What happens when a bunch of Lake Highlands graduates in their mid-thirties return to the neighborhood after finishing college and traveling the world to settle down and raise families of their own?
They open Cedar & Vine.
Cedar & Vine Community Kitchen + Cocktails is in the space once occupied by Neighbors Casual Kitchen and Highlands Café at Walnut Hill and Audelia. I sat down for a chat with former Moss Haven classmates Brandon Carter and Jimmy Cannon – Carter is the numbers guy and Cannon handles staff – and with Scofield grad Sam Howard, the foodie. (LHHS 2002 grads Feild and Natalie Patten, owners of Patten Custom Homes and builders on the project, were with us in spirit.)
The guys say they know Lake Highlands is ready for something new, and they’re working hard to ensure loyal customers won’t tire of returning to C&V for repeat visits.
“There will always be something new to try,” says Howard. “We’re using a fresh fish wholesaler in Lake Highlands, and we’ll have rotating flatbreads, homemade pastas and other things on the menu that will keep people guessing. We’re not Seasons 52, but we will have seasonal ingredients, like this month’s butternut squash soup and peas and asparagus in the spring.”
Cocktails and beers will rotate, too, including infused liquors, drink specials and beers on tap.
“People our age are eating in all these restaurants in Uptown, downtown and Lower Greenville,” says Carter, “and they’re going to really cool bars and asking, ‘where is that around here?’ It just didn’t exist, so we created it.”
Friends their age also have kids, and Howard says dealing with “the kid issue” was something the group took seriously.
“We spent a lot of time talking about ‘What is kid-friendly?’ In order to be in this neighborhood we have to be kid-friendly, and we will be – we have a play area in the front and we’ll have a kid’s menu, high chairs and changing station. We want families to feel comfortable coming here, but we also want empty nesters in the neighborhood to feel just as comfortable coming for date night.”
“MiCocina at Lakewood is a great example,” agrees Carter. “At 5:15 the place is full of families. By 7:30 it transforms into a date night place. It’s a completely different vibe.”
“We also want to be a place people can stop off on their way home from dinner at another location,” says Cannon. “They can have dessert or one last drink close to home.”
It’s important to them, too, to give back.
“Since we’re all from here, we want to be a part of the community,” says Carter. “We plan to have Spirit Nights and events, similar to what Tom Goodale at Atomic Pie has done. In fact, we’ve spoken to him about partnerships, and we’re hoping to host a pre-party or post-party for [Exchange Club of Lake Highlands] Oktoberfest. We want to give back.”
When sitting down to formulate their plan, the group admits they reminisced a bit about their old haunts.
“I had my 12th birthday at Picasso’s,” recalls Cannon, clarifying that the Picasso’s of his youth was the restaurant’s original location, north of LBJ. The friends also frequented the original Chili’s on Greenville, Sweet Temptations, Tiger Bull’s, Joe Willy’s, Olympic Pizza, Mother Mesquite’s, Bobo China, Houston’s and Gershwin’s. They spent some time, too, at the recently shuttered Taco Bueno at Whitehurst and Skillman, “but more for the parking lot teen scene than for the food.”
I asked if the planned Lakeridge Village across Audelia will work for – or against them.
“You can’t eat at Cedar & Vine every day of the week,” says Cannon. “You need other options in the neighborhood, and the more business we can bring to the area, the better. We want to keep dollars in Lake Highlands. We want to get people who live outside of Lake Highlands coming in. We want to make Lake Highlands the dining scene. “
Cedar & Vine is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week in Lake Highlands Plaza, 9661 Audelia.