Although it has only been open for a couple of weeks, the Heights Mercantile mixed-use development is rapidly emerging as a retail and dining destination.
In addition to Houston’s first locations of stores like Marine Layer and Warby Parker, Heights Mercantile is already home to a second location of acclaimed ice cream shop Cloud 10 Creamery and a brick-and-mortar home for Melange Creperie (currently in a semi-quiet soft opening).
Next spring, the two trends will merge when Postino, a wine cafe from the Arizona-based Upward Projects restaurant group with locations in Arizona and Denver, opens its first Texas location at the development. Plans have been submitted to the City of Houston for review. If all goes smoothly, it will open next April.
“It’s very scary for us,” founder Lauren Bailey tells CultureMap. “This is only our third city. It’s always nerve wracking to plant a flag.”
Whatever nervousness Bailey might feel about the project, she also feels an intense sense of excitement. Postino seeks out historic buildings it can repurpose for its locations, which makes Heights Mercantile’s renovation of a former Pappas warehouse an ideal spot.
“We felt like the stars aligned,” Bailey says. “We just knew when we met (developer Steve Radom) that he was the perfect person we think of as a partner.”
Postino sets itself apart in ways other than its affection for historic buildings. Rather than calling the concept a “wine bar,” Bailey prefers the term “wine cafe.” Unlike a bar, Postino is open all day, and its customers use it in a variety of different ways that sound more like a coffee shop than a bar.
Bailey says it’s not uncommon to see someone working on a laptop next to a couple on a date. Serving glasses of wine for $5 each during the day helps contribute to a lively atmosphere where people can feel comfortable coming in a little dressed up or just wearing shorts and T-shirts.
Postino also offers a diverse menu of food. Like most wine-focused concepts, diners will find the usual meat and cheese boards, but a selection of bruschetta, salads, and panini make it a legitimate dining destination. As expected, Postino seeks out local ingredients for its dishes, and Bailey says she’s already started reaching out to local vendors like Slow Dough and Cake & Bacon to supply fresh bread.
The cafe takes its wine just as seriously as its food. Sommelier Brent Karlicek oversees the wine list. Bailey says he works with wineries to secure special blends or bottles that are new to their respective market and trains the staff to present the vintages in a way that’s approachable.
“Brent is great at training our staff. When you come in and have questions, they’re highly trained,” Bailey says. “The cool thing about what he does and the style we train them is it’s really relaxed. We never want to be a swirling, sipping type place.”
Between now and then, Bailey and her team plan multiple trips to Houston to introduce themselves to the neighborhood and to start to hire future employees.
“I’ve been to Houston three or four times now and it’s been fun to learn more about the city,” Bailey says. As Houstonians learn more about Postino, her plan is that feeling will become mutual.