Visitors to Houston’s historic downtown area now have a new and relatively unusual option for a place to eat.
Located on Grand Avenue, the establishment technically includes two businesses under one roof: Twist & Shake, the ice cream shop that was formerly located in a small, free-standing building on north U.S. Highway 63, and The Downtown Eatery, a new café offering a complete menu of breakfast and lunch items.
At the helm of the double-dip diner is Justin Hutter, Twist & Shake owner since last spring. While Hutter runs the ice cream side of the process, Beverly Ramsey handles daily tasks on the cafe end (local residents might remember her for running a downtown restaurant called Ramsey’s Eatery for about six years).
“I was initially looking to expand into the restaurant part of the business myself,” Hutter said. “But with Bev kind of wanting to get back into the restaurant business, we just figured we’d work this as a partnership. So far, it seems to be working out pretty well.”
Customers were first served at the location on Nov. 9. Since then, word of mouth has led to a steady stream of new and repeat customers who regularly come through the door.
Hutter, who came to Houston in 2002, got his first job as a youngster at the Dairy Dell Drive-In in Hinckley, Ill. He owns several buildings in downtown Houston (including loft apartments above the new food establishment), and acquired Twist & Shake from its previous owners last April.
“I wanted to get downtown, and I like this location for several reasons,” Hutter said.
One reason is that there’s an alley next to the business, and Hutter worked with the City of Houston to outfit it with a drive-through window.
“And this really is the ideal size for a place like this,” Hutter said.
After the decision was made to turn the former clothing store into a café and ice creamery, a complete makeover took place. New flooring was installed to meet health department standards, along with cooking and cooling equipment and several sinks. Now, it’s hard to recognize that it was ever anything but an eating establishment.
“There have been quite a few changes,” Hutter said. “But we did use several things that were in here before, like our counter, which used to be in the front window being used for storage and to display clothes. We’re still working out a few bugs, but I like the way it all turned out.”
More changes are in the plans, including the addition of a “flavor burst” machine that will allow for as many as 30 flavors to be added to vanilla ice cream.
Hutter said he also hopes to host special events — such as motorcycle club gatherings and car shows –and plans to begin offering after-school specials during warmer months.
Ramsey, who also volunteers for Texas County Memorial Hospital’s Hospice of Care, said most dishes she produces are made from scratch, including pies, cobblers, cinnamon rolls, soups, chili, and salad.
“I don’t get any of those things off the truck,” she said.
Hutter said an official grand opening should take place soon, but people can already take advantage of the new eating establishment.
“For not having done any advertising, things are going really well,” Ramsey said.
Also working at the Twist & Shake/Downtown Eatery are Louis Sciotto (who was with Hutter at Twist & Shake’s previous location), and Melinda Dewitt.
Current hours (which will change when warmer weather returns) are Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information or to place an order, call417-967-2020.