leaders in running the show. In that sense, the excitement for innovation (especially in small spaces where menus will be sharp and succinct) is pretty high.
There's Blind Goat, the first concept run by chef Christine Hà, the winner of the third season of MasterChef. Hà, who is blind, is a second-generation Vietnamese-American who was born in Los Angeles but moved to Houston when she was young. At Blind Goat, she offers dishes inspired by Vietnamese street eats, from puffed rice noodles with tofu to beef carpaccio with puffed prawn chips. Texture and flavor prove big here.
Atlas Diner, from Richard Knight, who previously worked at Feast and Hunky Dory, promises big-budget global fare with a modern diner aesthetic. And it'll be open late Friday and Saturday nights. Look for masala dosa and eggs, bangers and mash, and an omelet breakfast roll among fare at this counter.
Black Hill Ranch's Felix Flores and chef Jessica Timmons run Cherry Block Craft Butcher & Kitchen, a locavore spot that'll focus on Southern grub like shrimp and cracklins, shrimp andouille-stuffed ribeye cap, and blackened catfish. Tip: Get the Black Hill pork chop, a 10-ounce hunk straight from the pig farm.
BOH Pasta & Pizza, from Ben McPherson, formerly of Prohibition Supper Club and Krisp Bird & Batter, feels like a personal adventure for the chef. Sure there's al dente carbonara and spaghetti, but he's also serving up Roman-style pizza. There's now a hole left by the exit of Pizza Motus, but we wonder if McPherson will find success when Frank's is literally next door.
Kokoro brings former Uchi cooks Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham together for a mostly sushi concept. For lunch it'll be almost entirely maki, sashimi, and nigiri, while for dinner a couple yakitori dishes will come out. Look for the tebasaki: chicken wing with yuzu kosho butter. A few small sides here are highlighted by aromatic chicken fat and furikake in sticky rice.
Bravery also has three bars. There's Lockwood Station, helmed by David Daiquiri, who was successful in pitching his bar concept to Bravery's team. Here, Daiquiri is mastering minimalism, serving up four menu cocktails while doing everything small batch. He'll also be recording his podcast on the industry right inside the bar.
There's also Secret Garden Bar from Jonathan Gallardo (Prohibition). This glassed-in space out in Bravery's courtyard could be a major hit with daytime coffee service, and evening carbonated cocktails and frozen drinks.
Plus, there's Bravery Wine Bar, where Bravery partner Shepard Ross (other partners are Anh Mai and Lian Nguyen) will showcase 30 wines on tap. The wine here will all correspond to offerings at the food vendors; so, when ordering a meal, you can get a highly curated glass of wine that pairs with it.
Finally, Gaggenau and FBS have collaborated with Bravery on a pop-up, cooking class, demonstration, and private event space called Stage, which be occupied after the chef hall gets running.
The hall can seat up to 400, though the hottest chairs will be up at the counters of each vendor, as guests will want to chat with chefs.
Once fully operational, Bravery will be open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., with Atlas Diner and Secret Garden Bar open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.