Harold's Reborn in Foodie Triple Play

Heights General Store @ Harold's

Catherine D. Anspon  |  Photos by Chef Antoine Ware, owner/founder Alli Jarrett. Photo by Brent Bruni Comiskey., House specialty: South Carolina low-country style shrimp ‘n grits. Photo by Brent Bruni Comiskey., Vintage Chambers stove as floral station. Photo by Brent Bruni Comiskey.
December 16, 2013

We like to think the late Harold Wiesenthal would be happy that his retail empire, Harold’s in the Heights, has been reborn into what promises to be another hometown institution. But in lieu of dapper gent’s suits and ties, you’ve entered a foodie paradise, aka the kingdom of the Heights General Store. Owner/founder/Heights resident Alli Jarrett stocks the nearly 10,000 square-foot space with fresh, locally sourced produce and protein from small-batch family outfits such as Larry Bruce Gardens (source of some compelling pickles), Finck Cattle Company of Gonzales (we spied handsome chops in the cold case), Brazos Valley Cheese, Houston Dairymaids and Atkinson Farms (their plum jam is a winner). And that’s just the first floor, where the General Store holds court; downstairs also boasts a coffee and dessert bar (overseen with aplomb by in-house pastry-chef pair Dawn Paulson and Aaron Parson. Alongside the java and sweets, are tempting entrees including the popular wood-fired pizza, available to savor in a charming nook facing 19th Street or to tote home. For more formal dining, dinner is served on the second floor Monday through Saturday, and brunch on weekends, either alfresco on the roofed patio, or in an airy dining room whose walls are lined with salvaged wood from a cotton barn in South Carolina. Upstairs is the domain of chef Antoine Ware, who knows what he’s doing and likes to tell stories via food. The New Orleans native mines magic from his heritage, conjuring culinary odes to his mother’s cooking, seen in such signature dishes as the savory/sweet marriage in a basil bread pudding with tomato jam, topped by bacon candy and a side of arugula ice cream. This toque is also a master of South Carolina low-country classics such a grillades and grits (smothered pork with an indulgent side billed as “Mamma’s cheezie grits”). We’re won over by the ambiance — Jarrett melds her own South Carolina family history of a half-century in a small-town grocery supply biz with the colorful lore of Harold’s. Nodding to the building’s past, she’s worked with Wiesenthal’s son Michael Wiesenthal to install vintage photographs of Harold’s from back in the day to curate a shrine to late founding brothers Harold and Milton, while downstairs, a vintage Jarrett’s sign punctuates the cafe, alongside antique train depot benches from her hometown Kingstree, South Carolina. Best way to take in this new foodie haven? Happy hour, where from a second-floor perch, we recommend Harold’s Gibson, Milton’s Maker or, for something sans liquor, cold-brewed coffee served on tap, which taste like a cross between sarsaparilla and a dark ale. 350 W. 19th St., 713.360.6204; heightsgeneralstore.com.