Restaurants / Openings

Ironclad Pizza and Cheeky Cocktails Mark Chris Cusack’s Houston Restaurant Return — Inside the Creative and Weird New Betelgeuse Betelgeuse

A Cocktail Bar That's Actually Fun?

BY // 07.18.22
photography Courtesy of Betelgeuse Betelgeuse

Chris Cusack is back in the restaurant business. The high-profile creator of the shuttered Down House in The Heights and co-founder of Treadsack Restaurants saw a tumultuous end to his restaurant group’s empire as it closed its restaurants Foreign Correspondents, Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s and Johnny’s Gold Brick several years ago amid reports of financial issues and less than flattering portrayals from some of the group’s restaurant workers.

But Cusack has now opened a new Houston restaurant called Betelgeuse Betelgeuse at 2101 Washington Avenue. Curious about what Cusack had been up to in these intervening years, we reached out and he emailed back.

“I’ve been working at some great local gems like La Grange, Down House and Cottonwood, bussing tables and managing staff, doing every job in the restaurant industry,” Cusack writes to PaperCity. “I think some restaurant owners think being successful means being able to swoop into your place unannounced and buy everyone a round of drinks. I used to think that.

“Now, I know that if you don’t love every single bit of this business — from making drinks to running food to everything in between — you really shouldn’t own a place. You’d be missing the whole point. I’m really happy and grateful to have opened this new spot on Washington Avenue, and we can’t wait to serve everybody in Houston.”

Located in Houston’s Old Sixth Ward, the new Betelegeuse Betelegeuse is a Washington Avenue neighborhood bar and pizza place that borrows its quirky name from the red supergiant star in the Orion constellation. The new restaurant’s space is designed by Brittany Vaughn of Garnish Design and it brings distinctive, different looks.

Betelegeuse Betelegeuse’s Octagon Room is a lilliputian space inspired by a cabinet of curiosities, while the Solarium Room is bathed in natural light. Instagram-worthy brightly colored murals abound throughout the space, while infinity mirrors and LED UFO-inspired light fixtures fill the trippy, science fiction-themed hallway.

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The Betelegeuse Betelegeuse Menu

With indoor and outdoor seating, the pub-style food at Betelegeuse Betelegeuse includes what they dub ironclad-style pizza, which brings a a crisp, cheesy-edged crust. Inspired by the sort of pizza you might find in Detriot, the scratch dough made in-house (along with the sauce and sausage) is baked in a 14-inch round cast iron pan. Working with consultant pizza maker Anthony Calleo of Pi Pizza, each pie is finished with Wisconsin brick cheese with options that include options like the Hercules Hercules (topped with pepperoni, sausage, pancetta and Genoa salami) and the Make My Millennium (zesty Scorpion peppers, blueberries and whipped ricotta) and the Ursa Major with Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and roasted garlic. Other dishes include snacks like Buffalo-style wings, garlic parm steak fries and a classic cheeseburger cooked in a pizza oven.

Betelgeuse Betelgeuse Cocktail (Photo by Courtesy of Betelgeuse Betelgeuse )
Creative cocktails abound on the menu at the new Betelgeuse Betegeuse on Washington Avenue. (Photo by Courtesy of Betelgeuse Betelgeuse )

Cheeky cocktails at the Betelegeuse Betelegeuse bar include one dubbed Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic? It’s made with tepache, Mezcal, pineapple and vanilla. There is also a Black Lemon Drop, the classic lemon drop with a space-aged spin, and the chilly Freezer Martini. Frozen beverages include a rose wine and strawberry puree dubbed Frose and a Half Frozen French 75.

“I think some restaurant owners think being successful means being able to swoop into your place unannounced and buy everyone a round of drinks. I used to think that. Now, I know that if you don’t love every single bit of this business, you really shouldn’t own a place.” — Chris Cusack

“Houston has a proud history of weirdness, and we’re adding to it,” Cusack details. “When did cocktail bars decide you couldn’t watch a game on the big screen while enjoying a creative drink? Betelgeuse Betelgeuse is a cocktail bar — but it’s fun.

“Whether you want a Lone Star and a shot or an artisan cocktail, you will feel comfortable here. We have the best pizza in Houston, too.”

Betelgeuse Betelgeuse is open daily from 4 pm to 2 am.

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