Taste Bar + Kitchen is bringing the waffles. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
The cocktail program will be sweet as it gets. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
You can expect both sweet and savory dishes. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Did you know you could sip on peach cobbler? (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Mini Belgian-style is the way to go. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
The menu goes beyond waffles, like jerk lamb chops, shrimp and grits and smoked Gouda mac and cheese. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
The cocktails are a big part of the equation. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Shrimp and grits is its own kind of staple. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
Fried chicken is great with waffles or fries, your pick. (Photo by Jeremiah Jones)
What do General Tso’s chicken, chicken-fried lobster, pecan pralines and Fruity Pebbles have in common? They’re all foods, yes, but it’s quite the unlikely crew.
Think again. Out of guesses?
They’re all waffle styles at the upcoming Taste Bar + Kitchen, the new spot taking over the historic Sterling House, a historic 113-year-old building in Midtown Houston. And chef Don Bowie plans to make waffle history, making the most of a treasured American mainstay.
The native Houstonian has traveled the country and the world through his culinary quests, and decided it was time to come back to Space City — and bring those adventures with him.
Get ready for a Taste this spring.
“It always came back to wanting to come back to Houston. It’s where my family’s from, it’s where my friends are. It’s always been that cultural melting pot of great restaurants and great going-out experiences,” Bowie tells PaperCity.
“And I felt like man, I really need to go and make some roots in the city I was from.”
Bowie plans to make lasting roots with his elevated take on the traditional breakfast food.
“We wanted to take all of those cultures and incorporate them into an American staple in our spot here in Texas,” Bowie says. “It didn’t matter what city I was in, LA, New York — people always liked chicken and waffles. I just wanted to take it to another level.”
Expect mini Belgian-style waffles, all the better for sharing, or even eating with your hands.
So far, there are six to eight savory waffle and sweet waffle dishes, including General Tso’s Chicken and waffles, chicken fried lobster and waffles, spiced butter pecan waffles and banana nut waffles.
There are also some exceptions for the less brunch-minded, like mac and cheese and jerk lamb chops.
“The menu’s going to be forever-changing. With a name like ‘Taste,’ it really gives me the energy and the push to continually push the envelope,” Bowie says. Other plans call for a hamburger waffle with meat and cheese cooked into the batter.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a situation where we’re going to stop getting creative and getting inspired and keep adding flavors,” the chef adds.
The whip-filled pecan praline is Bowie’s personal favorite, with just enough sweetness that you don’t need syrup and just the right crispiness.
Drink Your Dessert
That’s not to say you can’t come in for your good old classic chicken and waffles. There’ll be classic desserts on tap, too — seriously. You’re going to have to drink them.
Dessert cocktails are set to satisfy your sweet tooth, with flavors like Vodka Peach Cobbler, Bourbon Pecan Pie and Vodka Cotton Candy.
The chef promises these boozy beverages go beyond simply dessert-influenced.
“I want a great dessert-inspired cocktail, but I want it to taste like peach cobbler. I want people to try it and say it tastes exactly like peach cobbler. I want the taste to be exactly what we say it is,” Bowie says.
He’s getting daring, too, contemplating a bread pudding cocktail. “I’ve had a little too much fun sampling and tasting the menu,” he laughs.
Bowie hopes Houston diners take that try-anything approach to the range of dishes.
“I want it to be the place with a menu that whether it’s people’s first time or tenth time, they have trouble deciding what they want because the options are so creative,” Bowie says.
The Chef envisions a restaurant and bar with broad appeal, whether it’s beckoning customers coming by after work, ones that live in walking distance or a couple venturing out on a date night.
“We want it to be everybody’s neighborhood restaurant and bar. It’s the neighborhood restaurant and bar for anyone and everyone inside and outside of the city,” Bowie says. “The thing I want people walking out of here thinking is everybody’s equally important. Everybody’s a VIP.”
Foodies can tailor their own VIP experience at Taste Bar, thanks to three separate areas with three distinct vibes.
“We’ve designed the spot depending on the mood you’re in,” Bowie says. “The outside with the patio is for a social environment, light bites. Downstairs is a bistro with a kind of open-kitchen format and bar.
“Or come upstairs, it’ll be a little more lively. We’ll have DJs, live music, and we’ll have a larger bar.”
Live music will start off as a weekend-only experience, but who knows? It could go up to five, seven days a week.
“There will be different styles, different genres,” Bowie says. “It could be jazz, country, anything. Houston’s so diverse, the music program’s got to be diverse, too.”
It’s all part of his master plan for Taste Bar + Kitchen. “I know what I want it to be. I know people call it a brunch-theme menu, people call it a chicken and waffle menu. I want it to be one of the best,” Bowie notes.
“I don’t care if I’m serving chicken and waffles or fries and chicken nuggets, I still want it to be one of the most sought-after and best restaurants in the city.”
This chef may be into waffles, but he’s definitely not waffling with this decision.