Company of Nomads, the team behind Conservatory and Bravery Chef Hall, is getting close to opening Railway Heights on Washington Avenue, a 27,000-square-foot compound that has been four years in the making. When that happens, it could just become the food hall that fully embodies what Houston dining is about: diversity, community, and delicious foods like pierogis, falafel, and khachapuri (Georgian cheese-filled egg bread), too.
“After we opened Conservatory we immediately looked at ‘what’s next for food halls?’” says owner Anh Mai. “For us it felt like Houston was missing a big-city market on the level of Pike’s Place, Chelsea Market, or Reading Terminal—every big city has one.”
Mai and partners Lian Nguyen and Shepard Ross found their (affordable) dream location at an EZ Park development halfway between Memorial Park and Timbergrove. The place will be a showstopper, with black wrought-iron accents, exposed rafters, a large clock and train boards, and cantilevered glass doors that open up to the outside from two spacious floors, all of which overlooks the bustling train tracks nearby.
Unlike at our city’s other food halls, outside areas play a huge role here. The front lawn will be home to a family park offering tons of programming; a membership-based dog park will boast its own shipping-container bar, Sit Bar, serving cocktails and peanut butter on tap for pups; an outdoor mezzanine space will host weekend farmers markets; container gardens out back can be leased for patrons to grow their own produce; and a 10,000-square-foot beer garden operated by Ivan Silva, Conservatory’s GM, will offer 100 imports on draught and a stage for live music.
Inside, a 5,000-square-foot ground-floor grocery store will offer local produce alongside wares from 10 vendors—a fishmonger, coffee roaster, and in-house butcher shop run by Black Hill Ranch’s Felix Florez, among them. Patrons can even buy marinated cuts to cook on grills in the beer garden.
The 26 vendors operating in the 20,000-square-foot food hall upstairs will be strictly mom-and-pops that Mai and Ross have sought out, including two beloved institutions—Pierogi Queen and Al’s Quick Stop. “To truly tell the story of Houston,” says Mai, “we had to curate a little further than we normally do, to find those hidden gems and bring it all to one place.” A hawker market–inspired neon-lit area will act like an incubator, featuring eight chefs selling just three items each as they test out culinary ideas. And Ross’s elliptical wine bar, Puncheon, will pour growlers of signature proprietary blends made specifically for the bar at fine vineyards.
Also: “We’re trying to make this as sustainable as possible,” Ross says. “Even the produce from the farmers market—‘ugly’ produce—will then go into the market, and to vendors, and when we can’t use it, we’ll compost it. We’re hoping to have zero waste.”
We promise to clean our plates.