As noted in an earlier post, the newly-remodeled Spec's Warehouse in Midtown Houston (near downtown, on Smith Street) has opened.
I finally got over there yesterday. Didn't think much of it, but I was in a hurry so didn't spend enough time to feel it was fair to post on it.
Went back today. Now I've spent more time than I need to over at Spec's. I see that Midtown Coog and Lazy MF got it right. The renovation is a big bust.
I like Spec's less than before the renovation. The strong points of the old store at its Smith St. location were always: Wide selection of liquors, plenty of wine, a decent cigar humidor. Definitely worth a trip. I had not seen a bigger liquor store anywhere.
The pre-renovation gourmet store was a gourmet shop of the old style. This was definitely not Zabar's or Fairway of New York. This was the kind of gourmet store you found 30 years ago, for good and for bad. Canned goods, bottled goods, pretty good candy selection, great bottled olive selection, good bottled herring selection. In other words, if it was in bottles or cans and from Europe, you could find it here. That was good.
The display in the food section was always dull but the selection was wide enough and fresh enough (or at least they kept it dusted) that it was fun to shop there.
The new renovated Spec's? As mentioned on the board, it barely seems bigger. The selection of liquors actually seems smaller to me. The display continues to be boring, even though the stakes are higher: They've just opened a big fancy store, after all.
So Spec's on Smith Street is still a great, large liquor store, but seems to be no improvement over the old one and if anything, a bit worse. They probably need more time and I hope will get more lines in, and I'll keep shopping there. It's the best place I've found so far in town for liquor, as good as any I've found so far for cigars, the best place for European bottled and canned gourmet items and for packaged European candies.
I believe they're having a grand opening this weekend with lots of samples. Even cigar samples!