feel like fredo
Ben Berg’s intimate new speakeasy turns up with live music, Havana vibes, and premium prices
Ben Berg has a knack for creating something out of nothing. Just as he relocated a staircase inside The Annie Café & Bar to create room for his intimate supper club Turner’s, he’s transformed a storage closet at The Annie into Emilia’s Havana, a new speakeasy-style bar that will open this Friday, October 28.
Described as an intimate, 50-seat lounge, Emilia’s Havana channels the spirit of a 1950s Cuban club. Meals at Emilia’s will feature live, “bossa nova style” music from an in-house band plus DJs who keep the party going until 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights.
“When presented with this small space by my landlord, which was formerly a storage closet, my immediate thought was to create an intimate, speakeasy-style lounge with live music every night,” Berg said in a statement. “This is something I feel Houston is still really lacking.”
As he did for both Turner’s and his Italian restaurant Trattoria Sofia, Berg turned to Julep’s James Beard Award-winning bar owner Alba Huerta to create Emilia’s cocktails. Priced at $30 each, they include upscale variations on the Cuba Libre, daiquiri, el Presidente, and the mojito. Bottles of wine and spirits are also available.
Pair those drinks with a tidy menu of shareables that includes two different caviar preparations — traditional with blinis, creme fraiche and egg or a more creative spin with potato chips and meyer lemon-saffron mascarpone — along with A5 wagyu tartare, lobster and corn empanadas, and a Cuban sandwich made with duck confit and raclette instead of the traditional roast pork and Swiss.
Other aspects of the concept remain a bit of mystery. Berg isn’t releasing any photos of Emilia’s interior “to allow for an element of surprise for future guests,” according to a representative. Although a sign at the entrance encourages patrons not to take photos, expect to see images soon enough on social media platforms like Instagram and Yelp.
One thing that isn’t a mystery is Emilia’s premium pricing. Diners who wish to attend the early seating of 7-9:30 pm commit to a per person minimum $100 food and beverage spend, a $50 entertainment fee, and a 22 percent service fee for a total of at least $183 per person. The later seating of 10:30 pm-12:30 am comes with a minimum $150 food and beverage spend for a total price of at least $244 per person.
“You are going to pay a premium for your seat, but I am positive that this is a space where everyone will be able to really let loose and enjoy that nostalgic Havana vibe and unique bossa nova style of music that most people have only seen in the movies,” Berg added.
Emilia’s is open Wednesday and Thursday from 7 pm-12:30 am and Friday and Saturday from 7 pm-2 am. Submit reservation requests via the lounge’s website.