PaperCity Magazine

July/August 2019- Houston

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Page 23 of 83

OBSESSIONS. DECORATION. SALIENT FACTS. 22 H ow do you keep a 3 8 - y e a r- o l d restaurant that's been lauded with nearly every culinary award relevant for decades to come. That's a question chef/owner Robert Del Grande of Cafe Annie struggled with as the Post Oak Boulevard restaurant's lease renewal loomed for its often-problematic two-story location. He and restaurateur Ben Berg (B&B Butchers, BB Lemon) had been in casual talks for a year when they ran into one another at the century- old New Orleans restaurant Galatoire's. That's when their conversation took a serious turn. "We asked ourselves: 'How do you become an iconic restaurant like Galatoire's, one that outlives those who founded it?'" Del Grande says. "And what does an iconic Houston restaurant look like?" Such a restaurant, they decided, would possess a sense of the city and its varied cultures — something that feels a part of us. Aiming to recreate the landmark eatery for the next generation (or at least for the next decade of their lease), Berg and Del Grande decided to join forces and stay put despite the massive Post Oak Boulevard construction just outside their doors — a project that the city promises is nearly complete. The restaurant was temporarily shuttered in late May, and in September when their collaborative effort is unveiled, expect a new footprint, a new aesthetic, and more approachable prices, as well as a new name that riffs on the past: The Annie Café & Bar. Why the name change? "It's still Robert," says Berg, "but now it's also a partnership with me, and while we have a respect for what once was, it's not going to be a redo of something that's been done before. The new name will reflect that." Del Grande's former partners, his wife Mimi Del Grande, and his sister-in law Candice Schiller and her husband Lonny Schiller, will no longer be involved. Architect Issac Preminger was tapped to overhaul the space. Downstairs will be home to an intimate restaurant with a separate entrance and kitchen. Upstairs restrooms and the AN ICON REINVENTED bar will triple in size to accommodate about 50 seats. The terrace and casual cafe area will also be overhauled and recreated in a crisp, bright palette of whites and greens. Meanwhile, Berg and his Berg Hospitality Group have been snapping up covetable spaces around town, expanding his BB Lemon concept in the former Pax Americana space in Montrose, opening B.B. Italia Kitchen & Bar and B.B. Pizza in the former Carmelo's Memorial-area spot, and temporarily bringing on board many of Annie's employees until the new restaurant opens. Laurann Claridge Robert Del Grande, Ben Berg RIVER OAKS SHOPPING AREA | $900,000

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