Underbelly Hospitality Replacing UB Preserv With Montrose Bar, Reveals Another New Restaurant
In light of the impending closing of The Hay Merchant and move of steakhouse Georgia James to Regent Square, chef Chris Shepherd’s restaurant group, Underbelly Hospitality is making some big moves to accommodate the beginnings and endings of several leases.
UB Preserv Makes Way for Everlong Bar & Hideaway
Like The Hay Merchant, UB Preserv at 1609 Westheimer is now also closing towards the end of the year — December 23, specifically — and being replaced with a new cocktail bar called Everlong Bar & Hideaway. Named for a Foo Fighters song, a press release from Underbelly Hospitality says that, although Everlong is going to be a bar, it’s not a Hay Merchant replacement. Furthermore, the press release states that UB Preserv was the Underbelly Hospitality restaurant that was “hardest hit by COVID-19” and although there were “plans to redesign and potentially rebrand to better showcase the vision of [chef Nick Wong] and his team,” those plans are being scrapped in favor of moving them to Georgia James Tavern.
Underbelly Hospitality beverage director Westin Galleymore is creating an ’80s- and ’90’s-style cocktail menu for Everlong. Some examples of the drinks include Mojitos, Old Fashioneds, Cosmopolitans, a variety of martinis and sours, and the notorious Long Island Iced Tea. A small list of curated wines will also be available.
For food, the popular dishes being carried over from The Hay Merchant are the Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings (which itself was carried over from the original Underbelly) and the muffuletta. However, under chef de cuisine Lucas McKinney (former sous chef at The Hay Merchant and Georgia James Tavern), Everlong is getting its own style of burger as well as new bar bites and small plates.
Everlong is also continuing the popular Trivia Night established at The Hay Merchant, thanks in part to The Hay Merchant managers Kyle Rahe and Lisa McCoy also making the move.
Chef Nick Wong is Moving to Georgia James Tavern
Wong has already worked at his new restaurant home a few nights to get the lay of the land, and undoubtedly will make some changes to better accommodate his workstyle and cuisine. (Georgia James Tavern’s opening chef de cuisine, Matthew Coburn, is no longer with the company.) Also moving to the tavern is sous chef and operations manager Leila Frink.
Wong’s menu for Georgia James Tavern promises to be “more refined” and won’t be a duplication of UB Preserv’s menu, either. (The only dish likely to reappear is the Crispy Rice Salad.)
A New Italian Restaurant is Coming
But wait: there’s more! Underbelly Hospitality has added one more restaurant to the docket: a American-Italian “red sauce” restaurant called Pastore, which is Italian for “Shepherd”. That type of menu is currently served at One Fifth, which means that it’s the only other of the rotating restaurant concepts besides One Fifth Steak to get its own brick and mortar. Like Georgia James, Pastore is opening at Regent Square.
Houston interior designer Amanda Medsger is taking notes from Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa while providing an atmosphere that is “a whimsical ode to traditional family-style Italian-American dining.”
General manager Tara MacMullen is helping with the other transitions until Pastore opens — estimated to be in late spring of 2022 — and then she’ll move over there.
Georgia James Gets a Temporary Home
But what about Georgia James? Glad you asked, because there’s some news about that, too. Shepherd and company were hoping for a January 2022 opening at Regent Square, but it’s unlikely right now that the City of Houston will be able to issue the necessary permits until March.
To bridge the gap between when Georgia James closes at 1100 Westheimer at the end of this year and reopens at Regent Square, it’s temporarily taking up residence in One Fifth, just down the road at 1658 Westheimer. There may be a little downtime for the move, as it’s slated to reopen in its temporary home in “early 2022”.
There’s some synchronicity at work; the concept for Georgia James had its test run as One Fifth Steak, the very first of Shepherd’s rotating restaurant ideas. So in a way, the steakhouse is going back to home base, where it will remain until the Regent Square spot is ready. Afterward, One Fifth is to permanently close.
Wild Oats & Underbelly Burger are Opening Soon
In addition to the new Georgia James at Regent Square, Wild Oats under executive chef Nick Fine and Underbelly Burger (click to read our article on that concept) at 2520 Airline are still under construction at the Houston Farmers Market. However, both are almost completed. The burger stand is expected to open in December and Wild Oats in January.
The next few months will represent a lot of churn for Underbelly Hospitality, but once the dust settles, the company should end up with an updated portfolio of businesses by the end of springtime: Georgia James and Pastore at Regent Square, Georgia James Tavern in Market Square Tower, Wild Oats and Underbelly Burger at the Houston Farmers Market and Everlong, the Montrose bar in the soon-to-be-former UB Preserv spot. It will certainly be an exciting time for the company, its employees and its fanbase.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.