OKRA: People & Places
OKRA, An Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, is the result of an idea born in 2009 to establish a loose-affiliation among like-minded restaurant and bar owners to pursue charitable community initiatives in the City of Houston, Texas. Over time, the need for a public voice for independents in our industry became more apparent, and others became involved in collaborative efforts to sustain the goals of this disorganized collection of friends. OKRA was formally established in 2011. The Original OKRA Charity Saloon, a collaborative idea from OKRA's founders, is finally open in downtown Houston. Once open, 100% of the bar’s proceeds will be donated to a different Houston-based organization or social cause each month. Bar patrons will have the opportunity to select which charity is chosen as a beneficiary by voting from among four nominees for next month’s elected charity. For each drink purchased, guests will receive one vote that they may cast before leaving the bar for the evening. The hope is that by benefiting a new charity each month and nominating four for the following, funding will be acquired for elected charities and awareness will be generated for other nominees. The space will also be available for events and activities that benefit additional organizations in Houston in need of a gathering space.
Bobby is the President of OKRA (Organized Kollaboration of Restaurant Affairs). Bobby stumbled upon his talents at an enviably young age, working through college at a bar with a beverage program that emphasized fresh ingredients and an aggressive tequila list. Heugel continued refining his skills while earning his master’s degree in Inter-Cultural Communication. In 2006, Heugel returned to his Houston hometown, where he bartended at the popular Benjy’s restaurant and then at Monica Pope’s Beaver’s Ice House, gaining a loyal following for his contemporary take on classic cocktails. Heugel and childhood friend-turned-business partner Kevin Floyd capitalized on that following, opening Anvil Bar & Refuge in March of 2009. Not two years into its run, Anvil began earning national accolades, including a nod as one of Bon Appétit’s “Top Ten New Cocktail Bars” and a 2011 StarChefs.com Rising Stars award for Heugel. In 2012 Heugel partnered with Rising Star Chef Chris Shepherd to open Underbelly, a restaurant that celebrates the diversity of Houston’s culinary landscape and heritage. And it all happened before Bobby turned 30 (as noted by a spot on Forbes 2011 “30 Under 30” in food and wine). Bobby is the owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge, Hay Merchant, Underbelly, and Blacksmith Coffee Bar.
Paul is on the General Leadership Council of OKRA. Nearly a decade after his parents opened Paulie’s in Montrose, Paul Petronella took over his namesake restaurant in 2007, bringing new vitality and innovation to the corner Italian eatery. Classic recipes stayed, new ones were added and house-made pasta and high-caliber coffee became signature elements. Petronella has also forged partnerships with other Montrose chefs, bringing their expertise to his kitchen. A hands-on owner/chef with plenty of energy, Petronella has reimaged the neighborhood restaurant on this urban chic stretch of Westheimer.
Miriam, Dawn, and Scott are all on the General Leadership Council of OKRA. Dawn Callaway, her husband Scott Repass, Miriam Carrillo, and her husband Scott Walcott are all co-owners of the Anitdote Coffee House in the Heights; their partnership began when Miriam and Dawn were college roommates together. The quartet also opened Poison Girl Bar and Black Hole Coffee House. The four share a Montrose duplex and a common business goal of making Houston a better place. Even in good times, the group supports its community. Poison Girl hosts a monthly Drink Houston Better night were portions of the night’s sales benefit charitable organizations. The Supernova Project is the latest addition to their philanthropic undertakings. The quarterly soup dinner at Black Hole helps to fund local art projects.
Brad and Ryan are on the General Leadership Council at OKRA. Moore has long played a part in Houston nightlife. His name appears in the liner notes of several Houston marquee bars, most prominently Rudyard's and Poison Girl. Most recently, though, he garnered acclaim when he partnered up to open Washington Avenue's Pearl Bar in 2006, then followed up in 2008 by co-opening scenester favorite Big Star Bar in the Heights. And now, again along with the help of a few friends, Moore is set to work on Grand Prize Bar. Rousse is a former bartender at Branchwater Tavern and now part owner of Grand Prize Bar.