Jacob Pate plays around with global flavors – but don't call his food "fusion."
Coltivare's Ryan Pera is a semifinalist for Best Chef: Southwest.
Julie Rogers is one of a handful of Cicerones in Houston.
Agricole Hospitality is spreading its wings and finally flying to Montrose. Its new restaurant concept Night Heron is swooping into the old Lowbrow space at 1601 W Main. The new restaurant will make its debut in February, the same month the coastal birds come to nest in the ancient live oaks along nearby North and South boulevards.
Ryan Pera, Morgan Weber, and Vincent Huynh — partners of The Heights-based restaurant group behind Eight Row Flint, Revival Market and Coltivare, — were itching to develop their first project in the eclectic neighborhood.
Night Heron is their laid-back answer, with “good food and drinks in a casual, relaxed atmosphere,” Pera tells PaperCity. “It will speak to the neighborhood.”
He should know — Pera has lived in Montrose for the last 15 years.
It’s the right time “to create a new business that is embraced by the community,” he says. What does that look like? “Light, fun, breezy” in Pera’s estimation.
There’ll be an emphasis on small plates and shareables, light bites and updated “pub fare,” featuring flavors from around the world.
As for drinks, look for a beer program with five brews on draft, focused cocktails, and a 75-bottle wine list that’s not shy when it comes to by-the-glass offerings.
The Night Heron Flock
Pera’s putting it together with the help of two fresh-but-familiar faces from Coltivare: Jacob Pate and Julie Rogers. Birds of a feather flock together. The former line cook and bar manager/assistant general manager of the Italian restaurant, respectively, are ready for the next round.
“This is the first time for me as a business owner where I’m really able to give others great opportunities,” Pera says. “Having been a chef coming up the ranks, others have always given me the opportunity.”
The prospect of “giving Jacob and Julie opportunities, truly handing something off to someone else that they wouldn’t have been able to create entirely by themselves — it’s exciting,” Pera adds.
Pate’s taking on the role of executive chef. “I’m excited to be working with Ryan and Morgan again,” Pate tells PaperCity. He meshes particularly well with Agricole Hospitality’s aesthetic and style of restaurants. Most recently, Pate was the sous chef at Nobie’s.
“Nobie’s was a little more chef-driven than I’m going to shoot for with this. Night Heron’s more representative of my style,” Pate says.
That style is “a good mix of maybe traditional bar food, maybe unconventional bar food,” he laughs.
It’s sure to include the jerk chicken thighs he once made for his pop-up series at Eight Row Flint. Also on tap? Far-flung flavors from Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.
Pate’s interest in those culinary approaches dates way back. One, from childhood; another, from earlier in his career.
“My father likes spicy food, that’s kind of where I got the Caribbean interest from an early age,” he says.
Helping the team at Eatsie Boys set up shop in Montrose exposed him to new cuisine in more ways that one. Late night dinner trips to Chinatown “really opened the door to all different types of Asian cuisines,” Pate says.
But Pate doesn’t want to confine his creativity to two tastes.
“I don’t want to put it in the box of ‘fusion,’ ” he says. Flexibility in the kitchen is key. “One of my biggest goals is making it all work without it being specifically either of those cuisines.”
It’s more that he’ll use the spice profiles as a jumping off point.
You can also expect the linchpin of any successful bar menu: “a variety of fried, crispy things of all sorts.”
Full-size entrees will also be on the menu. “It’ll be a place where you can come and share things and enjoy the bar but can also stay for a meal,” Pate says.
The chef intends to have all menu items ready from the very beginning, no phasing in process necessary. Weekend brunch is in the works — a dreaded daytime event for many chefs. Pera prepped for the worst when he sat Pate down and told him Saturday and Sunday brunch was a must.
But Pate’s got a rare passion for the millennials’ lazy, mid-morning meal. “He said, ‘I love brunch!’ I thought, ‘I’ve hired the only chef in the United States who loves brunch,’ ” Pera says.
“Apparently, I’m someone alone with that. I’m a morning person,” Pate says.
So far, brunch is built on “diner-y items as well as some from the regular menu,” he adds.
Like the food menu, the beverage menu is in flux for now, says Rogers, Night Heron’s general manager. She’s collaborating with Pate to create some parallels between the menus.
“We really want to utilize some of the same ingredients,” Rogers tells PaperCity. “We both really enjoy fermentation and want to apply it to both food and beverages,” she says. That could range from bread to kimchi, and beyond.
“It’s exciting for me because I’m getting to create a space and share my personality. And crafting a big beer list is something I’m really excited about as well,” Rogers says. She’s one of a handful of Cicerones in Houston (the beer equivalent of a sommelier.)
Night Heron is launching the first beer-centric phase of her career. At the Italian-inspired Coltivare, there were no beers on draft.
Now, she’s stepping from Italy over into Belgium and wants to “feature as many stouts as possible.”
At Night Heron, “in a broader sense, there aren’t any limitations to what we can put on the menu,” Rogers says.
No matter which direction they take, they’ll stay true to the Agricole Hospitality way. “It’s implementing the garden as much as possible, using local purveyors, using local farmers,” Rogers says.
Even more than that, “it’s telling the Gulf Coast story.”