Located a few hundred yards east of where bustling Kirby Drive meets the fast and furious Southwest Freeway, Haven Restaurant might seem to be last place one would look to find a restaurant dedicated so strongly to rural Texas and nature in its purest forms.
But Chef Randy Evans’ green-inspired restaurant at 2502 Algerian Way first opened with the claim it had Lone Star State roots, the statement was a literal one. A lot of those roots are in the spacious organic garden outside the restaurant where a lot of the produce and herbs used in the kitchen’s acclaimed dishes comes from. There are the honeybees producing honey in the stacked hive not far from the main entry. The beekeeper hired to oversee the production helps cultivate the honey by advising on the kinds of plants to grow from which the bees will collect their pollen.
What the restaurant does not produce itself is meticulously sourced from Texas farmers, boatmen, ranchers and artisans so that its cheeses, meats, seafood, eggs and vegetables all have a claim to the state. The menu proudly lists more than a dozen Texas sources for its carefully selected purchases.
Haven's menu is described as Modern Texas Cuisine but the key word there is neither Texas nor cuisine. Modern is what encapsulates the inspiration behind the myriad of dishes that seem to have an international representation. Chef Evans looked at Texas as it is today, and when he went about developing a menu to represent that, in came the rich ethnic contributions of the state's Vietnamese, Mexican, Acadian, German, Czech and Polish communities.
The menu is also a geography lesson of the Lone Star State. There’s Wild Head-on Shrimp from the Gulf and Wild Boar from Ingram, Pork Chops from Cypress and Artisan Cheeses from Waco. There’s coveted Akaushi Beef from the fields outside Yoakum, dairy products from Dublin, organic produce from the Rio Grande Valley, olive oil from Dripping Springs in the Hill Country, eggs from pastured chickens in Weimer and chevre from goats herding free near Bryan-College Station. If you want to know where the ingredients in your dish come from, just check the map of the Gulf Coast hung near the entrance, with all the farms and ranches marked.
In all of this, Chef Evans has met his goal since opening in 2009 of creating a showplace to highlight the great work of farmers, ranchers, boatmen and artisans throughout the state.
Haven also presents an attractive beverage option as well. It has a creative menu of drinks from its full-service bar and an admirable wine list including, naturally, many Texas wines, including organic. There is a tempting bar menu, to boot.
Haven’s structure was built from the ground up to incorporate as many eco-conscious concepts as possible in everything from construction materials and design to everyday operations – such as the rainwater collection system that waters the garden plants and the unique air conditioning ductwork in the dining rooms. It was Evans who insisted the entire project and the business operation going forward have a minimal impact on the environment. Haven is certified by the Green Restaurant Association.
Among things guests might glance at if they can take their attention from the food are the decorative patio screens made from reclaimed cedar, the concrete floors embedded with leaves or, just visible through the open kitchen, refrigerator units purchased with dents and scratches. All add to the efforts to be both resourceful and salvage what would be environmentally harmful discards.
And what would a place so attuned to nature be without a patio? It wouldn’t be Haven. The restaurant boasts an extensive covered patio with overhead fans facing the shade tree-lined street.
It all makes it harder to believe that just beyond the trees are one of Houston’s busiest freeways and heaviest traveled streets. But then sometimes a restaurant’s name is totally fitting.
In 2010, Haven was selected one of the “Top 20 Best New Restaurants in the Nation” by Esquire and “Best New Restaurant in Houston” at the Houston Culinary Awards. In 2011, it was Texas Monthly’s “Second Best New Restaurant in Texas,” and one of Southern Living’s “5 Best New Restaurants in the South,” among other accolades,
Haven is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Haven is open for brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information or reservations, call 713-581-6101.