In case you've been away for the past month, or you stopped paying attention to food news over the holidays, you might have missed that downtown food hall Conservatory is no more. Instead, a new and revised Conservatory will be opening in East Downtown, while the group behind that concept is planning to open a second location of Conservatory in the Galleria area, plus an Asian market in Midtown.
Here's related news: The old Conservatory spot at 1010 Prairie St. has been filled ... by another food hall.
Welcome Underground Hall (CultureMap was on the news first), which is hoping for an "around Rodeo time" opening, according to founder Daut Elshani. He's a longtime hospitality professional in Houston, most recently helping to get the new Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. facility off the ground, and before that serving as co-founder of Salt 'N Pepper Group (Pub Fiction, Beer Market Co.). With Underground Hall, he's hoping to deliver a more informal food hall experience to a city that has seen some big build-outs in the last year and change.
"I've studied the latest trends in food halls, and with Politan Row, Finn Hall, and Bravery, all these places are very much upscale and they've got beautiful design," says Elshani. "I see corporate folks, but I want to see more of a casual atmosphere. I didn't get a casual vibe out of any of them."
The O.G. Houston food hall, Conservatory was a top pick for Downtown nighthawks wanting some after-hours grub or drinks. Elshani hopes to keep that vibe, contributing primarily cosmetic upgrades.
"Being down in the basement there wasn't much natural light, so I'm looking to offer it more of a refreshed and brighter theme with brighter colors and improving the sound and lighting," says Elshani. Also, he's improving the main bar and upgrading plumbing.
As for vendors, he's already locked in Crisp, the boozy garden and Italian-American eatery with a location on Bevis Street in the Heights. He'll also bring the Beer Market name to Underground Hall's beer bar space, which will have 30 taps that include local breweries and favorites from Louisiana and nationally. The bar under the stairs (called Underbar) will feature wine and cocktails. Beyond that, he's fielding calls and hoping to have a roster set for a late-February or Rodeo-time opening.
"That's more of a fingers' crossed type of deal," says Elshani. Whenever it opens, it means another food hall in a city suddenly teeming with them.