Foodie Events / Restaurants

Storied Houston Restaurant Shakes Up Dining Scene With a Throwback Transformation

Prime Rib, Anyone?

BY // 10.25.17

Houston’s iconic Cafe Annie, pleasing palates for close to 40 years, is advancing with the times, taking yet another culinary turn and making a striking space change that we wager will have foodies and social butterflies flocking. Hello, Prime Room, a new downstairs dining concept reminiscent of the sleek bar at the previous Cafe Annie that was, for a decade or more, the cozy stronghold of the social set.

On the second level of the Post Oak Boulevard restaurant, chef Robert Del Grande and his team have taken the larger dining space at the back and converted it into an event venue, while the resulting more intimate dining space adjacent to the bar has been christened Annie Hall.

Del Grande is also once again renaming the revered restaurant. While everyone will surely continue calling it Cafe Annie, the expanded branding is Cafe Annie: Wood Grilled Steaks & Oyster Bar, a reflection to the tweaked menu focus. The new appellation is already on the menu and a new sign will be up by mid-November. That will coincide with moving the front door to the right to accommodate the more intimate feel of the Prime Room. While you can visit the Prime Room, the space will not be hosting customers until the new door is installed, a project delayed by Hurricane Harvey.

“I like the idea of going forward by kind of going backward,” Del Grande tells PaperCity, “by tapping into some of those older timeless sort of things.” That would be dishes like prime rib (thus the name of the first floor space), shrimp cocktails and oysters on the half shell. He acknowledges his affection for timeless things.

Looking over the first floor dining area, Del Grande says, “It’s marvelous how those banquettes (from upstairs) fit. Everything just sort of lined up. It had this closer, sort of clubby feel. And from that starting point I said, ‘This is the kind  of place you do prime rib in. Thirty seats and that’s it.’ ”

The focus downstairs will be on the beefy entree (his sellout dinner for New Year’s eve for decades) and a revolving prix-fixe menu. “In the summer, maybe we’ll do fried chicken,” he says, “with the whole bone in, the old fashioned way. It’s something that we’ve done for years. It’s on the menu in the bar now. Everybody loves fried chicken but nobody does it at home anymore.”

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Overall, the menu is adjusting to what Del Grande sees as the cognoscenti’s changing tastes such as saluting the popularity of wood-grilled steaks There are seven on the new Annie Hall menu. But devotees need not fret as Del Grande is maintaining his long-time favorites including the Gulf crab tostadas, tortilla soup, mushroom soup and wood-grilled quail.

“Since the beginning Cafe Annie has strived to be a restaurant with a sense of place – where you know and feel like you’re in Houston and nowhere else,” Del Grande added in a statement. “While Cafe Annie can rival any steakhouse in terms of quality of beef and cooking methods, the other signature dishes make Cafe Annie stylish, unique, and local.”

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