Once Zelko Bistro announced it would close so that owners Jamie and Dalia Zelko could concentrate on opening Ivy & James at Evelyn’s Park in Bellaire, speculation immediately turned to what sort of restaurant would occupy the highly desirable space on 11th Street. Two men who are very familiar with the neighborhood have claimed it for a new restaurant that aspires to offer the neighborhood’s best patio — and a lot more.
Former Liberty Kitchen chef Travis Lenig and The Boot co-owner Christopher “Chico” Ramirez announced last week that they’ve joined forces to open a restaurant that will be called Field & Tides. Tentatively scheduled to open in December, the project serves a reunion for Lenig and Ramirez, who worked together at the original Liberty Kitchen in the Heights.
“For Travis and I, it’s been something we’ve talked about for the better part of five years,” Ramirez tells CultureMap. “Our success as a team came in the Heights. When we saw we had the opportunity to go into a great-looking space in a neighborhood we’re familiar with, it all fell together and made sense.”
Lenig adds that they considered possibilities in Oak Forest, Garden Oaks, and Memorial, but that none felt quite right. When they read about the Zelko closing, they jumped on it.
“I said, ‘I bet you it’s already taken, but let’s put something together,' ” Lenig explains. “We should do it, but we need that gas station next door. (After negotiations) she came back a week later and said, ‘Let’s make a deal.’”
Adding the gas station became a key component of the deal, because it provides Field & Tides with a flexible space that will serve as a lounge, waiting area, or private dining room and allows it to expand its patio along 11th Street.
“Things like that are important for me, because the lounge side of it represents a totally different piece of the equation than anybody in the Heights is going to be able to offer, especially from the patio side,” Ramirez says. “I think we’re going to have the best patio in the Heights. I really and truly believe that.”
For Field & Tides to compete with patio hotspots like Eight Row Flint, Coltivare, and the Treadsack duo of Hunky Dory and Bernadine’s, the restaurant will need more than just visual appeal — the food will have to be good, too. Lenig will draw from a wide variety of experiences, including stints at Ibiza and Mark’s American Cuisine, to craft a menu that incorporates land and sea. The chef isn’t ready to divulge specific dishes, but he does want to make one thing clear.
“First off, I want it to be known that I’m not pulling anything from Liberty Kitchen at all. You’ll see some stuff that I’ve done for specials every once in awhile,” Lenig says. “The menu will be composed dishes. It was have protein, starch, veg, all that stuff, whereas at Liberty we kind of pick and choose. These will be more composed dishes.”
Lenig says he'll utilize Texas purveyors including Black Hill Meats and Huckleberry Farms in Round Top (owned by members of his family) at the restaurant. Gulf Coast seafood will play a part, but he also plans to look to the East and West Coasts. Of course, Field & Tides will offer raw oysters. Ramirez adds that he wants the restaurant's brunch to be particularly lively.
For the past couple of years, The Heights has been Houston's hottest dining neighborhood. With recent additions like Arthur Ave and upcoming projects like Melange Creperie's opening at Heights Mercantile, the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Field & Tides is poised to be another exciting new addition.