bringing food to a desert

Acclaimed Houston chef delivers new grocery store to needy neighborhood

Acclaimed Houston chef delivers new grocery store to his neighborhood

Chana Jonny Rhodes Indigo
Chana and Jonny Rhodes. Photo by Jenn Duncan

At a time of crisis in the restaurant industry, chef Jonny Rhodes is getting to work. Rhodes, the James Beard semifinalist nominee behind acclaimed Houston restaurant Indigo, is preparing to open a grocery store that will service Trinity Groves, the north Houston neighborhood where Indigo resides and a designated food desert.

Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries will open on April 1 at 2019 Bennington Street. The store will feature an extensive selection of products created in the Indigo kitchen, including jams and preserves, deli meat, breads, pastries, and more items designed to appeal to, in Rhodes words, “people of Afro and Indigenous descent.”

Opening a grocery store had always been in Rhodes’ plans, but the coronavirus pandemic accelerated his timeline. The stores provides him with a way to keep Indigo’s staff employed while the restaurant is closed and also fulfills a need in the community.

“You think about this epidemic that’s going on, one of the things you see is grocery stores can’t keep things on the shelves. Over here, there are no shelves to be empty, because there are no grocery stores. Instead of there being empty shelves, there’s empty bellies,” Rhodes tells CultureMap.

“Since this has taken place, a lot of them are surviving on chips, soda, candy. That’s only going to make what’s going on right now worse. Now, you don’t have the immune system to fight it off, because we’re poisoning ourselves. We just want to be able to provide [an alternative].”

Broham will sell sodas, but don’t look for Diet Coke. Instead, it will feature housemade items such as strawberry soda and blueberry, sage, and juniper berry soda. The market will offer sweets such as smoked pineapple rolled cake, chocolate chip muffins, and banana bread.

On the savory side, look for items like brisket pastrami, smoked turkey, and bacon. Rhodes adds that he’ll also offer vegetarian ham — made with cured and smoked pickled turnips — and vegetarian prosciutto that’s made with cured and smoked butternut squash.

Produce will come from the same local farms that supply Indigo, at least until Rhodes finishes construction and planting on his own farm. Sauces, mustards, pickled vegetables, and more will round out the offerings.

For Rhodes, opening a grocery store gives him the ability to feed people who can’t afford Indigo’s $125 tasting menu. He thinks more chefs should be aiming to make food that’s open to more people across the socio-economic spectrum.

“Every chef wants to have a restaurants, that’s the dream. Where’s the dream for the hospitality behind everyone having something to eat,” Rhodes asks. “For me, I feel like at this point, having my restaurant may not be what I think it should be if I can only provide great quality food to the highest bidder.”

Broham Fine Soul Food & Groceries will be open Monday - Friday from 9 am - 7 pm.