On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," restaurateur Benjamin Berg and his brother, chef Daniel Berg, join CultureMap food editor to discuss their various projects. Back in December, Ben Berg acquired Memorial-area Italian restaurant Carmelo's and recruited Daniel to move to Houston from New York to help him update the 37-year-old institution.
The conversation touches on a wide range of topics, including the process of purchasing Carmelo's, the special provisions owner Carmelo Mauro attached to the sale, and his plans to renovate the space later this summer. Daniel explains the process of updating the menu by adding fresh pasta and more entrees while staying true to the restaurant's Italian-American style. From there, Sandler and Ben Berg discuss B&B Butchers, the wildly popular Washington Avenue steakhouse. The restaurateur discusses both the growth of his Houston restaurant and the initial response to the newly-opened Fort Worth location.
B&B is virtually unique among Houston's high-end steakhouses in that it's owned by an individual rather than a large corporation. Over the years, that's allowed Berg to serve dishes he's passionate about like prime rib, become one of the only Houston restaurants authorized to serve authentic Kobe beef, add a Mercedes van to shuttle diners to events — even hire an in-house bagel baker. Sandler asks Berg how he decides when its time to update the restaurant.
"I pay attention to what people are saying. I pay attention to reviews," Berg says. "You've got to be careful when you go out and try what other people are doing. But honestly, it's what gets me excited. If I get excited about something, I try to figure out how to get it to work."
Finally, the brothers share some of their vision for Benjamin, the upscale restaurant they're opening either later this fall or early next year in The Star apartment building downtown. While Sandler says he's heard rumors the restaurant will be as luxurious as a restaurant like Tony's, Berg disagrees and says that he's looking to balance an upscale atmosphere with approachable price points. As for the menu, Daniel notes that its still very preliminary, but he has a vision of updating classic dishes like lobster thermidor and duck a l'orange, as well as adding some tableside components.
Prior to the Bergs joining the show, Sandler and L'Olivier owner Mary Clarkson discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Food & Wine magazine naming Better Luck Tomorrow as one of its restaurants of the year, German Mosquera becoming the new chef at Cafe Brasil in Montrose, and the I'll Have What She's Having gala. In the restaurant of the week segment, the duo share their favorite places to order soup when they're feeling under the weather.