Flights are starting to fill up for the Super Bowl in Houston on Feb. 5, but if you want to make a wild day trip of it from Austin, you need to know that there are about a million new food places opening just in time for the biggest sporting event of the year.
Most of the openings are in the Discovery Green area just south of Minute Maid Park and north of the convention center. I was there for the Houston International Quilt Festival last fall, and both the quilts and the playful greenspace outside were amazing.
We had gyros from a food truck parked next to an outdoor art market next to the greenspace, but the culinary centerpiece of the grassy area on the north side of the convention center might soon be Brasserie du Parc, a French restaurant in One Park Place that will have a walk-up window to the park. (Also in One Park Place is Phoenicia Specialty Foods, a gourmet grocery that will delight fans of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s that is a requisite stop for me when I’m in downtown Houston.)
Literal billions of dollars are being spent ($2.2 billion, to be exact) on construction projects in downtown Houston. Current construction projects including the Aloft Hotel in the former Stowers building; the 20-story Hotel Alessandra in the GreenStreet development; the 40-floor Market Square Tower with its glass-bottomed rooftop pool; Catalyst Houston, an apartment building a block west of Minute Maid Park; and a $175 million renovation project at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Here’s a fly-by of the restaurant news you will want to know the next time you’re headed to downtown Houston for Super Bowl celebrations or just a regular ol’ weekend:
- Chris Shepherd is debuting his One Fifth concept any day now. The idea? A new restaurant every year for the next five years. The first is called Steak. The fourth location of the gourmet sandwich, salad and seafood restaurant Local Foods just opened in a 10,000 foot space in the iconic Boyd’s Department Store building downtown.
- Biggio’s, yes, from that Biggio, is one of the many restaurants located inside the Marriott Marquis, a 29-story hotel with a Texas-shaped lazy river on its roof that is located between Discovery Green and Minute Maid Park. (That new Mariott space has something like six new eateries on the block.)
- Bill Floyd of Reef has teamed up with Astros owner Jim Crane to open two restaurants — the high-end Potene and Osso & Kristalla, a trattoria serving breakfast, lunch and dinner — in 500 Crawford, the luxury apartment complex located directly across from Minute Maid Park.
- Conservatory is an underground beer garden and food hall that recently opened downtown. Just a few blocks away, the Four Seasons recently underwent its first renovation in a decade that includes the new Bayou & Bottle, which replaces the former lobby bar.
- The most concentrated place for restaurant openings right now is Avenida Houston, a plaza between the convention center and that fun Discovery Green space, which is great for kids to run around. It’s now a restaurant row, with nearly a dozen concepts scrambling to open and be fully staffed by next week. Those include a downtown location for Grotto, a Caribbean restaurant called Kulture and Xochi, the latest from Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught.
Some of these places are opening as we speak; others will open next week, and some will likely miss the big game.
The good news for those of us who live in Texas is a cool downtown area to explore the next time we’re in Houston and lots of new places to eat, no matter why we’re there.
(Even if it’s quilts.)