Two Houston hospitality veterans have teamed up to open a series of new bars and restaurants. Bartender Greg Perez and chef Lyle Bento have formed Night Moves hospitality, which will open two new projects in the coming months with at least two more concepts to be announced later.
First up will be Space Cowboy, an island-inspired bar and restaurant that will be located at the recently renovated Heights House Hotel. Bartenders Samantha Ruiz and Karen Cervantes will create tropical cocktails, while Bento will serve a menu partially inspired by his Hawaiian roots.
Trash Panda Drinking Club will be a Southern-inspired concept in the former Edison & Patton space in the Near Northside. The patio bar and restaurant — complete with a raccoon mascot — will serve a Southern-style bar food alongside “an irreverent roster of libations” and a fun atmosphere, according to a release.
Perez comes to Night Moves from Monkey’s Tail, where he served as a partner and beverage director. His creative cocktails helped the northside spot win bar of the year in the 2020 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.
Bento brings extensive experience as a sous chef at Underbelly, the chef-owner of Southern Goods, and the culinary director for Sambrooks Management Group, where he contributed to the openings of 1751 Sea & Bar and Candente.
The chef tells CultureMap he became involved in the project at the suggestion of local beverage consultant Linda Salinas, who connected him to Perez. The duo met at The Toasted Coconut and immediately hit it off. Bento had been quietly working at Riel, but he was ready for a new project.
“I met with all the investors. Everybody seemed to have their shit together,” Bento says. “They’ve got all these guys that are investing that are contributing [their specific skillsets] as well. I said, ‘fuck it, why not?’”
Bento expresses particular enthusiasm for the menu at Space Cowboy, which will incorporate dishes from tropical destinations such as Hawaii, The Philippines, and Fiji. Most of the tidy, 12-item menu will be gluten-free with some vegan items as well.
Similarly, Trash Panda will draw upon Bento’s experiences at Southern Goods for a menu of elevated bar food and shareable plates. Most of the dishes will be designed to be eaten by hand.
“I’ve got so many dishes I’ve wanted to do since Southern Goods closed down,” Bento says. “It’s not going to be big entrees, more small plates.”