Downtown Cafe Reboot

Celebrated Houston chef cooks up new role at stylish downtown bistro

Celebrated Houston chef cooks up new role at stylish downtown bistro

Adam Dorris Sean Marshall Coterie
Chef Adam Dorris and owner Sean Marshall at Coterie. Photo by Eric Sandler

One of Houston’s best chefs has quietly begun overseeing operations at a downtown cafe.

Adam Dorris, the chef behind Pax Americana and Presidio, has begun consulting at Coterie, the stylish bistro in downtown’s luxurious Market Square Tower. Although Coterie only opened in November, owner Sean Marshall tells CultureMap that he recruited Dorris to help give the restaurant more focus.

“The menu kind of got off track from the original intention of a Parisian-style cafe,” Marshall says. “We didn’t quite get there.”

Introduced to each other by a mutual friend, Dorris says he and Marshall quickly hit it off. The chef quickly realized he could help Coterie grow.

“We ended up hanging out and drinking wine by the pool until 4 am. He told me about the trials of opening and what they’re going through,” Dorris says. “I kept saying you should do this and this and this. I kept thinking about it for a long time.”

Luckily for both men, Dorris had the time to start a new project. After creating a menu and training the kitchen staff at Lotti Dotti, the Montrose patio bar he opened with general manager Michael Riojas, Dorris moved into a more hands-off role. The chef says he checks in with Riojas and the staff regularly, but it’s not a day-to-day role.

Dorris started working at Coterie in June. Since then, he’s recruited and trained a new kitchen staff and installed new menus that blend a little French flair with dishes designed to appeal to the tower’s residents.

“Lighter options, there’s salads, very simple dishes,” Dorris says. “Lots of egg dishes for the morning time ... things that can be taken to-go and will travel well, for people who grab a coffee on their way to work.”

At dinner, the options become a little heartier, with a mix of sandwiches, flatbreads, and center of plate items such as a croque monsieur, whipped avocado and chevre tartine, and even an oven-roasted branzino for two. Coterie also offers a full selection of wine, beer, and cocktails, making it a happy hour destination during the week and a place for residents to grab a drink before going out on the weekends.

Marshall says the response so far has been positive, outside of a couple of complaints from people who miss the burger.

“Everyone else has responded well to the lighter options. You’ve got a lot of really health-conscious folks that live in this building; steak and kale salad, they dig it,” Marshall says. “We can’t be everything to everybody, but we can do a lot in that little kitchen. It’s been well-received. I’ve been pleased with the response.”

Now that the secret’s out, Dorris plans to do a little more marketing to the building’s residents about his role at the restaurant and to reach out to his contacts in the arts community, especially at the Houston Ballet.

Of course, Coterie is open to the public, too, which means anyone can enjoy Dorris’ work. It even offers two hours of free parking at a nearby garage, which is practically unheard of for a downtown restaurant.

“You can’t have enough good advice. You can’t turn down enough bad advice,” Marshall says. “When Adam came on board, it cleared a lot of noise, and I had a line of sight toward the goals we’re trying to reach. Now we’re moving forward instead of wallowing in the midst of trying to figure out what we’re doing. It feels good.”

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Coterie; 737 Preston St.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 6:30 am to 9 pm; Thursday and Friday, 6:30 am to 11 pm; Saturday, 7:30 am to 11 pm; Sunday, 7:30 am to 8 pm