One of Houston’s most recognizable faces in hot hospitality is bringing his brand of good vibes to Buffalo Bayou Park. Grant Cooper, the mastermind behind red-hot spots Gratify Neighborhood Bistro and Coppa Osteria, has opened Flora, a new Mexican restaurant in the former Dunlavy space (3422 Allen Pkwy).
Inspired by Cooper’s extensive travels to Mexican destinations, Flora is the first venture of Cooper’s new Big Vibe Group. Notably, Cooper partnered with Charles Clark under Clark Cooper Concepts, which announced a widely publicized — and amicable — split after 20 years, just a month ago.
Drawing on the food and charm of warm-weather small towns such as Tulum, Flora is described as a “Mexican treehouse getaway” overlooking Buffalo Bayou Park, marked by an eye-catching decor that Cooper and his wife Jacy have become well-known for (think Gratify) plus curated art, pottery, greenery, and the Dunlavy’s more than 40 existing chandeliers. The new restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner; plans include a weekend brunch program by summer.
The menu, crafted by Cooper and partner Josep Prats, features an assortment of street tacos, tostadas, meats, ceviches, oysters, and more. “There’s a lot of Mexican restaurants in Houston,” Cooper tells CultureMap, “but they’re not necessarily doing what we’re doing at Flora, in terms of food, ambience, and service. We’re striving to be the No. 1 authentic destination in town.” Towards that end, Cooper has added a masa program, which churns out fresh corn tortillas each day.
Beloved for the experiences he creates at see/be-seen spots such as Gratify and Brasserie 19, Cooper hopes to bring “Mexican beachside vibes” to Buffalo Bayou Park, transporting guests to coastal paradises via his food. “You can eat an overcooked piece of fish on a Mexican beach and think it’s the best fish you’ve ever eaten,” says Cooper, “because you’re on vacation. We want to bring that vibe to Houston — with a Tex-Mex or a Texas twist.”
That means nachos and frozen margaritas, which are already drawing rave reviews after Flora’s recent quiet opening. “Customers are already telling me these are the best frozen margaritas in town,” Cooper notes. “Everyone loves a good frozen margarita — when it’s done right.”
Doing it right means encapsulating experiences from Mexican and even French restaurants Cooper and Jacy have visited over the years. “My wife and I love to travel, and I wanted to identify things I enjoy while traveling and translate them here. Really, this is the way my wife and I like to eat.”
Guests at Flora can expect the same vibe and high-energy experience at Cooper’s previous concepts. “We want people to feel that Pulp Fiction moment,” he says. “That means they come here and escape for two, two-and-a-half hours. That’s the vibe we want to create.”
If his success at B19 and Gratify are any indicators, guests will no doubt feel that vibe, one that’s been deeply personal for Cooper. “It’s been a very emotional two years,” he recalls. “Tears from letting people go, and tears from watching people stay on and work their but off. We did Gratify out of gratitude — now with Flora, we want to create the best Mexican food out there.”
Flora; 3422 Allen Pkwy; 713-360-6477; Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am -11 pm, and Sunday 11 am-9 pm. For information and reservations, visit www.florahouston.com.