One Year After the Covid Craziness Began, Hybrid Market-Restaurants Are Here to Stay

Offerings at Local Foods Market (photo by Julie Soefer)

THIS TIME LAST year, when grocery stores were running out of essentials, Houston eateries got creative. Realizing they had a surplus of things like eggs, milk, bread and produce, they began hauling out shelves to create pop-up markets inside their restaurants. Suddenly, Houston's finest diners were comically (and necessarily) offering rolls of toilet paper with to-go orders. Fast-forward one year, and the grocery store-restaurant hybrid is here to stay, but with a refined and mostly local spin. Here are some of the latest dynamic-duo concepts to open their doors to hungry shoppers.


LOCAL FOODS MARKET Benjy's in Rice Village is now Local Foods Market (2424 Dunstan Rd #125). Inside the stylish Michael Hsu-designed space, winding aisles are filled with offerings like vegan sushi and artisan olives and pickles. Benjy's former upstairs lounge is now the wine room, seemingly homaging its former happy-hour life. Any bottle can be taken to-go or enjoyed outside on the new patio. Local Foods Market also offers a la carte items, like the all-Texas charcuterie board or crispy twice cooked French fries, to pair with the wine.

Local Foods Market (photo by Julie Soefer)

KICKIN' LOCAL MARKET & EATERY In the East End, Kickin' Kombucha (5420 Lawndale St.) adapted to the pandemic by partnering with other local food purveyors to provide delivery and pick-up that could be ordered from one place. Now, Kickin' is expanding to include breakfast and lunch service, operated by chef Victoria Elizondo of Cochinita & Co, with rotating seasonal kombucha and a beer and wine program. A new retail space will include H-Town faves like produce from Finca Tres Robles, gelato from Sweet Cup and Urban Cowboy "candy" — relish with jalapenos, celery seeds and garlic — from Underhill Urban Farm Co.

HARRIS COUNTY GENERAL STORE Across the street, Harris County General Store (5434 Lawndale St.) is prepping for its late-April opening. Inside, expect traditional Texas barbecue made with East End corazon, or heart, along with accoutrements and accessories for the at-home pitmaster — such as the 'errythang' rub, a secret blend of spices for all meats.

NoPo CAFÉ MARKET & BAR In May, local star restaurateur Benjamin Berg will open NoPo Café, Market & Bar (1244 North Post Oak Rd.) in "NoPo" (the nickname Berg has coined for the area around North Post Oak). NoPo will feature a large selection of unique local provisions, premade meals and freshly baked pastries, plus breakfast, lunch and dinner in the 60-seat dining room and at the 10-seat, full-service bar.

Restaurateur Benjamin Berg

AGNES CAFÉ & PROVISIONS Michael Hsu also designed the building that will soon house Agnes (2132 Bissonnet St #100), a café-grocery-store hybrid opening in June in the former Tropicales space. It's the first project by childhood friends Molly Voorhees, President of Becks Prime, and Carolyn Dorros, a vice president of Wolff Companies. Agnes will offer indoor-outdoor, counter-service-style, Mediterranean-tinged breakfast and lunch, and sit-down dinner. A retail portion includes grab-and-go food, baked goods, gifts and more.

Molly Voorhees and Carolyn Dorros, owners of Agnes

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