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Restaurant Talk: Staying Open During an Unprecedented Storm

One Houston restaurateur's tale of coping during Harvey
Photo by: Alli Jarrett
A crowd gathers at Harold's to monitor the storm on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Emma Balter
Posted: August 31, 2017

Four years ago, Alli Jarrett opened Harold's Restaurant & Tap Room in Houston's Heights neighborhood, an elevated section of the Texas city. "It was called that because when Downtown flooded, people moved to the higher ground," Jarrett said. True to its history, the Heights has mostly been spared from the high-impact damage that Tropical Storm Harvey has wrought on surrounding areas. Harold's has sustained a couple leaks and was able to maintain power; likewise, Jarrett's home, though leaky, only has a flooded garage. Just before opening on Wednesday morning, Jarrett spoke with assistant editor Emma Balter about using their more-fortunate circumstance to try to serve the community as best they can.

Wine Spectator: How have the last few days been for you?
Alli Jarrett: Obviously we were closed all day on Sunday. I was pretty much trapped in my home, surrounded by water. At that point we were just trying to make sure the staff was okay.

On Monday, the roads cleared up enough for me [and my chef Antoine Ware] to get here. I don't live very far. In addition to the restaurant, we have Harold's Tap Room, and we have a pizza oven down there. We were going to make pizzas, try to get them to some first responders, and then to those who just needed something to eat, because a lot of people lost power.

It was unreal the amount of people that came in. The community was just so grateful to have a place to go, and through any struggles that they were having, they were just so happy to be out and to have some sense of normalcy. People have enjoyed having some adult beverages, whether it's beer, wine or spirits.

[Tuesday] we opened with a very skeleton crew. We were able to get two cooks in, a dishwasher, a server, [and] we had a volunteer host. It was hour by hour, and "sorry, we're out of French fries," "sorry, we're out of cheese."

We do business with 17 local farmers, so they have not been able to deliver, and then the larger companies have not been able to deliver. We'll be open through the afternoon today, as we run out of food. We're supposed to get some cheese, so we should be able to make pizzas again, which will be good because it's easy.

We've delivered a good bit of food to some first responders and also to a fire station. Then today, we are offering any first responder who comes in a pork loin and mashed potatoes meal, so we're holding a special table just for them as they're riding by, and if they're grabbing a quick bite.

WS: What are the next days looking like for you?
AJ: A lot depends on when we can get food delivered to us. Obviously, the Red Cross and FEMA and the different agencies that need food are likely in line to receive goods before restaurants, which is understandable. We're just going to keep doing the best we can do, and keep trying to use all of our resources so we can cook for people, whether it's guests coming in the door, or it's taking it to a fire station.

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