A Tale of Two Dinners: Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar vs. The Modular

Categories: Food Fight

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This lobster risotto and accompanying lobster came from your friendly local dive bar.
One is a highbrow full-fledged restaurant -- a "brick-and-mortar" place, to use the parlance of the day -- owned and operated by heavyweight restaurateurs. The other is a cobbled-together food truck, ephemeral and fleeting by nature here in Houston, where the City actively targets mobile food vendors and where many trucks go under for reasons purely of their own creation.

Both, in this case, happen to serve some of the finer foods in life: steak tartare, filet mignon, lobster risotto, bone marrow service. Yes, two of those things come from a truck. If you're a regular reader of ours, you'll recognize the latter two as coming from The Modular, a tin can truck which is often camped out at a hipster dive bar on the edge of Montrose.

The first two come from Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar. And I inadvertently pitted the two establishments against each other on Friday night. Although not terribly surprised by the outcome -- in fact, I sometimes fear that we start to sound like broken records around here, constantly expressing dismay that the city's great cooks aren't cooking on a regular enough basis -- it stood out to me as representative of all the things both wrong and right with our city's culinary scene right now.

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Photo by Mai Pham
The duck pappardelle at Ava Kitchen on perhaps a better day.
The long and short of it is this: I got a better meal for far less money and fussiness at The Modular than I received dining under beautiful but terribly expensive lampshades at Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar in West Ave on Friday night.

Our waiter at Ava was mostly absent, but aggressively pushy when he made his infrequent stops at our table: "Whaddya want to drink. You want a Pinot Noir? You want a Cabernet? You want a Syrah? Here, this one's good. Get this one," he rapid-fired as he pointed at the most expensive glasses in each category. The steak tartare and my four-ounce filet mignon were good, sturdy dishes, but my friend's asparagus salad and duck pappardelle were both woefully underseasoned and -- in the case of her entree -- dessicated and tough (yes, both the duck and the pasta). For the trouble of our time at the Schiller-Del Grande group's latest restaurant, we paid $132 (including tax and tip).

And we both left hungry, chuckling about the old Annie Hall adage of "terrible food," and "in such small portions."

Although we didn't intend to wind down at Grand Prize that night, the hipster dive bar ended up being our last destination, and we got there just as The Modular was about to shut down. We got their last meal of the night: a bowl of lobster risotto, garnished with fat ovals of claw meat and served alongside a whole lobster, as well as the now-infamous "marrow trough," a cow femur split in half, roasted and served with parsley salad and toasted slices of baguette.

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In a wonderfully meta moment, Jean-Philippe Gaston (sous chef at Haven) is pictured taking a picture of The Modular's bone marrow service.
There was no pomp and circumstance to this punk rock-plush meal. Instead of aggressively-sold glasses of wine, we sipped on some contraband sake aged in virgin Hungarian oak barrels, the unmarked bottle of sweetly buttery rice wine passed around like mother's milk. (I know exactly what this sounds like, but bear with me.) We told off-color jokes, loudly, and handed our plates directly back to the men who'd filled them after we were done. The cost per person of this feast? $26. $30 if you throw a few bucks in their jar for a tip.

But nightly feasts like these in the back of Grand Prize won't last forever (remember the Ghetto Dinners?). While restaurants can have a good run of maybe four or five years if they're lucky, a decade or longer if they're really great, food trucks have a markedly shorter expiration date. The menus at "gourmet" food trucks like The Modular usually don't stay the same either, due to the capricious nature of their owners and the fact that buying in bulk isn't always a possibility for guys with no walk-ins let alone any group purchasing power.

In addition to these elements and the continuing determination of the City to keep food trucks tightly regulated through exhaustive permitting processes and ever-increasing fees, the City also seems determined to make it difficult for small businesses like independently-operated restaurants to thrive inside the Loop -- the core of the city -- with revamped parking regulations that favor big-box retailers and restaurants.


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Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar - CLOSED

2800 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX

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carrie
carrie

here's the thing about food trucks.  i don't want to eat in a parking lot.  just saying.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Maybe if the City of Houston would allow food trucks to provide seating (which they are absolutely not allowed to have), this argument would become invalid.

Either way, the point of food trucks isn't really to provide ambiance. It's always been to provide good, inexpensive food on the run. And most of them do this adroitly. In a few happy cases, they are able to go even further than that - as with the occasions in which Grand Prize allows food trucks like The Modular to use its kitchen.

carrie
carrie

perhaps.  and i also don't want to have to constantly be plugged into a twitter feed or be "in the know" to get dinner.  i guess it is my own personal thing about food trucks--i don't even like take out--i am either eating in a restaurant or eating at home.  if they make the restaurants where i pay for "ambiance" (i.e., a chair, a table, a real plate, and real silverware?), then have it at, food truckers!

Lori
Lori

I don't know why, after around 8 (?) years in operation, no one has even mentioned Yuriria (used to be Huerta) on Fry. It's in the parking lot of a gas station with covered seating and fans, etc. It is THE best Mexican food truck in Houston (been to many), to the point where I don't understand why other Mexican trucks/restaurants can't get anywhere near it. Are they purposefully using shitty, cheap ingredients, comparatively? Just don't know. They make it seem simple. But yeah someone go try that shit.

LW
LW

Yes! Some recognition for West-side food :)

Eric S
Eric S

Tandoori Nite on Highway 6 serves excellent Indian food and has seating under a tent in the parking lot of a gas station; they can do that because they're in unincorporated Harris County (like international waters, the land that law forgot). You're gonna eat with plastic utensils and it lacks ambiance, but the food is delicious.

If that doesn't sound appealing, then I'd say the whole scene probably isn't for you. 

carrie
carrie

should have said "make the restaurants . . . better".

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

I don't understand the RDG phenomenon.  Why people frequent them that is.  He (or his managers and staff) lost their "give a sh+t" long ago.  To dine in his restaurants is to suffer insult after insult.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks to everyone for voicing their opinions in this forum. What a great discussion, with insightful points on both sides!

I have to step in here in defense of Mr. del Grande. I've had excellent meals prepared by him, most recently during a Don Julio tequila tasting dinner, when he prepared this beautiful red fish wrapped in a banana leaf, with chipotle sauce. It was progressive, perfectly made, the flavors and seasoning right on. Not "cutting edge Modernist" but still representative of his skill as a chef, and still, very current. I've had other meals at RDG with similar experiences - exquisitely prepared, high-end Southwestern food that was thoroughly satisfying, but in all those instances, the Chef was in the house, and if you frequent RDG regularly you'll find he's one of the hardest working Executive Chefs around. He is there almost every single time I step in the door. It's his work ethic that has helped him get this far, another reason he's achieved national recognition where others have not.

I think a big issue here, which happens at most Chef-driven restaurants, is faulty execution when the Executive Chef is not in the house. It happens all the time, and it happens everywhere, at some of the best restaurants in our city. When the Chef is there, the food is fabulous, and when he/she's not, it's very noticeable. In this case, it happened at Ava.

To date, my experiences with food at Ava have been good, not great, but they certainly haven't been as bad as the one Katharine had recently. Having said that, I don't think the idea was ever to make Ava a "temple of food," or a cutting edge-type restaurant. It's a place to go for the ambiance and scene, more so than the food. There's a place for it in the restaurant scene, and there's a target audience that is perfectly happy just being in the beautifully decorated restaurant. It's not the place to go if you're looking value or for mind-blowingly great food.

On the flip side, there are some wonderful things happening on the food scene here, especially among up-and-coming chefs and restauranteurs, and I wholeheartedly cheer them on. They are doing everything from using cutting edge techniques to working with local farmers and fishermen, to creating dishes that you would never see on a regular menu at a brick-and-mortar, and many of them, like Justin Yu and Seth Siegel-Gardner have worked as unpaid stages in different countries, acquiring skill and techniques that they could easily take out of Houston and into cities like San Francisco or New York.

But instead, they brought their skills back to their "home" in Houston. And while they may certainly have some missteps along the way, I sincerely hope that we give them as much support and as much faith as they have put in us, by staking their livelihoods on the fact that Houston is ready for what they have to offer.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

To those decrying this article, I pose a simple but serious question:Is it better to fail gloriously, or to succeed in mediocrity? I know how I feel, and I'm afraid that I know how Houston feels. Given the ratio of exciting restaurants to staid ones, I think Houston definitely comes down in favor of the latter. Thankfully, many of the places willing to fail gloriously also manage to succeed in the same vein. I see this article less as a slap in the face of the old guard, and more as a thrown gauntlet. Especially given the fact that I hold my dining dollars precious these days, I would much rather spend them somewhere doing something new, pushing the envelope, or striving to make Houston a better place to eat. There's certainly something to be said for consistency, and I think it's great that Houston has some places putting out expectably good food, even if they're not doing anything earth shattering. Without a solid foundation, it's hard to build anything, after all. There are plenty of places doing that, though. What Houston needs if it wants to progress as a city in which food culture moves forward, is a group of people willing to fail gloriously, willing to take risks, willing to be inconsistent. Without those people, we might as well close half the places in town. What good is having a million restaurants, all serving the same stuff, year after year? To those of you out there doing something different, something difficult, even something destined for failure, I applaud you. If Houston is to have a dining future, it can't just rest comfortably on its past.

Matthew
Matthew

interesting that someone would read that and decide to take it as a slight on B&M restaurants, when what we should really focus on is why the city of houston is, in what is supposed to be a business friendly state, making life difficult for these small business owners to get started? and why do the local news channels gleefully portray food trucks as moving health inspection violations?

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Two things I want to elaborate on - briefly - that I didn't have time/space to discuss in the original post:

1) Many food truck owners view the truck as a conduit to opening a restaurant of their own one day, using the truck in the meantime as a way to earn/save money and create a client base. Green Seed Vegan, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, is the perfect example of this. While many long-time restaurateurs may see this as the easy way out - i.e., there's much less overhead to start out with - the fact is that it's more difficult to secure financing through traditional methods these days. And if starting a food truck is the first step toward a full-fledged restaurant for these people, I'm in support of that.

2) Ethnic restaurants are the other, oft-forgotten "little guys" that need the help too. The reason you don't see as great a diversity of ethnic places - seriously good, authentic ethnic places - inside the Loop is that these restaurants simply can't afford the rent nor can many of them navigate the complex parking districts and regulations and so on and so forth. These are the same little guys that need fighting for, and they tend to get lost in the fray. To my mind, encouraging this diversity of cuisines is every bit as important for Houston's future - after all, we're known as a melting pot! - as encouraging the new generation of chefs.

Ben Thayer
Ben Thayer

The irony of the current food truck movement is that it acts like the concept is something new.  The people who frequent and defend them say they are supporting these trucks out of a desire for inexpensive food and diverse cuisine.  Yet, where were these people 5 years ago before food trucks became trendy?  If these people actually cared about these things they would've been supporting and tweeting and blogging about spots on Long Point and Bellaire long ago.  We've had some unbelievable little mom and pops food trucks in our city for years.  Yet, in part because most of them are Hispanic, speak english as a second language (if at all) and aren't social media savvy it's as if they don't count.   

tastybits
tastybits

Ben,

It's time to blow the sand out of your mangina and read the story again. No one is arguing for superiority of any one particular form factor. Brick & mortar, take-out, food truck, mail order, bangbus, vending machine... who gives a shit? The point is that with only a few exceptions there are no upscale restaurants feel no competitive pressure to get better or even be consistently good. There is a whole layer of established chefs and restaurants who have fallen into comfort zone of mediocrity and have no reason to change. 

Despite this, there is no shortage of great food being cooked in Houston in 2011 and it's coming from the most unlikely sources - trucks, pop-up restaurants, collaborative dinners, etc. All of it signals a better 2012, as new restaurants open, old restaurants step up their game, and mobile operators grow into small, self-funded spaces.

I can assure you, no mobile operator actually wants to be locked in a tin can in the Houston heat. And if our established chefs focused on developing new talent and giving them room to grow, as opposed to turning Houston real estate into an endless string of Cafe Express locations and Amazon Grills, you'd see less buzz about food trucks in this city. 

All of that aside, I find your comments on OKRA puzzling. You'd have to be incredibly cynical to view the work they are doing as a self-serving effort, and I say this as an incredibly cynical bastard. 

Eric S
Eric S

Liked entirely for "bangbus" reference. 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I can't speak for anyone else, but if you'll look back through my food writing (which, granted, only goes back to 2006), you'll see that I've been an advocate of food trucks -- yes, even the Hispanic owned ones! - for a very long time. Lots of people have.

There are certainly plenty more food truck fans who are only now hopping on the bandwagon, but being upset about this is like being mad at your favorite underground band for getting a shout-out in Pitchfork. Sure, these "new fans" came along after. But who cares anymore at this point? Use that increased momentum from new fans and new diners to propel the movement forward even further!

And, in the meantime, maybe those same new fans will [hopefully] realize that the mom-and-pop food trucks on Telephone and Long Point laid the groundwork for this new generation of food trucks and give those old trucks the respect (and patronage) that they deserve.  :)

Lance Cowan
Lance Cowan

Hi Katharine,

I'd like to send you information regarding a new product in HEB stores from Sharon Ely.  I'm copying the press release, but you can reach me at (615) 331-1710.  Thanks!

Lance Cowan / LCMedia

Soul Food for chile lovers                            Sharon Ely's Holy Posole Is Available at HEB Stores

AUSTIN, Texas — For Sharon Ely, Holy Posole means great medicine. 

Ms. Ely fell in love with the hominy-laden chile when she and her husband, famed musician Joe  Ely, stopped in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The couple had been traveling all day, and their hostess greeted them with a steaming pot of posole waiting in the stove.

“The soup made us feel SO much better,” she recalls. “I just know it makes me feel better when I need some nourishment and some love, and I’ve seen it make other people feel better, too.  There’s just something about this soup.”

Over the years, Ms. Ely refined the centuries old recipe to create a signature dish, which she calls Holy Posole, a venerable Spanish/Mexican/Native American dish featuring hominy, hearty broth, meat (if desired) and spices.  It is Southwestern comfort food of the highest order.

Sharon Ely’s All Natural Holy Posole is now being made available in nearly 50 HEB stores across the state of Texas.  In her hometown of Austin, boutique stores that have placed orders simply can’t keep the soup on their shelves.  The soup is also available online at www.holyposole.net.

Prior to making the chile available through HEB, Ms. Ely’s Holy Posole was a crowd favorite at parties and events.

Bringing great food to the masses is nothing new to Ms. Ely.  She and her husband were among the first to work with their friend and fellow Lubbock native C.B. “Stubbs” Stubblefield with marketing his now-ubiquitous barbeque sauces.  The first batch of Stubbs Barbecue Sauce was cooked up in the Elys’ kitchen.

In addition to her culinary talents, Ms. Ely has been a model and a much-sought after stylist, working in such films as There Will Be Blood, True Grit (2010) and the Friday Night Lights television series.

Wyatt
Wyatt

What do you guys think of Newt Gingrich?

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

I don't know which I like better. The original article or all the comments after. Either way there is a lot of passion being put to paper - or screen - here. Good reads.TA

bootsie77377
bootsie77377

How many new restaurants will Randy Rucker have to open, then close, before we realize the truth, he's the chef version of the https://www.slapchop.com/ or in other words a really unnecessary tool.   Ben - not sure you would know the truth if it slapped you in the face! Randy Rucker is my son and as far as him opening and closing restaurants, the number is only "1" and he didn't close that one. Randy and I chose to close laidback manor because we were made an offer on the space that would have been a mistake to turn away from. Randy was not in favor of closing but I was the majority share holder and over ruled his decision. Now if you are referring to Bootsie's, we opened it with the intention of it being my restaurant serving comfort food and Randy had no intention of staying in Tomball. After 3 months I had some health problems that kept me out of the restaurant and Randy stepped in and took over. He was struggling with the chicken fried steaks etc that I had on the menu and in time made he made changes and starting buying from the local farmers and serving fresh home grown food. I have since taken the restaurant back and now serve both fresh vegetables and chicken fried steak. Bootsie's is not closed and is back under my management. This is the truth, not sure where you get your stories.

Kevin Floyd
Kevin Floyd

Ben,

I respect your point of view but wanted to make one point of clarification. The issues with the parking ordnance and the issues we had with Hay Merchant and Underbelly are not related. The passage of the new ordnance will in no way effect existing businesses like Hay Merchant and Underbelly. The experiences we had with the Planning Department with Hay Merchant showed us that the lack of an organization within the small restaurant and bar community made it difficult for City departments to interface with independent owners. Thus we began working to form and organization that would help protect us from being overlooked simply because we were hard to interface with. 

Just so we are clear on this issue in reference to your statement "Then again it's funny how that group only materialized when it seemed Hay Merchant/Underbelly wasn't going to have their parking approved by the city." The "city" approved the parking plan for that location before construction began on the site at the beginning of the summer.

Ben Thayer
Ben Thayer

The people who live in your neighborhood tell a different story, but I digress.  It will be exciting to have Hay Merchant/Underbelly in the Montrose, regardless of whether or not I feel OKRA is a self serving organization.  

truckie
truckie

maybe if you the houston press food writers showcased more food trucks, other than the same two every week. they wouldnt go out of business. and yes none of that food was done on a truck.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

A fair point, as I noticed while writing this that The Modular had been featured inordinately often lately. I'll make a concerted effort to feature a greater variety of trucks/carts here. And our "Keep On Truckin'" category to the right is a great starting place for posts/info about many of the other food trucks around town.

Ben Thayer
Ben Thayer

 I'm getting tired of this self important generation of "foodies" who think good cuisine didn't exist in this town before Chris Shepherd.   If I counted the number of bad meals had from Del Grande compared to great ones, I would firmly be in a blissful shade of black.  Why they, independent operators who worked their way up to this station in life, should continually be the piñata that the next generation beats on is confusing.  This unfair and unequivocal write up is just the latest example.  You compare an anonymous meal at a restaurant that probably served hundreds of people that night, to hanging with the boys (boys who you've banged the drum for often) and drinking "contraband sake" from a bottle.  You talk about it being your last destination of the night, so it probably means some drinking was involved.  Has most of us know from experience, alcohol, friends and late nights make everything seem better.  Not so long ago you concluded Houstonian's liked Mai's in part because they know you and it offers late night food.   You'd been improving so much as journalist, but this ode to your blogging, chow hound, I hang with the "in crowd" days is disheartening.   While it's unfortunate the meal at Ava was less than stellar, measuring it to another meal where they had a limited menu and knew you well is hardly fair. 

There are a ton of independent restaurateurs who have worked their asses off to become established while working hard to deliver CONSISTENTLY great experiences.  Or do you classify the Charles Clark, Marco Wiles, Monica Pope, Randy Evans, Bryan Cox, Anita Jaisinghani, Hugo Ortega and Mark Cox as the enemy? These are the Chefs who began in your words, the "fighting for finances against restaurants run by large national chains". They also can be found in their kitchens, working there lines, serving guests daily.  Try putting down the kool-aid and paying some respect to the people who are still paving the way in this town.  By the way people have been fighting hard against restrictive parking long before OKRA came along.  Then again it's funny how that group only materialized when it seemed Hay Merchant/Underbelly wasn't going to have their parking approved by the city. 

elgallodemontrose
elgallodemontrose

Nice to see someone calling out the OKRA crowd for what they are.

tastybits
tastybits

I won't speak for Katharine, but I do apply a different standard to a younger generation of chefs and do so quite consciously. 

Established restaurants and chefs shouldn't be judged purely on what they have achieved in their careers or dues they paid over the years, but also on basis of their continued evolution. Their food should get better over time and cooking should ultimately improve. And yet with the exception of Hugo Ortega, not a single established chef on your list is improving. At best, they are standing still. Many turn out wildly inconsistent results. Some are actively getting worse. Success breeds apathy and in a city without Michelin inspectors and uncompromising modern day legends, such as Thomas Keller, we only have food writers to provide an honest assessment of where Houston food is evolving and where it is stagnating. 

So if the guys at Modular (which I have not visited and barely know) make a less than a Tokyo-worthy bowl of ramen, they deserve a pass from me because they care enough to push forward and do things almost unheard of in Houston: like pulling their own alkaline noodles, among other things. I'd be happy to allow them a few missteps, because I know they give a shit enough to get to a great product eventually. Where they are going is far more important than where they are, because there is at least an opportunity of greatness - something you'll never find at Cafe Express. 

Ava is a different story, however. That duck pappardelle has been on the menu since opening and it was just as lifeless and under-seasoned then as apparently it is today. Shouldn't Del Grande, someone who should be a standard setter for Houston, be putting out better product than such obvious dreck, if this is one of the few dishes his kitchen has been polishing for months now? Shouldn't he be devastated by the fact that his flagship has trouble serving even a terminally boring menu of greatest hits without a call for action by a restaurant critic?

Ben Thayer
Ben Thayer

 Invention, passion and a desire to carve one's own path is admirable.  Some of these young chefs will indeed succeed and add a lot to Houston.  However, the fact that they only attack established chefs is frustrating.  These people pay rent (in many cases extremely high rent) provide jobs, bring visitors to this city and give opportunities to the next generation.  Hugo Ortega is an outstanding talent, one who probably hasn't gotten the national acclaim he deserves, but he isn't the only one doing some interesting things.  Like or hate Bryan Caswell he has added a bright mix of restaurants to our city and helped develop other chefs.  The same can be said of Charles Clark.   Would Jonathon Jones be as relevant if he hadn't escaped Max's and joined forces with Monica Pope?   I agree critics, writers and most of all guests should push these chefs to provide the best food possible for the money while entertaining us.  Perhaps Robert has some work on his hands, but this article seemed like a poor way of making that statement.  Intentional or not it reads like an attack on brick and mortar restaurants.  Critiquing by the way should be done with some level of consistency.  If you are inherently operating on a different set of standards for young chefs then you aren't really being fair. 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Mostly valid points (except for the part where you implied that I was intoxicated on Friday night, and that said intoxication impaired my judgment of the risotto I was eating -- I'd been drinking, but was by no means drunk). However, I really attempted to impart the idea that all the long-lived restaurateurs in Houston (especially the Jaisinghanis and Popes and Coxes of the city) are by no means to be disparaged, but rather to be praised for their work in building Houston into the amazing city that it is:

Ignoring Houston's past would also mean ignoring James Coney Island or Ninfa's or Brennan's or any number of noteworthy, landmark restaurants that have made the city what it is today. We are lucky to have the shoulders of giants like Robert Del Grande upon which to perch and see further into our future. The challenge isn't in de-emphasizing the impact these places have had on Houston.

Without them and without the groundwork they laid,  we wouldn't have this new generation of chefs.  You can't build on past successes if you tear them down. So what I'm trying to say is that I agree with you, but also believe that we need to keep pushing forward - keep raising the bar, so to speak - in order not to become stagnant and in order to keep growing.

Ben Thayer
Ben Thayer

  I didn't imply you were drunk, but rather drinking.  A little wine, sake or beer tends to change our perceptions.  How else would so many of us managed to stomach a 3 AM Jack In The Box Taco in this lifetime?   These young chefs and food trucks aren't held to anywhere near the same standard as the established Chefs.  I've been to Les Sauvage, Snap Shot, Tenacity, Chow Hound Throw Downs and many of these other "one time dinners/events" and found much of the food lacking.  However because of the coolness factor or the limited access the "foodies' won't call out these people  when they fail to produce.  Heck the young chefs won't even call out each other when they know there buddy is serving crappy produce, poorly seasoned food or a badly thought out dish, but they won't hesitate to attack a well known guy like Del Grande.  Your article seems to be piling on to this philosophy.   Also, how do you reignite a well past smoldering trend?  Just because someone young and in this "in crowd" is doing something doesn't mean they are doing something creative.  Beer is massive all over, particularly with the under 30 crowd who missed the last time beer reached critical mass in the 90s.  Walk into Petrol Station, BRC, Branchwater, Beaver's, El Gran Malo, Plonk, Flying Saucer, Gingerbread Man, Downing Street, and countless others and you see the beer movement is in full fledged swing.    At the new whole foods you see people hanging out getting their beer on at all hours.  Grocery Stores are such remarkable trend setters.   Is Kata Robata not bringing modern Japanese to Houston?  Sure they aren't as cool as Uchi, because Hori isn't white and he didn't come from Austin, but they are doing some fantastic stuff.  Or maybe they lost that "It" factor after helping develop guys like Seth Seigel-Gardner and Josh Martinez to the point they decided to try their own thing.    New doesn't equate to better.  It just means new as we've seen thousands of times.  How many new restaurants will Randy Rucker have to open, then close, before we realize the truth, he's the chef version of the https://www.slapchop.com/ or in other words a really unnecessary tool. 

Chuck
Chuck

At this point, I can only assume that your use of "self important" in your opening paragraph above was meant as the deepest possible compliment. Cheers!

Ben Thayer
Ben Thayer

I didn't indicate they were the only place these guys got there chops.  I said " after helping develop guys like Seth Seigel-Gardner and Josh Martinez",  Selective reading is no way to get through life if you actually want to be educated.  Seth has spent a great deal of time studying and learning in the US and abroad.  He is very talented as is Josh Martinez.  Just pointing out that both of them were given a chance to shine locally by a Houston restauranteur at a brick and mortor building. 

Chuck
Chuck

I'll bet you that Randy's top five Bootsie's customers are all heavy Twitter users, and Randy himself uses it to promote his own special dinners (and those of other chefs.) Randy also has a blog.

I'm not certain why you feel as though you need to disparage social media users (by commenting on a blog!); perhaps you meant to be ironic, you crazy hipster.

But you are welcome to find great food your way, and I'll find it in mine.

rr
rr

thank you sir

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

All I am going to say is that Kata Robata is excellent, but Uchi is better, based on my experience.

johnk.
johnk.

Randy Rucker will open one more restaurant, in a perfect locale at the nexus of Museum, Midtown, Medcenter, and Rice.  His clientele, which cares little for blogs and "tweeter", won't think him a tool, but rather an "enfant terrible", and drive the extra blocks past the Raven Grill and pack his joint every night, including Mondays, for as long as he wants.

Chuck
Chuck

The fact that you'd suggest that Kata Robata helped "develop guys like Seth Seigel-Gardner...to the point they decided to try their own thing" indicates to me that you haven't bothered to learn the first thing about where our young chefs came from, and where they're going. I'll value your opinions about them accordingly.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

Once one realizes that there's great food to be had at popularly-priced restaurants (or food trucks) it becomes harder to rationalize spending two or three times as much simply to sit at a table covered with a white tablecloth.  Unless something better is offered and the experience is truly superlative, or you simply have money to burn, there is little point.

I like the city's growing food truck scene not only because of the food being created, but also for the pressure it puts on brick-and-mortar restaurants to up their game.

Ben Thayer
Ben Thayer

Enjoy that food truck when we are having 30 plus 100 degree days again next August.  Also you might note that the food she is raving about was prepared and served in a brick and mortar building, last I hear the kitchen at Grand Prize wasn't on wheels. 

William Philpot
William Philpot

I enjoyed the food trucks the last few summers with 100 degree days. Why wouldn't I enjoy them next August as well?

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

Excellent article! I agree - one of the best and most insightful about the Houston food scene that I have ever read.

Ruthie J M
Ruthie J M

YEAH!!! Well said.

phaedracook
phaedracook

What she said. Seriously, I vote this for one of the best articles of the year.

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