When Treadsack CEO Chris Cusack and business partner Joey Treadway were looking for locations for their first restaurant, Down House, the Houston Heights wasn’t their only option. But having grown up there, Cusack found it to be an easier choice. The neighborhood’s community feel aligned with the company’s values and, at the time, the neighborhood was underserved. Fast forward to 2016 and Cusack and the Treadsack team have added D&T Drive-Inn, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Hunky Dory, Foreign Correspondents and Bernadine’s – the last four all in 2015 – to their Heights food and drink establishments.
Now Cusack, Treadway, and Treadsack’s bar director Leslie Ross, are gearing up to open Canard, Ross’s bar, next door to Foreign Correspondents. The group is also thinking about reviving its Kipper Club pop-up dinners, which Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook, named among the best restaurants in 2014.
We talked to Cusack about his favorite places in the Houston Heights, the neighborhood he grew up in and home to Treadsack and its bars and restaurants.
What makes the Heights so unique?
The Heights was founded as an independent town and even though that was 130 plus years ago you still get that community feeling in the Heights and I think that’s one of the things that fundamentally makes it special.
Where would you take someone for breakfast?
Well, I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest Down House. To me it’s the preeminent breakfast place in the neighborhood. I think it’s a great spot. I think Revival Market on White Oak is a great option for breakfast and coffee as well. Those are my two musts as far as that earlier portion of the day goes.
Are there other good coffee spots aside from Revival?
We don’t have a ton of coffee shops. I will say that there is a newish, or a newly remodeled, coffee shop on 11th Street called A Second Cup that has a really cool charitable component to it – they fight sex trafficking. I think that’s a great thing to be doing in the neighborhood. And Boomtown Coffee on 19th Street.
Good Dog over on Studewood, those guys are good friends of ours. It’s a good place to go for lunch. If you’re looking for something a little bit more adventurous, I definitely can recommend Foreign Correspondents, which is one of my favorite places to go for lunch nowadays. It’s in the East Sunset Heights part of the Heights on North Main.
Where would you go for an afternoon snack or dessert?
Boy, I would say Antidote also on Studemont. It’s a coffee shop but for me it’s not just the place where you go get coffee, it’s a great place to hang out. They have sandwiches and snacks, and it’s a great place to meet, and they have beer and wine and desserts that you can get. The feeling of this place I think is really essential to the Heights.
Dinner? I’m sure this one’s hard because there are so many places.
Yeah and it really is funny because not many years ago, there weren’t, so it’s a cool problem to have. Obviously, I’m going to suggest Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory Tavern as two of our places that I love having dinner at and the neighborhood does as well. Coltivare is great over on White Oak. You know what I also like? There are some people who are Heights purists and they have a very strict definition of the Heights and I generally am one of them. I don’t consider Washington the Heights, for example, but I do consider the East Sunset Heights area part of the Heights. So I would add also Teotihuacán as a place that I love to go and get margaritas and fajitas.
Johnny’s Gold Brick, on Yale and Aurora, I would argue is the best and only cocktail bar in the Heights as far as that definition goes. It’s a neighborhood cocktail bar. It’s very easy to go to, plus you can get a beer or a whiskey and coke, or something like that, but we do have incredible cocktails as well. On top of that there’s also Eight Row Flint, which just opened on 11th and Yale. They call themselves an icehouse but they do have a full liquor license and have great cocktails.
Wine and Beer …
The wine selection at the pub at Hunky Dory, I don’t think there’s a question about it, I think it’s the best wine selection at least in the Heights area. We have a great pub area that’s separate from the dining room and you get in and out; you don’t need reservations for that. Beer, obviously I’m going to suggest D&T Drive Inn on Enid and Cavalcade. They have 50 beers on tap; it’s the biggest beer selection in the area. There are a couple of little things that are subsections of the nightlife, bars in the area that are worth a look that are the classic bars of the Heights and that I just absolutely love. Those are places like Alice’s Tall Texan, which is small little place also on North Main and they do these big schooners of beer for under $2. It’s been around forever and it’s just a really cool, classic Heights place. Also the Rose Garden, (2621 Link Rd) which is on East Sunset Heights, small, little, very neighborhood-y, a little bit older, but it’s a very cool place to hang out in the afternoon. They’ll have free food and hot dogs and just a really good vibe out there.
What else should people make sure to see?
I really love that they made the Heights Boulevard median this really nice walkable, joggable, bikeable path. Our office right now is on Heights Boulevard, so we’ll often do walking meetings up and down Heights Boulevard. I go jogging on it regularly and that’s a cool feature of the neighborhood. You know the 19th Street Shopping District, when we got here a few years ago, just wasn’t that much to get excited about with all respect to the people who have been there for a long time doing their thing. It just wasn’t all that, it wasn’t drawing that much of a crowd but in the last few years, you’ve got Big Blue Whale, which is a really cool kids gift, toy shop on 19th Street, and you’ve got Vinal Edge. It’s a great record store, and not just for the Heights, it’s one of the best record stores in Houston, easily. And they just moved Fly High Little Bunny from its previous location that had been for at least 20 years. I remember driving by it as a kid and now it’s over on 19th Street as well. It’s a cool little gift shop, jewelry and stuff like that.