One of Houston’s most popular neighborhood restaurants finally has plans to expand with a second location. Jonathan’s the Rub has signed on to be the second restaurant at Memorial Green, Midway’s upscale mixed-use development on Memorial Drive just east of the Sam Houston Tollroad.
Chef-owner Jonathan Levine tells CultureMap that Midway approached him about joining casual farm-to-table restaurant Dish Society in the development. While that restaurant is poised to open this summer, the second Jonathan’s won’t arrive until either the spring or summer of 2018. When it opens, Levine’s son Sam and daughter Jessica will be overseeing the project.
“They gave us a very sweet offer,” Levine says. “I had no intentions of going, but I couldn’t pass it up. It seemed like such a natural fit for us . . . I’ve got two smart kids. They’re ready to take it over.”
Over the course of 10 years, Jonathan’s has evolved from a 28-seat storefront companion to a catering business into a 100-plus seat dining destination that’s open for lunch and dinner. Levine’s eclectic menu — a mixed of Italian specialties inspired by his New York roots, Southern classics inspired by his time in Texas, and steaks — have helped Jonathan’s become one of the Memorial area’s most popular restaurants.
The restaurant’s name serves as both a nod to the chef’s signature spice blend, a proprietary mix of salty, sweet, spicy, and savory flavors that came together when Levine added a pinch of smoked Hungarian paprika, and a reference to the “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Hamlet (his mother had a penchant for reciting it). Most of the dishes on the menu get at least a little sprinkle of the spice mix.
While the name and menu will match the original — good news for fans of signature dishes like lobster tacos, chicken and waffle, and steak gaucho — the new location will set itself apart with a dedicated bar area and a full cocktail menu. Levine says he plans to work with Reserve 101 owner Mike Raymond on gathering some ideas for cocktails and spirits that will pair with his food. Alas, that means the new location will not be BYOB, but the original will retain that policy.
In addition to Dish Society, Memorial Green will offer 91 two and three story homes (priced from $1.375 to $2.6 million), gated community parks, 50,000 square feet of office space, and boutique retail outlets; features that are designed to make it an upscale companion to Midway's nearby CityCentre development.
“We are excited to bring a chef and restaurant with such a devoted following to Memorial Green,” said Midway chairman Brad Freels. “Giving the Memorial community a lifestyle where residents can work, shop, live, and enjoy more time with friends and family, all in an upscale, park-like atmosphere, was our vision for Memorial Green. It is a unique place, and we are pleased to see the vision becoming reality as highly regarded businesses and homeowners respond positively.”
As for the lawsuit that scuttled Levine’s plans to open in the Treehouse space that ultimately became home to Liberty Kitchen, Levine says he settled it last year.
“There’s no hold back. There’s no constraints,” Levine says about the terms of the agreement. That’s good news for people who’ve packed the dining room at Jonathan's but think the food would taste better paired with a Moscow Mule or an Old Fashioned (to say nothing of the search for parking). They'll just need to be a little bit patient while the crews build the space.