The Restaurants That Teamed Up with Houston Shift Meal to Feed Thousands — Updated
With the COVID-19 curve in the greater Houston area settling into a dissatisfying, jagged plateau rather than the sloping downhill curve we’re all waiting for, some restaurants have stayed closed. Due to a state health mandate, bars are still closed. Some restaurants have opened, but only at 25% capacity. That means that thousands of area bar and restaurant employees are still out of work, and it could be a long time before the industry is operating at full throttle again.
To help hospitality workers get through this very difficult period, event and public relations professional Jonathan Beitler and sommelier Cat Nguyen founded Houston Shift Meal in mid-March to organize and distribute free meals from area restaurants.
A long list of sponsors and donors thankfully have supported the effort. For every $250 donated, a restaurant is able to prepare 50 to 75 meals. As a result, so far over 16,000 meals have been provided to struggling hospitality workers.
It’s important to note that the need for support isn’t going away in the foreseeable future. “Obviously we would like to sunset the operation at some point, but we still see the need there,” said Beitler. “We are scaling back a bit as compared to a few weeks ago when we were at the height, but we plan to continue as long as we have the funding to do so.”
If you would like to donate, go online. In the coming weeks, you will also be able support this important organization by purchasing Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s new limited-release pale ale, Gratuity. Brewed with the help of brewery supply company Country Malt Group and Yakima Chief Hops, 100 percent of profits from the sale of Gratuity will be donated to Houston Shift Meal.
If you are in the hospitality industry and need a meal, visit the Facebook page and check the Events section for upcoming distributions.
Here are the area restaurants that have so far contributed food, labor and time to this important mission. Diners can help these businesses continue supporting Houston Shift Meal by ordering to-go and delivery food and drinks, or, if comfortable, making arrangements to dine in during the limited capacity setup.
Backstreet Cafe, 1103 South Shepherd, (713) 521-2239: For now, restaurateur Tracy Vaught and James Beard Award-winning chef Hugo Ortega are opting for patience rather than speed. Backstreet Café is planning to open for phase two of the governor’s plan, which allows for 50% occupancy. In the meantime, this venerable restaurant with an outstanding wine selection is continuing to offer curbside pickup and delivery from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Just order online from a selection of favorites such as biscuits and gravy for brunch and braised short ribs and Red Corn Chicken Enchiladas for lunch or dinner. There is even an upcoming four-course virtual wine dinner led by sommelier Sean Beck on Saturday, May 16.
B.B. Italia, 14795 Memorial, (281) 531-0696: This Memorial restaurant, which offers home-style Italian classics such as eggplant parmesan and 20 Layer Lasagna, has reopened its dining room at 25-percent capacity. For those who still prefer to dine at home, it is still offering curbside takeout, which includes meal kits and daily family-sized specials, and direct delivery within a three-mile radius or via DoorDash and Favor. Both dine-in and takeout are available 4 to 9 p.m. daily
Black Hole Coffee House, 4504 Graustark, (713) 528-0653: Open 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., this neighborhood coffee shop is continuing take-out of coffee, beer, wine, lunch and tasty treats. In addition, it is selling locally grown produce from Finca Tres Robles, milk from area dairy Mill-King, several non-dairy milks, flour, sugar, bags of coffee and other groceries. A statement on Facebook says, “We have decided, for the safety of our staff and guests, to remain to-go only for the time being. We will reassess in a week and every week for the foreseeable future. This is not an easy decision as, financially, we could use all the help we can get right now. But it is the right decision for us.”
The Branch, 7710 Long Point, (832) 623-6725: This casual Spring Branch joint has opened its dining room and patio for limited seating. For those who would prefer to patio at home, they are still offering takeout. Call to make a reservation or to place a to-go order for comfort food classics such as fried chicken, catfish po’boys or baby back ribs.
BOH Pasta at Bravery Chef Hall, 409 Travis, (713) 364-5502: Ben McPherson’s pasta and pizza eatery has taken full advantage of the food hall’s quick pivot to takeout/direct delivery hub. You can now order McPherson’s housemade pastas such as Bucatini Carbonara and pizzas whole or by the slice online for takeout or direct delivery. In addition, to also ordering BOH’s bake-at-home pizzas and meal kits, you can add wine, beer and food from one of Bravery’s several other vendors.
Bollo Woodfired Pizza, 2202 West Alabama, (713) 677-0391: This Montrose pizza restaurant has decided to open its dining room at 25-percent capacity on a first-come, first-serve basis but it is also continuing its takeout and delivery program. Online ordering is available for selections such as the Chopped Caesar Salad, a Pancetta Pizze or a Caprese Sandwich.
burger-chan, 5 Greenway Plaza, (832) 542-3528: One of Houston’s best burgers is available for takeout, curbside pickup and contactless, direct delivery within an eight-mile radius. You can also get veggie burgers, hotdogs, tater tots, Milo Rice Krispie Treats and bags of Greenway Coffee. Order online between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. In addition, breakfast is available from 9 to 10:30 a.m. To ensure the safety of customers and staff, they have implemented strict safety protocols, which include all staff wearing masks, being tested and trained to implement the latest CDC guidelines regarding sanitation and cleanliness.
Cake & Bacon: Until recently, this local company was a primary supplier of fresh breads to Houston restaurants. Now that the restaurant business is severely impacted, Cake & Bacon is selling its breads at area farmers markets, including Urban Harvest Farmers Market on Saturday. That’s good news for consumers, because that means now what was once available exclusively to restaurants can be purchased by anyone. Co-owner Jeff Weinstock says that no preservatives are used, which means the bread is very fresh and should be consumed soon after buying.
Cherry Block Craft Butcher + Kitchen at Bravery Chef Hall, 409 Travis, (713) 909-0691: This ranch-to-plate, casual steak restaurant is helmed by Jessica DeSham Timmons and Felix Flores . The pair have also benefited from the food hall’s quick pivot to takeout/direct delivery hub. You can pop over to Bravery’s online ordering portal and select favorites such as the CB Burger and Fries (also available as a meal kit that feeds four), ham hock and andouille gumbo or a Black Hill bone-in pork chop. You can also find its meals-to-go at select H-E-Bs.
El Big Bad, 419 Travis, (713) 229-8181: Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Houston — one with a long history in food — this Tex-Mex restaurant known for its large collection of infused tequila has reopened for limited-capacity, in-house dining. For those who would rather enjoy their queso and chips, fajitas and chicken tinga tacos at home, El Big Bad is still offering its takeout and delivery program.
Feges BBQ, 3 Greenway Plaza, (832) 409-6118. This innovative barbecue joint in a food court is offering curbside pickup at Greenway Plaza Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you prefer your barbecue on the weekend, on Saturdays you can pickup Erin Smith and Patrick Feges’s smoked meats and delicious sides at their new Spring Branch location at 8217 Long Point. On Sundays, you can find them at Roost at 1972 Fairview in Montrose. To order, head over to the website, pick your location and then choose your meats and sides. There may currently be no in-person line but they still sell out online, so preordering is highly recommended.
Field & Tides, 705 East 11th, (713) 861-6143: This Heights restaurant reopened the dining room at 25-percent capacity but is also continuing to offer takeout. The new daily hours are noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 10:30 p.m., with seatings at 6 and 8 p.m. Call to make a reservation or place your takeout order. Make sure to ask about daily specials.
Goodnight Hospitality: Though this restaurant group’s namesake honkytonk is currently closed to the public, it is hosting live-streamed shows and has become a staging site for Houston Shift Meal. Although the dining room of Goodnight Hospitality’s Rosie Cannonball at 1620 Westheimer is staying closed for now, Felipe Riccio’s thoughtful and well-executed dishes are now available for takeout and delivery. The hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m. Order a Focaccia Di Recco and maybe a Lira Rossa Three Cheese pizza online, and then swing by to pick up your order. In addition, Montrose Cheese and Wine next door is open Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. for pickup and delivery.
Roshni Gurnani: This Food Network “Chopped” champion and “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant has contributed meals to Houston Shift Meals and has helped feed first responders. Gurnani, who has also battled Bobby Flay and cooked at the James Beard House, provides catering and consulting services. More information is available on her website.
Harlem Road Texas BBQ, 9823 Harlem Road, Richmond, (832) 278-2101: Helmed by Swiss-trained chef turned Texas pitmaster Ara Malekian, this Fort Bend-county barbecue joint is serving up some of the state’s best barbecue, which includes classics such as brisket, beef and pork ribs and chicken, and more eclectic barbecue like lamb chops, which is often a Friday special.
Hobbit Cafe, 2243 Richmond, (713) 526-5460: This Montrose stalwart known for its vegetarian fare has reopened its patio seating under the current requirement that tables are six feet apart for social distancing. It is also offering direct delivery to an area bordered by Allen Parkway, Bagby, Holcombe and Weslayan; just call in your order. Delivery is also available via Grubhub, Uber, Favor and DoorDash.
Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer, (713) 524-7744: Like its sister restaurant Backstreet Café (noted near the beginning of this list), this award-winning Mexican establishment took a cautious approach and initially delayed reopening its dining room. However, starting on Thursday, May 14 it will reopen for dine-in service at 25-percent capacity and with a limited menu. Guests are asked to wear masks until are seated at a table, and reservations are strongly recommended. For those who still want to enjoy your margaritas and classic dishes such taquitos de pollo, carnitas de pato and lechon at home, curbside or delivery are still available. Call or order online. Sister restaurants Xochi and Caracol remain closed for the time being.
Italiano’s, multiple locations: This small, family-owned chain with locations in Atascocita, Pearland and Humble serves classic Italian dishes such as chicken cacciatore, veal scaloppini and chicken marsala.
Julep, 1919 Washington, (713) 869-4383: Alba Huerta’s ode to classic southern cocktails has, like most bars, been closed since mid-March. However, Huerta’s team is keeping busy preparing and disturbing meals to their fellow hospitality workers via Houston Shift Meal.
Karbach Brewing Company, 2032 Karbach, (713) 680-2739: One of Houston’s most successful breweries has opened for dine-in service on its patio and garden space only. Make a reservation to enjoy Gulf Coast Fish & Chips and a pint of Love Street.
Kenny & Ziggy’s, 2327 Post Oak, (713) 871-8883 and 5172 Buffalo Speedway, (832) 767-1136: Get a much needed deli fix and a bowl of chicken soup with Kenny & Ziggy’s curbside service. Delivery is also available through both the restaurant’s own team and several home independent delivery services. To get started, visit the online menu, which includes all your favorite sandwiches. Check out the national service Goldbelly to have meals and dishes shipped. Added 8:48 a.m., 5/14/2020
Khói Barbecue: Melding Texas barbecue and Vietnamese cuisine, this pop-up from brothers Don and Theo Nguyen have been making serious waves in the Houston-area scene with innovative dishes such as brisket phở, thịt nướng pulled pork, smoked beef rib yakamein and smoked chicken rice (cơm gà). Keep an eye on their social media for their next pop-up event.
La Grange, 2517 Ralph, (832) 962-4745: This Montrose cantina known for its patio has opted to reopen its dining room under the governor’s new guidelines, with the conscientious addition of required face coverings for staff. The new temporary hours are from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Takeout and curbside pickup are still offered, so you can enjoy nachos, tacos and adult beverages with your Netflix.
Alvin Schultz’s MIND | BODY | FUEL: Former MasterChef finalist Alvin Schultz, who is known for his innovative pop-ups, has turned his extensive culinary skills to preparing healthy at-home meals, often using locally sourced ingredients. Visit the website for more details.
MKT Bar at Phoenicia Specialty Foods, 1001 Austin, (832) 360-2222: The eatery inside the downtown location of this Mediterranean grocery has reopened for limited dine-in service and is also continuing takeout, curbside and delivery via Uber East and Postmates. Either swing by the café — maybe while you grocery-shop — or call in an order for $12 pizzas, shawarma or falafel.
Morningstar, 4721 North Main, (832) 806-1115: On Instagram, this Heights coffee shop announced, “We have decided to continue our current operations of takeout-only to not only protect you, our beloved guests, but also our employees… As you may have seen, our staff is now wearing masks and gloves to handle your food while also following strict sanitizing procedures.” So, if you are looking for coffee and doughnuts, or more substantial rice bowls, breakfast or lunch plates and kolaches, order takeout by calling the shop or order for delivery via GrubHub.
Ninja Ramen, 4219 Washington Ave, (281) 888-5873: For now, the popular spot for ramen and Japanese whiskey is closed. In the meantime, owner Christopher Huang has been quietly preparing meals to help feed Houston’s out-of-work hospitality employees.
Pepperoni’s, multiple locations: Pick the location closest to you and then order build-your-own pizzas and calzones, signature pizzas, wings and more for pickup or delivery.
Phat Eatery, 23119 Colonial Parkway in Katy Asian Town Center, (832) 913-6382: The fun really never stopped at this Malaysian eatery in Katy, even when dining rooms were shut down. That’s when owner Alex Auyeung introduced the phenomenally popular Curry Crawfish boils. While the dining room is now open at 25% occupancy, the crawfish is available by the pound for dine in, to go or delivery by the restaurant’s own employees. (There are two current specials, too: get a pound free with the purchase of five and, while supplies are available, get a free bottle of hot sauce from Bellaire specialty shop iBurn.) Also available are packs of take-and-cook dumplings from Dumpling Haus at Sawyer Yards. Reservations are encouraged for dine in, and be sure and ask about the chef’s choice, multicourse Feed Me menu while you’re there.
The Phoenix on Westheimer, 1915 Westheimer, (713) 927-7863: This Montrose brew pub that’s usually a hub for community events, steak nights and sports-watching is back to limited-capacity dine-in service. It’s serving up comfort food favorites such as fish and chips, burgers and wings, and dishes and drinks are also available for takeout, curbside pickup or delivery.
Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella, (713) 861-8666: For weeks, the restaurant styled like the classiest of hunting lodges has provided curbside pickup for dinner. It also just expanded hours to offer lunch — and is making the tiniest step towards reopening the dining room on Friday, May 15 with very limited seats available. Reservations are required. For to-go programs, the restaurant’s team has also developed some creative offerings that often see sommelier and beverage director Marc Borel teaming up with executive chef Mark Schmidt. Borel has created detailed cocktail kits and the duo have teamed up on a to-go version of Rainbow Lodge’s walk-around wine tastings: a virtual wine tasting class complete with a take-and-bake Wild Game Hunter’s Pie.
Rudyard’s, 2010 Waugh, (713) 521-0521: Like many area restaurants, this beloved Montrose institution made the difficult decision to reopen with 25-percent capacity with “gallons of sanitizer…disposable plates, silverware, cups, menus and a dedicated sanitation attendant” at the ready, according to its Facebook page. For those who still want to enjoy Rudz at home, order for pickup online or call for direct delivery. You can even enjoy your Pig & Potato Pizza or Gay Fil-A Chicken Sandwich in your car for drive-in movie night. Check its Facebook page events for details — and while you are there, also check out the photos of the thousands of meals that chef Anthony Calleo and his staff have delivered to healthcare workers and first responders.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company, 2000 Lyons, (713) 686-9494: Saint Arnold is always there for us. During this crisis, it is offering an extensive to-go menu, plus some fun to-go combos: pizza plus a six pack for $22, two burgers and fries plus a six pack for $33, and a whole chicken, two sides, and a six pack for $36 (note, chose a six pack from one of the brewery’s year-round beers). To place an order, please call during the following hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM; Friday and Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Urban Harvest Farmer’s Market, 2752 Buffalo Speedway, (713) 880-5540: Though not a restaurant, Houston’s premier farmers market is severing as a Saturday morning pickup location for Houston Shift Meal. The market has implemented new safety protocols for vendors and customers and has been open every Saturday morning since the crisis began. Customers can find a wide array of seasonal, locally grown fruits, vegetables and meats. Working with a few of the farmers and vendors, Urban Harvest has even started a drive-through pickup program. In addition, on a market visit you can get El Topo breakfast tacos and prepared to-go meals from vendors such as Little Kitchen HTX and Dumpling House.
Willow’s Texas BBQ, 2201 Leeland, (713) 962-9913: While Willow Villarreal and Jasmine Barela, owners of this well-regarded barbecue truck, wait for construction on a bricks-and-mortar location to be complete, they are offering smoked meat packs at semi-regular pop-ups. Check out their Facebook for upcoming events.