O2 Bistro Offers Casual Elegance and Waterfront Dining
As the saying goes, “When one door closes another door opens.” Longtime Seabrook restaurant owner John Schafer and his partner were being forced to close their popular waterfront hot spot, Outriggers, when Schafer decided to take over the vacant building at 1002 Aspen Road in Clear Lake Shores.
After thoughtful reconstruction following Hurricane Harvey damage and gathering a team of focused, passionate restaurateurs, O2 Bistro is now open.
O2 Bistro aims to bring upscale casual to the Clear Lake Shores waterfront, where the dichotomy of casual dining and fine dining no longer exists and the two concepts harmoniously blend to provide casual elegance in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Schafer explained the concept is to elevate the culinary experience for guests in a refined atmosphere with especially attentive and knowledgeable servers.
“The goal is to blend the sophistication of fine dining with the casual attitude of the Clear Lake area,” said Schafer. He brought Tina Phelipot on as general manager to help achieve that goal. She emphasizes the quality of service with high standards and has implemented an extensive training program for the servers.
She explained, “We want to offer our guests the quality of service found in 5-star restaurants, without any of the pompousness, and we mentor our servers to be more approachable and friendly.”
Phelipot said she wants guests to feel a warm welcome from the moment they arrive through the large glass entry doors.
Phelipot’s experience managing Houston’s Boheme (a patio wine bar) and Brasserie Du Parc (a casual, fine dining establishment) gives her tremendous insight on how to blend the two concepts and blur the lines between upscale and casual dining. A self-proclaimed foodie, Phelipot wants to bring the sophistication of Houston fine dining establishments to the Clear Lake waterfront area. Phelipot also will use her event planning experience in the role of event coordinator of O2 Bistro utilizing the private banquet room upstairs.
Schafer explained that he surrounded himself with the most qualified and experienced people he could find for key positions, such as renowned chef Mark Holley who rose to prominence as chef of the award-winning restaurants Pesce and Brennan’s in Houston, and former chef and owner of Holley’s Seafood in Houston.
Holley created O2’s chef-driven menu and will continue to add new items in the future. Chef’s featured entrées will also be offered throughout the month for those who like to order “off the menu” culinary creations.
Director of Operations Jeff Bettencourt was one of the original owners of Joe’s Crab Shack; he developed the prototype for the franchise. With more than 25 years experience in the industry, Bettencourt brings a remarkable amount of restaurant expertise to the table.
The overall design scheme of O2 Bistro incorporates blue and white nautical colors with a granite bar top and upscale wood finishes. White tablecloths adorn the tables in the dining room, and each one is set with a formal place setting that includes blue linen napkins. (A detail that will not go unnoticed by those persnickety patrons who refuse to use white linen napkins because they might produce more lint.) A partial wall divider separates the bar area from the dining room with cocktail tables and barstools for guests to enjoy their meal in the more casual bar setting.
“The separation between the formal dining area and the bar area has helped create a separate identity within the establishment,” Phelipot said, “Even with the upscale décor, the bar area has taken on the atmosphere of a neighborhood bar. It’s kind of like ‘Cheers’ with a hint of sophistication.”
The state of the art wine coolers along the wall showcase wines that were painstakingly selected for their extensive wine list. “I believe we have the best wine list in the area,” said Jeff Bettencourt. “We spent a lot of time hand-picking each of the selections and will continue to expand and evolve our wine list in the coming months.” With wines like Far Niente, Silver Oak, Jordan, Caymus and Nickel and Nickel topping the list, even the most over-the-top wine snob will be impressed. It should be noted they have a dedicated cooler to store their red wines at the proper temperature. Red wines are best stored at room temperature, but room temperature in Texas is about 20 degrees higher than room temperature in California and the optimal serving temperature for red wine is actually between 62 to 68 degrees.
The waterfront patio was expanded and completely transformed. “The patio was the most important area to me when it came to the reconstruction process, and a large portion of the budget was spent on renovating it,” said Schafer, “When you have waterfront property, especially around here, you need to utilize it to its maximum potential for waterfront dining.” Adding a roof and optional enclosures as well as the installation of heaters and a large AC unit allows guests to comfortably enjoy the outdoor dining area year round.
O2 is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Their happy hour specials (Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.) include $5 house wine and $6 cocktails and a happy hour menu with $7 Lite Bite options such as the BBQ Pork Sliders, Massey’s Thai Curry Mussels and Creole Crab Dip. The Cheese & Charcuterie is also offered during happy hour at a special price of $19.
Steak enthusiasts will love Tuesdays. It’s Steak Night with choice of 8-ounce Top Sirloin ($19) and 16-ounce Rib eye ($25) each served with grilled asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes and a choice of house or wedge salad. Pair that with a glass of Elouan Pinot Noir ($8) or Hess Shirtail Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon ($8).
O2 Bistro’s Date Night promotion on Sunday is for any two people wanting to share a nice meal together – fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, friends, etc. Whatever the pairing, guests can share an appetizer and dessert of their choice from the special menu, and select their individual entrée for the price of $49 per couple.
With three distinct dining areas to choose from, guests can find the best ambiance to suit their mood and occasion such as a romantic dinner date, or a night out with the girls, or a momentous gathering with the family. Whether it’s a dressy upscale event guests want to host or a meet up with friends at the bar, or a relaxing hang out by the water, O2 can accommodate the occasion and the mood.
Reservations are accepted, but not required at O2 Bistro; call 281-532-6860 or use the OpenTable app.
By Shawn Domingues & Betsey Ennis