Lemon Hour spread (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Restaurant maestro Ben Berg
Mediterranean Snapper (Photo by Jenn Duncan)
Banana pudding French toast (Photo by Jenn Duncan)
Limoncello and mascarpone pancakes (Photo by Jenn Duncan)
Industry Night (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Chicken-fried pickle spears (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Crispy cauliflower (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Frito pie (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Lemon Hour (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Deviled eggs (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Root beer BBQ sliders (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Wagyu hot dog (Photo by Bonner Rhea)
Golden Afternoon cocktail (Photo by Jenn Duncan)
Green beans (Photo by Jenn Duncan)
Mussels (Photo by Jenn Duncan)
Benjamin Berg, founder of Houston’s Berg Hospitality Group, is making quite a mark on the city’s restaurant scene. An alumnus of Smith & Wollensky steakhouse (not to mention the Cornell University hospitality management program), his first venture was B&B Butchers & Restaurant, a steakhouse quite unlike the rest.
The New York native went on to acquire the Houston Italian eatery Carmelo’s and reinvent it as B.B. Italia | B.B. Pizza. Most recently, he’s added those double B’s to the clubby new tavern concept B.B. Lemon, which he says was inspired by JG Melon in Manhattan.
He opened the first B.B. Lemon on Washington Avenue, across the street from B.B. Butchers, and the other on Montrose. As might be expected, there are charming, sunny yellow touches on the waitstaff’s uniforms and napkins, with tangy dishes tinged with the flavor of lemons. The 2,700-square-foot space on Montrose still features the dark-painted millwork of its previous restaurant incarnations (most recently, Pax Americana), but the walls are now covered in hunter-green plaid wallpaper and framed vintage illustrations, while overhead the ceilings are deep red.
Behind the bar, beverage director Monique Cioffi-Hernandez whips out serious signature cocktails, from Intentional Fallacy, a bracing mezcal drink ($12), to the Social Butterfly, a light, icy tequila and passion-fruit elixir ($11). Of course, there’s also B.B. Lemonade, fresh-pressed with just the right mix of sweet and sour ($5.)
Executive chef Emily Trusler oversees the kitchens for both locales. Menu mainstays include back-east favorites such as New England clam chowder served in a bread bowl ($12) and a lobster roll napped with aioli and served on a brioche bun with a side of coleslaw ($28). Don’t miss the blue crab beignets app, a savory doughnut wrapped around a crab’s claw ($18) and the cool, refreshing watermelon salad tossed with feta, black olives, tomatoes and mint ($6).
And, what’s a tavern without a juicy burger. B.B. Lemon’s is made with Texas-raised Wagyu beef ($10 to $13). The menu also features intriguing seafood dishes, such as seared scallops topped with chorizo sausage on a bed of sweet corn purée ($26) and flounder split and stuffed with crabmeat and mascarpone ($24).
I loved the sides, especially the generous portion of fried cauliflower cloaked with parmesan sauce and sprinkled with even more cheese ($7) and the creamed fresh shucked corn ($4). B.B. Lemon’s homey banana pudding is a signature dessert ($6), but if you’re there with a group, why not indulge in The Big Banana: a mighty fishbowl-sized banana pudding layered like a trifle with alternating layers of vanilla pudding, Nilla wafers, sliced bananas and homemade marshmallow fluff, bruléed before serving and big enough for six ($32).
Other comforting sweets include the root-beer float ($8) and a warm brownie à la mode topped with cherries ($9).
B.B. Lemon, 1809 Washington Ave., 713.554.1809; 4319 Montrose Blvd., 713.804.4319.