Houston offers some interesting dining experiences. In fact, food critics across the nation are beginning to define the city as a dining destination, helping promote Houston’s fast-growing “foodie tourism.”
In a city boiling over with culinary choices, one would think the most creative might be in Montrose or Downtown. Some are, but one of the coolest operates in a building shared by a Shell gas station on a dicey corner in the Heights. Sitting on the cutting edge of all things culinary, the Kipper Club Test Kitchen occupies a space that previously housed “Tippy’s Soul Food, Fried Chicken & More,” on Yale St. at Crosstimbers Ave. It is identified only by a small sign in a window, and nothing more.
“Originally, we thought we would be trying recipes for our new restaurants there, and serving only our friends and others in the industry. It was a test kitchen for us. Then, when we opened it to the public in September of last year, the response was so great we just kept doing it,” said Kipper Club Manager, Dave Mayes.
The Kipper Club has taken pop-up meals to a new level. Some of the meals feature up-and-coming local chefs. Some are the work of high-profile talent from places such as Charleston or New Orleans. The only common denominator is creativity. One event was dedicated to Scottish poet Robert Burns, and the chefs prepared their own rendition of haggis, or sheep’s pluck, (which guests actually ate and enjoyed, Mayes said). Recently, several local chefs teamed up to serve a Seder feast including boiled eggs, lamb and schmaltz-whipped duchess potatoes.
“We’ve recognized an opportunity to create a space that sheds light on the next generation of culinary talent in Houston–the people who are going to push food forward in the years ahead. It gives these chefs an opportunity to get valuable feedback, as well as recognition from the public. The Kipper Club Test Kitchen has become a kind of showcase for future talent,” said Mayes.
“The club is so much fun. We normally seat about 40 people at a large, communal table. Guests are nearly sitting in the kitchen with the chefs while they prepare. Most of the meals are three to six or seven courses, and the chefs are available to answer questions. People seem to really enjoy it,” said Jennifer Wright, Public Relations Manager for Treadsack.
Prices for each meal vary, but guests can expect to pay between $65 and $120 per person, normally including complimentary alcohol. There are two seatings per night, sometimes more for brunches, and the price includes another cool complimentary feature – a shuttle bus from the Treadsack offices at 18th St. and N. Shepherd Dr.
“I have only been to the Kipper Club once, but it was a true experience,” said Eva Kelly, a well-regarded, well-traveled, local foodie. Kelly says she is so into food, she is currently planning a trip to “eat her away across Vietnam.”
“The entire Kipper Club event was edgy and cool. The food was unique and great, but my favorite part may have been the shuttle to a gas station. Altogether, it was an adventure from start to finish,” Kelly said.
So what is a “Treadsack” you may be asking? Treadsack is a Heights-based restaurant group that includes Down House, D&T Drive Inn, and publishes Sugar and Rice magazine. Additionally, the group is opening three new Heights restaurants in May: Hunky Dory at 719 W. 18th St.; Bernadines’s at the same address, and Foreign Correspondents at 4721 N. Main St.
With the opening of Treadsack’s new restaurants, will the Kipper Club Test Kitchen have exceeded its life expectancy? “We’re not sure,” said Mayes. “We have been flexible about the club since the first day it opened. I suspect we will retain it in some capacity. We’ll just have to see.”