UPDATED: Pappas Bar-B-Q Restaurant at Little York Burns to the Ground in Two-Alarm Blaze

Update -- 12:30 p.m.: Christina Pappas, Director of Marketing for Pappas Restaurants, Inc., provided this statement to the Houston Press:

"We want to thank The Houston Fire Department for their bravery at our location on Little York. We are very thankful that all of our employees and all firefighters are safe. We are working to relocate our staff to other locations. The Little York location will be closed until further notice."

"Our current priority is relocating all of the Little York employees to other Pappas locations until we are able reopen."

UPDATE: At this time, a spokeswoman for Pappas Restaurants said they still don't know the cause of the fire, and right now there is no information available about the status or future of Pappas Bar-B-Q at Little York.

The Pappas Bar-B-Q located at 3814 Little York burned to the ground at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 7. The restaurant was closed during the two-alarm blaze, and according to KHOU, no firefighters were injured while responding to the fire.

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Remembering Chef Grant Gordon's Life in Food

Categories: News

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Photo by Mai Pham
Chef Grant Gordon
Anyone who knew chef Grant Gordon, whether it was through a restaurant, eating his food or being his personal friend, knew what an incredible person he was and that he was a truly skilled chef. Gordon established a name for himself in Houston as one of the most talented chefs under 30. He received a number of accolades, awards and recognition from various publications and organizations, including the James Beard Foundation.

Gordon was a native Houstonian who graduated from Memorial High School. Kevin Naderi, chef and owner of Roost and Lillo & Ella, actually grew up with Gordon. They started kindergarten together, but it wasn't until high school that Naderi discovered that Gordon, like himself, wanted to become a chef.

"It was cool to find out that he loved to cook because there wasn't anybody else I really knew in my grade that was wanting to be a chef," Naderi says. "So we clicked more over that which was pretty cool. We always kept in touch since then."

During their senior year, Gordon worked at Rickshaw, a sushi bar in River Oaks, and Naderi worked at the Double Tree Post Oak. Naderi says they always jokingly bragged about their jobs and their future successful careers. Both attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York, but Gordon stayed to finish the program, while Naderi came home to Houston to enroll at the Art Institute.

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Updated: Grant Gordon, Former Tony's Chef and The Edmont Partner, Found Dead

Categories: News

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Photo by Mai Pham
Chef Grant Gordon was found dead in his home Monday night.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department did confirm that a deceased male at Gordon's address was discovered at 8:45 p.m. Monday, dead from an apparent suicide.The official cause of death is still pending from the medical examiner.

Original Post:

The Houston Press has received word that chef Grant Gordon has unexpectedly passed away. CultureMap Houston is reporting that Gordon was found in his home Monday night. The cause of death has not been reported.

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UPDATED: L'Olivier Removed from Houston Restaurant Weeks

Categories: News

Photo by Troy Fields
L'Olivier will no longer be allowed to participate in Houston Restaurant Weeks.
Editor's note: We have received a statement from Cleverley Stone about her decision to remove L'Olivier from Houston Restaurant Weeks.

It appears you can get kicked out of a charity event for breaking the rules. CultureMap Houston's Eric Sandler broke the news earlier this afternoon that L'Olivier was removed from the lineup of restaurants in Houston Restaurant Weeks for its $30 lunch menu at the restaurant; the online menu displayed on the Houston Restaurant Weeks website is for three courses at $20, but at the restaurant, diners must choose between two courses for $20 or three courses for $30.

The French restaurant on Westheimer posted its HRW lunch menu on its own website which clearly states at the top of the screen, "Choice of 2 courses for $20," and proceeds to list homemade pate, a goat cheese salad, and choice of watermelon gazpacho or soup du jou, followed by the entrees and dessert. There is no indication on the menu that adding a third course to your lunch costs an extra $10.

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Chef Randy Evans Talks Haven's Closing and What's Next for Him

Photo courtesy Haven
Chef Randy Evans is moving on to smaller and more southern things.
It was a celebration last night at Haven, chef Randy Evans's farm-to-table restaurant famous for its fried chicken and upscale comfort food. December 19 would have marked Haven's fifth anniversary, but the restaurant closed unexpectedly after service last night to make way for a new business in the cozy space.

"We had a great night last night," Evans says. "There was a huge crowd, and everyone was toasting. We kinda had the last hurrah, if you will."

Evans says he'd known the restaurant was up for sale by the owner, Rhea Wheeler, since January, but he wasn't expecting the text he received Thursday telling him not to place an order for Houston Restaurant Weeks, in which Haven was expected to participate.

"It gives me a chance to go on and do something different," Evans says. "It makes it easier to leave when big things happen. I left Brennan's because of the fire after Hurricane Ike, and now I'm moving on again."

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Is "the New Cupcake" the Cupcake?

Categories: News, Sweets

Photo by Nate Steiner via Flickr
Why are cupcakes still popular?
Macarons are the "new cupcake." Or is it pie? Or how about cake balls? No, it's going to be doughnuts. But, what about popsicles?

This has been the non-stop conversation over the cupcake trend since the personal-sized treats topped with a swirl of frosting became popular in the early 2000s. Despite several "new cupcakes" making their appearance in the baked goods market, the cupcake remains the favorite.

A recent Slate article tracked every single food that has ever been labeled as the cupcake's replacement over the past eight years and found that 57 foods were called "the new cupcake" in news articles. In March and April 2010, nine different publications said macarons were the new "it" dessert -- we even supported that claim this past year.

But, if all of these sweets and treats (some were savory, like burgers and hot dogs) were supposed to knock cupcakes off the totem pole, then why haven't bakeries stopped selling them? And why haven't all the cupcakeries gone out of business? We spoke with several bakery owners who all sell cupcakes, whether it's alongside other products or their only product, to share their thoughts on the trend, and if they think the cupcake is on its way out the door.

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Jonathan Jones Brings Interior Mexican Cuisine to El Big Bad and It's Damn Good

Categories: News, On the Menu

Photo by Mai Pham
Goat Birria, a type of Mexican stew. One of the recent daily specials offered by Jonathan Jones at El Big Bad.

It's Friday evening, just past 6 p.m., and chef Jonathan Jones is moving with ease behind the bar at El Big Bad downtown. He seems comfortable, happy. His mood is decidedly jovial, and he's telling us about the some of the daily specials he's running now that he's taken over as executive chef of the downtown gastro-cantina. They all sound mouthwatering.

"We have St. Louis Berkshire pork ribs glazed with a chile morita sauce," he says, as he describes how he's cooked them so that they're fall off the bone tender. I'm groaning, a sort of half-pain-half-pleasure sort of sound, and tell him: "That sounds so good."

In response, he gives me this confident grin, the one that tells me he knows it's not just good, but damn good, and says somewhat modestly, "It is. It's really good."

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Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Wins James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest

Photo courtesy Lindsey Brown
Congrats to Chris Shepherd on his big win!
It's about damn time.

It's been 22 years since a Houston chef won an award from the James Beard Foundation--one of the most prestigious organizations recognizing culinary excellence in the United States--but last night that losing streak was broken by Underbelly's Chris Shepherd.

Shepherd was in New York to accept the award, along with fellow nominees Hugo Ortega and Justin Yu. All three were nominated in the Best Chef Southwest category. This was Ortega's third nomination and Yu's second, having previously been nominated in the Rising Star Chef category. We'd been calling Shepherd a three-time nominee too--until now. Now he's a winner.

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UPDATED: As Fees Become Problematic, Restaurants Move Away from OpenTable, But Do They Stay Away?

Categories: Food Fight, News

Is the OpenTable name worth its major cost?
A few more people in the local restaurant industry chimed in with their thoughts on OpenTable after this article was originally published. You can now read their comments on the next page.

Imagine you own a restaurant, and you want to fill seats. You need to get people to make reservations. So you turn to OpenTable, the number one online reservation software.

It's been around since 1998, so it's had plenty of time to work out the kinks. Nearly 27,000 restaurants around the country use the service to make it quick and convenient for guests to make reservations, even when the restaurants is closed. To many, OpenTable seems like the best bet.

But lately, many restaurants have been switching to other, smaller reservation services due to prohibitive fees from OpenTable. Signing up for the service costs $1,295 just for the software, which OpenTable requires restaurants use. Then there's a monthly fee of $199. Add another $99 a month onto that if you want to be featured in OpenTable's dining guide. It's 25 cents for every reservation booked from the restaurant's website, and $1 for every reservation that comes directly from OpenTable or partner sites like Yelp. On top of that, there's a point system wherein diners earn more points if they book through OpenTable's website. It costs the restaurants more, but diners love it.

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3-D Printed Food Is a Thing...But Do You Want to Eat It?

Photo courtesy Natural Machines
Hey, Foodini! Make me a sandwich! (Note: It doesn't work like that)
It's called Foodini. Rhymes with Houdini. As if it might, at some point, perform some feat of escape artistry.

It's just a box, though, sort of like a microwave with a computer screen on the front. Capsules containing blended food are loaded into the machine, and it's programmed to squirt out the food mush into geometric shapes and patterns. If the food then needs to be cooked, you cook it.

But the point of Foodini is to cut out the prep time. You don't have sprinkle flour all over a surface to roll out pizza dough. You don't have to shape cookies. You don't have to cut and fill ravioli. Foodini does that for you.

If it sounds a little like something out of The Jetsons, that's not such a stretch.

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