Despite being open nearly eight months, Winbern Mess Hall is hosting a "Grand Union" this Saturday to celebrate the combination of two of Houston's favorite food trucks into a single, brick-and-mortar spot: Oh My Gogi! and Happy Endings.
The Grand Union is taking place following a series of upgrades to the Midtown space. Last month, Winbern received its liquor license and can now boast a full bar in addition to an arcade machine and a renovated porch.
These are just a few of the changes patrons can expect, says Nathan Chang of the Korean-Mexican fusion truck Oh My Gogi!, who co-owns Winbern with partners Emily Ng and her husband Ryan Javier of Happy Endings (tagline: "We specialize in creating multi-cultural 100% beef premium hot dogs"). The plan, the team says, is to keep making Winbern bigger and better.
“I've never felt like we are fully opened. Before we came into a shell, and now we're making it into an actual home," says Chang. "I didn't really want to call it ‘Grand’ because it's not really a grand opening, but if we are going to keep doing it—this is a grand, the next will be a grand-grand, and then great-grand.”
For years, Winbern's space was home to Monica Pope's famous farm-to-table restaurant, t'afia (and later, her follow-up, Sparrow). When Pope decided to downsize, Javier—who knew Pope's brother—brought Chang to the space. They quickly decided to go in on it together, Pope included. Today, Pope holds her cooking classes upstairs on Tuesdays and Thursdays while Winbern serves its guests mobile meals downstairs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
"It works out great for our food trucks," Chang says. "It's a home."
With its kitchens operating outside in the parking lot, Winbern Mess Hall is able to focus less on the food and more creating a versatile gathering place, where collaboration and community intersect.
"It can almost turn into anything it needs to be: it can be a karaoke bar, a sports venue, a wedding rehearsal, we can host reunions," says Chang. "It's the perfect match because all of our food is built to-go. If I had to close this place to the public, we could still go and serve food on the side."
Currently, the restaurant hosts a monthly art show, complete with live music; all art that hangs on the walls is for sale until the next month, when a new artist takes over.
They are also looking at expanding the menu, starting with one of its newest vendors: Hot Rod Pops, a mobile gourmet popsicle purveyor. You'll find their offerings at Saturday's Grand Union celebration, along with music from local DJs, drink and food specials, and free beer and appetizer samples.
A Grand Union, Winbern Mess Hall, 3701 Travis St. Sat. July 29, 4 p.m.–midnight. Free.