The Heights’ new destination for innovative Mexican food debuts next week. Chivos will officially open Thursday, October 28.
Located in the former Calle Onze space on 11th St., Chivos is the latest concept from Night Moves Hospitality, the growing bar and restaurant group that opened Space Cowboy at the Heights House Hotel and Trash Panda Drinking Club in the Near Northside. Night Moves partner Greg Perez recruited chef Thomas Bille, best known locally for Belly of the Beast in Old Town Spring, to lead the kitchen.
The duo describes the restaurant as Mexican American, a style that’s distinct from both traditional Mexican cuisine and local favorite Tex-Mex. It’s grounded in the basic techniques of Mexican food — for example, Bille is nixtamalizing corn to make tortillas — but is also drawing on the influences the chef absorbed while growing up in Los Angeles and working at a range of fine dining restaurants including Otium.
“We’re not traditional,” Perez says. “I love Xochi, the mole there is amazing, but what’s going on in some of the major markets, I feel like Houston is missing that. What I love about Thomas is he has the talent to do that.”
“I grew up with two cultures,” Bille adds. “I’m first generation. At home, 100-percent Mexican, I eat Mexican food and speak Spanish. Growing up in LA, we’re eating Korean food, Japanese food. It’s a melting pot. I love food so much. I don’t want to say I’m only a Mexican restaurant.”
Instead of chips and queso or barbacoa and al pastor, diners will find dishes like dry-aged duck with fig mole, hamachi tiradito, and flour tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe. Roast chicken takes some inspiration from Peruvian cuisine, while pozole dumplings are a Mexican spin on Sichuan-style chili wontons.
“I just don’t want to box myself in,” Bille says. “Burrata’s not Mexican, but I’m making fig jam, treating it like chimoy, roasting some grapes. I don’t want people to think Mexican food is only tortilla, meat, sauce, because it’s not. It’s very complex.”
Similarly, bar manager Leesly Valdez, who worked with Perez at Calle Onze, Monkey’s Tail, and Space Cowboy, has developed cocktails inspired by Mexican foods and sweets. Choices include the West Tejas made with corn-infused tequila and hominy syrup; Rutas Ganseras, a take on the Mexican dessert cake Gansitos; and the D.F. a Manhattan riff made with Mexican whiskey and tamarind bitters.
For now, Chivos will be open for dinner Wednesday - Sunday beginning at 5 pm. Brunch and a late night menu — featuring some of the tacos that earned Bille so much acclaim at Belly of the Beast — will be added in time.
“Chivos is Spanish for goats,” Perez said in a statement. “The name is a play on the acronym G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) and personifies our concept and group’s ethos. We deeply admire anyone who aspires to be the greatest in their profession, so we strive to pursue the same greatness for our guests.”