the king of washington
Houston's red-hot restaurateur Ben Berg plans new Chinese eatery and rooftop bar on Washington Avenue
Houston restaurateur Ben Berg has big plans for Washington Avenue. The veteran restaurateur behind eight Houston bars and restaurants in the growing Berg Hospitality Group will open a Chinese restaurant called Benny Chows and a rooftop bar called Canopy Social at 1818 Washington Avenue — a newly constructed building next to his popular steakhouse B&B Butchers.
Berg offers a simple explanation for his decision to open Benny Chows, a Cantonese-style Chinese restaurant that takes inspiration from a number of New York restaurants including Mr. Chow’s, Mr. K’s, and China Grill.
“It’s one of my favorite foods,” Berg tell CultureMap. “Forever, it’s been one of my favorite foods.”
Berg acknowledges that Houston has lots of great Chinese restaurants, but none of them will offer quite the same experience that Benny Chows will. When it opens in April, the restaurant will feature a lively atmosphere, an expansive bar area, and elevated service. He sees it occupying a space between white tablecloth, fine dining establishments and the neighborhood Chinese restaurants that are popular across Houston.
An illustration previews the signage for Benny Chows and Canopy Social.Courtesy of Berg Hospitality
“It will be upscale but kind of with a nightlife edge to it,” Berg says to it. “It’s not a huge restaurant. I would say it’s a little darker [inside] with red and gold hues and lots of banquet seating.”
The whole menu will be designed for sharing. A meal for four could begin with six to eight dim sum-style appetizers followed by a Peking duck or other large format entree. Tables will have custom-built, bi-level lazy Susans to make it easier for customers to access everything they’ve ordered.
The restaurateur says he’s working with an experienced Chinese chef in New York to develop the recipes, which will include a proper three-day preparation process for Peking duck. Diners can also expect the use of elevated ingredients in classic dishes such as beef with broccoli made with filet mignon and lobster fried rice. Cold sesame noodles, a staple in New York that’s rare to find in Houston, will be prepared tableside.
While many Chinese restaurants are owned by people with Chinese heritage, Berg notes that New York has a tradition of popular Asian restaurants owned by people whose roots are in other cultures. Jeffrey Chodorow opened the popular China Grill concept, and Drew Nieporent is one of the founders of Nobu.
Turning to Canopy Social, the British Caribbean-inspired rooftop bar will offer views of the downtown skyline. A retractable canopy will give the space some much needed shade during the summer. Design elements will include rattan furniture, greenery, and a water feature. Like Benny Chows, it’s also expected to open in April.
“In addition to an upscale Chinese restaurant, another thing I noticed that Houston is lacking in comparison to New York is rooftop bars,” Berg added. “When this space was presented to me, I knew we had to open something there and that Houstonians would fall in love with the amazing view of our downtown.”
This year will be a busy time for Berg Hospitality. In addition to Benny Chows and Canopy Social, the company plans to open two restaurants in the Autry Park mixed-use development, all-day brasserie Annabelle’s and upscale steakhouse Turner’s Cut; Prime 131, a live fire steakhouse in Timbergrove; and La Table and Tavola, a fine dining French restaurant and Roman-inspired Italian restaurant next to The Annie Café.