Bootsie's Heritage Cafe to Close, Leaving Tomball for Houston

Categories: Restaurant News

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The boys are back in town...
In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, given chef Randy Rucker's notoriously short attention span, Bootsie's Cafe is closing at the end of the month. Rucker and company are packing up their chef's knives and moving back inside the Loop, according to a press release that we mysteriously did not receive at here at the Houston Press. Luckily, we have Mai Pham to keep us updated over at the Examiner.

It won't be the first time that Rucker has operated a restaurant solo in Houston: Many people will remember first being dazzled by his food at the late, great laidback manor. Prior to that, Rucker worked in kitchens across town, doing time at Quattro, Mockingbird Bistro and Mark's American Cuisine. When laidback manor closed in October 2006, Rucker set to working with the Cordúa group and operating a series of pop-up dinners called "tenacity," giving the city one of its first experiences with the now popular concept.

That same year, Rucker left the Cordúa group and his supper clubs behind to take the executive chef postition at Rainbow Lodge. During this time, he participated in one of the first Chowhound Throwdowns, but became frustrated after losing, spouting off on Twitter: "my first and last of this sort........another bs job from houston...congrats." Rucker left Rainbow Lodge a year after accepting the job, despite receiving a rare four-star review from the Chronicle's Alison Cook. He threatened to move to Peru, where he'd visited while working with the Cordúas, but was soon back in Houston.

Along with his mother, Bootsie, he opened Bootsie's Heritage Cafe way up in the wilds of Tomball -- his hometown -- in February of last year.

Again, despite receiving rave reviews -- both locally and nationally -- and a James Beard Foundation Award nomination for the restaurant, Rucker seemed restless in Tomball. Some locals weren't as receptive to his ever-changing menu, while many Houstonians weren't willing to burn the gas required to drive out to Tomball for one of the restaurant's famous multi-course meals. Plans for restaurant connate, an "accessory" restaurant for Bootsie's, never panned out, and soon the restaurant had trimmed back its hours significantly.

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Bootsie's food at the Star Chefs gala was gorgeous before it was dumped all over the table.
As recently as the Star Chefs gala, Rucker seemed unhappy with the restaurant as a whole and diners' attitudes towards his meticulously constructed meals. At one point in the evening, the Bootsie's crew dumped the contents of their ingredient tubs onto the table -- tired of plating edible flowers and delicate vegetables only to have them blown off careless diners' plates in the wind -- and was overheard saying dismissively that people could just eat off the table like a trough. Later that night, the Bootsie's crew dumped all of their liquid nitrogen into the Four Season's hotel pool, causing damage that required the pool to be drained and repaired.

Rucker's Twitter stream shows a chef who was at times happy with his work -- "Don't get me wrong I love what we have pulled off in tomball but I am itching to get back to houston and blew it up!" -- and at times defensive and angry, once telling his Twitter followers "Fuck you," if they didn't make the drive to one of his dinners. Other times, he was just senselessly vitriolic, recently telling one follower that the restaurant she'd eaten at that night "sounds like a dump."

On the other hand, it's difficult to ignore Rucker's talent and his vision in bringing truly modern cuisine to Houston. He's still one of the only chefs I know who forages for ingredients, attempting to make every meal a special and unique creation that's fully of the moment. He's devoted to using Gulf seafood and other local products as well as shepherding other young chefs who want to blaze that modernist trail alongside him.

It seems that the answer to Alison Cook's question of whether Rucker could turn Tomball into a culinary destination is a resounding "no." But I hold out hope that he'll be able to lend a hand turning Houston into a destination when his new restaurant opens at 5219 Caroline this fall, and I have my fingers crossed that this Rucker project lasts more than a year.



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Location Info

Bootsie's Heritage Cafe - CLOSED

112 Commerce St., Tomball, TX

Category: Restaurant

Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar

1985 Welch St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Mark's American Cuisine

1658 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Rainbow Lodge

2011 Ella Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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116 comments
CK
CK

I've been to Bootie's in Tomball; it's not far from my house so I suppose that makes me a redneck?  I wouldn't be so quick to judge the restaurant or my pallet.  I had to reschedule my dinner THREE times. Each time I called, RR answered the phone, the first call was nothing out of the norm but the next two, well let's just say when I finally showed up he came over and asked if I was Cari and made a small production of it. He was funny and never gave me any attitude about moving my reservation three times or perhaps it was my big boobs, I've heard he's a womanizer.  Now you know think I'm a dumb redneck, right?  I've had my share of good food around town, Texas, and the nation. I have to say, anyone who poaches an egg for 90 minutes, pairs it with caramel, and hay smoked caviar has some guts.  I will never forget it.  It was creative, divine, succulent, and daring.  Aren't those things you look for in a chef?  He might be a bit abrasive but that's fine, as long as he's still cooking, I'm going to keep eating.

Cox
Cox

Sounds like your classic rock star

stwilhelm
stwilhelm

After going back and reading each of the comments, my opinion remains the same -- looks like another chef with a HUGE ego and GREAT talent, but one cannot overcome the other. 

Championshipfireworks
Championshipfireworks

This post didn't quite read like "Bootie's Heritage Cafe to Close, Leaving Tomball for Houston." more like "I don't like Randy Rucker for the following reasons."

I'm bummed about this post. I can't read any more of your reviews or articles without having to question if your biases are influencing your position. 

Jonathan
Jonathan

Life is hard out here for a pimp....

Adrienne Byard
Adrienne Byard

Jeez... so much mud-throwing and name-calling for an industry that is supposed to be about hospitality. I suggest we support one another in every way possible, and wish Randy and everyone else the success that Houston deserves? Leave the petty shit to the unintelligent and uninspired. Enjoy your food, friends.

CM
CM

Ms. Shilcutt,

This piece of “writing” is sosoaked with an obvious personal contempt for Randy Rucker that it goes beyondbeing unethical and simply trashy to counterproductive and harmful to theCulture growth and development of Houston. This article, if you will, not onlyspeaks to your lack of understanding and knowledge of the Arts, but mostimportantly as to how uninformed you are about FOOD. For instance:

“As recentlyas the Star Chefsgala, Rucker seemed unhappy with the restaurant as a whole anddiners' attitudes towards his meticulously constructed meals. At one point inthe evening, the Bootsie's crew dumped the contents of their ingredient tubsonto the table -- tired of plating edible flowers and delicate vegetables onlyto have them blown off careless diners' plates in the wind […]”

Well, Ms. Shilcutt,this one apparently went way over your head, so allow me to break it down foryou. First off, this was what is called a Performance Piece or “Happening” inthe Arts. The physical action made by the artist IS the art, which candemonstrate, question or explore a concept. Now, what Randy Rucker was actuallydoing when he placed the edible flowers directly onto the table and physicallyremoved the component of the plate he created a quandary for persons to notonly become conscious of the plate, but to push the relationship, experienceand interaction between person and food.

I understandis you did not catch this initially, but let there be no mistake, their NOdumping of flowers onto the table, the table was “plated” with the flowers justas they were on the plates. Check your facts, Ms. Shilcutt; all it would havetaken was a glance an image of the event that you so maliciously twisted inyour description. The use of the word “dumping” is inaccurate, and discreditsyour “journalistic” recounts of your dining experiences.

In all, itseems the only point of this “article” was to get even with Chef Randy Ruckerfor not sending you a press release. Ms. Shilcutt for all you know it simplycould have gotten lost in the mail.

Cheers! 

Kim
Kim

Funny that Ben takes the time to comment/critisize about an error in WHAT was dumped into the Four Seasons pool, yet doesnt get how DUMPING something, anything into another establishment's pool is just wrong and childish. They are so cocky they even felt it was OK and funny to video it and post it online.  It's not.  It's really not.  Had someone dared to do something like that at Bootsie's, it would have been a completely different story and they surely would have reacted strongly and/or retaliated, yet this team of chefs think it's ok to act the way they do.  Unbelievable. 

Then Randy proceeds to throw a drink on the chef that was selected as having the winning dish of the night. He's lucky people held Chris back...he could have snapped Randy's neck in 2 seconds flat.

At the Pork Belly Throwdown, Randy was his usual vocal self, loudly yammering on about how there are no good chefs in Houston, taking shots at long-time local chefs like Robert Del Grande (several of whom were in the room), and puffing up his own ego. Maybe he should have concentrated more on his dish and less on the bashing, because when the judges were presented his dish, the plastic wrap hadnt been removed.  Oops.

Quit pissing and moaning about WHO from the Houston Press reviewed you - it doesn't matter.  You got reviewed - be happy about it.  There are lots of restaurants that would be thrilled to be visited.  HAD Ms. Schilcutt come out and reviewed Bootsie's, Randy and team would be complaining that she was biased, they didnt get a fair review, etc.  If you don't care what media think about you, then why is this even an issue for you??

Rather than constantly trying to discredit everyone around him all the time, Randy needs to just realize that it is neither all about him nor is everyone against him.  Get out of your own head, and use the talent that you have to please and impress diners and leave the shit talking behind.  

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Hey friends, let's be careful here about making potentially libelous claims about our fellow foodies, mmkay?

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I've got nothing but respect for Rucker's cooking, but he is his own worst enemy.  There must be a reason that a chef of his talent can't keep a job for a two-year stretch.

I've only met the man once in person.  We chatted in the bar at Beaver's for about half an hour, most of which was spent listening to Rucker go off on various other chefs and restaurateurs around town.  None measured up to his lofty standards, although all seem to keep restaurants open for longer than the esteemed Mr. Rucker.  I held my tongue, especially when he was quick to put down some very talented folks whose work I had enjoyed.

Still, I was a big fan of Randy's cooking.  And when word about Bootsie's got out, we were happy to help spread the word on H-Town Chow Down.  

A few weeks later a meaningless Twitter discussion (about valet parking) resulted in Rucker unfollowing me and making it clear that I wasn't welcome in his restaurant.  I dared disagree with his opinion; mea culpa.  Not only had I earned Rucker's ire, but at least one of his cooks kept trying to stir things up with me on Twitter.  Very strange.  (And I'm pretty sure this same cook is one of the Rucker apologists on this page.)

I've seen firsthand how Rucker treats people who try to support his ventures, I shudder to think how he treats others.  Oh wait, thanks to social media, we can read about it.  Randy certainly has his fans and sycophants in the foodie community; many of them have chimed in here.  That's a testament to his skill as a chef.But I have to agree with the prevailing sentiment here that in a town with as much kitchen talent as Houston, why bother patronizing a chef like Rucker with such a horrible attitude?  

SirRon
SirRon

Wait, what!? You guys don't like heels?

Fuckoff
Fuckoff

Lets talk about "reputation"... Who started an irresponsible poll of "Houston's Most Overrated Restaurants"? Wow, great piece..chefs really love it when you call them overrated.http://blogs.houstonpress.com/... Who inaccurately reported that Feast was leaving Houston in favor of New Orleans? The owners actually had to post a comment and correct her.http://blogs.houstonpress.com/... What about this gem of relevant culinary "journalism"...TMZ-prism, indeed...http://blogs.houstonpress.com/... Who can forget the JBA-nominated piece about charcuterie in Houston? I would love to see a follow up story. Every chef featured in the article had to hide their respective charcuterie in fear of it being confiscated by the Health Dept after the article was released. Feast was the only one to sustain casualities. If you love and support a restaurant...why put it at risk? Negligence and ignorance don't begin to describe it.http://www.houstonpress.com/sl... I especially enjoyed Bootsie's being named to the Top 10 Best New Restaurant list...even though no one from the Houston Press had ever eaten there. BRAVO! What about sending a food blogger to review Bootsie's (for a special event nonetheless) because she assumed she wasn't welcome there? Rucker publicly tweeted that he would welcome her as guest. To clarify some of the inaccuracies in this current "blog"... 1. There was no "dumping of ingredient tubs"...we fitted the table with a new, clean table cloth and treated the table as a plate and precisely placed our ingredients on the table. We did it to keep up with demand not because we were "tired of plating edible flowers and delicate vegetables only to have them blown off careless diners' plates in the wind". She would know this is if she simply asked instead of assumed. 2. Since when is going to Peru to help a friend open a resturant considered as "threatening"?  3. Glad to see she fixed the "dry ice" error...even though she linked a video that was clearly titled "Liquid Nitrogen + Four Seasons Pool". Unbelievable. Schilcutt may be a nice person but its clear to see she has a loooooong way to go before anyone can begin to take her seriously as a blogger/food critic. I'm sure even Alton Brown would agree... - Ben  

Jim
Jim

With the thousands of good restaurants in Houston, hundreds of very good, and a number of exceptional ones, why on earth would you go to one where the owner / chef treats you like garbage?  Life is too short fot that.

Cox
Cox

"Fuck you," if they didn't make the drive to one of his dinners."

Fuckin A. I concur.  Why wouldn't someone make the drive....

Fhelw
Fhelw

EaterHouston has had 9 visitors so far in July! According to the stats....hooray!

Cheflambo
Cheflambo

I, for one, love when Ms. Shilcutt stirrs the pot .. keep up thhe good work.

Brian
Brian

Ben says they did it to keep up with demand. You say it was a performance piece. Which was it?

JarrodJM
JarrodJM

Press releases are still mailed? Weird.

Katherine Druckman
Katherine Druckman

I recorded and posted it.  I thought it was awesome and funny (because it was).  I'm a geek.  As you can see from the related videos, geeks love nitrogen + pool.  I can't imagine it caused damage.  That makes absolutely no sense.

Ben
Ben

Just to clarify Kim, that video was taken & uploaded by someone attending the Star Chefs Gala...not by an employee of Bootsies.

P.s. Liquid nitrogen is merely compressed nitrogen. It's odorless, tasteless, colorless & evaporates in to what comprises 80% of the air you breath. Mixing a couple liters with 40,000 gallons of water is completely harmless.

Cheers!

randy rucker
randy rucker

please correct me if im wrong but u sir have never had our food.  lets all think about that folks...or dont think and contiue...

dan
dan

Aren't the the one that loves El Real and stands by him putting Wolf Brand Chili on most dishes? 

IWK
IWK

Albert -- he's a talented chef but yes, his own worst enemy. I completely agree. He has insulted my family personally (disrespectful face-to-face commentary as well as via Twitter, what a coincidence!) at past restaurants and while we still ventured out to Bootsie's, both the service and the food were mediocre at best. Not what we expected quality-wise, and the staff made certain to ignore us, it seemed. We didn't actually see Randy during our last visit but we did make friendly contact with another staff member (who I will not call out) prior to getting our food and I swear we felt as if they poor food quality and service was intentional. 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

You need to let the charcuterie thing go, Ben. All of the chefs/restaurants involved were aware of the risks in discussing a product that skirts Health Department codes (by the way, all of those restaurants actively advertise charcuterie on their menus, so don't tell me that I'm the first person to publicly discuss it). If any of them were upset by the outcome of the article, none have said so. At least to me. And the benefit in bringing the craft to light and showing our Health Department's idiotic and antiquated views towards that craft - which was the point of the article, by the way - far outweighed any possible negatives.

And I don't really feel the need to address any of the other silliness else you've listed here, except to say: thanks for the linkbacks!  :)

SirRon
SirRon

Damnit Shilcutt! I just lost 15 minutes of work time following related videos of liquid nitrogen in pools on YouTube.

A1A
A1A

Fuckoff?

Is this the same Ben that was a sous chef at Bootsie's?

momto3
momto3

true, but how many of the people bitching above have actually had a real interaction with RR, as opposed to those just spewing criticism for the hell of it? How many of these people actually went to Bootsie's and were 'treated like garbage'?  I'm seeing  a lot of 'I heard that' or 'I read this on twitter'.  I go to Bootsie's to eat, not profile personalities...maybe some of you missed your calling as shrinks.

Matt Chow
Matt Chow

I'd like your short list of restaurants that compare to Bootsie's.

randy rucker
randy rucker

jeez, here we go again.......maam, you are not a chef

Haikumaster
Haikumaster

Mr. Rucker stirs his own pot.Ms. Shilcutt simply reports.Then defends against those who don't want R's anticsto overshadow his culinary talent.

randy rucker
randy rucker

all food is the root of necessity.  they are both correct.  quit trying so hard to be negitive.  its much easier to be positive and support those around you who are trying to be better tomorrow than they were today...

randy rucker
randy rucker

ive read your other comments.....................you sir are the reason that so many hard working people are outta job.  there is more than meets the eye when it comes to pricing...

Aaron D
Aaron D

Pour some liquid nitrogen on your hand. It's just the same stuff in the air we breathe, right?

(disclaimer - don't do that)

richard head
richard head

yeah, but it's still juvenile and likely merits a charge of vandalism

Ben
Ben

You're absolutely right, Kat. Take it easy!

the modular trailer
the modular trailer

i cannot stand for this, the reason Ben and our truck are not working together is creative differences and we chose to split before the truck went further along. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I, too, am curious about why people think they would be "treated like garbage" at Bootsie's. The total opposite is true, and I can tell you based on my experience becausemy first visit to Bootsie's was when I had just barely started writing about food. Nobody at Bootsie's knew me from shine-ola at the time. And if they did know I was a writer, and it's true that RR told people food writers/critics/bloggers to stay away, then I should have received the "bad treatment" everyone is talking about in this comment section - which i did not.

Facts about eating at Bootsie's:1) Did you know that if you order the tasting menu, the chef's take turns serving the food to you at your table, describing it for you in detail when they present it? How can this be construed as being "treated like garbage?"

2) Did you know that the six-course 3rd Coast menu has always been just $35? (A similar menu elsewhere would easily run about $60-$75)

3) Did you know that they cure their own bacon, forage their own vegetables, use by-catch fish and source many of their products locally?  I, for one, can't wait to see what his team does in Houston, because it means I won't have to drive to Tomball. Call me a sycophant or a hanger-on, or whatever, but I really have to give kudos to what his team his team has been doing in Tomball because it's up there with some of the best food around the country. 

And for the record, I don't always agree with RR, and I don't always love all of his food, but I respect what he does as a Chef and am more than happy to give him business. Pastry Chef Chris Leung's desserts are always creative and mouthwatering, too.

Jim
Jim

Reputations, good and bad, tend to get built on hearsay.  If I hear enough criticism coming from many different individuals, I don’t feel that I have to go there just to confirm whether the stories are true or not.   But that’s my personal choice.  Feel free to go there and enjoy.

Matt Chow
Matt Chow

its the same group of people that think yelp is a great resource.

Jim
Jim

My pointwas not whether Bootsies is the best restaurant in the Houston area

, top 10, top 25, whatever.  It is simplythat for me there are enough good choices where I don’t have to deal with an obnoxiousowner / chef.  For those who don’t minddealing with that, feel free to go there

JarrodJM
JarrodJM

Well, that's a bit of a leap, but I'll play along. You misunderstood the point of my comment. I recognize why food prices are more expensive in the tunnels, but that doesn't mean I want to pay more money for inferior food. I'll happily pay even more money for great food. The reason so many hard working people are out of a job (in your industry) is due to so many hard working people being out of a job (in every other industry).

Matt Chow
Matt Chow

Guess you shouldn't engage in any desserts at Bootsie's either lol.

Airbn51st
Airbn51st

James and Richard both did initially leave the Houston restaurant in order to open up the New Orleans location, but Richard came back to Houston in December and has been running the kitchen since. You might be seeing James in the near future too. The New Orleans location is closed for business https://sites.google.com/site/....

Gretchenww
Gretchenww

Feast DID move to New Orleans...I saw James and Richard there last month. I guess that there is still a restaurant bldg here called 'feast', but it's not quite the same when the founders/chef leaves. Right?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

To be clear, Brittanie and I both tried to moderate that comment and Disqus hasn't been playing nice with us lately. So I'm removing it entirely. Just FYI.

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