One of the first Houston food trucks to open a brick-and-mortar is preparing to close its Montrose cafe, but the move also offers new beginnings for two of the city's most popular mobile food vendors.
The Eatsie Boys Cafe will close its doors at 4100 Montrose Boulevard (in the Campanile complex) after service on April 30, which end its run as a brick-and-mortar business that began in December 2012. On May 1, beloved food cart Melange Creperie will take the keys and get to work converting the space into a permanent home.
"Our lease has come up, and it is in the Eatsie Boys best interest to opt out of our lease," Eatsie Boys co-owner Ryan Soroka tells CultureMap. "We had a great run here. It was a wonderful time, but, ultimately we found a great opportunity, great timing and a great person to fill this space."
Eatsie Boys co-owner Alex Vassilakidis explains that closing the cafe will allow the Eatsie Boys to devote their attention to 8th Wonder Brewery and their food truck, which sells food at 8th Wonder's popular taproom. With the potential afforded by the brewery's recent distribution deal with Silver Eagle, the partners have decided that growing 8th Wonder is both more profitable and more practical than trying to expand the cafe to additional locations.
"The growth that’s immediately in front of us needs all our attention, and we’re going to put our focus on the things we can achieve in sequential order. Then, we have this other long term thing we’re growing to," Vassilakidis explains.
At their present rate of production, the brewery will be maxed out in two-to-four years. The three partners, including Soroka and chef Matt Marcus, are already contemplating a ground-up, dedicated brewery that would both house 8th Wonder's production facility and could include an Eatsie Boys brewpub.
"The way we’re looking at it, Eatsie Boys isn’t dead," Soroka says. "Eatsie Boys isn’t closing. Eatsie Boys is relocating to 8th Wonder in East Downtown. In our place comes an original food truck of Houston who gets to come and take this wonderful space and keep it alive and further his dream."
A home for Melange Creperie
For Melange owner "Buffalo" Sean Carroll, taking over the Eatsie Boys restaurant gives him a turnkey second-generation restaurant space that only needs some cosmetic changes to be ready. The deal allows him to stay in Montrose even though his Kickstarter campaign only raised $50,000. (His mobile creperie has been a fixture at the corner of Westheimer and Taft for years.)
"I was looking at another place near here. I’m talking about a 12-to-18 month timeline and a biggish kind of place," Carroll says. "In talking to Matt, he said 'this is a great starter restaurant.' Why am I trying to do all this bullshit, when that’s all I need? I’ve never done it before. I need to learn from this standpoint of 1,200 square feet."
Carroll's wife Tish Ochoa is already putting her skills as a professional interior designer to work on plans to remodel the space, which Carroll estimates will take approximately six weeks. "She already has everything done up to where what’s right past raw wood and Edison bulbs," Carroll says with a smirk. The space also comes with access to a 100-seat party room that would be suitable for hosting private events like bridal showers that are a staple of Melange's catering.
Matt Marcus's future
While the plan is a win for the Eatsie Boys partners in that it allows them to focus on 8th Wonder and for Carroll in that he gets a right-sized space for his first brick and mortar restaurant, the change leaves chef Marcus without a home kitchen. Since his resume includes stints at fine dining restaurants including two-star Michelin restaurant Cyrus (now closed) and three-star Michelin restaurant The Fat Duck in England, Marcus is contemplating a new direction that could take him away from the casual fare he's crafted for the Eatsie Boys.
"The plans are I’m going to be engaged with Eatsie Boys and the truck, but I’m still looking for a new opportunity in the future. I’m not really sure what it is. I’m looking around," Marcus admits. "I want to get to a point where I make food that’s different from Eatsie Boys. It’s hard to explain. This is all so emotional."
It's easy to imagine a high-profile operator from out-of-town like Atlanta chef Ford Fry tapping Marcus to help him avoid the kind of mistakes at the upcoming State of Grace that were made by Bradley Ogden in trying to open a restaurant in Houston without hiring a chef with local ties. Or getting snatched up by a local restaurant group eager for some of the creativity Marcus has shown in making the Eatsie Boys so popular.
Before committing to his next move, Marcus intends to spend the month of July following legendary jam band Phish across the country. He also plans to help Carroll troubleshoot Melange's move into the space by helping him think through setting up the kitchen and offering logistical advice.
Whatever the future holds for Marcus, Soroka emphasizes that the Eatsie Boys brand will live on. "We’ve had offers to buy the brand. We’ve declined that, because we’re not done with the brand," Soroka says.
"We forsee 8th Wonder 2.0 ground up complete with Eatsie Boys proper brewpub inside it. Again, it’s a hard decision, but it was an easy one once we saw the silver lining."
Current hours for the Eatsie Boys Cafe are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Only credit cards accepted. No cash.