As much as people like a elegant meal at a fancy restaurant for a special occasion, day-to-day dining needs are usually simpler. Most of the time, people crave familiar dishes like a burger, roasted chicken, or a bowl of pasta.
Benjy Levit understands. The veteran restaurateur behind Benjy's and Local Foods realized that Rice Military needed something new that could cater to people's basic dining needs. He converted the Washington Avenue location of Benjy's into a new restaurant called The Classic All Day; it opens to the public on Friday, August 3.
“We wanted to create a no-rush, no-fuss neighborhood spot that effortlessly pivots from daily coffee mainstay to date night spot," Levit said in a statement. "Our goal for The Classic is to deliver elevated-yet-simple dishes, all of which will be executed exceptionally well.”
As the name implies, The Classic opens every day at 8 am to serve breakfast until 11 am. From there, it shifts to an all-day menu that mixes shareable plates, salads, sandwiches, medium plates, and four dinner-style entrees. Influences run the gamut. Nods to Levit's Jewish heritage like matzo ball soup, hummus, and pastrami-spiced smoked salmon reside on the same menu as Asian-influenced dishes like hamachi in plum vinaigrette and the Not So Benedict that keeps the poached egg and hollandaise but swaps in crispy rice seasoned with nuoc mam (fish sauce) for the traditional English muffin. In a couple of weeks, daily specials like rotisserie lamb and tacos (yes, on Tuesday) will supplement the daily menu.
Chefs Mike Potowski and Maria Gonzalez have taken a creative approach to some of the dishes. For example, a simple sounding "pork & eggs" dish features a tamago-style omelet that's stuffed with gruyere cheese before being panko-crusted and fried. The pork is a ramen-style tonkotsu pork belly.
Those dishes get paired with an extensive selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. Bottle prices start around $40 and go all up to about $100. A selection of three ingredient cocktails are designed to be made quickly.
All of that eating and drinking happens in a space that's essentially unrecognizable from its former incarnation. Levit tapped local Houston designer Aaron Rambo and the Austin-based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture to give the space a comprehensive makeover with mid-century modern furniture and industrial light fixtures. A diner-style dining counter offers patrons a view into the open kitchen.
Upstairs, the second-story bar has been replaced with a new rooftop garden. The Classic will use herbs and produce from the garden in its dishes.
Bars like Clutch and Handlebar have revived the area's nightlife scene, but new residential construction has also brought an influx of young professionals and families. When those residents aren't knocking down shots, they might appreciate the simple comfort of grilled cheese sandwich or bucatini pasta. When they do, The Classic will be there for them.
The Classic All Day; 5922 Washington Ave.; 713-868-1131; Sunday through Thursday 8 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 8 am to 10 pm