Although many new restaurants fit into the general designation of New American — that is, they serve regionally-inspired dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients — some new restaurants come from a different perspective. A restaurant that’s set to open on the border of Midtown and Montrose wants to give diners something totally different: a taste of the 10th century.
Meet Ship & Shield. Located in former home of Byzantio, Ship & Shield takes its inspiration from Viking cuisine and culture. Table tops are decorated to look like Viking shields, and the bar is a Viking ship.
Owner Hans Gerner is the Houston hospitality industry veteran who established Hans’ Bier Haus and currently owns popular Scottish pub The Kelvin Arms in Rice Village. Gerner tells CultureMap that, having already mined the German side of his heritage to open Hans’, he wanted to represent the Norwegian side for his next project.
“Norwegian, I was thinking, what can I do with that? The TV show Vikings, I was really into the first couple seasons, and it just clicked. I could really do something with that,” Gerner says.
After doing some research to confirm that he had developed an original idea for a restaurant — his searches mostly turned up places in Scandinavia and bars devoted to the Minnesota Vikings — Gerner began the search for the right spot. He found it in the space on West Gray that will soon be a neighbor to a new, 4,300-square foot retail center from local developer Braun Enterprises.
Gerner envisions Ship & Shield as an intimate, candlelit venue where friends can gather over shared meals centered around wild game. Two, 10-person feast tables will be at the heart of the experience. Diners will have options like a caribou rib rack, a bone-in turkey breast, and a whole tenderloin. On the side, metal kettles holding dishes like sauteed cabbage with dried cranberries and lamb bacon.
Wild boar, venison, and elk will also have places on the menu. Seafood options will be Norwegian-style fish like trout and salmon. At lunch, look for items like a bison burgers and wild boar sandwiches. Gerner has even developed some Viking-inspired bar snacks.
“We have a take on a Scottish egg,” he says. “We wrap a hard-boiled egg in smoked salmon, bread it, and fry it. It’s called the Odin’s eye.”
Serving ware and cutlery will have a rustic look. A place setting on one of the tables featured a two-tong fork. Beverage options will include mead, Icelandic wine, and Mikkeller beer from Denmark.
Thankfully, Gerner has opted not to go full Medieval Times with Ship & Shield. Servers will wear normal uniforms instead of Viking-inspired tunics, and the bar has a couple of TVs to allow patrons to keep track of their favorite teams.
People like to complain every time another steakhouse or burger joint opens. With Ship & Shield, Houstonians are being given the chance to support something totally different. Given Gerner’s track record of success, maybe the time is right for such an unexpected option.