On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Jerry Lasco, founder and CEO of Lasco Enterprises, joins CultureMap food editor to discuss his three restaurants: The Tasting Room, Max's Wine Dive, and Sing. The conversation begins with Lasco explaining how being laid off from his job as a Continental Airlines pilot led him and his wife, Laura, to open the first Tasting Room in 2003. Inspired by a restaurant in New York and one of their favorite dive bars, they opened Max's Wine Dive in 2006.
Early success prompted Lasco to open Max's locations in cities like Atlanta, Kansas City, and Chicago, but only the Denver outpost remains from those attempts to expand out of state. Since the restaurant remains popular in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, Sandler asks Lasco if he plans to try again to take the concept elsewhere.
"That's a great question. The restaurant industry has changed," Lasco says. "It's tricky. We're trying to figure that out. It's no fun shutting restaurants down. I've been doing this for 16 years now. You hope you learn some lessons along the way, and most of the lessons are from mistakes you've made. If you were successful all the time, you probably wouldn't learn anything. Either you knew it already or you were just lucky. I don't know, Eric. We'll see."
Towards the end of the conversation, Lasco discusses how Sing has moved forward since the departure of chef and co-founder Cuc Lam as well as the lessons he's learned from some of the talented chefs and sommeliers who have worked for him over the years.
Prior to Lasco joining the show, Sandler and co-host Linda Salinas discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the news that the James Beard Foundation will announce the finalists for its annual awards from Houston; the plans to transform Star Fish into 1751 Sea and Bar; Bravery Chef Hall hiring David Cedeno to run its cocktail bar; and whether the media played a role in Rhotey Rotisserie closing.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler and Salinas share some of their recent crawfish meals. Salinas praises Midtown restaurant Saigon House as a favorite, while Sandler sings the praises of the weekend crawfish boils at La Lucha.