James Beard Award nominee turns acclaimed Houston restaurant into grocery store in wake of coronavirus closures

HOUSTON – A James Beard Award nominated chef is reinventing his north Houston restaurant into a grocery store in the aftermath of closures due to coronavirus.

In 2018, Jonny Rhodes opened Restaurant Indigo in the Trinity Gardens neighborhood where he grew up.

Within just two years, the restaurant has earned national acclaim for its tasting menu, "neo-soul food" served with a history lessons from the chef on systematic oppression.

"It's been a great two years," Rhodes said.

When Harris County issued the “stay home, work safe” order, shutting down restaurants except for drive-through, pick-up or delivery, Rhodes had to rush plans for a grocery store that was already in the works.

"The grocery store was actually going to be opening up this fall anyway, so we're just way ahead of schedule, kind of a forced open, doing it in this space when we didn't originally plan to," he said.

On Wednesday, he is the proprietor of Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries, selling locally-sourced seafood and meats, produce, freshly baked bread and specialty condiments once served at Indigo.

So far, Rhodes said the shoppers are largely comprised of past customers of the restaurant and those who have heard of the Indigo, but couldn’t afford the $125 price tag, eager to try the unique, home-grown items.

Rhodes said his original reason for opening the grocery store was to provide healthier options for the community, where fresh foods are not easily found.

But some residents, walking by the restaurant-turned-grocery on the way to the convenience store it shares a space with, balked at the prices.

“I can’t pay $6 for a dozen eggs,” one woman told the chef, as he urged her to come inside.

Rhodes took the criticism in stride.

"We have had quite a few people from the community come in, slowly but surely. We're showing people that these things are available. The idea is for people to have access, now whether or not they choose to come and shop with us, that's up to them but the point is to create access," he said.

He hopes to eventually re-open Indigo and expand the grocery store to a separate storefront.

"We can sustain this as long as I have air in my lungs, we're going to keep fighting as long as we can," Rhodes said.

Broham Fine Soul Food and Groceries (formerly Indigo) is located at 517 Berry Road, Houston, Texas 77002. It is open Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.

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Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.