John Sheely's Back

Popular fine-dining chef goes Lowbrow with plans to revamp casual restaurant

Popular fine-dining chef goes Lowbrow with plans for casual restaurant

Lowbrow John Sheely Chris Ray
Chris Ray and John Sheely have taken over Lowbrow. Photo by Eric Sandler
Lowbrow interior
Sheely and Ray will make some tweaks to the interior. Photo by Eric Sandler
Lowbrow steak taco
Steak tacos with black beans and salsa verde. Photo by Eric Sandler
Lowbrow John Sheely Chris Ray
Lowbrow interior
Lowbrow steak taco

A veteran Houston chef has returned to the kitchen. Six months after closing his beloved French-inspired restaurant Mockingbird Bistro, John Sheely has found a new home at Lowbrow, the casual Montrose neighborhood bar and restaurant originally opened by Free Press publisher Omar Afra.

Sheely and business partner Chris Ray leased the restaurant from Creek Group owner Gary Mosley last week. The chef, who quietly revealed his involvement with the establishment on Facebook, tells CultureMap that he's looking forward to greeting old regulars at his new establishment.

Both the interior and exterior will see minor changes, including new upholstery for the barstools and booths and removing most of the signs from the walls. Construction has already begun to improve the restaurant’s patio.

Thankfully, the portrait of Star Wars Jedi master Yoda and the Houston Oilers-inspired wallpaper will remain.

In the beginning of July, Sheely says he will roll out a new menu that preserves Lowbrow’s overall feel and affordable price point but features “the food that I’m known for,” specifically, classic bistro fare with an American touch. Overall, Sheely says his goal is to convert Lowbrow from a bar with good food into a casual neighborhood restaurant with a good bar. "Fine dining is dead," Sheely said with a chuckle.

The chef's fans will be pleased to learn that includes his signature burger, which developed a certain cult status for being available with foie gras on top. Expect fewer fried items, more vegetables, and even a few pastas that harken back to his critically-acclaimed Italian restaurant Osteria Mazzantini.

Ray, who holds a Masters degree from the University of Houston’s Conrad Hilton College, first met Sheely when he worked at Mockingbird as a 21-year old college student. He brings operational experience from a lengthy stint with a restaurant group in Bryan/College Station. Diners will see the certified sommelier’s influence on the restaurant’s wine list and cocktail program around the same time the new food menu rolls out.

For now, they’re learning about Lowbrow’s customers and working with the employees. Sheely says the restaurant served 300 diners for brunch on Sunday. If he can translate that success to lunch and dinner, he’ll have another hit on his hands.
Lowbrow, 1601 W Main, open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday starting at 11 am and brunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 am.