A well-known chef from Houston, who has been deprived of his own kitchen for over four years, is making a big comeback – this time with his own terrace bar. Graham Laborde meets with his former boss, Benjy Masonto open a new terrace bar Winnies in the former Natachee’s Supper ‘n’ Punch Space on 3622 Main in Midtown Houston. Mason currently owns Johnny’s Gold Brick, a very popular, laid-back cocktail bar in the Heights. Another alum from Bernadine, Chris Roy, is also a partner on the project. Most recently, he worked as Director of Operations and Head Chef for Ronnie Killen’s restaurant group. Winnie’s is expected to open this fall.
When the Treadsack Group opened Bernadine’s in 2016 and Laborde ran the kitchen, it caused quite a stir. One of three highly anticipated new restaurants from the ambitious local restaurant and bar group (the others being Hunky Dory and Foreign Correspondents), Bernadine’s had barely opened before receiving great reviews and on top new restaurant lists from top writers across Houston showed up. Unfortunately, its lifespan was shortened when the Treadsack Group began to show severe signs of financial overload. However, Bernardine’s best legacy is that it gave Laborde the opportunity to showcase his talent and creativity, fueled by serious memories of his home and family. In 2017, he was the last chef to leave the Treadsack Group when all three restaurants began to close. He took on a role as operations manager – like Roy for Killen.
Chef Graham Laborde in Bernadine’s kitchen around 2017. Photo by Chuck Cook Photography.
According to a press release, the owners of Natachee’s reached out to the team during the pandemic last year, forcing the business for restaurants and bars that couldn’t easily switch to to-go service. The trio Laborde, Mason and Roy had already held their Peacemaker Po ‘Boys pop-ups there. Laborde says he saw buying up Natachee as a perfect opportunity. “We knew we wanted to do something fun and unique,” said Graham. “The pandemic hit the reset button for many of us. The silver lining is that we have this unique opportunity to build something we’ve always wanted. “
Winnie’s is named for Winbern Street, which is believed to be named after the neighborhood developer’s daughters: Winifred and Bernadette. The building that once housed Natachee’s used to be a drug store. A press release names “exposed wooden ceilings, a lovingly remodeled shop window front and two huge new bay windows” as some of the most important features. Local builder Jarred Pruitt from Pruitt Structures is overseeing the refurbishment of the space, which includes a new top bar and a back bar that the Houston sculptor made Patrick Renner is made from reclaimed wood.
Frozen Raspberry Negroni and Pink Peppercorn-Lemon Pepper Wings at upcoming Winnie’s in Midtown Houston. Photo by Emily Jaschke.
The owners’ goal is to make Winnie’s a comfortable, cocktail-oriented hangout, with casual dining like upscale sandwiches and oysters, both raw and roasted. The sandwiches don’t just include the return of the Shrimp and Oyster Peace Maker Po ‘Boy from the pop-ups, but rather creative creations like such Mississippi beef scraps with braised beef in roasted carrot ranch dressing, peperoncini, beer queso and cool ranch Doritos for a little crunch. Winnie’s serves a unified menu for lunch, dinner and late into the night, and offers pick-up and delivery through third-party services.
Garrett Lendermann of Johnny’s Gold Brick creates a cocktail menu with classics, frozen drinks and cocktails on tap. The creative libations include a Café sua da Twist Frozen Irish Coffee, inspired by the Erin Rose in New Orleans, and a Ranch Water-meets-White Claw Reef with tequila and grapefruit. Day drinkers will be delighted to hear that all house cocktails are only $ 5 daily until 5 p.m.
This is akin to the golden hour specials at Johnny’s from 5pm to 7pm when drinks (many of which are only $ 8 all day) are only $ 6. According to Mason, this won’t be the only similarity between Winnies and his successful establishment in Heights. “We see this bar as following in Johnny’s footsteps and a meeting place for everyone who lives nearby and we really wanted to take advantage of the fantastic terrace for people who want to have a drink and a snack in the afternoon. ” he said.
Those interested can find out about Winnie’s progress via the website or Instagram pages.
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