How Did Restaurants Do During Houston Restaurant Weeks 2014?

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo courtesy of Houston Restaurant Weeks
HRW is over, but some Houston restaurants are sounding off on their experiences this year.
Houston Restaurant Weeks came to a close on Monday, September 1. The total amount of money raised from the approximately 165 participating restaurants has not been announced yet, but we spoke with a few restaurant general managers/owners about their experience during HRW this year to get some feedback from the restaurant-side in terms of customer traffic, work load in the kitchen, profits for the restaurant and if they would consider participating next year.

Kata Robata (a frequent participant), Radical Eats (newcomer to HRW) and Eleven:Eleven (a second-year participant) provided us with some similar comments about the restaurant's experience, and some strikingly different opinions from the general managers/owners.

Kata Robata has participated in HRW for about five years. General manager Blake Lewis says that Kata Robata is already busy during August, so adding HRW traffic definitely can clog things up in the restaurant. Lewis says about 980 customers dined on the restaurant weeks menu at Kata this year.

"We did a few hundred less than we did the year before," Lewis says. "I just think that there were so many more restaurants doing it this year that that might have been the reason why we didn't see as many as we have in the previous years. We just get guests that wouldn't normally come to Kata because they are afraid of the menu or just think it's too expensive, or whatever have you. We get a lot of first-timers here during restaurant weeks which we are obviously happy about. But a lot of them don't always return just because they end up not appreciating what we do here."

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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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Openings & Closings: Jonathan's the Rub Is Staying Put in Memorial Village

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Molly Dunn
You can still get these lobster tacos at Jonathan's the Rub in Memorial Village.
The second location for Jonathan's the Rub was slated to open at 963 Bunker Hill in November of this year, but that project has come to a halt. Chef and owner Jonathan Levine says he doesn't want to expand his business and would rather stay at his current location in Memorial at 9061 Gaylord. According to the Houston Chronicle, Levine says in statement, "We have made a decision within our family to stay in our current location and continue doing what we do best. We have a great thing going on and an incredible customer base at our unique location on Gaylord Street and will continue providing the best food, the best service and a great experience to our customers. We are exploring exciting opportunities, which will ultimately be better for the organization, the Memorial Village community and our family."

We recently visited Jonathan's the Rub to taste some of Levine's "New Houston Fare" menu, including the Hill Country Chicken & Shrimp, a surf-and-turf style dish featuring fried chicken breast and jumbo shrimp smothered in sautéed jalapeno, peppers and onions, bacon and Sriracha aioli. Of course, no one can visit the restaurant without ordering a plate of the lobster tacos featuring corn tortillas stuffed with lobster salad, tomatillo salsa, seared avocado, chipotle and Aleppo chili.

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Help Chef Luis Gallardo in His Fight Against Cancer

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Margaret Medina Lee
Luis Gallardo, a 24-year-old sushi chef at Soma Sushi, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. He is fighting for his life and needs your help.

The name Luis Gallardo is not a prominent one in Houston food circles. Like the many young chefs just who work hard to get better at their craft, Gallardo spent the earlier part of his career learning English while working 60-plus-hour work weeks. Still, he worked his way up from the maki station (making rolls) as an associate roller to his most recent position as the sous to Soma Sushi's head sushi chef, Pascal Choi.

Says Choi "He's been my second in command. Whenever he's working, I don't have to worry about anything, because he does pretty much everything. He's a really nice, strong person."

Ryan Snyder, who was head of operations at Soma for several years, echoes these sentiments: "Luis is one of my all time favorite employees that ever worked for me. He is the hardest working sushi chef I've had the privilege to work with. When we first hired him be barely spoke a lick of English. He would bust his ass 60+ hrs a week and go to school to learn English on his day off. Any free time he had during breaks he was diligently studying his English book to get better. Slowly but surely he did and within a year or two spoke fluid English, better then some of the guys who have been here for over a decade. And this is to say nothing of his incredible skills as a sushi chef. He ascended from a simple roller to the #2 sushi man at Soma faster then any pupil I've seen before. His knife skills are amongst the best I've seen for a sushi chef, let alone for one so young. A more humble, ego-less, hard working chef you will not find."

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Chef David Coffman Joins Cullen's Upscale American Grille

Photo courtesy of David Coffman
Before assuming the role as executive chef at Cullen's Upscale American Grille, David Coffman worked at other Houston restaurants, including Katsuya.
Chef David Coffman takes the reins of executive chef at Cullen's Upscale American Grille today, September 2. Coffman has experience at a variety of Houston restaurants, including Goro & Gun, Benjy's on Washington and in Rice Village, and Katsuya.

The decision to bring Coffman on board at Cullen's was made on Thursday, August 28, by the owner Kevin Munz and general manager Ryan Roberts. Cullen's is currently going through a transition to revamp its menu offerings.

"We just recently did a tasting for those guys [Munz and Roberts] and they all thought it would be a huge benefit for me to come on board over there and work for those guys and help bring their restaurant back up to award-winning and where it needs to be," Coffman says. "Kind of liven it up a little bit."

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Openings & Closings: Play Strip Twister and Get Evicted

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Zelko Bistro remains open in the Heights and you can still get this cheese plate.
Another Upper Kirby establishment closed its doors this week. Irish pub Mugsy's at 2239 Richmond shuttered on Sunday, August 24, but the co-owner Randy Eddy tells Eater Houston that he is closing the Irish pub and replacing it with a New Orleans-style restaurant, Tavern Orleans. The menu will feature Creole and Cajun dishes, such as classic gumbo, shrimp creole and etouffee, along with unique items like chicory coffee-crusted pork chops. The new French Quarter restaurant is set to open on Tuesday, September 2.

As reported by Swamplot, Judge Randy Wilson granted temporary injunction which prevents Zelko Bistro's landlord from placing a for lease sign outside the restaurant at 705 E. 11th. The judge made this decision on August 20, but 30 days from that ruling date, Zelko Bistro and its landlord must "mediate the dispute." As for now, the Heights restaurant remains open, so you can stuff your face with the incredible cheese plate served with a side of fresh honeycomb; and don't forget about the St. Arnold's short ribs.

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First Look at Moderno Tacos + Tex-Mex

Photo by Mai Pham
DF Street Tacos (carne asada and chicken), $10.95 at Moderno Tacos + Tex-Mex.

From the outside, Moderno Tacos + Tex Mex looks like your typical nondescript strip mall restaurant. Come a little closer, however, and a charming design space awaits, complete with a funky local Mexican mural in the window, beckoning you to have a closer look.

Just a month old, Moderno, located on Briar Forest just outside Beltway 8 in Westchase, is ambitious. Open at 7 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, they are already serving breakfast and lunch (counter service), happy hour and dinner.

"People are really loving the egg and chorizo breakfast tacos," says general manager Shane Conley. "Come Friday afternoon, our happy hour is great. People would rather come here and have a glass of wine or one of our fresh margaritas than get stuck in traffic."

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Houston Restaurant Weeks: Latin Bites

Photo by Molly Dunn
Add mimosas to your HRW brunch at Latin Bites.
What they're up to for Houston Restaurant Weeks: This year, Latin Bites offers a $25 three-course brunch on Sunday and a $35 three-course dinner throughout the week. For each brunch sold, Latin Bites will donate $4 to the Houston Food Bank and $5 for each dinner sold. We decided to check out the HRW brunch menu where you can add two-servings of a tropical cava mimosa to your brunch for $10 extra.

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Hal Brock to Lead Boheme's Beverage Program

Photo by Mark Armes
Hal Brock is working on a new drinks menu for Boheme
Local favorite Hal Brock, whose resume includes stints at Hearsay and Anvil will join Boheme to lead its beverage program, it has just been announced.

In an embargoed press release, Brock described himself as pretty happy about his new responsibilities.

"Boheme is that place you go to experience and live, and I'm taking inspiration from all the places the Bohemian folks go to experience and live. It's not about local or luxury, it's about a modern Cultural Collage," said Brock.

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Houston Restaurant Weeks: La Casa Del Caballo

Minh T Truong
8oz ribeye at La Casa del Caballo
What they're up to for Houston Restaurant Weeks: La Casa del Caballo is back on the list of restaurants this year and are offering both lunch and dinner. Lunch is three courses for $20, with first course options of two different kinds of soup, or a salad. Entrees include a 6oz ribeye, chicken breast or their wonderful enchiladas saltillo, filled with queso fresco and five types of chiles. For dessert, choose from tres leches, flan or the tradtional arroz con leche, creamy rice pudding laced with cinnamon. Dinner runs for $35, and while the first course and dessert options are the same as lunch, the entrees during dinner is for meat lovers only. Choose between a 10 ounce angus beef shoulder or an 8 ounce ribeye cooked over mesquite wood accompanied with grilled vegetables and refried beans. If you really want to throw all caution to the wind go with the 20 ounce smoked brisket served with crispy potatoes. La Casa del Caballo will donate $3 to the Houston Food Bank for each lunch sold, and $5 for each dinner.

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