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Innovative Dining in Downtown Houston

Visionary real estate developer Jonathan Enav is cornering the market in downtown Houston

What began with a stroll through Tel Aviv’s lively, sprawling Sarona Market on real estate developer Jonathan Enav’s vacation a few years ago is transforming an entire city block in the Houston Theatre District into a culinary mecca. “My wife [Noa] said she wanted to come back every day,” he says. “She asked ‘why can’t you build one of these in Houston,’ and I didn’t have a good reason why not.”

That’s when Enav, a Harvard Business School graduate whose family has held real estate in Houston since the 1980s, started reimagining the boundaries of one property in the heart of downtown to fill a void with his soon-to-launch Lyric Market—a 31,000-square-foot chef-driven culinary marketplace at Smith and Prairie Streets. “A big bazaar is kind of missing in the States, and this can be one of the most visited places,” he says. “The food is slightly selfish… I have an office in the building, and we go to the Alley Theatre and ballet a lot, but we were always starved for places to dine because everything shuts down before the shows even end.”

By June 2015, Enav had a team of notable architects, including James Beard Award-winning designer Jimi Yui of YuiDesign, in place to create the $58-million glass-enclosed project from the ground up—complete with an 800-spot parking garage and the same LED technology as the Empire State Building so the entire structure changes color. “I worked really hard to make it not look like a parking garage,” he says. To help traffic flow and “activate” its sidewalk, Lyric Market purchased a lane of traffic from City of Houston.

As for what’s inside, Enav tapped Houston restaurant group Clark Cooper Concepts (known for local favorites Brasserie 19, Ibiza Food & Wine Bar and Coppa Osteria) to recruit the roster of restaurants and shops, which includes its own cocktail and tapas bar. “The bar is right in the middle, and the design circles around that,” Enav says, “so you get a feel for night during the day.” Visitors will also get to taste the world when they step into the market—think New York City pizza and German kolaches, plus local barbecue, tacos and a steakhouse. The crown jewel is the rooftop terrace with a pop-up stage for live music and fire pits while the basement is home to a hidden speakeasy inspired by a Tel Aviv hotspot with world-renowned mixologists, and every mix is made by hand. “We like people who have a great story, and some are local, some are not,” he says, adding that there’s also an oyster bar, a ramen house, a burger joint a patisserie with bread and macarons and retailers with fresh produce, specialty vinegars, oils, spices, sliced cheese and meats to take home by the pound. Not unlike the feeling he and his wife felt back in Sarona Market, Enav wants his grand new market to be “a destination, not just an item of convenience,” he says. “The emphasis is on the experience.”

Main photo courtesy of Neezo Studios