The dry part of The Heights is about to get a little wetter. Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera, the duo behind Revival Market and Italian restaurant Coltivare, confirmed long-swirling rumors about their plans to transform the former Citgo station at 11th and Yale into a bar and restaurant.
Expected to open this summer, 8-Row Flint Icehouse and Tacos will be a modern take on the Texas icehouse that features high quality ingredients, craft beer and craft cocktails. (The Chronicle first reported the news.)
Weber tells CultureMap he's had his eye on the Citgo station for the last four years, but opted not to purchase it two years ago due to concerns about the potential costs of environmental remediation. When Riverway Properties put the space up for lease, he and Weber decided it would be the perfect home for their new concept.
"We all like to kick back on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy ourselves in that kind of setting."
Like Coltivare, 8-Row Flint will operate with a private club liquor license to comply with regulations related to the neighborhood's dry status.
"We all like to kick back on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy ourselves in that kind of setting," Weber says about the inspiration for the concept. "It didn’t quite exist in the way we wanted it. We decided to be a little selfish and open the kind of icehouse we wanted to sit at, eat at and drink at."
8-Row Flint's name is a reference to the variety of heirloom corn that Native Americans in the Northeast shared with English colonists. That breed then traveled to Europe where Italians adopted it for polenta. Although it became extinct in America, the Anson Mills company has revived it.
Whether that corn is ground for tortillas or turned into bourbon, 8-Row Flint will feature the plant.
"Corn is the underlying thread that ties it all together. Obviously, Mexico leans heavily on corn. Our bourbon culture leans on corn," Weber says.
8-Row Flint's tacos will be developed by Pera with most of the preparation done at Revival Market. They'll be served from a food truck on site.
"While we’re taking kind of generous liberties with an icehouse, the food is going to be just as important as the drinks," Weber says. "Across the platform with me and Ryan and also Vincent (Huynh, chef de cuisine at Coltivare), we are obsessed with tacos.
"I’m never going to say a bad thing about Torchy’s. I like a little more ingredient driven, simple taco."
"We do have Torchy’s for sure (in The Heights). I’m never going to say a bad thing about Torchy’s. I like a little more ingredient driven, simple taco. More in the Mexican tradition than Tex-Mex."
One more thing about the food. "I’m obsessed with queso. I have been my whole life. The queso is going to be really good," Weber promises.
In terms of drinks, Weber says 8-Row Flint will offer a wide selection. "We’re going to be all over the map there. We want to be very accessible, very laid back, very unpretentious. We want it to have good beer, good booze, good drinks. Not take ourselves too serious but use good ingredients, fresh ingredients in the style we want to do them."
The bar will feature eight to 10 craft beer taps and an "extensive" bottle list, but the cocktails will set it apart. "Obviously, I love frozen drinks so much, and so many times they’re just not done well. We’ll have about a half dozen frozen drinks," Weber says.
During a recent trip to Kentucky, Weber sourced four barrels that will be filled with different spirits and "cask finished" bourbon and served as shots. He's also working with other companies to provide barrels with tequila and other spirits.
"I was obsessed with John Wayne films," Weber says. "There was always a cask of whiskey sitting on the back bar. The goal is to recreate that as best that TABC will allow us to."
Additionally, the bar will feature batched cocktails that maintain the craft standards at Coltivare but speed up the process of serving them. Weber says the goal of both the food and drink programs is to provide diners with "a great drink in their hands very quickly and a great plate of tacos very quickly."
If it all comes together, 8-Row Flint will give The Heights a place that blends the modern icehouse concept exhibited at D&T Drive Inn with the only-in-Houston synergy created by the West Alabama Ice House and adjacent taco truck Tierra Caliente.
"We just want everybody to have a good time," Weber says.