Be Brave

Sneak peek: Downtown Houston's highly anticipated food hall opens for business

Downtown's highly anticipated brave new food hall opens for business

Bravery Chef Hall Atlas Diner counter
The Atlas Diner counter looks straight out of Nighthawks. Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Bravery Chef Hall BOH Pasta Ben McPherson spaghetti carbonara
Ben McPherson holds a plate of pasta carbonara. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bravery Chef Hall Blind Goat beef carpaccio
The Blind Goat's beef carpaccio. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bravery Chef Hall Kokoro counter
Kokoro's chef counter. Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Bravery Chef Hall Atlas Diner Richard Knight sundae
Richard Knight with the "naughty" version of the Knickerbocker Sunrise. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bravery Chef Hall wine bar
Bravery's wine bar. Photo by Claudia Casbarian
Bravery Chef Hall Cherry Block gulf and ranch steak
Cherry Block's Gulf and Ranch is a ribeye cap stuffed with shrimp. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bravery Chef Hall Kokoro Patrick Pham sushi prep
Chef Patrick Pham preparing sushi at Kokoro. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bravery Chef Hall Atlas Diner counter
Bravery Chef Hall BOH Pasta Ben McPherson spaghetti carbonara
Bravery Chef Hall Blind Goat beef carpaccio
Bravery Chef Hall Kokoro counter
Bravery Chef Hall Atlas Diner Richard Knight sundae
Bravery Chef Hall wine bar
Bravery Chef Hall Cherry Block gulf and ranch steak
Bravery Chef Hall Kokoro Patrick Pham sushi prep

Downtown Houston's fourth food hall has officially arrived. The five restaurants and three bars at Bravery Chef Hall are officially open for business.

As its name implies, Bravery offers a twist on the typical food hall format. Instead of ordering at a counter and finding a seat in a common area, each of Bravery's restaurants offer counter seating areas from which diners can watch the chefs prepare their meals. The arrangement both gives diners a more intimate experience with the people preparing their food and allows the chefs to receive tips, which they are traditionally forbidden from doing in a typical restaurant.

Ahn Mai and Lian Nguyen bring the lessons they've learned from owning the Conservatory food hall to the project. They've partnered with Shepard Ross, who brings operational experience from numerous restaurants (Pax Americana, Glass Wall) and time as a consultant (Kiran's, Jonathan's the Rub Memorial Green, Tea & Victory etc).

Located on the street level of Aris Market Square, real estate developer Hines’ all-rental luxury high-rise at 409 Travis St., Bravery's restaurants are currently open for dinner starting at 5 pm daily. Lunch service will start on Tuesday, July 30. Ultimately, Lockwood Stn, The Secret Garden, and Atlas Diner will be open late on the weekends.

Before diving in to each concept individually, here's a quick overview:

  • Atlas Diner: a retro-styled concept from chef Richard Knight (Feast, Hunky Dory).
  • The Blind Goat: a modern, Vietnamese gastropub from Masterchef winner Christine Ha.
  • BOH Pasta: a pizza and pasta restaurant from chef Ben McPherson (Prohibition, Krisp Bird & Batter).
  • Cherry Block Craft Butcher + Kitchen: a steakhouse from owner Felix Florez (Black Hill Meats, Ritual) and chef Jess DeSham Timmons (The Redneck Country Club, Caboose BBQ).
  • Kokoro: a sushi and yakitori offering from chefs Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee, who met when they worked together at Uchi.

On the beverage side, the options are:

  • Bravery Wine Bar: Ross' wine bar serves as the space's control center; it offers 30 wines on tap, as well as selections by-the-bottle.
  • Lockwood Stn: bartender David Cedeno (better known as David Daquiri) focuses on draft cocktails, vermouth, rum, and whiskey.
  • Secret Garden Patio Bar: proprietor Jonathan Gallardo (Prohibition) serves cocktail and espresso at this bar, which is located on Bravery's outdoor patio.

"I've taken the basic Richard Knight lunacy to a diner," the chef tells CultureMap. The concept's eclectic menu shows a diverse array of influences: British-Indian on the "butter chicken and chips," Mexican for a nachos plate called "The Aris Tower - Floor 9 3/4," and who knows what for the "Knickerbocker Sunrise," a parfait that comes either "nice" with yogurt and fruit or "naughty" with ice cream, candy, and chocolate sauce.

Atlas will be open almost constantly: serving breakfast during the week, with both brunch and late night on the weekends. Knight has big plans for the late-night menu, including "The Sleepwalker," which consists of a whole bottle of milk and a full size box of cereal. It's also the only restaurant at Bravery with a dedicated pastry chef who will produce pies, sweets, and more.

Beef carpaccio and stir-fried noodles with tofu may not be dishes found at most Vietnamese restaurants around town, but they're already winning fans at The Blind Goat. The menu offers some more familiar fare in the form of egg rolls and a beef short rib bowl, but options like apple pie and freshly-pressed sugarcane juice serve as notice that the options are a little different. Although Ha still has to jet off to Los Angeles for occasional Masterchef appearances, expect to see her on the line at her first restaurant.

Ben McPherson tells CultureMap that he's always be fascinated by the simplicity of Italian cuisine. He traveled to the country after he completed culinary school and has been looking for the right opportunity to open an Italian restaurant ever since.

At BOH, Italian slang for "I don't know," the chef is serving pastas he makes on-site (bucatini carbonara, spaghetti with tomato sauce, etc.), small plates like roasted beet salad, and pizza al taglio, a style from Rome that's typically sold by-the-slice. In addition, the chef uses ingredients that diners can feel good about, such as eggs from Yonder Way Farms and flour from Texas purveyor Barton Springs Mill.

By serving as both supplier and distributor for the meat at Cherry Block, Florez has more control over the steaks the restaurant serves and is able to offer them at a lower cost. That means an 8-ounce choice ribeye only costs $16, and a 6-ounce filet is $18.

Timmons shows some creativity in the kitchen. For example, the "Gulf and Ranch" features a ribeye cap stuffed with shrimp andouille sausage. The oversized, baked-to-order cookie, made with salted caramel, already sounds like a winner.  

Lee and Pham have been wowing diners at their Secret Taste pop-up series with over-the-top omakase meals that are loaded with caviar, Japanese wagyu, and edible gold. Needless to say, Kokoro is considerably more traditional, but the chefs still have some outlets to showcase their creativity.

For now, Kokoro focuses on familiar fish like tuna (sourced from Mexico), salmon (from New Zealand's acclaimed Ora King fishery), and Japanese selections such as madai and hamachi. Two kinds of yakitori are available (chicken thigh and chicken wing), although that will expand over time.

Bravery Wine Bar's 30 taps all feature vintages that can be paired with different dishes from its restaurants: California cabernets for Cherry Block, riesling for The Blind Goat, sake for Kokoro, etc. Best of all, the bar's staff will work the entire space; they can deliver wines to any of Bravery's other counters. Ross has utilized his relationships with wine makers to get exclusive vintages; his own MadCat wines will be available as well. 

Cedeno won the competition to operate Bravery's bar incubator. He's given Lockwood Stn a mid-century feel. Four draft cocktails help ensure speedy service, but Cedeno will make traditional shaken or stirred drinks as well.

In addition, he's using the bar as an opportunity to share his passion for vermouth. With 20 selections available, diners will almost certainly find one that suits their palate. Since it has its own entrance and restroom, Lockwood Stn can stay open even with the other restaurants have closed.

Located along Main Street, The Secret Garden pairs with Atlas Diner as Bravery's morning destinations. It will offer a full range of espresso beverages. At night, the focus shifts to cocktails: most of which will be carbonated, bottled, or frozen to expedite service.