Tim Love has a lot to be happy about. First and foremost, this August his son Tannahill will begin playing for the University of Texas football team. But second, one might say, is that the star DFW-based chef and restaurateur, who has concepts across the country through his company Love Management Inc., is finally opening his first Houston concepts at Levy Park. Woodshed Smokehouse, Love Shack, and Side Dough are rolling out starting Thursday.
"Am I scared? Hell yeah. But am I excited? Hell yeah," said Love in a recent interview with Houstonia.
Time has been Love's enemy since agreeing to open his concepts in the city. Levy Park first announced in 2017 that Love would operate concessions and open a restaurant at the five-acre greenspace and activity center in Upper Kirby. But delays in construction, along with the usual City of Houston paperwork snarl, kept pushing the opening of Love's concepts until now.
But now they're here. Woodshed Smokehouse will have the largest footprint with more than 185 total seats in an open-air space that includes a patio, private dining room, full bar, and completely visible kitchen. Love positions Woodshed as a place to embrace the importance of wood in cooking, something Texans know better than just about anyone.
"It's something that's attractive to everyone for different reasons," says Love, who hopes to see families, folks with dogs (including menu items for canines), and late-night revelers all use the space. "I built it to be my backyard."
Woodshed focuses primarily on four kinds of wood: post oak, mesquite, hickory, and pecan. For lunch and dinner you may find traditional pork ribs and brisket (plus lamb brisket); new-school 'cue items like pork rib ramen and a whole beef rib with ancho demi-glace; tacos; sandwiches; and big plates like paella with clams, shrimp, rabbit and rattlesnake sausage, and game bird. Houston-centric dishes include smoked gumbo, fire-roasted jambalaya, Pekin duck, and smoked banana cream pie.
The wood goes beyond the menu, too. Tables at Woodshed were made from a live oak tree by the restaurant that died during remodeling.
Next is the Love Shack, Love's casual kiosk of traditional American stadium grub. Think a whole slew of burgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches, plus sides like nachos and chile parmesan chips; dog-friendly grub like rawhide bones; and beer and wine.
Finally, a new concept from Love called Side Dough will open at the community garden in a 1972 double-decker bus. This concept focuses on pastry and other morning staples like coffee and breakfast tacos.
All three concepts will have the capability to host concerts, with Woodshed likely to be a regular spot for live music. Plus, since Love Management Inc. has the run of Levy Park, you can grab a beer or wine to-go at the Love Shack, then take it into the park to enjoy while the kids play in the water park.
It has the potential to make Levy Park an urban oasis that rivals any of its kind in Houston. But don't expect Love to stretch out into the city with more of his concepts. At least not yet.
"Three's enough for right now in Houston," he laughs.