Never let it be said that Jonathan Levine doesn’t know how to celebrate his birthday. One week after turning 65, the chef-owner of Jonathan’s the Rub will throw open the doors to his second location in the Memorial Green development on October 4.
Over a year in the making, the new Jonathan’s offers many of the dishes found at the Hedwig Village original location in a stylish new setting. The new location also features an expanded beverage program with a wine list created by consultant Shepard Ross (Pax Americana, Glass Wall, etc.), and, for the first time, a full set of spirits with cocktails created by bartender Linda Salinas (Hungry’s, Julep, etc.).
“We have two discernibly different restaurants,” Levine tells CultureMap. “We have one that’s a neighborhood place that people come with bottles from their wine cellars.”
Later, he adds “Noticing the demographics coming here for Dish Society, seems like a little different animal. We think it’ll be a little younger here. We’ve catered to baby boomers. Now we’re going to a younger generation and millennials who will be our base. It’s a different world.”
Those differences become apparent the moment customers enter the restaurant. Whereas the original location evolved over time from a catering business with a couple of tables into taking over its small shopping center, the new Jonathan’s is purpose-built in the heart of a luxury project from development firm Midway. Taking its inspiration from Jonathan’s status as a family-owned business, architecture and design firm Gensler created a space inspired by a home — well, a home that can seat approximately 230 people inside and out.
Have cocktails in “the den,” which features a marble-topped, 10-seat bar. From there, patrons may choose to dine in the more formal “living room,” which features butcher block tables, or the “sun room,” with large windows that let in lots of natural light. “The study” serves as a 24-seat private dining room complete with multimedia capabilities that should make it a popular place for corporate meetings with businesses in the nearby Energy Corridor.
Turning to the menu, Levine worked with executive chef Eric Laird (Liberty Kitchen, Ritual) to craft a wide array of options that blends the original location’s most popular dishes with new arrivals designed specifically for the second restaurant. At a time when trendy restaurants might only have 20 items on the menu, Levine is going the other way.
“I’m not interested in a small menu,” he says. “You see the fire in the guys when there’s so many things to learn. They love it. How would you feel cooking eight things over and over? It just doesn’t work for me.”
Regulars will appreciate that favorites like the lobster tacos, dumplings, Hill Country chicken and shrimp, and veal chop marsala are all present and accounted for. Jonathan’s has always served steak and chops, but the new restaurant features an expanded selection sourced from renowned purveyor Meats by Linz. Carnivores will want to sink their teeth into the new veal chop (pictured above) as well as a bone-in ribeye, strip, or filet.
Levine’s trips to Mexico show up in the chicken mole poblano and a tostada topped with mixed-fish ceviche. Tamales will appear on the happy hour menu.
“Sam [Levine’s son] and I went to Merida, Mexico [to learn from] a ceviche guru who taught me eight ceviches in three days,” the chef says. “We ended up with eight great ceviches. Some are fish, some are vegetable. Some are mixed.”
The family feel comes from more than the restaurant’s look. Levine’s daughter Jessica will serve as the new restaurant’s general manager, and Sam will remain with the original location.
“When I met the waitstaff, I said ‘this is not a corporate joint with tiers and tiers of management,’” Levine recalls. “‘We’re family. We’re going to work it out and take care of each other for a common cause.’”
Putting his kids in charge and hiring Laird to run the kitchen represents the closest Levine will come to stepping back from his day-to-day responsibilities of cooking on the line. He’s more of a culinary director now, responsible for developing ideas and ensuring his standards are maintained at both locations — and of thinking about the next restaurant.
Wait, what? This one isn't even open yet.
“We have a couple of things we’re plotting,” he says.