Restaurants / Openings

Popular Houston Chef Returns With a New Restaurant in a Most Unexpected Neighborhood

Can Greg Gordon Make Timbergrove Cool?

BY // 06.13.18

After saying hasta la vista and closing down his BYOB Briargrove eatery, restaurateur/chef Greg Gordon is back and bolder than ever. His popular Italian-inspired La Vista restaurant closed back in 2017.

His new vision, La Vista 101,  recently opened at 1805 W. 18th in Timbergrove.

It’s a whole new start, bursting with Italian shareables with Mediterranean influences. The menu runs the Med gamut from Greece to North Africa, Spain to Italy and back again. Think delicate deviled eggs with smoked trout caviar, goat-cheese burrata, wild-boar fettuccine bolognese, a whole beer-can yard bird.

Make no mistake: La Vista 101 is no La Vista update or makeover. It’s a new chapter for Gordon, who has dreamed of La Vista 101 for as long as he’s been cooking.

“I’ve put a team together evolving, creating something that I’ve believed in and wanted for 30 years,” he says.

Gordon has brought together chef J.D. Woodward of Rainbow Lodge, Underbelly, and Southern Goods; Morgan Mansur as spirits and cocktails curator; Jeb Stuart as general manager and wine program director; and Phil Randolph as business manager.

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“We built a home,” Gordon says. “I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant that I felt was the best that I could deliver. That’s what this location is … It’s kind of going back to basics, starting over. College theme, 101.”

Not to mention, Gordon signed the lease on his birthday, April 11 — the 101st day of every year. Except for leap years, of course. And he’ll see quite a few of those birthdays along the way: Gordon means business with this new 20-year lease.

“We’re the first people over here, the kind of restaurant we are. We’re the hip, cool, local spot I felt that this neighborhood needed,” he says.

As for the menu, Woodward comes packing experience and a flair for pickling, smoking, curing, and infusing. Diners can expect a few nods to Gordon’s past venture, but the menu will constantly evolve.

Bayou City-born and -bred, Woodward feels like he’s got the inside intel on what Houston foodies are looking for. “I’ve been eating in this town for 40 years,” the chef says. “I think that what we do here is special in Houston. Houston’s where I come from, so I don’t really have to reach. It’s just there. It’s comfort.”

He’s confident in La Vista 101’s lively cuisine — and La Vista visitors. “Because of the foodie movement, we’ve been able to push what we can put out. We’re not just a steakhouse town anymore,” Woodward says. “People are slowly starting to become more adventurous in the way that they eat. It’s exciting for us. It’s the best thing for us.”

This Ain’t No Pizza Hut

Gordon rolled out the red carpet, literally, with a soft opening on May 30. The entrance’s narrow red carpet is a permanent fixture, leading up from the doorway to a velvet rope. It’s one of the many tongue-in-cheek touches that give La Vista 101 its signature funky feel. Add to that two varieties of baroque wallpaper featuring skulls and fleur-de-lis.

It doesn’t stop there. The coat hangers are little hands doing the peace sign. When you get the bill, it’s a library card stamped overdue. And the menus are presented as confidential files. “It’s a great juxtaposition with how serious we are about food, service, and the product,” Woodward says.

It’s worth noting that the 3,000-square-foot space is a revamped Pizza Hut, with trapezoidal windows as kooky vestiges. Restaurant designer Carl Eaves transformed the space, putting in that macabre wallpaper, a cluster of orb-like light fixtures, and a mixture of tables and banquettes.

Even the restrooms play into the eclectic mix. The tops of the bathroom walls are lined with paperbacks. Don’t be surprised if you hear the dulcet tones of an audiobook pouring out from the restrooms’ specially fitted speakers. Currently, you can check out Donald Sutherland’s rendition of The Old Man and The Sea.

You could say this restaurant team is taking its liberties with La Vista 101’s decor and vibe. And they are. Gordon’s motto is clear-cut and memorable. “Risk it all,” he says. “It’s my tattoo, and it’s the sign above the door.”

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