Entrepreneur/chef Don Bowie has plans for expanding beyond his wildly popular Taste Bar + Kitchen in Midtown with a steakhouse on Washington. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
The fried lobster at Taste Bar + Kitchen, served with waffles or grits, has fans standing in line for up to three hours for a sampling of Chef Don Bowie's cuisine. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Taste Bar + Kitchen's fried chicken is among some of the best in the city. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Taste Bar + Kitchen Cinnamon Toast Waffle (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Taste Bar + Kitchen Fruity Pebble Waffle (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
(Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Taste Bar + Kitchen General Tso Chicken and Waffle (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Taste Bar + Kitchen Red Velvet Waffle (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
We pulled up to the unassuming house that is home to Taste Bar + Kitchen just before the doors opened for brunch on a Tuesday morning. Had we been here on Monday or over the weekend, we would have waited in line for three to four hours to sample Chef Don Bowie’s wildly popular brunch menu that is served all-day, every day.
Bowie’s innovative take on waffles — luscious hockey puck-sized treats with a host of accompaniments including the requisite fried chicken (delish) and innovations such as jerk chicken (spicy good), fried lobster (seriously) and more — has devotees from Sugar Land to Houston’s Third Ward, where his father owned a soul food cafe, worshipping at his upper Midtown kitchen.
The unique cocktail menu is an equal draw with such exotic offerings as Lavendar Blueberry Margarita, Jerk Paloma and Ginger Caipirinha.
The sophisticated comfort food menu counts among its fans Olympian Simone Biles along with stars from the Rockets and the Texans as well as a host of adventuresome diners.
A Chef’s Unexpected Journey
Born in the Third Ward, Bowie’s journey to chef/owner of a hugely successful restaurant and bar is as unexpected as one could get. With a degree in entrepreneurship from the University of Houston, the graduate’s career began at the famed, now departed Red Cat Jazz Cafe.
From there, Bowie moved to Atlanta working in the music industry and, he says, fine tuning his palette while publishing hit singles under Grammy Award-winning producer Bryan Michael Cox. Bowie worked on three consecutive seasons on MTV’s hit series Making the Band with Sean “Diddy” Combs. His life was rocking and rolling, but he wanted more.
“I decided I needed a back up plan so I got a degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta,” Bowie says.
That opened the doors to the culinary world that took him to consulting with and helping build restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and finally in returning to Houston to help Flower Child with its openings. And then it was time to launch a restaurant of his own.
“Houston responds well to comfort food, I said to myself. So I’m going to put together a menu with all the things that I’ve done in my past that people have loved,” Bowie says. “Put a little twist to some of it and open the doors.”
Since that opening in 2019, Taste Bar + Kitchen has become one of Houston’s must-visit hotspots filling the 120 seats in the two story house and patio day and night. While the restaurant bustles from the opening hour, things get rocking on the intimate second floor at 9:30 pm most nights when local musicians take over the tiny bandstand.
“I wanted to give some nightlife to the space. People like hanging out here,” Bowie says. “I’ve always been a big fan of live music so we created a live music program that is now five nights a week and will eventually probably get to seven nights a week.”
So popular is the music scene that weekend nights at Taste Bar + Kitchen booked from one to two weeks in advance.
By noon on this particular Tuesday, all seats were taken and tabletops overflowed with plates of Chef Bowie’s creations. Should you pay a visit, Bowie recommends you do as the regulars do. Order a number of dishes, sampling some of the eight “elevated” varieties of chicken and waffles, sampling from the seven varieties of sweet waffles and by all means sharing the beyond-delicious shrimp, lobster and grits dish.
You might want to save room for the deep-fried waffle bread pudding. Oh my.
Bowie is on a roll, planning to open a steakhouse at 4105 Washington Avenue the latter part of this month and plans are in the works for a Taste Bar + Kitchen in Sugar Land. The entrepreneur chef notes: “I hate to see people wait in line for three hours so I think that Sugar Land could take some of the heat off.”