On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," owner Ben Berg, chef-partner Robert Del Grande, and operating partner Sam Governale join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss The Annie Café & Bar, their refreshed take on legendary Houston restaurant Café Annie. Governale also briefly discusses some of the changes he's made at Emmaline, his stylish neighborhood restaurant.
Berg made a number of changes to the space, but none are more dramatic than the restaurant's new, oval-shaped bar. To facilitate that change, he relocated the stairs that lead to the second-floor space. That opened up room to create a separate concept on the first floor. Known as Turner's, after Berg's middle name, the restaurant will have its own menu and entrance with a more masculine aesthetic than The Annie. Berg also shares a hilarious story about how he found the baby grand piano that will be in Turner's.
Part of the justification for the new name is to change the way people perceive the restaurant. Sandler notes that he associates Cafe Annie with a restaurant his parents dined at for anniversaries and special occasions, and Berg notes that the addition of more residential towers near Post Oak has changed the area.
"That's what lured me to the project," Governale says. "There's this residential influx that's happening. Similar to the whole concept at Emmaline with the neighborhood feel, we want that at Annie, and I don't think it's ever been that. I think it's been this destination restaurant, and we really want it to feel like it's home to someone who lives around it."
Prior to the interview, Fluff Bake Bar owner Rebecca Masson joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics include the sudden closure of Houston's on Westheimer; the new tenants coming to Rice Village food hall Politan Row; Kin Dee, a new Thai restaurant opening next year in The Heights; and Anthony Calleo's plans to serve pizza at Rudyard's Pub.
In the restaurant of the week segment, Sandler and Masson share their experience at Benjy's. The Rice Village restaurant recently revealed an updated interior and a new menu created by chef Mike Potowski and Seth Siegel Gardner, formerly one of the co-executive chefs of The Pass & Provisions. Masson also shares some of her experiences appearing on an upcoming episode of "Radio Cherry Bombe," the national podcast that recently recorded an episode in Houston.