Talented Houston chef cooks up new ‘Asian American diner’ in the Heights

One of Houston’s most talented chefs has quietly revealed his next project. Nick Wong is coming to the Heights.

Best known locally as the executive chef of UB Preserv, Wong has partnered with former DoorDash executive Lisa Lee to open Agnes and Sherman. Located in the former Alice Blue space at 250 W 19th St., Agnes and Sherman describes itself as “a modern Asian American diner.” It is expected to open later this year.

“Our mission is to deliver a nostalgic, whimsical, and inclusive dining experience through the lens of Asian American food; and by doing so, expand the definition of American culture,” the restaurant’s LinkedIn page states. “Both Asian American food and diner culture are uniquely American. Agnes and Sherman aims to weave the two together to create an experience rooted in nostalgia and presented in a whimsical, genre-defying format.”

Wong brings more than 15 years of professional experiences to his new project. Prior to moving to Houston, he worked at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, the groundbreaking restaurant where celebrity chef David Chang won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: New York City in 2008. His resume also includes stints working at legendary New York restaurant Gramercy Tavern and for Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino at Incanto in San Francisco. During his tenure, UB Preserv’s cross-cultural menu earned it wide acclaim as one of the city’s best restaurants, including multiple Tastemaker Award nominations and recognition from Texas Monthly as one of the state’s best new restaurants to open in 2018.

When UB Preserv closed at the end of 2021, Wong has a brief tenure as the chef at GJ Tavern. Since parting ways with Underbelly Hospitality, he’s participated in occasional pop-ups and served as a consultant on the opening of the Spring Branch location of modern Vietnamese restaurant The Blind Goat.

Lee brings a similarly impressive resume from the business world. Most recently a vice president for DoorDash, she has also worked at Squarespace, Pandora, and Facebook. In a lengthy LinkedIn post, she explains her decision to open a restaurant with Wong, who she identifies as a friend of more than 20 years. She writes that they’re aligned on the type of culture they want to foster at Agnes and Sherman.

“Even as I have leaned into the power of being an ‘other’ instead of being othered, I also know and have felt intimately that our power is exponentially multiplied when we are in spaces of acceptance and belonging,” she writes. “I’ve advocated and fought for these places of belonging, often bottling up the disappointing effects of one step forward and two steps back. Now, I get to build this into the fabric of my restaurant — no ifs, buts, and whys. My perpetual push for those that I’ve worked with to be more courageous will now be channeled into my own deeds.”

Wong politely declined CultureMap’s request for comment about his plans. That means Houston dining obsessives will have to wait a little longer to learn both what dishes he has in mind to fit the “modern Asian American diner” format and who “Agnes and Sherman” are. Fingers crossed it includes at least of couple of his most popular dishes at UB Preserv such as honey walnut shrimp and crispy rice salad.

Alice Blue closed in February after a seven-year run. It evolved out of Shade, restaurateur Claire Smith’s pioneering restaurant that opened in 2003.

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A user on the Houston Architecture Info Forum first identified Agnes and Sherman’s LinkedIn page.

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