Self-Described "Elitist" "Asshole" Opening a Restaurant

Categories: Restaurant News

greatfull.jpg
Until last Friday, I thought that the press release I received last year for "the greatest penis shaped muffin restaurant" in Houston was the strangest piece of PR material to cross my desk.

That was before Paul West. That was before Greatfull Taco.

West is perhaps best known to our readers as the former CFO of Sherlock's who has filed a complaint with the TABC concerning the events around a recent fatal shooting at the pub's location on West Gray. Prior to his employment at Sherlock's, West worked for Landry's for 11 years and, before that, as a CPA at Deloitte & Touche.

Needless to say, nothing in West's highly conservative and staunchly corporate background prepared me for the free association, rambling, James Joyce-style press release that I read last week.

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West hosted a recent dinner with Hans Graf and Matt Schaub to break in the Owner's Room.
Below is a small excerpt from the much longer whole.

Greatfull Taco believes in many things, including: aliens exist statistically; musicians and chef's are common people with special talents and sometimes, extraordinary problems; people globally and locally alike and in fact not alike, are very different despite what the media and politicians try to dupe us into believing; we Americans are generally no better morally than the other guy or our neighbor; that Cain killed Able - so we can start from there as to what humans are capable of; Roger Rabbit in fact did do it; that the Kennedy conspiracy did occur...

And that's only a small portion of the seriously puzzling press release. [Read the entire release here.] Little to nothing is said about the food itself, save this line: ..."the food is hardly gourmet, but is fresh and good." And there's a bizarre comparison that goes like this:

McDonald's : Fuddrucker's :: Taco Bell : Greatfull Taco

Because the release wasn't as forthcoming about the actual restaurant concept, food or opening date as one would normally hope, I reached out to West himself to ask him about the press release and why he refers to himself throughout it as a "ponzi," an "asshole," an "elitist," a "patsy" and -- perhaps most confusingly -- a "soldier of fortune and mercenary."

"I'm trying to have an Earth Day celebration on April 17," was West's answer, seemingly apropos of nothing.

And then he explained: It wasn't a press release, per se, but "a write-up on Greatfull Taco" for the management of a band he's trying to book for the event. That still doesn't answer the question of why West would refer to himself in such denigrating tones, but it became apparent over the course of a looping, convoluted phone call that West is highly self-effacing, highly honest and -- most of all -- incredibly caught up with the difficult business of trying to open your own restaurant with your own money and no other partners.

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The main dining room is slowly taking shape.
The concept for Greatfull Tacos is equally convoluted: a main dining room and kitchen devoted to tacos with an Owner's Room housing a Chef's Table that will feature non-taco-based food cooked by Riccardo Palazzo-Giorgio. It's somewhat fitting that Palazzo-Giorgio should turn up here: Greatfull Tacos is in the same location at 2411 South Shepherd as Palazzo-Giorgio's previous restaurant, Sabetta.

"We'll eventually get to the point where we'll have dinners only by reservation in the Owner's Room," West explained. "We'll book 12 people, hand them the menu. That'll keep Riccardo's interest. Otherwise, just doing tacos could disengage someone quickly."

Meanwhile, the main dining room will be turning out an all-day menu (yes, including breakfast tacos) inspired by Torchy's Tacos in Austin.

"Torchy's Tacos wouldn't franchise, but they've become my friends and asked me to be a partner. By the time they came back around to me, I was doing my own thing," said West. "What I saw at Torchy's, I really liked. I didn't copy it, but in the genre and the spirit of what they're trying to accomplish, I want to go even further down that row."

West is very well aware that the Chef's Table in the Owner's Room doesn't exactly pair with a casual taco joint, even one inspired by Torchy's quasi-gourmet menu. "It's pretty atypical," he agreed. "But think about it. At places like Neiman Marcus and Dillard's, there are all these stores within stores. Neiman Marcus has a Louis Vuitton store," he said by way of further explanation.

As with the earlier Fuddrucker's comparison, extrapolate on this correlation at will.

Regardless, West hopes to be open within the next three weeks. And I received a copy of the menu, which you can see here. The prices are more than reasonable and I like the fresh direction of the menu items, especially as summer approaches. I also like that there's a taco on there featuring a "warm flour tortilla filled with jam, peanut butter, banana." I'm a soft target sometimes.

I also like the look of the open dining room, its bright punches of color bringing life to a location that's seen the demise of far too many restaurants. West is hoping that Greatfull Tacos will break the curse at 2411 South Shepherd, despite his casual tone. He turned momentarily austere toward the end of our conversation.

"We're not playing tiddlywinks over here," he said. "We're serious about our business."

Location Info

Greatfull Taco - CLOSED

2411 S. Shepherd, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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52 comments
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gtmimosaatw
gtmimosaatw

Paul west is a bullshitter. Hope he made atleast .25 of what he had potential to have.. it makes me sick. The restaraunt was a success, the owner was a fail. I remain by the statement, torchys who?

Paul West
Paul West

Hi to comment participants. Just wanted to let you know that the arrangements with the bands for the Earth Day / Greatfull Taco Grand Opening Celebration / Concert are all done. On Sunday (Palm Sunday), April 17, 2011, approx from 2 pm to 6 pm, will be a benefit concert for environmental causes, by Fences (opener - Christopher Mansfield), and headliner Brandi Carlile. They will play on stage in the closed parking lot of Greatfull Taco, 2411 S Shepherd Drive. Tickets will be sold thru Warehouse Live and Greatfull Taco (soon to open).The bands are being sponsored by Greatfull Taco, and the concert will be produced by Greatfull Taco LIVE !, in conjunction with Warehouse Live ! Greatfull Taco thanks Warehouse Live for the partnership in bringing this Earth Day event to Houston, and for their strong support and dedication to talented musicians and the music industry. Finally, I suppose that Brandi's handlers/managers "got" the one pager on Greatfull Taco that they requested and were understanding in the message that was tried to convey to them. My english is a lacking there, but I thank those managers for their confidence. Greatfull Taco will work to execute and offer a good time for the Houston community and just add a small further nudge toward increase our/my understanding, appreciation and respect for Planet Earth ! Hope to see all (well at least a couple hundred) on Palm Sunday (one week before Easter Sunday). Now first triathlon in Kemah early tomorrow morning. anyone participating in the T3 Tri tomorrow ? /s/ Paul

Esolsen1
Esolsen1

Having worked with Mr. West on more than a few occasions, I can certify that this dude is a bugged out, insecure, A$$ with just a touch of "Hitler" in him. Mr. West, what goes round, comes round. You will surely get yours.

FFTinHTOWN
FFTinHTOWN

Don't know where to start...Just what was that whole big thing on Sunday? Not many people there, only Carlile and one other person on stage. She was great, but No Fences as advertised. It seemed like a children's birthday party...and what was the whole Herbert thing about with the roaming chickens and tall ladies with purple hair? One word, CORNY!

heygale
heygale

Best of luck Mr West. We could do with some tacos in London too.

Paul West
Paul West

your former prime minister was pretty kool, and i liked him and his book. i love the arguing when the parties bicker in the televised sparing. i have seen it a few times and those chaps are whitty and smart ......very well spoken and practiced.heygale, thanks for our independence too.

heygale
heygale

Working round the clock I see. Here I sit in Londontown without a taco in site. We should only be so lucky to have a Greatfull Taco. Love the name by the way, and hope everyone gives it a try. If anyone knows how to run a great restaurant, it's you.

Paul West
Paul West

well that is pretty sweet thing to say and i do appreciate the kind words indeed. thanks.i am pretty much doing the same on this side of the fish pond heygale....well at least you have the west end, and the thames even in the tributaries, etc, is rather good looking ....we have nothing really to compare, except the bayou - and quality of life folks are trying hard to beautify that. it is wonderful in its on way....but more from wildlife standpoint as the dirt bottom makes for generally cloudy water. cheers to you heygale !!!! give our best to the queen ! god save us all.

vext
vext

How many L's are there in "Crass"? Two?

Paul West
Paul West

Hi Gang ! everyone can poke fun at themselves. We are working hard to bring some new ideas to Houston in thoughtfull/provoking way. Menu is done, but the proof is in the execution. The band the darn little "non" press release was written for (and thus perhaps less emphasis on food therein) is Brandi Carlile, whom I am in process of finalizing a benefit concert on the parking lot, with her band as headliner, and another Seattle-based band, Fences, as the opener. (Brandi and Fences are picking the charities)- using Sunday, April 17, as our Earth Day Celebration and Grand Opening - and making Earth Day benefit concert an annual event. we are working to get open, what is arguably the most risky thing to do in the restaurant business - a new concept. There is a good team here, and emphasis on TEAM. Ok, I can poke myself in the eye and still see my own faults and mostly laff about that. A maxim a former boss ingrained into me, "there is a paddle for every #ss".......come see us soon. Oh, and also, that what you see is only the temporary signage.......the real logo and sign is still "in process" and will not go up till after April 17. I will be darn if I will have a small half built sign on Shepherd when we open. On our grand opening concert/function, we will have a limited menu (think speed tacos for little $, as we will not want to crash the kitchen that day). So, after Palm Sunday, if the weather is nice and you are not doing the MS150....come on out and hear some really great music, drink some nice wines and/or one of 50 different US craft bottle beers, and a few tacos......and share good times with friends. /s/ Paul

ShelleyWD40
ShelleyWD40

Very cool of you to reply personally to this single blog piece. Perhaps the crazy-ass press release got some milage for a couple days.

Let us pray that your message gets out beyond this, as this location has been a pink elephant for more than a decade.

I'm reminded of Tony Vallone's misadventure into Mexican food just down the street on Shepherd. Who would've thought that such an established brand, and a man with so many contacts, could fail within a year? All those people who would 'come if he built it'..

Maybe the owner's room will be a lifeboat for a while. But the winds aren't behind you for expensive tacos, for more than a month honeymoon anyway. Not in the cards. But I'm rooting for you still. Hope it's great, it's gotta be. Just dream: Word might leak out, and you'll be as busy as El Real during a slow lunch.

Paul West
Paul West

yep shelley, all good points !!! restaurant biz isnt really easy or a sure thing. you got that exactly right. just wait and see and then evaluate. lights will be on for you like Tom Bodet of motel 6 used to say. we are not even open, so it is too soon to close yet, right. Greatfull Thinking.

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

No 'ritas? No liquor license? I can't imagine he'd open without either. Maybe that's coming, but if he opens by mid-April my bet is he's gone by the 4th of July.

And that logo, which is also the sign, has the cheesiest, tackiest, low-rent fonts I've seen in a long time.

Guest
Guest

He can always just pay a local food blogger to pump out some glowing reviews on his own blog, then make some "OMG! BEST TACO EVAR!" tweets, and some casual seeming "HIGH QUALITY AT A GREAT VALUE" comments on other blogs and strategic Facebook pages to garner some cheesy-as-shit free advertising. Oh, I'm sorry - I meant to say "Savvy Web Placement."

Florida63
Florida63

Nothing says summer like "North Atlantic Whitefish".

Shut Up and Eat!
Shut Up and Eat!

"Elitist asshole to open a restaurant?" Pfft. That business model's been done to death.

Onions
Onions

The press release is pure Charlie Sheen-ness.

Rassmussen
Rassmussen

Greatfull Taco isn't good enough of a pun for me to think its not misspelled.

Winelush
Winelush

I didn't think restaurants even opened there, just thought it was some sort of tax front. You're the only person I know who ate at Sabatta. I dunno, I like crazy, I like eccentric, but he seems kinda like a creepy weirdo. That guy at first you think is fun then you realize you need to get the hell away. Why is he specifying one of the chefs is a naturalized citizen?

Paul West
Paul West

ha ha.....Winelush....I do have, well trying to have, some stuff just great for you. Not really creepy kinda of guy. I have 5 fairly well adjusted kids....three in college now (Ole Miss, Pepperdine, and UT Biz), one working at Price Waterhouse and a 17 year old that wants to be a chef and be in the restuarant biz. Come see Mike this summer at Greatfull Taco. This Saturday, we will be in the Kemah Triathalon on Saturday (the Sprint Tri). Now for the wines, I am going to have all GT wines (now about 10 or so to start with) offer at $2 a 4ounce pour at lunch (11 am to like 3pm). A nearly breakeven price on most. If you dont like the wine choices at GT when we open, call Kristen Martin at Republic Beverage - she is the wine sales person that "picked" them, and hopefully not based soley on the commission rate or quota. I tasted them too, so I "passed" / approved them. However, you dear one, and others like you, will be the arbitrator and judge, and if the selection fails - I have Glaziers contact info and they are hounding me to let them participate. As far as the Chef's table in the kitchen (can seat 22 casual) and the special 12-seat Owners Room, I hope to have the absolute largest wine selection in Houston. When you book your reservation (this wont happen, or be offered, until perhaps May or June, until/when the GT is up and running smoothly), you will preorder the wines from the evening, from the distributors (all distributors GT is legally permitted to trade with) ENTIRE wine portfolio. We will order that wine you choose and have it waiting for you in the Owners Room, tagged and labeled just for you and your guests/friends.

Moxie8
Moxie8

Interesting........she "picked" them or did she have quite the selection to "choose" from and you "selected" the wine? You should take ownership if that is the case, since there are some tasty gems on that list. One of my favorites, Paco & Lola Albarino.....mmmmm delicious!

Winelush
Winelush

I'm sure you're not creepy. But you have to admit your release was a little bizarre creepy. But I know your certifiable if you "let" a distributor choose your wine list. I don't know Kristen so I'm not going to comment on her work ethics, but let me say I think it's a bad idea and I've seen in the past where it doesn't work, plus industry peeps will talk about this in not such a favorable light, and you want the industry in your restaurant. But if I was a distributor and I found out you let me pick the list, I'd be hounding you too.

The lunch 11-3 to try out wines, is good, I'll come by plonk $20 on all of them. I'll do you one better, How about a BTG list with $25 retail value average per wine and you charge $2 an ounce no matter the wine?

I like the fact you are going to allow someone dining in the owners room to buy off anyone's portfolio. Before you offer that, make sure you get a list from the distributors that allow case breaks, or single bottle purchases, a lot don't. Also, many distributors might have it on their list, but it may not be in stock, or allotted, that's another concern, as is guaranteeing the delivery as promised from the distributors. And distributors that only get orders for their rarer wines when Republic has your full list, they may not be so eager to work with you on that, so be mindful of what you promise your customer. And bear in mind, if you have a customer who knows how to order like that, they are going to be knowledgeable enough know the pricing as well, so you'll have to negotiate the markup as well. But it's a great idea in theory.

I do wish you the best on this venture, I've been wanting a good restaurant in that place for years. I'll definitely come by. And no charge for the advice. :)

Paul West
Paul West

every point you make is quite valid, including case breaks. all is what good management is all about Winelush. Well, Republic is "supposed" to be the wine merchant and specialist, right. That is how GT will view them - if violate that trust, then they get managed - just the same as an employer -----or for that matter, a customer that doesn't come back to a restaurant if there is a bad experience. You can tell us what you want - while we won't be a wine bar per se and prefer not to have 40 different wines that once opened don't pour enough volume to ensure each glass tastes great, all of this will have to be worked into our developed list. If it is broken (ie: a bad list of selections, then we will change and fix it right away. I would rather pour wine off or cook with it, than have poor guest experince. Again, not a wine bar, but I tasted and approved them.

Here are most of the choices and you tell me (before we open). Maybe you know some or perhaps not. At least your avatar indicates to me at least a passing interest in the wine topic. If this is all wet, then just say so....wont hurt my feelings a darn bit.

reds prevail west face cabernet montes alpha syrah ferrari carano, siena csm, indian well merlot graffigna malbec lucky star, pinot noir black box, shiraz whites paco & lola albarino ferrari carano, Tre terre chardonnay clos du bois, chardonnay saint m, riesling ferrari carano fume Blanc la crema, chardonnay black box chardonnay flip flop, moscato

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Sabetta's demise still makes me sad. That place really was wonderful. The location is just...I don't know! You'd think that being right there between River Oaks and Montrose on a busy street would be a great location, but stuff never seems to pan out there...

Paul West
Paul West

Come see Chef Riccardo soon. I bet he will whip up something nice from the kitchen for those that supported him. When we first open, our hours will be initially abbreviated (like 7 am to 3 pm), so that : 1) if there adjustments to be made, we can easily make them; 2) we dont kill ourselves or become bears/monsters to one another; 3) we can operate on ONE 8 hour shift of employees and get this new business of the ground with reasonable stress and good customer experiences. So come early........or just wait a month or less and hours will be extended incrementally.Riccardo will be most happy to see you and chat.

Paul West
Paul West

ha ha ha.....I love doubting thomas.....ok the proof is in the holes in the palms. I dont trot out diddly.........except Brandi Carlile and a Seattle Band called Fences on Sunday (palm sunday, 1 week before easter), April 17 afternoon for a Earth Day Benefit concert at Greatfull Taco. All ticket proceeds go to environmental charities that Brandi (75%) and Chris (25%) select/ Greatfull Taco supports music and Chef's alike. If not, Taco Bell is about 300 yards up Shepherd. Good luck out there. /s/ paul

MariaTW512
MariaTW512

'Come see chef Riccardo soon...blah...blah...'

Hearing this, I reflexively think of Marco Wiles, undeniably a great Italian chef, opening his outpost of Mexican on Montrose, now 1308 Cantina. "Come see chef...".

Nah. Sorry. That doesn't work. Riccardo can cook. Arturo can cook. Marco can cook. Tony can cook.

Doesn't mean I want them to cook my Mex or Tex Mex or French food. Sure, it may be the age of celeb chefs, but it's also the age of specialization. Trotting out Riccardo, who's a great Italian chef, won't get me wet.

Winelush
Winelush

I live down the road from there on Shepherd, I drive by it every single day, it's just not inviting to me, I hope it makes it. I hope he calms down a little bit, but maybe he needs to be that over the top to make people realize it exists. But if he makes me valet for tacos I'm definitely not going.

Eric Henao
Eric Henao

Parking will be a problem. And I bet, as so as he opens, the city will finally decide to redo that section of the road.

Paul West
Paul West

will have beer to go and 35 car parks on site......i hope the city starts on shepherd soon---it is a rough road in more ways than one. see ya soon Eric, will have a nice cold one awaiting. You like Fireman's 4 out of Austin ? (in bottle)

Rina
Rina

Torchy's is heaven on earth. But holding Fuddrucker's up as an example of a good burger (as I assume that's the point) is alarming. We'll see.

Paul West
Paul West

agree.....poor choice - it was just the "oldest" gormet burger joint I could think of - and i can't think that Chili's much good. I eat at Pappas Burger mostly, and Southwells, 5 guys when in hurry, and none when trying to drop a few lbs. Christans Tailgate is good but a bit further away - still quite tasty. yummy no supper yet, and the temptation is calling................

Aaron
Aaron

What burger joint would you have used to describe a family friendly restaurant that probably wants to open multiple locations? Maybe Becks would have been a better example.

vext
vext

He's an a'ho' like a fox. His chefs have a promising menu.

vext
vext

And I regret to inform myself that he will succeed.

Craig
Craig

So far Houston has been able to avoid the absurd taco trend seen in Dallas, and to a lesser extent Austin.

As soon Greatful Taco goes out of business our city will once again be safe.

Paul West
Paul West

lol, gotham city Craig, call CommissionerGordon and fire up the BAT-SIGNAL ! Ha ha !

OK
OK

Using anything from Austin as a template is enough to keep me away from this place.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Normally, yes. But man...I'd kill to have a Torchy's here in Houston. And this menu sounds pretty damn close.

SirRon
SirRon

"Normally, yes"? Hate doesn't look good on you Ms. Shilcutt.

SirRon
SirRon

Paul's press release was full of sarcasm {\}

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

There should be some sort of standardized emoticon for sarcasm. It would make life so much easier. Isn't there an Internet Convention somewhere who should be deciding these things?

SirRon
SirRon

I guess you couldn't hear how sarcastically I wrote that comment. I don't know what the sarcastic emoticon is or I would type it.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Whoa, who said anything about hate? I like Austin for what it is and Houston for what it is - that's all. :)

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