Foodie News

Buzzed-over El Real is set to open in the Tower Theater & bring back your grandpa's Tex-Mex

Buzzed-over El Real is set to open in the Tower Theater & bring back your grandpa's Tex-Mex

El Real, Bill Floyd, Bryan Caswell, Robb Walsh
Owners Bill Floyd, Bryan Caswell and Robb Walsh look over the final menu design inside the soon-to-open El Real. Photo by Sarah Rufca
News_El Real_table
65-year-old restored chairs from Felix mark the bar area. Photo by Sarah Rufca
News_El Real
El Real Tex-Mex has transformed the former Tower Theater spot on Westheimer. Photo by Sarah Rufca
News_El Real_interior
The view of the restaurant from the mezzanine. Photo by Sarah Rufca
News_El Real_decor
The mahogany windows from Felix have been installed as shadowboxes holding Tex-Mex memorabilia (you can contribute your own as well). Photo by Sarah Rufca
News_El Real_exterior
Along the striped wall (seen here above the tortilla room), Floyd says El Real will eventually add two-person tables. Photo by Sarah Rufca
El Real, Bill Floyd, Bryan Caswell, Robb Walsh
News_El Real_table
News_El Real
News_El Real_interior
News_El Real_decor
News_El Real_exterior

It's tempting to compare El Real — the new "vintage" Tex-Mex project by Houston restaurateur supergroup Bryan Caswell, Bill Floyd, and Robb Walsh — to Houston legend Felix Mexican Restaurant.

After all, the stucco facade of Felix is only a stone's throw away on Westheimer, its archways probably visible from El Real's marquee in the former Tower Theater space. And remnants of the legendary Felix are strewn across El Real — from the restored cane chairs that populate the bar to the old mahogany Felix windows re-purposed as shadowboxes full of Tex-Mex memorabilia in the mezzanine dining room.

There's also a Laredo-style counter selling Chiclets, pralines and cup-and-ball games directly across from the glass-and-steel tortilla stand which sits adjoining the kitchen in the middle of all the action.

El Real is offering Tex-Mex plates that are a throwback to the genre's roots, with bright yellow cheese, chili gravy, enchiladas, puffy tacos and plenty of grease. Combination plates are named after Reef regulars, including semi-facetious Hispanic rapper Chingo Bling, Gov. Mark White and lawyer Rusty Hardin.

But even though this might be your grandpa's Tex-Mex (piping hot plates included) that doesn't mean it's not offering anything new. The space is huge, with sky-high ceilings, polished cement floors and a sherbet color palette that shows up in the striped upper walls. References to the former movie theater function abound as well, from the giant screen silently screening spaghetti westerns in black and white to the classic red theater curtains used to close off the second floor space for private functions.

Speaking of the second floor, the mezzanine dining room might offer the best seats in the house, poised over the bar with incredible views. But at sunset on a nice day, the patio along Westheimer should offer premium people watching, especially when Underbelly and Hay Merchant open up across the street.

El Real is set to open quietly either Wednesday or Thursday, and will stay open from lunch (11 a.m.) to 11 p.m. on weeknights and serve until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, opening at 10 on the weekends for brunch.