Restaurants / Bars

Houston’s New Mega Restaurant/Bar and Live Music Venue Opens With a Texas Icon’s Jam Session: The Rustic Shows It’s Not Kidding Around — Step Into Downtown’s New Backyard

BY // 11.02.18

It’s Thursday night and the place is packed, all 25,000 square feet of it. Country music icon and Lone Star State standout Pat Green takes the stage. It’s not too long before he strums his guitar and we learn Texas is on his mind. What else could be?

He struts the stage like he owns the place — and that’s completely fair, because he does. It’s opening night at The Rustic, with a Texas band taking the stage at the massive triple threat restaurant, bar and live music venue located at 1836 Polk Street in the heart of downtown Houston.

It’s onto “While I Was Away,” and it’s time for the crowd to sing. The mass of fans, a mixture of men in suits or jeans and women in skirts and cowboy boots or dresses and heels, don’t cut it. “Listen, I haven’t been driving my Jimmy Buffet ass down here to Houston, Texas for you to Sunday-school sing me this song. That was a Sunday school effort,” Green shouts.

The crowd takes the cue. It’s on.

It’s around 8:30 at The Rustic’s exclusive, VIP opening. Guests have already taken the trip down the mouthwatering buffet line of double queso — a serving of pimento cheese and your traditional melty version, meant to be dipped in order — chicken tacos, brisket quesadillas and the Rustic burger with brisket, green chile, onions and burger sauce.

It’s a colossal crowd peppered with some big names, including Mayor Sylvester Turner. It’s the Space City stamp of approval, and Houston First has helped make The Rustic possible.

Introducing Pêche

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The Bayou City is finally getting a taste — or really, full-blown course — of The Rustic, Dallas and San Antonio’s beloved mammoth destination for all things Texas. The draw? Free live Texas music, seven days a week. And the chance to step out of the metropolis and into the countryside.

“We love the juxtaposition of this backyard, Hill Country kind of feel in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. What’s really cool is when you pull into our parking lot, you really start this evolution of escaping the big city hustle bustle into a more laid-back, kick-your-feet-up, have-a-cold-beer hang out under a tree,” Rustic mastermind Kyle Noonan tells PaperCity.

 The concept came from just such an experience, a bachelor party in the Texas Hill Country spent grilling steaks over an open flame, under the stars. “It was that bonfire energy and experience we probably all have a connection to,” Noonan says.

“It’s just like your favorite pair of broken-in boots that are always just comfortable and always look good. It’s a casual place that’s approachable at all levels.”

There’s one thing Noonan wants to make clear: The Rustic is a restaurant first, and concert venue and bar second. He’s proud of the Texas-gourmet home-style cooking of culinary director Daniel Menchaca. It’s a nostalgic menu.

“It’s things that I grew up eating, things that Kyle grew up eating,” Menchaca says. “That smokiness, cooking on the wood grill is ubiquitous in as many dishes as we can put it in.”

It’s all about local purveyors, beef from nearby ranches, quail from Bandera, seafood from the Gulf, cheese from Houston suppliers, and more.

“We all wanted to celebrate Texas and dive into regional cuisine whenever we can. I consider the best food in our country or in the world having one thing in common: they all share pride for who they are and where they come from,” Noonan says.

That means molasses-brined quail, beer can chicken with jalapeno spoon bread, Texas cheesesteak with shaved ribeye, wild boar meatballs — Menchaca’s personal favorite — and sweet battered cactus fritters.

And a special Houston addition you won’t find anywhere else, yet. “I really love the tomahawk steak we just added. I love that one. I know it’ll just make a festive atmosphere. It’s a piece of beef! People are going to be holding it up by the bone! It’s got a very big cool factor,” Menchaca says.

He’ll tell you he’s honestly proud of each and every dish on the menu. They all pack a punch, and they all have their place. “We believe in everything we’re doing. We don’t have a sell-out dish. We’re not doing it to be popular,” Menchaca says.

But you get the sense the family-style Jam and Toast brunch is going to be popular. It’s a crazy big spread for groups that includes $20 cocktail carafes, country-baked eggs, a butcher shop skillet, smoked cheddar grits and more, all set to live music.

“I really love our Saturday and Sunday brunches,” Noonan says. “There’s been days where I’ve seen people just hang out. They come and they’re here for four, five hours.”

You can bet as the hours slip toward evening, guests will be taking on the 40 beers on tap or some of the signature cocktails like the Texas Peaches and Pecans. The apricot brandy in the boozy beverage comes courtesy of an Eastern-European-turned-Texan who wanted to put a San Antonio spin on rakia.

“Every cocktail has a Texas element. You’re going to get the entire state of Texas,” beverage director Kara Trissel says. That’s certainly true of the Rimy Rita, a frozen concoction with a Sangria popsicle thrown in for good measure. The Rustic carries four kinds of the alcoholic pops, sangria, mimosa, strawberry daiquiri and margarita, all from Dallas-based confectioner Social Ice.

The Rustic’s Twist on Happy Hour

If you’re more into a lazy afternoon with a brew or glass of wine, you can take on Happy Hourly. It’s a twist on your traditional happy hour. It’s all in the timing, with prices on house wine, select beers and frosé set by the hour. So they’re $3 at 3 pm, $4 at 4 pm and $5 at 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

They’re all best enjoyed with a background of live music, which you can always find at The Rustic. Every once in awhile you’ll get a ticketed concert for a national act, but on the everyday it’s all about Texan musicians, whatever the genre.

That’s in large part thanks to Pat Green. “When you talk about Texas and Texan products, he’s a Texas product through and through,” Noonan says. “He’s the first thing you think of when you think Texas country music. We want to showcase as much Texas music as we can.”

Want to enjoy The Rustic? Well then, do like Pat Green does. Carry On.

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