New Wine Lounge in Old Benjy’s Digs Dishes Creative Bites

Jenn Duncan
New Wine Lounge in Old Benjy’s Digs Dishes Creative Bites

Bar bites and generous pours at Lees Den

SAY HELLO TO Lees Den, the intimate new wine bar bowing on Thursday on the top floor of Local Foods.


A Rice Village restaurant pioneer, owner Benjy Levit’s eponymous restaurant was the It Spot years before myriad bars and restaurants infiltrated the charming shopping mecca. Lees Den — a name inspired by Benjy’s mother’s name and the family’s favorite Chinese restaurant — is slated as a cool tropical treetop getaway in the city, with small plates and wines by the glass. (And, as is the trend lately, a speakeasy-style entrance.)

During the pandemic, Local Foods expanded to absorb the next-door Benjy's space, and offered grocer, counter-service meals and a second-floor wine shop dedicated to natural, organic, hard-to-find wines at below retail price. Now, boasting updated interiors by Brittany Vaughan of Garnish Designs — she blends modern comfort with vintage undertones, a la pale wood highlights and chartreuse velvet booths — the revamped upstairs lounge touts seating for about 60 guests inside and on the covered patio, which is, as always, a great spot for catching a sunset.

At the helm of Lees Den is general manager and wine director Chrisanna Shewbart, and executive chef Maria Gonzalez. Native Houstonian Shewbart is a certified sommelier with an adventurous palate and a passion for natural wines. Red, white and sparkling vino will be offered by the glass and rotated on a weekly basis (select signature cocktails also grace the menu). All other wines are available by the bottle at the bottle shop price with no corkage fee — and Shewbart promises some unique wines you can’t find elsewhere in the Houston area.

Chef Maria’s small plates and entrees will change with the season. Dig into Benjy’s Hurricane Popcorn featuring Korean red pepper salt, chocolate covered peanuts and other artisanal snacks from Local Foods Market. Decadent bites like pistachio-whipped goat cheese with date jam and flat bread share menu space with caviar-butter milk bread crafted with smoked trout roe; sesame-ginger meatballs; “Crudo of the Moment,” and Lees Salad. The “Midnight Pasta” or wood-roasted 44 Farms sirloin with potato puree and red-wine reduction are entrée options.

“Just as we created Local Foods to feature all the great purveyors we knew, we created Lees Den to highlight the unique skills of Chrissana and Maria, and their expertise clearly shines through this new concept,” said Levit in a statement.

Food
With Expertise in Blondes, Extensions and More, the Janelle Alexis Team Is a Go-To Salon

YOU CAN'T LIMIT Janelle to one title – Hairdresser. Her career and business has been established and built on a strong foundation. Using her two business degrees + one more in-process, this enables Janelle and the team to deliver not only a customer-focused experience, but a foundationally solid business. There is much more than meets the eye, and in sharing a little bit about Janelle, she was not only an international hair extension educator for over 14 years, but brings extensive expertise to blondes. She rounds this out with her previously launched namesake cosmetic line, which is a perfect complement to her belief that “Beauty is our Business”.

Keep ReadingShow less

AS WE PRODUCE our second annual “Cool 100” list, we’re reminded of our thoughts as we debuted this feature last year. We acknowledged that deciding who and what is cool is not only a moving target but also entirely subjective. And that attempting to “rank” the coolest people in Houston is a fool’s errand, one that will leave us immediately open to criticism. “You think she is cooler than him? You included this person?! You left off that one!?"

Keep ReadingShow less
People + Places

Ostia (photo by Jenn Duncan)

JUST IN TIME for Houston’s relentless heat and humidity, seven of the crème de la crème of Italian sparkling wines will be served at an exceptional dinner June 16 at Ostia. The DOCG Prosecco bureau, who have had their eyes on Texas with multiple events lately, chose chef Travis McShane’s Italian charmer out of hundreds of Houston Italian restaurants for the event.
Keep ReadingShow less
Food