Restaurants / Openings

Barbecue Favorite to Take Over Historic Building in Houston’s Second Ward — a New El Burro & the Bull is Coming

Entrepreneur Couple Behind Henderson & Kane General Store Has More Big Plans

BY // 07.10.20

Four years ago, El Burro & the Bull slid into Houston’s Conservatory food hall and quickly became the downtown destination for barbecue. Headed by restauranteurs John and Veronica Avila, the small but mighty food stand was just what hungry downtown diners were looking for – a classic barbecue joint that tipped its (cowboy) hat to the flavors that make Texas. . . well. . . Texas.

The popular spot quickly became the most successful restaurant in the Conservatory, amassing a solid fanbase that regularly asked when the Avilas would be opening their own standalone restaurant. So now they’re doing just that on Houston’s east side.

“We left the Conservatory on October 31,” John Avila says. “It was really good practice for us, and a good chance for us to build up that audience that had constantly been requesting that we open our own brick-and-mortar and do the whole ‘bar experience’ to go with our food. We were very encouraged by our customers to make that move.”

After searching for the perfect new space, the Avilas eventually committed to a hip and historic building in located at 5401 Harrisburg Boulevard in the Second Ward. The structure has a mysterious past, much of which is uncertain to the Avilas and their design team. But for all its mystery, the building seems to have served as a neighborhood church (German-built) before eventually functioning as a Laredo National Bank.

It was a true blend of Texas design.

“It’s a kind of mesh of this German construction with adobe to a certain degree,” Veronica Avila tells PaperCity.

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Just as is reflected in the restaurant’s architecture, the dining experience at the new EaDo El Burro & the Bull will also be Texan to the core. As echoes of the state’s Mexican and German influences are represented in the structure’s architectural elements, the familiar flavors of Texas and Mexico will mingle to create a new menu.

The new El Burro & the Bull won’t be a giant, sprawled out space, but it will encompass two floors, the downstairs being the more casual of the two.

“It’s not a giant place, it’s not a huge place,” John Avila says. “But it does have those two different levels. You can come and hang out in shorts and shirts and flip-flops if you feel like it and hang out downstairs. And then upstairs you might feel like a little bit more refined, or a little more for dinner service.”

In essence, each space will have its own personality.

Downstairs will be bright, decorated with pastels and paper picados, and will feature zesty menu options like michiladas and margaritas. The upstairs area (accessed only by elevator) will be highlighted by high, vaulted ceilings and exposed timber — and will have more of a sophisticated ambiance. It’ll be the “wine and bourbon” space. Upstairs will also include a small outdoor balcony and private party room with fireplace.

El Burro & the Bull was originally slated to open last spring, but, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed the restaurant’s scheduled opening date back to February 2021. Yet the power couple isn’t letting the pandemic hinder their plans – instead, they’re seeing the extra time as an opportunity.

“Construction has slowed down a little bit, but only because we found ourselves with more time,” John Avila says, “We bought ourselves time, and it’s good. It’s really good for us.”

This entrepreneur couple also believe taking their time is essential the restaurant’s overall success.

“It’s really important for us to open at a time that everyone feels comfortable with coming to see us – and right now is definitely not that time. And so we’re not running to open the doors,” Veronica Avila says. “We want to make sure that this goes off without a hitch and is appropriate with the timing of how comfortable people feel.”

A True General Store

As the countdown to the opening of the new El Burro & the Bull continues (keep your eyes peeled for updated promotional events and happenings), the Avilas’ other business, Henderson & Kane General Store, is celebrating its two-year anniversary this month.

Located in Old Sixth Ward at the corner of Henderson and Kane Streets (not hard to remember), this neighborhood hotspot is a true, old fashioned general store, selling everything from pantry items and bathroom necessities to locally sourced brands (more than 60 in total) and meaty, tender barbecue.

“The fact that we’re a general store has really been a saving grace (during the coronavirus) because it allows us to stay open when restaurants are closing,” John Avila notes. “It’s interesting because we’ll get tickets, and the tickets will say ‘a pound of biscuits, a couple of sides of potato salad and creamed corn, a bottle of wine. . . and some bleach.’ Or ‘two pounds of bacon. . . and face masks.’ ”

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Henderson & Kane is all about local.

The Avilas say that Henderson & Kane has performed extremely well during the pandemic, but they are not taking the credit.

“We really appreciate the people in Houston and how much they really supported us,” John Avila says. “They’ve been the motivation behind us since growing El Burro & the Bull, and they really kept us positive and happy to know that we’re serving Houston and doing it in a way that makes people satisfied.

“And it only happens because of the folks here, and we really just want everybody to know how much we appreciate that. From the most literal sense to the most abstract sense, it’s just – it’s only because of the people here that these things work, and we appreciate them all.”

Henderson & Kane continues to try and bolster up Houston during these unpredictable times. Throughout the month of July, Henderson & Kane will be offering special promotions to say thanks.

From free coffee to free chips and salsa to discounted bottles of wine, every day of the month brings a new special. The Avilas are trying to do their part now while looking into the future towards their new showcase restaurant in the east end.

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