The three muskateers of The Annie Café & Bar — Sam Governale, Chef Robert Del Grande, Ben Berg — celebrating at the soft opening. (Photo by Jacob Power)
Rustic white-washed brick and white wooden floors brighten the former Café Annie space. Just call it The Annie. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Ben Berg describes his latest investment as a 'kick-ass' bar.
The green theme in The Annie Café & Bar decorative scheme dominates the bar design.
The Annie terrace offers views to Post Oak Boulevard (Photo by Jacob Power)
The Annie Café & Bar terrace has been updated with new furnishings and multi-level sitting areas. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The mural by New York City graffiti artist Ces is already attracting selfie moments in The Annie Cafe & Bar.
The Annie bar before the crowds arrive for the preview party. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
One of several private rooms at The Annie. (Photo by Jacob Power)
Swank. Sophisticated. Swell. How many superlatives does it take to aptly describe Benjamin Berg’s re-imagining of Houston’s iconic Café Annie? Friday night’s preview of the newly-anointed Annie Café & Bar hit all the right chords for bon vivants looking for fresh turf. And that introduction represented just part of Berg’s plans for the space with a Ralph Lauren Polo Bar-inspired boîte coming on the ground floor.
Doors open at 3 pm on Thursday to the sleek, second floor restaurant and bar that combines the restaurant wizardry of Berg with the culinary clout of chef Robert Del Grande (with an assist from chef Daniel Berg, Ben’s brother), and expertise of Annie Café operating partner the popular Sam Governale of Emmaline and DOCG Interests, restaurant consulting.
The design speaks of New York sophistication with a hint of laid-back Texas. There are no remnants of the former incarnation other than the friendly staff. Surely, most welcome for Café Annie devotees are the second floor bathrooms. (Hooray!)
Guests swooned over the chic use of palms trees and birds of paradise employed throughout the massive bar and into the dining room. The greenery provided a visual counterpoint to the white-washed brick walls, light wood flooring and steel-clad windows. The outdoor patio overlooking Post Oak Boulevard has been enhanced with faux ivy hedges, varying levels of flooring, and new furnishings.
“I really enjoy creating spaces that I want to be in and that I hope other people will really want to be in and creating different environments,” a beaming Berg tells PaperCity. “This for me is kind of New York, Houston, St. Bart’s. It all comes together for us. It’s clean. It’s bright. I hope it works.”
No worries there.
While the fashionable clutch circulated through the second floor of The Annie (the favored nickname), pausing for selfies in front of the floor-to-ceiling mural by famed New York graffiti artist Ces in the main dining room, there was more afoot in Berg’s plans.
“Like a Park Avenue apartment. It’s going to be awesome. Very clubby. Like the Polo Bar but Texas,” Berg reveals of what is happening behind the closed doors on the ground floor. He is creating or rather has created an intimate bar/café, called Turner’s (his middle name) that will seat between 40 and 50, featuring an antique bar dating from the 1880s and a grand piano for nightly entertainment.
“We expect to open at the end of October or beginning of November. It’s ready. But I’m not ready and the kitchen’s not ready,” he laughs.
Governale is all in, excited by the prospect, saying, “We don’t have a sophisticated place to have a cocktail in this city. . . This will be super classy, intimate. It’s inspired by the Polo Bar in New York, Paris, Chicago.
“Really awesome. There are dark woods, leathers, domed food.”
While the menu upstairs has been revised and does include Café Annie favorites such as tortilla soup, Gulf crab tostada, and Del Grande’s signature coffee crusted filet mignon, Turner’s will feature an all-American menu with both steaks and burgers served under domes.
We would guess that both upstairs and down will be a slam dunk for Berg, owner of Berg Hospitality Group, which already has home runs with B&B Butchers, B.B. Lemon and B.B. Italia. All of this from a fellow who, after graduating from Tulane, started as a bellman at the swank Lake Placid Lodge, was later maitre ‘d at the equally posh The Point and went on to get his master’s degree in hospitality management from Cornell University.
Since then, it seems, Berg has been golden. And we predict so will The Annie.