Culture / Sporting Life

Deshaun Watson’s First Houston Restaurant is Part of a Careful, Long-Term Plan

Why the Texans QB is Teaming Up With Lefty's Famous Cheesesteaks and its Young Cancer Survivor Founder

BY // 12.11.20

While James Harden’s potential Houston restaurant remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma — much like the disgruntled, trade-demanding Houston Rockets superstar himself — Deshaun Watson’s new spot is opening as planned. The Houston Texans’ lifeline quarterback is teaming up with  Sam Berry and Allie T. Mallad on the first Lefty’s Famous Cheesesteaks outside of Michigan.

Berry founded Lefty’s, a casual, counter-service spot in the Great Lakes State in 2010. While making it as a cheesesteaks outlet in Michigan is not exactly the same as proving yourself as a cheesesteaks spot in Philadelphia, it’s hard to argue with this growth trajectory. Lefty’s now boasts 23 restaurants in Michigan and has even bigger plans for Texas, projecting that it will eventually open 150 Lefty’s in the Lone Star State.

The first will be at 8507 Kirby Drive, nearly literally in the shadow of NRG Stadium, where Watson does his best work.

“We are so excited to be in Houston with Deshaun Watson as the new face of our brand,” Berry says in a statement. “I’ve always been a fan of Houston and always wanted to go to Texas.”

For Watson, this appears to be a carefully thought out team up. While Harden’s details-light restaurant visions sounds like the type of clubby Midtown nightlife-centric, VIP-area-guaranteed spot he’d enjoy, Lefty’s Famous Cheesesteaks is a much more humble and low-key type of eatery. The kind of fast casual spot that can grow and grow if run right. Picture Five Guys in its early days.

Watson’s move into the restaurant business is a practical one, which seems to fit a quarterback who is analytical and athletic.

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“Deshaun is approaching business off the field with a unique mindset for an NFL player,” says Bryan Burney, Watson’s marketing representative who runs the NFL player marketing division at the Athletes First agency. “It’s about having ownership, putting his name on something that he can be proud of and really being involved, from product to overall message of the company.

“He was ready to not only be an ambassador, but also be a voice in the boardroom.”

Lefty’s founder Sam Berry
Lefty’s is founded by Sam Berry, who is opening his first restaurant outside of Michigan with Deshaun Watson on board. (Photo by Charles Rostamloo)

Watson and Berry, a 36-year-old cancer survivor, have found common interests. Including quality food at an affordable price point. There is little fancy or showy about Lefty’s. It’s an order-at-the-counter spot that does the majority of its business through takeout (which is no small advantage in these COVID-19 times).

While its cheesesteaks are touted in its name, Lefty’s also makes burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, cold cut subs and even cheesesteak egg rolls and corned beef egg rolls. Berry, who is a left hander, named his burgeoning chain for the underrepresented lefties among us and the menu includes nods to famous lefties such as Oprah Winfrey.

Deshaun Watson is not a lefty, but he recognizes a well thought-out opportunity.

“Lefty’s is a family business,” the QB says in a statement. “It was only right that after I met Sam and tried it, I brought it to my home in Houston.”

Texas’ first Lefty’s Famous Cheesesteaks will open this Tuesday, December 15 at 11:30 am and will be open seven days a week from there. Like Watson, this is a restaurant chain that embraces the grind — and getting to work.

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