Depending on your point of view, the new Third Coast, born of the old restaurant Trevisio in the heart of the Texas Medical Center, has either the best or the worst “location, location, location” in all of Houston. It waits for hungry diners on the sixth floor of a medical building, with no sign I could spot on its tangle of nondescript streets, as surrounded by floor after floor of parking garage as Maleficent’s castle is with sharp thorns. For more than a dozen years, Trevisio defied the logic of “out of sight, out of mind.” With a new name, a new look and a new menu, it hopes to keep on defying that logic.
“We’re not trying to reinvent any wheel,” offers Executive Chef Jon Buchanan, an East Texas native who cut his culinary teeth with Robert Del Grande at the original Cafe Annie and spent five years helming the Daily Review Cafe. After a dozen years pleasing diners at Trevisio, Buchanan is one the few things the Gensler architects and designers who led the redo knew better than to mess with. “We call our style ‘Modern Houstonian.’ The menu represents Houston, the most ethnically diverse city in the country.”
Despite the challenges of access (the restaurant does validate parking in the garage), locals coming from River Oaks, West U or Tanglewood are not the primary target—unless, of course, they work in health care. With 120,000 employees, 60,000 medical and nursing students, and a full 10 million patient encounters each year, the Medical Center ought to be able to support some kind of nice restaurant all by itself.
The fact that Third Coast has five private dining rooms that can seat a total of 220 people doesn’t hurt either. Nor does the fact that its new approach to dining room decor reminds some Medical Center executives of an erector set—everything can be moved to suit whatever the next group with a budget might need. If hindsight is so often 20/20, the Medical Center and the Third Coast team have the advantage to address the future.
Trevisio was perhaps northern Italian to a fault, but Third Coast subtly lives its multiethnic Houston mantra. A few Gulf Coast, Texas, German-Czech and broadly American influences sneak into Buchanan’s solid training in the French classics, but so do influences from Asia, North Africa and Latin America. In keeping with the Medical Center’s larger commitment to health, there’s even a menu code that gives basic calorie count and designations for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free needs. The goal of satisfying diners with both medical issues and ethnic-religious dietary habits comes through loud and clear.