It seems like it's been forever since Jamie Zelko packed up her knives from Bistro Lancaster after making a splash with her locally grown, meticulously presented versions of American comfort food.
After much anticipation her Zelko Bistro, on 11th Street near Studemont in the Heights, opened today serving both lunch and dinner.
Zelko and general manager Jeb Stuart (formerly of Shade) have taken a prototypical Heights bungalow and essentially hollowed it out, opening up the rafters to display the beautifully preserved wood surfaces. The homey but minimalist dining room is given a dose of nostalgic Heights charm with details like the mason jar hanging lights over the bar and vintage 1920s photographs from Houston. The picture of the flapper posing on a Model T in front of Mecom Fountain and the former Warwick hotel is particularly great.
An unassuming patio is also in the works, awaiting city permitting.
While Zelko's menu focuses on the flavorful American standards she does best — root beer short ribs, crab cakes, burgers, meat loaf, and chicken-fried chicken — Stuart handled the wine list, rotating in about 50 bottles from less-familiar locales, with price points at $40 and below for experimentation and discovery.
Zelko Bistro, which seats a scanty 50 or so at a time, will not take reservations but instead stay open between lunch and dinner, aiming to convince diners to stop by at unusual times and linger over a bottle of wine.
"We want to stay true to that neighborhood feel," Stuart says.
Jamie and Jeb: Consider it mission accomplished.