Changes at El Real

Popular Montrose Tex-Mex restaurant adds local food star to the mix

Popular Montrose Tex-Mex restaurant adds local food star to the mix

Jess DeSham Timmons head shot
Jessican DeSham Timmons has worked for Landry's and The Redneck Country Club.  Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma
News_El Real Tex-Mex Cafe_night, sign
El Real Tex-Mex Cafe has a new general manager.  Photo by Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, fajitas
Don't expect any change in the recipes.  El Real Tex-Mex Cafe/Facebook
Jess DeSham Timmons head shot
News_El Real Tex-Mex Cafe_night, sign
El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, fajitas

One of Montrose’s most popular Tex-Mex restaurants has a new face in the dining room. El Real Tex-Mex Cafe owners Jennifer and Bryan Caswell have hired Jessica DeSham Timmons to replace outgoing general manager Justin Saunders.

Timmons is a popular figure in local culinary circles. After a 15-year career in the Landry’s organization, she worked as both the general manager of radio talk show host Michael Berry’s Redneck Country Club and, more recently, as a partner of Caboose BBQ in Alvin (a position she still maintains). A front of house and marketing specialist, Timmons traces her relationship with the Caswells to her involvement in Foodway Texas, an academic organization that preserves, celebrates, and promotes the state’s diverse culture. 

“I’ve been trying to get Jessica to come on with us for awhile. There was just a lot of obstacles, and the stars didn’t align until now,” Jennifer Caswell tells CultureMap. “She believes in the same things I do as far as operating a business and trying to streamline and make things automated to make everybody’s lives easier.”

Timmons tells CultureMap that Saunders left the restaurant in good shape in terms of its operational systems and recipes, but she’s been tasked with growing revenue. Expect El Real to roll a new, expanded happy hour and contemplate better promotional efforts for occasions like National Margarita Day and Cinco de Mayo. Montrose Monday, the popular promotion that offers a table 30-percent food if at least one person has a driver’s license from the 77006, 77019, or 77098 zip codes, remains intact.

“My focus is able to be rolling out a new point-of-sale system and being able to get our name back out there again,” Timmons says. “We’ve been open for eight years, the menu has changed a little bit. ‘Breathing some new life into the place’ is how I refer to it.”

In the next six months, Caswell says she’d like to renovate the bar by extending it from a L-shape to a U-shape. Those changes could be paired with new sliding doors for the patio that would allow more fresh air in on nice days. Long term, she envisions a new, fast casual version of El Real that could be paired with the couple’s Little Bigs slider concept. The restaurants would have separate dining rooms but share a kitchen.

“If you did that, the real estate makes more sense. The team makes more sense, because you’re able to share a manager,” Caswell says. “As a mom, if you have a Little League team, you can go there because it’s two spots.”

Managing that kind of growth can be tricky, but with Timmons on board, they have someone with experience overseeing multiple units for one of the world’s largest hospitality companies. 

“It’s going to be a fun challenge for me,” Timmons says. “I’m super-excited about it.”