Restaurants / Openings

Houston Tech Hub’s Ambitious New Restaurant Pays Homage to Old Sears Stores — Your First Taste of Late August

Fried Bread to Swoon Over and So Much More

BY // 04.13.24

Long before the Internet came along, bringing with it the convenience of delivering nearly anything under the sun directly to your doorstep, there was the Sears Roebuck mail order catalog. The hefty tome, which in its heyday grew to more than 1,500 pages, was dropped in mailboxes annually in late August or early September. For more than 100 years, Americans in even the remotest rural towns could order nearly anything from its pages too.

Today one of Sears’ former brick-and-mortar stores in Houston — which like its catalog, proffered items as diverse as Kenmore appliances, Toughskins clothing for the kiddos and Craftsman tools — has been converted to The Ion District, a tech innovation hub on Main Street in Midtown. This is where chef Chris Williams’s new, long-awaited restaurant dubbed Late August pays homage to the utilitarian store that once stood on that very site.

The James Beard Award nominated chef and founder of the Lucille’s Hospitality Group, whose self-professed mission is “serving the past, feeding the future,” commits to that vision at Late August with the help of operating partner and executive chef Sergio Hidalgo, whose former post was at The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, working with his mentor Alex Padilla.

Late August Chef Sergio Hidalgo
Operating partner and executive chef Sergio Hidalgo helms the kitchen at Late August. (Photo by Rebekah Flores)

Late August’s intimate space conceptualized by Gin Design Group gives a nod to the circa 1970s architecture and design (as well as a wink to the original restaurants within those iconic Sears stores). That means cushy teal velour seating and natural blond wood banquettes backed by burnt orange corduroy upholstery.

The original terrazzo flooring remains throughout, including beneath a custom marble bar, while a commissioned piece from Houston artist and Hogan Brown Gallery curator Robert Hodge takes centerstage.

Late August
The striking marble-topped bar designed by Gin Design Group at the new restaurant, Late August at The Ion on Main Street. Photo by Leonid Furmansky.

Leaning on their individual cultural heritages and their inherent respect for the foodways that paved their way in the culinary world and beyond, this chef duo is elevating those humble ingredients found in Mexico and points throughout Africa and the American South to fine dining heights. Take, for instance, Late August’s field pea hummus ($15). This is a starter that balances the Southern staple of black-eyed peas, pureed and topped with chorizo sausage made in-house using rump roast and the richly flavored underbelly, with the added crunch of being topped with fried chapulines (grasshoppers).

Introducing Pêche

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By its side sits spears of warm, fried bread, made from the very same recipe Williams’s great grandmother Lucille B. Smith created a Texas legend from. This bread is credited, among other things, with popularizing the very first commercial boxed bread mix in America.

Striving to create a vertical ecosystem within the Lucille’s Hospitality Group and its charitable arm (the latter which was launched to combat food insecurity and waste), the majority of the produce at Late August is culled from Lucille’s 1913 Community Gardens. A vibrant example utilizing the bounty grown within their farming community in Kendleton, Texas is the orecchiette pasta ($23), a brightly flavored (and vividly colored) vegan dish made with a pesto-like blend of mustard and collard greens, kale, spinach, cilantro, mint and parsley, all enriched with coconut milk before the little “ears” of pasta are topped with a quenelle of pistachio vegan cheese.

Late August food
Late August centers around dishes composed of ingredients that blend the cultures of Mexico and Africa. (Photo by Rebekah Flores)

The Late August menu features dishes that are meant to be placed in the center of the table and shared amongst diners like a trio of Frenched chicken drummettes ($12) that have been smoked, fried and bathed in a mole poblano sauce topped with the crunch of toasted pepita seeds and crispy chicken skin cracklings. Whether you come for lunch and dinner be sure to order the LA BBQ seafood dish, a platter of seasonal seafood (it was octopus and jumbo Gulf shrimp on my visit). This special dish is inspired by the New Orleans dish of sauteed shrimp and done with a garlic-scented, Worcestershire-spiked butter sauce, ladled upon that aforementioned fry bread ($25).

As for your libations, general manager, Danny Davis has that covered. Davis just happens to be a level three sommelier and has written the thoughtful bourbon and mezcal-driven cocktail menu and a wine list that focuses on small vineyards owned by black, brown and female winemakers, playing up both obscure grapes and the wine regions they’re grown in. And for those who care not to imbibe, there are a handful of zero-proof possibilities that might just make you swear off the hard stuff.

Late August is located in The Ion at 4201 Main Street, Suite 120. It is open from 11 am to 9 pm Mondays through Fridays and 5 pm to 9 pm on Saturdays. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.

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