A Houston food truck will open a brick and mortar restaurant next month, thanks to a little help from one of the city’s fastest growing restaurant groups.
Jason “Big Sexy” Hill has leased the Treadsack's Kipper Club Test Kitchen space to open a permanent location for his chicken tender truck Luv Me Tenders. Hill recently split with his long-time business partner Matt Opaleski, who will continue to operate Hugs & Donuts.
“We’re at a point where both brands are ready to move forward with multiple locations, and we can’t do that without having 50-percent ownership in each individual business so that we can acquire more assets and loans,” Hill tells CultureMap.
To help Hill realize his goal of opening as many as half a dozen Luv Me Tenders across the Houston-area, he’s found a new business partner in former Sandtrap Grill owner Cyrus Nasr.
“Jason seemed like a really good partner regardless of what he was doing with chicken tenders or the truck,” Nasr says. “The location is excellent, very close to my house. It’s a totally different concept and a new direction for me.”
During Hill and Opaleski’s Bird House fried chicken pop-up, Hill says he noticed customers, including Houston hip hop superstar Bun B, kept ordering the tenders he added to appeal to kids, which came as a surprise to the chef, who clearly hasn't read food writer Helen Rosner's James Beard Award-winning essay that calls chicken tenders "perfect."
“I’m not a chicken breast guy,” he notes. “I always live by one theory: I like my breasts in my women and my thighs in my chicken.”
Still, Hill’s been in the business long enough to realize that he should serve what customers want to eat. He opened Luv Me Tenders last year; a concept that Hill describes as a cross between Raising Cane's and Torchy's Tacos and a recipe that utilizes 15 herbs and spices and has helped it win fans.
“Not that I was trying to outdo the Colonel, that’s just what we came up with,” Hill says.
In addition to chicken tenders baskets, diners can get them on sandwiches or in tacos. The brick and mortar location will add some appetizers like boudain egg rolls and crab hushpuppies, as well as a few vegetable sides like fried Brussels sprouts with country ham and red eye vinaigrette that date back to Hill’s first truck, the legendary H-Town StrEATs.
Hill also has plans for specials like Wild Wing Wednesdays, fried grouper sandwiches on Friday, and a waffle bar for brunch on Sundays. Patrons will be able to purchase beer and wine from the gas station next door, with Hill selling buckets of ice for $1 as well as michelada, mimosa, and bellini setups.
Treadsack co-owner Chris Cusack says he received dozens of inquiries about taking over the Kipper Club space, but ultimately decided Luv Me Tenders would be the best fit.
“What makes me really happy about what Jason is doing is that it will have a life of its own rather than being a commissary kitchen or test kitchen. That will make our neighbors happy and be great for the neighborhood,” Cusack says. “I also like that we’re continuing Yale north of 610 in terms of adding great places to eat.”
In the next couple of weeks, Hill will introduce Luv Me Tenders to the neighborhood by serving from the truck in front of the restaurant. With only minor renovations required, Hill plans to open by mid-June. Apart from being a fully built kitchen that will need only mild renovations, Hill says the space appealed to him for another reason as well.
“I like the fact that it’s connected to a gas station. As a Southerner, our best food comes from places that are connected to a gas station.”