All of the meats
Exclusive: Houston meat master brings wood-burning steakhouse to downtown food hall
With at least three new food halls slated to arrive in downtown by the end of 2018, the race is on to find talented vendors who will create compelling concepts that can draw diners. The Bravery Chef Hall took a major step towards distinguishing itself with a steakhouse from one of Houston’s meat experts.
Bravery owner Anh Mai tells CultureMap that he’s bringing in Felix Florez — the sommelier-turned-rancher behind Black Hill Meats who is also a partner in Heights steakhouse Ritual and upcoming barbecue joint Blood Bros. BBQ — to open a wood-burning steakhouse called Cherry Block Craft Butcher and Seasonal Kitchen. Mai tells CultureMap that he and partners Lian Nguyen and Shepard Ross wanted to add a wood-burning steakhouse to Bravery’s mix. Florez’s tie to ranching made him a natural fit.
As its name implies, Bravery will offer diners the ability to watch chefs prepare their meals from counter-style seats around the kitchen. The interactive component both adds a theatrical element to dining and allows the chefs to receive tips, which should significantly boost their income.
“It’s a very convenient way of dining,” Florez tells CultureMap. “It’s a very unique experience. It’s what people get when they sit at a sushi bar. I think it’s great. It’s definitely something I felt like I wanted to be a part of. It wasn’t something I could turn down.”
Florez joins the three restaurants already announced for Bravery: an Asian restaurant from former Underbelly sous chef Gary Ly, an Italian restaurant from former Prohibition chef Ben McPherson, and a new concept from Andes Cafe owner David Guerrero. The hall will have a fifth concept that has yet to be announced, but Florez already has some pretty firm ideas about what Cherry Block will serve.
“Cherry Block is a name I really like and have wanted to use for awhile now. I was just waiting for the right concept to come along,” Florez says. “It’s an ode to the original butcher blocks that were made out of cherry wood. This concept is going to be based around meats. We’re going to be pulling a lot from Black Hill and Texas Ranchers Network and (other) farmers.”
Although he’s not ready to discuss specific menu items, Florez says Cherry Block will serve both classic cuts like ribeyes and filets as well as more unusual cuts that “push the envelope” — all of which will be prepared on a wood-burning grill. Diners will have an opportunity to preview the concept at a special pop-up on February 21 at Aris Market Square. Keep an eye on Bravery’s Facebook page for ticket information.
In addition to dining in, customers will also be able to purchase retail cuts of meat to cook at home; the restaurant’s chef will even be able to offer advice about how to prepare it properly. Florez has identified a chef de cuisine for Cherry Block, but he’s keeping the person’s identity under wraps for now.
“As soon as you hear [who], I think you’ll be pretty excited,” Florez says. “That will be coming up once we get a little closer to opening. We’re working together on an opening menu. We’ve got our thinking caps on.”
At this point, Florez’s biggest problem will be dividing his time between so many projects, but at least they’ll be spaced out a bit. Blood Bros should open in the spring. Bravery has submitted its permit applications to the City of Houston, but construction won’t begun until the chef hall completes its NextSeed campaign to raise up to $1,000,000 from investors. Besides, he’s used to staying busy.
“I travel around. I go where I’m needed,” Florez says. “My phone is typically glued to my head. I do 10 or 15,000 miles a month in my truck. I hop around all over the place.”