It's no secret that Houston's real estate market and skyrocketing rental rates are making it tough on aspiring restaurateurs looking to buy or lease in town. According to Aaron Lyons, the market is even more unforgiving in Austin. Lyons is opening upcoming farm-to-table restaurant Dish Society near the Galleria area, after searching unsuccessfully for the right location in Austin. Upon receiving his MBA from UT Austin, Lyons was set on learning about the restaurant industry from the ground up, even taking low-paying positions when his friends and former colleagues were accepting large offers from consulting firms. Lyons said that he came to Houston, found his ideal location at the new Gables Tanglewood mixed-use development at San Felipe and Bering, and called upon Collaborative Projects, the design firm behind Hay Merchant, Haven and Underbelly to design his space.
Lyons had originally settled on the name Urban Dish before changing it to Dish Society because he felt that the term "urban" has become too commonplace. He says the new name reflects his interest in having a positive impact on society. "That includes supporting local farmers and suppliers as much as possible, volunteering our time and resources to give back to our community, and using sustainable practices to minimize the negative impacts we have on society," Lyons says. "Additionally, there's a social component to eating out in general: People tend to like to eat and drink with other people, so we want to provide the best atmosphere for that." As far as the service, it will be what Lyons calls a "flex-casual" style, where customers order at the counter for lunch and breakfast hours, and are seated and waited on during dinner.
Lyons says that he wrote the business plan with chef Johnny Romo, the former executive chef at Austin's Apothecary, which Lyons and his wife frequented before moving to Houston. Romo has 20 years of cooking experience in Austin, having worked at several Austin staples. "I loved his food, style and creativity with ingredients," Lyons says. He compares Romo's style of cooking to what one might expect from Plonk in Houston. "I felt he could best execute my vision and just 'got it' more so than any of the other chefs I talked to." Lyons is excited to have poached Romo, and likens his hire to "drafting Tom Brady in the seventh round."
For the breakfast menu, a more familiar Houston name is setting up the coffee program here. Greenway Coffee and Blacksmith's own Houston-based David Buehrer is helping the upcoming restaurant in the coffee department.
The soft opening dinners will begin on December 6, and the official grand opening will take place on December 9.
· Dish Society [Official Site]