John Avila grew up in Houston's East End but spent much of his youth and early adulthood in the hill country getting his formative pit-master fundamentals from his grandfather. If those were his culinary undergrad days, then going to work for Austin's world-famous Franklin Barbecue could be likened to a barbecue PhD. After graduation, Avila opened Morgan's Brooklyn Barbecue in New York and, after a good run, returned home — not just to Texas but now to his childhood stomping grounds on Houston's East End.
John and his wife, architectural designer Veronica Hernandez envisioned and created the farmers market and pop-ups along the Navigation Street Esplanade and recently signed leases to build the first permanent restaurant fixtures in the park. First up is Avila's barbecue homecoming, El Burro and the Bull.
As you know, Sean Marshall's Southside Espresso will be the first collaborator and tenant beside El Burro and the Bull. Hernandez designed the flanking spaces featuring re-purposed shipping containers. "Given the industrial roots of the neighborhood and literally being close to the Houston Ship Channel, we felt this progressive design really made sense," she adds. "There are parts of the Esplanade park that were built with industrial re-design in mind."
Recycling and re-purposing these shipping containers to play host to two of Houston's top restaurants feels like a poignant metaphor for Houston's East End. More details on the menu for El Burro and the Bull are still forthcoming. Expect development soon and an opening around this winter.