Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s New High-Rise Coffee Shop and Wine Bar Haven Takes Flight: It’s All About the Drinks of the World at Coterie

BY // 11.12.18

Downtown Houston has a versatile new dining retreat. Brand new all-day cafe Coterie aims to cover everything from daytime coffee cravings and nighttime cocktail thirsts to relaxed, drawn-out dinners of farm-to-table eats and grab-and-go goodies.

Visitors and residents of the 40-story Market Square Tower and its epic glass bottom pool have a whole new place to dip their toe into. Coterie sits on the ground floor, beckoning business types and Downtown denizens alike to its 1,500-square-foot space.

The evolving menu includes flaky in-house pastries, the sort of robust coffee program you’d expect from a coffeehouse veteran and carefully curated wines.

Owners Sean Marshall and Chaz Lusk dreamed up the new spot. The name might refer to a small group with shared interests, but this Coterie wants to have broad appeal.

“Coterie is French for community. I like to think of it as your family. A lot of people say your friends are the family you pick,” Marshall tells PaperCity.

Marshall also owns eclectic Montrose cafe Southside Espresso, known for its inventive homemade syrup and colorful digs. You’ll find hints of it at Coterie — like a one-of-a-kind exterior and more dedicated syrups.

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“Over at Southside Espresso, being there for over six years, we’ve built up that community,” Marshall says. “I love that, I love that cafe culture, and I love that we have built into our little community, so we’re bringing a piece of that community here.”

Coterie is geared to become a permanent part of its regulars’ routine, whether they live just upstairs or neighborhoods away. “We’re their third place. We’re their place to be when they want to take a break from work but they’re not yet home,” Marshall says.

This third place is by no means your typical cafe or bistro. While much of the coffee program will be reminiscent of Southside, Coterie will offer up rare, higher-end specialty drinks.

“One of my limited selections is going to be the Costa Rica Geisha variety. It’s going to be in its seventh year of maturity,” Marshall says. “It really starts to shine in all its bright colors. The Geisha variety is known for very powerful, fruit-forward flavors and fullness. It’s interesting, almost like Starbursts or fruit punch flavors.”

He’ll also express himself through espresso, emphasizing pairing the shots with fortified wines such as port and sherry and spirits that play well with each other. “We’ll have some fun little pairing plates on the menu,” Marshall says.

Chef Chris Welsley brings substantial experience from his time at Eastie Boys and Oxheart, and his food menu is still in the early stages.

Coterie’s Food and Drinks Menu

Coterie currently offers dishes such as eggs Benedict and potato hash for breakfast, hand-crafted pastries such as savory scones with banana peppers and pine nuts and galettes with fig jam and pistachios, and lunch items such as brick oven Neapolitan-style pizzas and 100 percent Wagyu beef burgers.

Coterie will roll out a more substantive evening menu soon, with about five to seven rotating robust plates. You can expect a serious New York Strip, a pasta dish and maybe a fish dish.

“We may not have 25 dinner items, but the five or six items that we feature at night will be rotating and be very, very good. We’ll keep things interesting,” serial entrepreneur Lusk says.

But Marshall may be most excited about the upcoming happy hour menu, slated for 3 to 6 pm. There will be plenty of food and beverage pairings, but not the kind you’d expect.

Instead of pairing flavors with other flavors, Marshall’s taking a more geographically inspired approach, immersing drinkers fully with foreign country fare. It’s all about mouthwatering pairings — based off the map.

“We’ll pull from the origin countries we select our beverages from,” Marshall notes.

Places like Antigua and Guatemala will set the tone with their culture’s cuisine, like huge tamales wrapped in banana leaves — a dish Marshall adores. “We’ll pair items from the place with the coffee from that place. You’ll eat and drink like you would be eating and drinking in Antigua,” he adds.

“I think that’ll be really cool when you’re telling the story. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do — tell the story of the food and tell the story of the drinks.”

Marshall and Lusk agree that Market Square Tower was the ideal venue to tell this story.  “We get to be in the heart of it, just off of Main Street, so we get the best of both worlds. We’re tucked away one street over but also in the thick of everything,” Marshall notes.

coterie owners
Chaz Lusk and Southside Espresso owner Sean Marshall have been dreaming up Coterie for years.

Coterie is the kind of place Downtown Houston needs in Lusk’s estimation.

“Many moons ago, I worked just a few blocks away as an investment banker,” he says. “I can remember full well having limited or redundant options downtown, certainly for lunch. Downtown has changed a lot, and I’m excited to be a part of that story.”

But it goes beyond that neighborhood. “Sean and I are loyal to Houston. Houston has been really good to us, and our stories are very much defined by the city from a business and a personal perspective,” Lusk says.

“Honestly in many ways this is an opportunity for us to put together what we do well, and together we’re going to do something very special for the city. We’re going to make sure that it feels like a gift, like it was thought out for the city of Houston.”

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