Sparrow Cookshop in Houston, Texas

Monday, September 10, 2012

I often get asked how I find the places that I do. The majority of the time it really is just keeping my eyes open, and reading lots of publications. Then there are those times that I find something unexpectedly wonderful as I was looking at something else. You know what I mean, when one thing leads to another. Last month I reached out to a Houston-based clothing designer for an interview that I'm doing for Taigan. I was put in touch with the PR firm that handles the account. As any true Southerner, Stuart, one of the firm's owners, asked if I needed any recommendations while in the City for the interview. Absolutely. So during some downtime Chad & I checked out Sparrow, one of Stuart's recommended spots in Midtown.
S p a r r o w   B a r   +   C o o k s h o p
3 7 0 1   T r a v i s   S t r e e t   |   H o u s t o n
Before I delve into the food and design of Sparrow, I first want to introduce you to the lady behind the whole thing - Chef Monica Pope. An acclaimed Chef with mad style. A James Beard Award Nominee running her kitchen in a navy blue leather apron and matching brogues. She's interesting straight away, even if you didn't know about her culinary background as one of the pioneers of the 'eat where your food lives' concept in Houston. She's subtly cool, and very kind. 
Having read up on Pope's culinary approach and style, I had a certain expectation for her food. Fresh and inventive, yet simple. And in reality that's what it was. Uncomplicated food done really well. When you can create a dish made entirely of simple real ingredients, no fluff, I think that's what Chefs strive for. Sparrow's menu is original and you can tell that it's centered heavily on seasonal produce. The Thai-Style Mushroom Stroganoff, with squash and longbeans, was very satisfying to even a non-vegan such as myself. And from a glance at the tables around us, the Built Burgers were a hot item. As the names implies, you can build your burger from protein type to toppings. Chad got the longhorn burger on a sweet bun with hot dog onions. We both agreed that it was one of the tastiest burgers we'd ever had. And we're burger connoisseurs, so there's something to be said for that review.
The design of Sparrow mimics the food. Simple, original, with just a little of the unexpected. In talking with Pope, the space is a renovated landscape storefront. Glancing around you slowly begin to see that. The interior is industrious with exposed ceilings and wrought iron lighting. Minimal table tops with only a glass container to hold the test tubes of salt & pepper. It all comes across as effortless, with just the right amount of Texan flare. The waitstaff don leather aprons made by hand about an hour west of Houston in Sealy, Texas by Stash Co... the same folks who made her rockin' navy blue version. Appears Pope not only fancies local ingredients, but local design as well.
Houston friends, and those planning to be in Houston, stop in to Sparrow for something a little different and local. The spot is really close to the museums, so load up on a sweet bun burger before gazing up at all those dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural Science. Or hit up some of Chef Monica's recommended Must-See spots in town - the Art Car Museum, Beer Can House, Mexican Museum, or Presidents' Heads. For cocktails afterwards, she recommends Anvil, Cobra vs Mongoose, and 13 Celsius.
Thank you kindly to Stuart at Studio Communications for your recommendation and for arranging this tasting. And to Chef Monica, Shawn, Mitchell, and everyone else at Sparrow - thank you for your hospitality and gorgeous food. Although this was an arranged media visit, the opinions stated above are mine. 
Images, by Chad taken at Sparrow in Midtown Houston August 2012


  1. Besides taking with me a trusty binoculars for sightseeing galore, I never fail to also take pictures of the places as awesome as this one. How am I supposed to let these dishes just pass me by?


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