The weather outside may be chilly, but a tropical breeze is blowing through Montrose. Houston's premier dining neighborhood will be getting a new, tiki-inspired concept from the operators of one of the neighborhood's most-acclaimed restaurants.
The team behind Nobie's — chef-owner Martin Stayer, sommelier and general manager Sara Stayer (Martin's wife), and bar director Sarah Troxell — will open a second restaurant in the spring. Dubbed The Toasted Coconut, the new concept will be a tiki-inspired bar and restaurant in the former Maria Selma's/Texas Shrimp Shack space at 1617 Richmond Ave.
These plans have been in the works for some time. An application with the TABC served as the initial notice that the Stayers had plans for an additional concept, but they haven't commented publicly on those plans until now.
While Houston has a handful of tiki bars, The Toasted Coconut will distinguish itself in a few ways. First, it will feature a new menu of dishes created by Stayer that draw their inspiration from 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. That means a heavy focus on Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian flavors. Expect meat on sticks, dumplings, and larger format items with a tropical bent (here's hoping for some sort of suckling pig).
Dishes will be made with high-quality ingredients primarily sourced from local suppliers that have helped make Nobie's a hit. Stayer, who worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago such as L20 and Moto before returning to Houston, brings a fine dining ethos to both the ingredients he utilizes and the techniques to prepare them — but those dishes are served without the fine dining attitude or price point.
“It’s going to be fun playing with the bright flavors of the Caribbean and Southeast Asia," Martin Stayer said in a statement. "I am very excited to provide a great place to hang out regardless of whether you are drinking, eating, or both. Let’s get toasted Houston.”
In addition to serving food, The Toasted Coconut's cocktail menu will be a little different. In addition to paying homage to classics like the Zombie and the Painkiller, it will also offer alternatives that don't rely on rum and sweet juices.
For Troxell, whose enthusiasm for all things tiki comes through in her clothing, the project is a bit of a dream come true. “I am excited to bring Houstonians a whimsical escape through creative tropically inspired cocktails,” she added.
The space is currently undergoing a comprehensive renovation to transform it into a tropical escape, but critically, the signature palapa will remain. Braun Enterprises, the space's landlord, had planned to tear the structure down when the Stayers toured the space and realized it would be an essential component in creating the right atmosphere. Jarrett Karn of Chodrow Realty worked with the Stayers to secure the space from Braun.
"Martin and Sara blew us away with their vision and idea for this new concept," Braun leasing director Zach Wolf said. "The Toasted Coconut is going to be like nothing in Houston and will only add to the synergy of the center with the newly renovated Revelry on Richmond as well the new Irish bar concept in the former Harp space."
On February 12, diners will get a preview of the new concept when Nobie's hosts its first "Toasty Tuesday" that will feature cocktails and dishes from the new concept. In addition, the Stayers and Troxell will hold at least one "Get Toasted" pop-up. Details on that are TBA for now, but those who are interested should follow Nobie's and The Toasted Coconut on Facebook for details.
Listen to this week's episode of CultureMap's "What's Eric Eating" podcast to hear the Stayers and Troxell discuss more details on the decision to open The Toasted Coconut. It premiers Thursday, December 13.