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  • Naderi in the kitchen at Roost, where the chef/owner/landlord changes the menuevery three weeks.
    Photo by © Billy Knox
  • Roost is small, with only 58 seats, but Naderi says he likes the intimacy.
    Photo by © Billy Knox
  • Roost opened in the old Latina cafe space on Fairview in December 2011.
    Photo by © Billy Knox
  • Naderi acts as his own prep cook during the day and manages the dining roomduring dinner service.
    Photo by © Billy Knox
  • Naderi's "Rustic American fare" in the kitchen at Roost.
    Photo by © Billy Knox

Kevin Naderi was looking for an apartment and planning to open a taco truck when he found the building that would become both his home and his business — on Craigslist.

At 25, Naderi was itching to get out of his parents' house — "You know, when you're Persian, you're there 'til you're like 40," — and found a vague listing for a space available on Fairview. Walking into the former Latina Cafe, he discovered that it wasn't an apartment that was available, it was the entire building, including four residential units and a street level restaurant space.

Naderi got a loan from his parents and within weeks he was both a restaurant owner and a landlord (and the proud owner of his own apartment, conveniently located right above Roost).

Naderi likes to say that he was lucky to find it. But as the Romans said, fortune favors the bold.

Roost opened to immediate excitement in December 2011, impressive considering Naderi had a relatively low profile as a sous chef at Haven and didn't have a splashy designer space or PR team — just a collage of recycled shutters he nailed to the walls himself and an active Facebook page on which he would post pictures and menus.

"The fact that we don't rip people off is big," says Naderi.

"We opened around the time when Triniti came up, Underbelly was in the works, Oxheart was in the works, Uchi had just opened, all these places probably average at least $60 to $150 a person per check. I wanted to do something where you could come two to three times a week instead of two to three times a year," says Naderi. "The fact that we don't rip people off is big."

From the wait list to the wine list, Roost often feels like a one man show. During the day Naderi is sweating it out in the kitchen (Roost doesn't have a prep cook) but during service he leaves the cooking to his crew and manages the dining room, controlling the crowd and keeping an eye on his guests.

"I wish I had two sous chefs and a floor manager and a sommelier and a pastry chef. I'd be kicking ass," Naderi says. "But I opened this place by myself. If you want to talk to a manager, it's me; you want to talk to the chef, you talk to me. I do all the purchasing, all the ordering, pay the bills. It's tough keeping up with all this stuff. I have a ton of grey hairs now," says the 26-year-old.

With raves for his rustic, locally focused food and the intimate, unfussy dining room, Roost has modernized the neighborhood restaurant with an ever-changing menu.

"We have a lot of regulars and the fact that we change the menu every three weeks is a huge plus. They aren't eating the same thing twice," says Naderi. "I think as a neighborhood restaurant you can do more of what you want. Being such a small place, it's easy to explain to tables, 'We're trying this out, we're trying that out.' If you're a big commercial restaurant you have to stick to what people know."

"I think as a neighborhood restaurant you can do more of what you want. Being such a small place, it's easy to explain to tables, 'We're trying this out, we're trying that out.'"

"A lot of people do braised beef ribs; we'll do braised beef cheeks. It's kind of the same idea but a little different and people can try something new. And when I tell them it's just like barbacoa tacos, they're like, 'Oh, I love barbacoa."

Just under a year in, Naderi admits there have been some bumps along the way. The service window between the dining room and the kitchen was originally where Naderi planned to expedite dishes, but by week one he realized "no one wants to sit next to you when you're messing with plates."

An early BYOB option (started while he was waiting for the restaurant's liquor license to come through) was also scrapped because Naderi couldn't afford to have his limited tables full of customers that weren't ordering more than an appetizer.

Still, Naderi says that he can't imagine his restaurant any other way.

"I love the size. Sometimes people are like, 'Are you going to expand this, make it bigger?' But I'm grandfathered, so if I knock down a wall I'm screwed," he says. "I think the size is cool. People like the quaintness of it. Sometimes people get too big for their britches and want to do three or four restaurants right away. I'm like, let's chill for a minute, hit the one year mark and see what's going on."

  • Monarch's pretty patio
  • Jonathan Jones has put his own spin on the menu at Monarch, with local Gulfflavors featured.
    Concepción/Facebook
  • Arugula salad with pear, bleu cheese and hazelnuts
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Thai chile glazed ribs
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • The seafood bucadini features homemade pasta from Paulie's.
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • A too-sweet scallop tiradito
    Photo by Sarah Rufca

A hotel restaurant that's worth your time: Jonathan Jones defies the norms atrevamped Monarch

First Taste

The first thing I noticed about Monarch's new menu is the note in bold type across the bottom with the names of executive chef Jonathan Jones and sous chef Ross Coleman. Like a movie poster that splashes Tom Cruise's name before the title, it was a bold statement that Monarch is aiming to be a true chef-driven concept and not just another hotel restaurant.

Jones is the first local Houston chef to take the helm at Monarch. With his outsize reputation and solid skills, he represents a real chance for Monarch to remake itself into a foodie destination. For the first time, Monarch's menu does seem to have a solid direction and a point of view.

A dessert of a deconstructed apple tart — cheesecake, bread crumbles and a brush of caramel on the plate — was stunning.

Of course, you have to ignore a few things to see it. This is, after all, still a hotel restaurant, and there are a few non-negotiables.

"We're always going to have a beef filet on the menu, because there's always someone staying here that wants it," Jones says. Same goes for the beet salad, margherita pizza and grilled chicken, which take up room on the menu as agreeable if unexciting outliers.

But compare them to say, Jones' arugula salad, and it's obvious which dishes show the chef at his best. A mix of thin-sliced roasted pear, a beautifully smoky bleu cheese from Oregon and hazelnuts over a dense bed of arugula with a mild vanilla lime vinaigrette, what the salad lacks in pretty colors it makes up for with a complex blend of textures and flavors, with the cheese and the hazelnuts each vying for supremacy.

A Gulf coast ceviche and a tiradito reprise the work that Jones did at Concepción, although my scallop tiradito tasted overly sweet and off-balance, with the fleshy scallop and bacon powder overpowering any latent chile heat or citrusy acid from the orange slices.

The sticky ribs with a sweet Thai chile glaze and a sprinkling of sesame seeds were a much more satisfying appetizer. The pork ribs didn't have much heat, but the salty-sweet flavor of the sauce and the tender meat made them an easy favorite.

Elsewhere on the menu, Jones has brought in the deliciously thick, homemade pasta from Paulie's and tossed grilled shrimp, mussels, uni and bottarga together in a light olive oil, a dish that epitomized the successful combining of Jones' signature maximalist flavor palette with Monarch's need to be a crowdpleaser.

A dessert of a deconstructed apple tart — cheesecake, bread crumbles and a brush of caramel on the plate under poached apple squares — was stunning, with familiar flavors presented thoughtfully and executed perfectly.

If Jones had settled in a rehabbed strip center space or a hole-in-the-wall outside the Loop, I have no doubt that the foodies would follow him just to see what he does next. It seems odd and slightly reverse-pretentious that a hotel restaurant might be a tougher sell.

Dear Houston: It's worth it.

  • Warm goat cheese salad with almond, red beet, carpaccio and pickled shallots
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Phillippe Verpiand
  • Risotto de champignons at Étoile
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Étoile, which is French for star, has its name carried out through therestaurant.
    Étoile Cuisine et Bar/Facebook
  • Apple tart with vanilla ice cream, fleur de sel and caramel sauce
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Verpiand's signature mushroom ravioli
    Photo by Sarah Rufca

A new restaurant star in Uptown Park: Chef looks to alter Houston's attitudetoward French food

Foodie News

It's possible to identify three phases in a rising culinary scene: First the locals with restaurants raise the game. Second, those with local ties return from working elsewhere and contribute the best of what they've learned. Finally outsiders want to get in on the action and make their way to town.

It looks like Houston's growing food mecca has reached the third stage with the opening of Étoile, a shabby-chic French restaurant by Philippe Verpiand. Verpiand is a native of the French region of Provençe who has spent the last decade cooking in San Diego, first at Tapenade in La Jolla and later at his own restaurant, Cavaillon.

"We tried some of the French restaurants and we were disappointed. It's not authentic."

Verpiand revealed his plans to uproot and head to Houston last year after visiting the city and finding the restaurants full of patrons even on weeknights.

"We really love the energy here," says Monica Verpiand, who runs the dining room at her husband's restaurant.

According to Monica, the decision to move wasn't just about Houstonians' famous love for dining out — although being ranked the city that eats out the most by Zagat doesn't hurt. It was also about finding somewhere with a better standard of living and more flexibility as their family grew.

Monica says the couple also felt that Houston was lacking in authentic Provençal-style cuisine. "We tried some of the French restaurants and we were disappointed. It's not authentic," she says.

Among Verpiand's specialties that he is bringing to Étoile are mushroom ravioli and braised beef short ribs, along with other classics like lobster bisque, coq au vin, mushroom risotto and a beautiful apple tart.

Étoile, which inhabits the former Thierry Andre Tellier Café spot in Uptown Park, officially opened for dinner on Wednesday with a full menu. Lunch will follow on Nov. 12.

  • The sign is up on Main Street and doors are opening on Halloween.
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • The downtown location is triple the size of the original Burger Guys.
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • The first burger served at BGDT.
    Photo by Zach Barnes/The Burger Guys/Facebook

Downtown's new burger restaurant opens big: New specialty items, free ice creamand even salads

Foodie News

Thick, juicy burgers and dudes in suits can be a dangerous combination. Not to worry, downtowners, The Burger Guys have you covered.

The second location of the popular Westchase burger shop opens this Halloween Wednesday at 706 Main Street, and on virtually every gold and purple wall there's a paper towel dispenser to keep even the juiciest of burgers off your outfit.

The second location has seating for 100, triple the occupancy of the original — just the kitchen in the downtown location is bigger than the entire first restaurant.

The second location has seating for 100, triple the occupancy of the original — just the kitchen in the downtown location is bigger than the entire first restaurant.

It's not just the space that's larger downtown. The increased space gives owners Jake Mazzu and Brandon Fisch room to add to the menu.

They are making their own ice cream in house and offering it by the scoop, pint or quart and adding some of the popular specialty burgers to the menu full time, including the Tejas (with sauteed rajas and queso blanco), a Muffaletta burger called the Nola and $35 B.M.F. with onion bacon jam, gastrique, foie gras and toasted garlic aioli. Mazzu says he's partial to the Diner, a patty melt made from Kraftsmen Baking rye bread.

Not all the additions are so indulgent, though. The guys are picking up premium produce from the farmers market for a serious salad selection. "We want to collect a bounty that we think will be worthy of a salad," Mazzu says.

They are also offering their burgers in a quarter-pound option for the first time (burgers are regularly a half-pound), served with a side of fries.

"We don't just want to be a flash in the pan. We want to be here for the long run," Mazzu says.

On opening day, the Burger Guys are giving away scoops of Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream and free sides of fries to the first 200 customers, so get there early — the doors open at 10:30 a.m.

  • Ziggy's Healthy Grill has a new name.
    Ziggy's Bar + Grill/Facebook
  • Gratifi is also giving the Montrose location a bistro-style makeover ineverything from the furniture to the menus.

Big changes for Ziggy's: Downtown locale closing, name's switching and Montrosegetting madeover

Foodie News

Healthy isn't what it used to be. After decades of being known as Ziggy's Healthy Grill — and more recently as Ziggy's Bar & Grill — the Montrose restaurant is changing its name and its concept.

"When Houston was the land of the giant chicken fried steak, being healthy was unique for a restaurant," owner Kevin Strickland says. "That started changing a few years ago when more people and more places became health-conscious. We decided it was time to broaden our reach."

The downtown Ziggy's will close at the end of this week, a situation Strickland blames on the light rail construction.

Ziggy's is now known as Gratifi Kitchen + Bar, and Strickland says the restaurant has slowly transformed over the part year into "more of an American bistro."

(The downtown Ziggy's location will close at the end of this week, a situation Strickland blames on the unending light rail construction downtown.)

The name Gratifi may take its trademarkable spelling cues from Triniti, but Strickland says that the difficult process to come up with a new name came down to one simple statement.

"We want people to have a gratifying experience," he says.

The changeover to Gratifi is almost complete, but over the next three weeks the restaurant will be getting a subtle makeover with new furniture and fixtures in a mix of modern and turn-of-the century aesthetics "to honor the craftsman-style house."

As for the updated menu, Strickland highlights his updated burger lineup, which includes creations like La Niña — a grass-fed beef patty topped with tomatillo ketchup, roasted green chiles and fresh spinach, created last year as a talisman to encourage some rain during the drought. At brunch, Gratifi has shelved the stuffed French toast and replaced it with a more sophisticated pain perdu slathered with an almond custard and baked.

  • To create Cove, owner Randy Evans extended the bar along a second wall, changingthe shape of the space without reducing seating.
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Hamachi carpaccio
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Philippe Gaston at Cove
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Hinava, a dish from Borneo featuring dehydrated radish and squash blossoms,fresh and dehydrated jalapeno, olive oil, lemon juice and brown sugar on horsemackerel.
    Photo by Sarah Rufca
  • Special Patagonian salmon has the same bright flavor with less fat and grease.
    Photo by Sarah Rufca

From Gulf to global, Cove restaurant promises a Haven of raw sea wonders

Foodie News

According to Randy Evans and Philippe Gaston, the hardest part of creating Cove, the new raw bar inside Haven, was coming up with the name.

"We were asking, 'Who are the Greek gods of the ocean? Of the water? What's cold bar in French, in Italian, in German?'" says Evans. "But then someone said 'We need something that's like a haven on the water — like a cove.' "

"But then someone said 'We need something that's like a haven on the water — like a cove.' "

To create Cove, the original bar area has been partially enclosed to separate it from the restaurant lobby, and instead of the former dead-end layout, the bar has been expanded and turned into an L-shape, with the bartenders on one side, raw bar area on the other, and about 30 total seats.

Cove will operate is its own individual restaurant with Gaston at the helm. With stints at Kata Robata, Reef and Soma under his belt, Gaston is one of Houston's most talented chefs when it comes to seafood (watch him expertly slice up a fish for evidence).

With Cove, Gaston is aiming to expand the idea of raw food in Houston by taking a more global approach. The menu itself is divided geographically, featuring less familiar plates like Kilawin and Ika Mata from the Pacific region as well as European tartares and crudos and several iterations of ceviche from the Americas.

"Everybody's idea of raw food is always ceviche or sashimi and that's it," said Gaston. "I've had the pleasure to go and travel a lot to these places, like in Indonesia, where a lot of these are essential day-to-day preparations. It's part of their culture and no one knows about it. In Tahiti having poisson cru — if you've been there you know about it because they serve it on absolutely everything, like chips and salsa."

To that end Gaston is sourcing specialty fish from around the world — the first time non-Gulf seafood has been served at Haven. Certain fish, like hamachi (Japanese amberjack), will take on a universal role, fitting into different dishes and preparations, while special catches will be advertised on the hood on Gaston's ice-filled raw bar — his version of a chalkboard menu.

While there's a strong focus on the various traditions around raw food, Gaston's versions have his own spin on them — with plenty of foams, emulsions, powders and dehydrated you-name-its popping up.

Cove isn't strictly seafood though. A dessert menu will offer raw cheeses and the like, and there's even a few red meats on the menu, including kangaroo. (Gaston spent last summer in Australia, where the animal is considered a nuisance. He says it's a great lean meat.)

While there's a strong focus on the various traditions around raw food, Gaston's versions have his own spin on them — with plenty of foams, emulsions, powders and dehydrated you-name-its popping up.

A hamachi carpaccio included red onion, dehydrated green onion, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, olives, dehydrated caper berries, basil, some caper berry salt as well as sea salt and a few herbs from Haven's garden, making the fish nothing more than a clean, raw palate for an herbaceous and aromatic bite.

For a more palatable flavor, Gaston substituted horse mackerel for the traditional mackerel in his hinava, a small plate from Borneo, served with dehydrated radish and squash blossoms, fresh and dehydrated jalapeno, olive oil, lemon juice and brown sugar.

"You need to have that balance with the acid and the heat, you need to have that bitterness, that sweetness," says Gaston, who says the dish is one of his favorites.

The closest thing to an American take on raw food is Gaston's quick-cured salmon inspired by the Pacific Northwest, vacuum-sealed with orange zest, lemon-lime zest, brown sugar and sea salt and served with a chip of dehydrated hoja santa and a yogurt emulsion for a bright, citrusy flavor.

"I'm not usually a salmon fan but there's a company called Verlasso, they're farm-raising salmon off the coast of Patagonia in a very unique way. You get the cool protein of the fish but a fifth of the fat. It's so good," says Gaston.

Cove is serving a limited menu in soft opening until Thursday, when the restaurant-inside-a-restaurant officially opens.

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Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.