"It’s like we’re getting the band back together,” said Shepard Ross when describing the opening of Brooklyn Athletic Club which reunites him with his chef friend Jeff Axline. Their collective history includes Glass Wall, which Ross owns, and BRC Gastropub, another Ross collaboration which starred Axline as opening chef in 2010.
After leaving the band for a spell to work in Austin, Axline is back at the stoves for Ross’ next big gig, the splashy social house called Brooklyn Athletic Club in Montrose.
But don’t expect a greatest hits effort. Look for pair to deliver some new chart-toppers for this clever venture that features a snug, full-service dining room called the Clubhouse and its expansive patio and “BAC Yard” where competitive types can let off some steam — think bocce, horseshoes, croquet, golf putting — and nosh on casual fare such as burgers, brats, fish tacos and hand-cut french fries from the house’s own food truck.
Ross has put all his restaurateur know-how into BAC, housed in the former Zimm’s Little Deck space at 601 Richmond. Just as important as the menu, though, is fostering an enduring relationship with diners. “I want to build a bridge of trust. I want them to keep crossing that bridge again and again,” Ross said. “What is the biggest thing they crave? They want to belong.”
To that end, Ross wants guests to feel that this Club is their club. The restaurant gets its name and inspiration from the neighborhood social dining clubs that Ross’ grandparents used to frequent in their native Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Clubhouse food, too, is a valentine to the classics from the Italian (pappardelle and meatballs) and Jewish (house-cured corned beef Reuben sandwich) playlist of New York dining. The menu will feature about 14 items augmented by a list of daily specials also will feature a catch-of-the-day, steak, pasta and a market salad.
Foodies who missed Axline’s culinary thrills will be happy to know that the intimacy of the dining room (about 45 seats) ensures that he’ll be interacting with practically every customer.
For Axline, the new restaurant marks a homecoming: “It’s good to be back home — back with friends,” he said. “Being back with Shepard is like a comfort zone. I’m back in it.”
Things you might not know about Axline:
- "I love Houston steakhouses. Specifically, a medium-rare ribeye at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. I think they have some of the best steaks in town, and their service is great."
- I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I’m into “Homeland.” That’s my guilty pleasure.
- Olivette at the Houstonian Hotel is still Houston’s best-kept secret: Excellent service, food is second to none, drinks in the cozy bar, and stroll after dinner through the hotel’s meadow — an excellent way to finish the evening.
- My favorite neighborhood is the international district in Bellaire. I love to spend time in the markets and pick out something I’ve never seen or tasted before. The markets and groceries there have such amazing things.
- When I’m not at work I love running. Memorial Park is always a good place to clear the mind. Half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks are my favorite running events.
- I enjoy a nice pair of American Levi’s. I like boots and jeans; or shorts and flip-flops. I like to wear what’s comfortable. Labels come a distant second.
- My favorite Houston landmark is Reliant Stadium — Houston Texans football live and in person at Reliant. I love those Texans games, and I’m going to love those playoff games this year.
Brooklyn Athletic Club: 601 Richmond, 713-527-4440