Say yes to tacos

Montrose barbecue joint cooks up Tex-Mex spinoff in shuttered pizza spot

Montrose barbecue joint plots Tex-Mex spinoff in shuttered pizza spot

Cane Rosso Montrose
The former Cane Rosso space will be renovated. Courtesy of Cane Rosso
The Pit Room tacos
The Pit Room's tacos have been a hit since day one.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Houston Barbecue Festival pit room cabrito
Specials like cabrito will find a permanent place on the menu.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Cane Rosso Montrose
The Pit Room tacos
Houston Barbecue Festival pit room cabrito

The recently shuttered Cane Rosso location in Montrose won’t stay empty for long. Sambrooks Management Company, the local restaurant group behind The Pit Room, Sam’s Chicken & Donuts, and others, has assumed the lease and will open a Tex-Mex restaurant in the space.

“I’ve always wanted to do Tex-Mex,” Sambrooks co-owner Michael Sambrooks tells CultureMap. “We’ve had our eye on [the location] for awhile.”

Since the agreement only took effect last week, both the new restaurant’s name and a timeline for its opening have yet to be determined. Sambrooks says he’s working with architects on a comprehensive set of renovations and hope to be open in approximately six months.

While the pizza oven will be removed, the existing duct work will allow for the installation of a wood-burning grill. The counter that had been used for pizza dough will become a tortilla rolling station. Seating around the area will allow diners to watch their fajitas being grilled and their tortillas being made. Other renovations will expand the kitchen slightly.

The space’s patio will be redesigned. As Sambrooks notes, the large footprint and covering make it an ideal environment for drinking margaritas.

When it comes to the menu, Sambrooks articulates a simple philosophy. “You’ve got to have good queso, good fajitas, good margaritas, and good cheese enchiladas.”

Those efforts will build off the Tex-Mex dishes that have always been part of The Pit Room’s offerings. Popular dishes like the brisket fat tortillas, smoked chicken tacos, and chips and salsa will make the move down the street, while occasional specials like cabrito could find a permanent place on the menu. As at The Pit Room, the restaurant will serve USDA Prime beef and make all of its menu scratch.

David Maness, the company’s beverage director, is working on a full cocktail menu that will focus on margaritas. Sambrooks notes that members of his management team have experience with both Cyclone Anaya’s and Pappasito’s, which should give them insight into the best way to get the new restaurant on the path to success.

Difficulties with parking and a lack of visibility from the street are two issues that proved challenging for Cane Rosso. Sambrooks says he’s working with the landlord to identify a place for a sign and that valet will be available to combat those challenges.

The news comes at a busy time for Sambrooks Management. Since the company purchased three former Cherry Pie Hospitality restaurants last year, it has rebranded Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts as Sam's Fried Chicken Donuts and tweaked the menu with new dishes from culinary director Lyle Bento. Next up, seafood restaurant Star Fish will temporarily close for renovations and reopen with a new name; until then, diners can visit the restaurant to preview changes to the menu being made by Bento and executive chef J.D. Woodward. 

Still, the opportunity to open a Tex-Mex restaurant proved too good to pass up. After all, the cuisine has always been part of The Pit Room's culinary DNA. Allowing it to bloom into a new concept seems like a no-brainer.