Axelrad owner Adam Brackman and chef Monica Pope have announced an ambitious plan to transform the original location of Beaver’s into a new concept. Now known as Vinegar Hill Houston, the new concept will serve three distinct roles when it opens in November: a coworking space during the day, a bar in the evening, and serve as an incubator for the next generation of culinary talent.
Taken from a nickname for the area now known as the Old Sixth Ward, Vinegar Hill’s co-working space will provide people who have been working at coffee shops with a more comfortable environment that better suits their needs. Design changes to the space will separate the restaurant from the bar. General manager Shawn Busch will work with the space’s bar manager to maintain Beaver’s reputation for innovative cocktails, but it’s the incubator that’s the most intriguing aspect.
Described as a chefs-in-residency program, the incubator will provide chefs with the opportunity to refine their concepts before committing to a brick and mortar. Pope will offer participants mentorship based on her experience operating restaurants such as t’afia and Sparrow Bar + Cookshop.
“I’m passionate about working with entrepreneurs,” Brackman tells CultureMap. “At Axelrad we have regular pop-ups. It’s been neat to see these entrepreneurs go from ideas to buying food trucks, seeing these people grow and flourish. It’s kind of the next step in that process.”
Chefs will create two menus during this residency. The first is a dinner menu for a 30-seat area within the space that will require reservations. In addition, the chef will offer a menu of casual bar bites designed to be served in the bar area and on the patio. Residencies will typically last for three months, but Brackman also sees the potential for chefs from out of town to use Vinegar Hill for a week or two as a way to market themselves to Houstonians prior to opening here.
At a time when chefs might be considering a stand in one of Houston’s new food halls, Brackman sees the setup at Vinegar Hill as an alternative for the person who wants a less permanent arrangement.
“This will be more of their own private restaurant within a bar that will give them a full kitchen to work with and be creative with their own menu and have more of a captive audience,” he says. “They can do things like have wine and beer pairings. It’s going to be more intimate than a food hall experience.”
Evelyn Garcia, a one-time Chopped champion who has earned a devoted following for her Southeast Asian-inspired pop-ups, will take the first turn in Vinegar Hill’s kitchen. “The opportunity to take my craft from a tent and portable stoves into a full kitchen and dining room to showcase what I am capable of is a thrilling opportunity,” said Garcia in a statement.
“We would like to seek out the next person. We have a couple in mind,” Brackman says. “The perfect candidate is someone who wants their next move to be opening a brick and mortar. We want to help them through a bit of mentorship and even crowd funding.”
Beaver’s had a good run at its original location, but an effort to keep its name while changing its menu proved confusing for diners, which is one of the reasons it closed. In Brackman’s thinking, Houstonians are always looking for something new to try, and Vinegar Hill will cater to that craving for novelty. Whether it works remains to be seen, but a concept that blends good food with a little of Axelrad’s vibe could be a hit.