The Houston carnivore scene got a unique new player this week with the arrival of La Casa del Caballo, a popular northeastern Mexican steakhouse that has opened its first United States location and second branch ever in the old La Strada space (and short-lived Don Julio's home) on lower Westheimer.
"It's been a fun challenge adapting the restaurant for the U.S.," laughs owner Carlos Abedrop. "I mean, we don't even have a printed menu at our location in Mexico."
"I used to cook these big meals for our friends . . . just steaks, drinks and maybe some appetizers. I've always done the same thing at Caballo."
Known for his elaborate dinners and passion for cooking meaty regional dishes, friends and family encouraged the former businessman to launch a steakhouse in his hometown of Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila and a major factory center for the automobile industry. Sporting the nickname "El Caballo" (the horse) since childhood, Abedrop says he had a name for the restaurant almost instantly.
"I used to cook these big meals for our friends . . . just steaks, drinks and maybe some appetizers," he explains. "I've always done the same thing at Caballo and tried to create that same atmosphere."
Abedrop succumbed to pressure from American business consultants to print an actual menu this time around. He even added salads, fish and chicken — although he insisted on maintaining his traditional north Mexican flavors and techniques.
"We prepare and present things the way people did decades and decades ago," he says, adding that all meat is cooked on a wood-burning grill. Rest assured, no gas flames will ever touch that U.S.D.A. prime top sirloin.
"In Mexico, food is more communal than it is here," Abedrop says. "Meals are about the group experience, about people enjoying the best food possible all together. That's what we hope to bring to Houston."
While La Casa del Caballo is serving only dinner at the moment, lunch and Sunday brunch — which Abedrop promises will introduce some new dishes into the neighborhood — are expected to start in mid-March.