Night Moves Hospitality, the recently formed hospitality group from Greg Perez (formerly of Monkey’s Tail) and culinary director Lyle Bento, has launched the first of its planned concepts. Space Cowboy, which is attached to the newly renovated Heights House Hotel located at 100 W Cavalcade, is a blend of specialty cocktail bar, Asian- and Hawaiian-influenced restaurant and poolside lounge. Houston Food Finder was recently invited to a media preview and had the opportunity to try many of Space Cowboy’s offerings.
Space Cowboy is a retreat nestled right off I-45 in the Brook Smith neighborhood, an older, rapidly changing community just outside of the Heights. Visitors are greeted by a colorful exterior and a patio filled with a vibrant collection of colorful couches, tables and hammocks. However, guests entering the island-themed restaurant will find a dimly lit atmosphere punctuated by an enormous bird of paradise mural and an eclectic mix of neon lights, velvet couches and glowing green bar stools (the overall effect leans heavily into dance club chic). Anime fans may notice a fun Easter egg, a small shrine dedicated to Cowboy Bebop and its famous tagline, “See You Space Cowboy.”
The beverage program, which is helmed by Samantha Ruiz and Karen Cervantes, lives up to the expectations set by Perez’s work at Monkey’s Tail. It reflects the bar’s personality with cocktail names such as Spacion Wagon and Is There Life On Mars. The menu starts with the 12 house cocktails, several of which put tropical spins on classic drinks. For example, the Clarified #10 is an elegant take on the Piña Colada and its close cousin the Painkiller, while Big Daddy Sam combines Knob Creek rye, banana liqueur and Mezcal for a riff on the Sazerac.
Several drinks at Space Cowboy take a more whimsical route. The Banana Hammock, the bar’s twist on the banana daiquiri, is topped with a housemade spiked whipped cream. The Cream Fortress is a rum-based libation loaded with boba, while La Fresona, a blend of tequila and spicy liqueur Ancho Reyes Verde, is served in a Capri Sun-style pouch.
Under the Party Favors section of the menu, patrons will find shareable concoctions such as the Poolside Grove, which combines Absolut Pear Elderflower vodka, Bayou City Bucha tepache, lemon and agave into a drink for two. There are also frozen specials called Martian Icee’s and Jell-o shots. If fancy cocktails are not your thing, Space Cowboy features a selection of beers, wines and spirits. However, despite the diverse beverage program, the spirits selection was smaller than expected (and may still be developing); a few categories were minimally represented or absent entirely. But for the spirits the bar does emphasize, such as rum, patrons may want to ask for a tour through the collection.
Lyle Bento, former chef/owner of now-closed Southern Goods, has developed a focused food menu that emphasizes tropical and island flavors. Much of the menu consists of small or shareable plates such as Lechon Kawaii (pork belly served with a tangy Filipino dipping sauce) and Jerked Cauliflower served with a curried aioli.
The menu also features seafood dishes like Tako Sunomono, a grilled octopus salad topped with a ginger sesame vinaigrette and OKA, a ceviche tossed with lime, plantains and coconut creme.
Diners looking for heartier fare can try the Boom Boom Burger, a double-patty cheeseburger with caramelized onions and boom boom sauce (a sweet chili and garlic mayo) or Maui Short Ribs served with macaroni salad. The Army Fried Rice, a play on budae jjigae (Korean army stew), ticked every box with its blend of vibrant and tangy flavors.
Space Cowboy, which is early in the hospitality group’s run, is still working out some kinks. Follow-up visits have had issues with varying drink quality, menu items being unavailable and inattentive management. Given some time, Space Cowboy can become a destination for foodies and beverage enthusiasts alike. Space Cowboy’s bar is open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; the restaurant is open from 4 p.m. to midnight.