Sustainable Restaurants: Haven Houston

Looking for a sustainable restaurant in Houston? Haven is the place to go for farm-to-fork food that is imaginative, yet comforting.

Chef Randy Evans cannot evade the spotlight—he’s undeniably the brightest star on Houston’s dining scene. A native Texan, Evans first gained fame when he became the Executive Chef at beloved fine-dining institution Brennan’s. When he left to start his own restaurant in 2009, the anticipation was fierce.

Evans keeps the focus at Haven on the food. The place is farm-to-table restaurant, carefully cultivating direct relationships with local farmers. But it doesn’t trumpet every source in tongue-twisting menu items. Instead, local menu items are italicized, a subtle way of highlighting their provenance. The emphasis on local foods plays well with Evans’ interest in what he calls “New Texas” cuisine, drawing on traditional regional dishes from across the state and reinventing them with flair. You might find a Texas-Cajun dish of grits enriched with crescenza cheese and topped with veal grillades. Or green chile enchiladas, or fried chicken livers with sausage gravy and biscuits.

If you think of Texas as dry and dusty, Houston will surprise you. It’s hot, sure, but also humid, almost lushly so, thanks to its location on the Gulf of Mexico. That prime seaside spot also lets chef Evans play with a wide variety of seafood. The result? Dishes like his signature shrimp corn dogs with Tabasco mash remoulade. Evans is proud to offer a vegan appetizer (or “enticement”) and entrée every day at Haven—not something you might expect from a proud Texas dining establishment. But meat lovers will appreciate Haven, too. For them, a wild boar chili might hit the spot.

Haven cures their own meat for charcuterie, too. It’s hardly the only restaurant in the country or even the region to do so, but it’s often seen simply as a gourmet exercise. In fact, it’s an efficient way to use all of a butchered animal rather than just the prime cuts, making for significantly less food waste.

The building Haven occupies was built following sustainable construction principles under the supervision of Evans. The restaurant grows some of its own food in raised beds in the back yard and utilizes a kitchen compost system to feed the soil. As a result of all of its eco-friendly efforts, Haven was named one of the Top 5 Best New Sustainable Restaurants by The Daily Green, as well as being named one of the Best New Restaurants in America in 2010 by Esquire magazine.

Now that Haven has launched into smooth waters on the Houston dining scene, Evans seems happy and comfortable in his new role as chef-owner. But it turns out that getting to opening day was a study in stress versus dedication. Although the restaurant’s opening was delayed by several months, that was a minor hitch compared to some of the earlier challenges Evans faced. The chef told that Haven was on “location number five. We decided to buy [the] land instead of leasing. There was the hurricane [Hurricane Ike] and then the fire. [We went] 17 days without electricity in 2008.”  But it’s clear that he doesn’t carry any regrets. “The difficulties align with the biggest pay offs,” he says in the same interview. “The higher the risk, the higher the reward.”

editor’s note//Haven Houston is permanently closed.

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