Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s New Washington Avenue Hotspot Brings a Retractable Roof and Serious Food — Inside The Sporting Club

A Swanker Scene — With Major Brunch Plans

BY // 10.29.20

Sitting at one of the bar tables in The Sporting Club, the latest hotspot on bustling Washington Avenue, I am reminded of Le Grill atop the Hôtel de Paris in Monte-Carlo. But it’s neither the swell aromas emanating from the kitchen nor the sparkling chandeliers overhead that recall the luxe restaurant. Rather it is the roof that glides open to reveal the night sky.

Though in the case of The Sporting Club, the 2,400 square foot retractable roof is open day and night, weather permitting.

Of course, Dan Wierck — who heads the SoClutch Group, which owns The Sporting Club — and Brandon Duliakas, director of operations for Houston, loved the comparison. For the intention with this latest endeavor which is the firm’s fourth hospitality outpost on Washington, is aiming higher up the food chain. Literally.

“Brandon and I started looking at the market and trying to decide what exactly was Washington missing,” Wierck tells PaperCity. “We knew it was missing a high-end food aspect, something more mature. So that’s what we went after. . . We are going after a higher-end food crowd.”

With that in mind, they signed on executive chef E.J. Miller, formerly of Coppa Ristorante, Riel and the celebrity-backed restaurant International Smoke, to head the kitchen at 5102 Washington Avenue. Unlike most Houston restaurants, The Sporting Club (even the name echoes Monte-Carlo) has full menu service until 11 pm and continues with pizza service until 2 am. But there is more to their plans than nights out.

“Our target is Saturday and Sunday brunch,” Wierck says. “We really want to have a fantastic crowd for that. With our huge patio and our inside/outside feel we really think that Saturdays and Sundays will be really, really nice here.” (Throw in the bonus of half-priced rosé and champagne from 11 am to 3 pm on weekends.)

chilaquiles – The Sporting Club
The Sporting Club is betting that such menu items as chilaquiles and the half-price rosé and champagne will draw a festive crowd for weekend brunch. (Photo by Corine Michel )

In order to create a space that would appeal to both sophisticated diners and the bar crowd, Wierck turned to award-winning CBD Architects with offices in Chicago, New Orleans and Miami. The result is a dramatic high-low ambience across the vast 8,000 square foot indoor/outdoor space in which anyone on a night out should admire.

“The design is an attempt to blur the lines between inside and outside,” architect Jeremiah S. Johnson emails PaperCity. “This was accomplished by using materials typically associated with outdoor environments throughout the interior and through the installation of the skylight and large folding glass walls. By designing a space that transforms truly open to the outdoors, guests can dine and dance in the sun and under the stars.”

In addition to the retractable roof, which opens and closes in 30 seconds, the 360-degree marble bar opens to the vast patio via  garage style doors (actually designed for airline hangars). When they are opened, the outside atmosphere pours in to the 5,000 square foot dining room.

Highlight of the patio is an additional bar in a reimagined Airstream van painted Veuve Clicquot yellow. Once city permitting issues are resolved, the quirky Airstream will be the source for an array of frozen and bubbly cocktails.

The Sporting Club is the group’s fourth outpost on Washington. That stable includes Concrete Cowboy, Clutch and Sugar Room with plans in the works for a nightclub, which is expected to open in six months or so. SoClutch Group also operates clubs and restaurants in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Chicago and Frisco with plans for further expansion.

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