For almost 10 years, Grand Prize has been one of Houston’s most influential bars. It’s high-low aesthetic of a slightly shabby interior alongside carefully made cocktails has made it a regular haunt for the city’s restaurant community.
Later this month, two of Grand Prize’s most prominent bartenders will open a new establishment that puts their own twist on the high-low format. Billy Boyd and Lindsay Rae have teamed up to open Two Headed Dog in Braun Enterprises Midtown property at 3100 Fannin St. Given their reputations and followings, expect the bar to be one of Houston’s most popular new spots when it opens by the end of July.
Both bartenders tell CultureMap that they’ve contemplated several different opportunities to open their own places with other partners, but their 10-year friendship and three years of working together at Grand Prize provided ample evidence that they make a good team.
“I’ve had four other partners over the last six years trying to do something,” Rae says. “You get to the point where it’s, do I really want to have a baby with you? Your parenting methods and my parenting methods are different.”
“I’ve talked to people, and when the going gets rough, they say, oh, this is a lot of work, and they pull back,” Boyd adds. “Not only is it a lot of work, but you won’t see a dime from it for a couple of years. That’s a good way of sorting out a lifer from anyone else.”
Not only do both partners understand how much work it is to open a bar, they’re doing much of it themselves. Boyd built the bar top, and Rae used $350 worth of pennies to create floors in the restrooms. Friends who are woodworkers used shiplap from Fitzgerald’s to build the bar’s tables.
Inside, patrons will find an intimate space that seats about 35. A spacious, 1,200-square-foot patio will provide room for another 70 or so, plus some space for lawn games. Overall, the goal is to welcome as many different kinds of patrons as possible — from those who want to split a margarita for two to people just looking for a cold beer.
“What I know from bartending is we do cocktails and dive. I like that environment together,” Rae says. “I love the high-end cocktail, the high-end craft, but those aren’t your five-day-a-week drinkers. For me, it doesn’t create a third space, which is something that’s really important to our philosophies.”
Rae describes the design aesthetic as “Seventies, rock and roll, honky tonk vibe,” but Boyd offers an event more succinct assessment.
“I had a friend I showed it to,” he says. “He said, oh, ‘grandpa’s pool hall.’ That’s the aesthetic — if it was clean.”
At Grand Prize, Rae devoted much of her time to working behind the scenes to produce syrups, washes, and other preparations that allow cocktails to be made more quickly. The drinks at Two Headed Dog will use similar techniques for the three stirred and three shaken cocktails on its chalkboard menu. In addition, six frozen drinks, eight draft cocktails, and a rotating bottled cocktail will ensure patrons receive their drinks as quickly as possible.
“It’s a small space, so whatever we can do to expedite the service. I hope we’re very busy,” Boyd says “Getting people served very fast is always something I’ve liked to do.”
Boyd and Rae are also counting on their veteran staff to move fast. For example, bartender Tony Lamperti brings experience from acclaimed New Orleans bars the Ace Hotel and Tonique. According to Rae, Lamperti moved to Houston to be part of Two Headed Dog’s opening crew. On a lighter note, chef Lyle Bento, culinary director for Sambrooks Management (1751 Sea and Bar, The Pit Room, etc.), is so excited about the project that he’s working as a barback on Monday nights.
As for the name, it’s taken from a Roky Erickson song. The legendary Texas singer-songwriter pioneered the psych rock genre in the ’60s. Although Erickson recently passed away, both the song and its author serve as inspiration for the “weird and wonderful chaos” that Rae and Boyd hope to create at their bar.