sowing more wild oats
Located in a former warehouse at the corner of Witte Road and Westview Road, real estate developer MLB Capital Partners is transforming the property into a dining and entertainment destination. The two restaurants, which are part of Underbelly Hospitality, will be joined by The Decoy, a patio bar with sand volleyball courts from the owners of Wakefield Crowbar. MLB Capital Partners principal Todd Mason is also the owner of Underbelly Hospitality.
“We saw potential early on to reinvigorate this site as a community lifestyle destination in the fast-growing Memorial area,” MLB partner Jeff Lindenberger said in a statement. “This location is well-suited to cater to community gatherings, workday lunches, family outings, and everything in between.”
Wild Oats opened its first location at the Houston Farmers Market in February. Described by partner Nick Fine as “a love letter to Texas,” the restaurant serves reinterpretations of classic Texas fare such as chili, chicken fried steak, and wood-grilled chicken with King Ranch casserole.
“My idea [for] the menu is for everybody to get it,” Fine told CultureMap in February. “I don’t want everyone to be like ‘whoa, he’s doing all this crazy stuff.’ I just want everything to be really good food but also technically really sound.”
The new Wild Oats will seat approximately 180 people across its main dining room, private dining room, and outdoor patio. Its design will be similar to the original, which nods to Texas’ different regions and eras in its history.
Although Fine recently left his full-time role as Underbelly Hospitality’s culinary director to spend more time with his family, he remains a partner in Wild Oats. The company plans to hire an executive chef to oversee the Spring Branch location, according to a release.
Underbelly Burger will be located next to Wild Oats, just like they are at the Houston Farmers Market. The retro-styled restaurant serves burgers made with Texas beef from 44 Farms and R-C Ranch alongside veggie burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, fries, and shakes. Similar in design to the first location, Underbelly Burger will offer seating for 12 inside with outdoor seating on its patio and adjacent greenspace.
The company started the burger concept to better utilize the beef it purchases for Georgia James, its luxurious steakhouse in the Regent Square mixed-use development. While a whole cow might only yield 20-26 ribeyes, it produces 250 pounds of meat that can become burger grind, according to a release. Selling burgers makes for a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly use of resources.
“Wild Oats and Underbelly Burger are our most family-friendly concepts, and it felt very natural to want to introduce those brands to the Spring Branch community,” Underbelly Hospitality director of operations Nina Quincy said in a statement. “The second locations for Wild Oats and Underbelly Burger will be elevated and expanded spaces from their predecessors, featuring the flavors and techniques that both are known for.”
The two new restaurants are the company’s first new projects since the departure of founding chef Chris Shepherd, who left this summer to focus on the Southern Smoke Foundation, a non-profit that offers emergency assistance to hospitality workers in crisis situations. Underbelly Hospitality will also open its new Italian concept Pastore next to Georgia James in 2023.