PaperCity Magazine

September 2019- Houston

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says, "For me, this is a real people business, and I didn't know Robert, but we started talking. When we got back to Houston, we got together and talked again — that's what got me in. He's a great guy. I wanted to work with him. To be able to work with some of the real pioneers of Houston food and be a part of a name that everybody knows is really exciting. It puts a ton of pressure on me … You will always have people who will say, 'I liked things this way,' but things have to change over time. I'm a big believer in that." What's in store for diners when the doors to The Annie Cafe & Bar reopen in late September? "I think we're going to blow people away with the interiors and the new look, creating a new atmosphere for the next 20 years of Annie," says Berg. Initially what made Berg step away from the deal was the challenging second-floor space. But with the help of architect Issac Preminger, he says, they've figured that out. One of the biggest customer requests — adding bathrooms to the second floor — was an easy fix; in addition, he says, "We've moved the stairs over, created a real entrance and an energy to the room." The bright, clean space — with an oval two- sided bar that will seat up to 50, white-painted brick, hardwood floors, and palm trees — won't resemble the old in the least. As for the fare, you'll find a few classics on the tightly edited menu of Del Grande's much-imitated creations, from coffee-crusted filet to the famous crab tostadas. To be sure, change is afoot. "The restaurant became a celebration place, and I don't think people thought it was approachable anymore," Berg says. "The prices got up there, too … My idea is to have fun, get Robert excited again. If someone comes in and wants something from the old menu, that's the hospitality part. You want it, we'll make it. The new Annie Cafe & Bar will respect the fundamentals: Buy great ingredients then don't ruin them. I don't think food has to be crazy and wild. It has to be really good. I want to keep the essence of what made Annie great, improve on it, bring a new crowd to it, and show that this thing has legs. Oh, and to not screw up what Robert's done for 38 years."

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