Food for Thought

This Tex-Mex restaurant's new coasters make an important cultural statement

This Tex-Mex restaurant's new coasters make an important statement

Theatre Under the Stars TUTS Spam Spam-off Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
Participants in the recent Spam-Off at Saint Arnold Brewing Co. celebrated the promotional event for the TUTS' production. Theatre Under the Stars/Facebook
El Real Tex-Mex pork fajitas salad
Something new's happening at El Real, and it's not the pork fajitas. The restaurant is one of numerous places in the city using TUTS-provided coasters promoting Spamalot and Flashdance: The Musical. El Real Tex-Mex/Facebook
Triniti Mercury spring dinner, April 2013, crowd, venue, musicians
Triniti recently hosted its third Mercury fundraising dinner where chef Ryan Hildebrand paired courses to music selections played by the chamber orchestra. Photo by Morris Malakoff
Houston is Tasty chefs skyline
The Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau started really promoting the arts and restaurants in Houston with campaigns like "Houston Is Tasty." Photo by © Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Visitors and Convention Bureau
The Capital Grille Houston interior dining room
The Capital Grille is raising funds for Houston Ballet with two special dinners for the month of May with $5 from each dinner sold going to the ballet.  Google Plus
Theatre Under the Stars TUTS Spam Spam-off Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
El Real Tex-Mex pork fajitas salad
Triniti Mercury spring dinner, April 2013, crowd, venue, musicians
Houston is Tasty chefs skyline
The Capital Grille Houston interior dining room

There's something new at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe.

No, not the pork fajitas or the family style menu items.

Nope this is a coaster.

Usually, when they bring your margarita they set it on a white paper napkin. But now the drink comes with a cardboard coaster advertising Theatre Under the Stars’ upcoming productions for Spamalot and Flashdance the Musical.

“We’re just looking for memorable ways to get the word out about the shows,” says Sam Byrd, TUTS public relations manager. “We know people who like theater also like dining out so this seemed like a fun idea.”

 All of this commingling just makes sense. People who like art tend to like culinary art as well. 

TUTS gave packets of the coasters to about 25 area bars and restaurants so you might see them turn up at your favorite spot.

But the marriage of art and eating isn’t exactly new. Downtown theaters and performing arts organizations have long promoted dinner and a show. The Wortham Theater Center serves food in the foyer before most ballets and operas and The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts has a Cordúa restaurant, Artista, right inside.

Plus many downtown restaurants team with arts organizations to offer package deals for dinner, show tickets and transportation to the theater.

But suddenly it seems that culture and cuisine are finding even more creative ways to support each other.

“We’re doing a pre-party at Saint Arnold Brewing Company May 16,” says Byrd. “We’ve done events there before and people just love it. People will get to tour the brewery and eat and drink beer, and then there’s a bus to take them to the show.”

An Artsy Trend

The Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau started really promoting the arts and restaurants in Houston with campaigns like "Houston Is Tasty" and "Houston is Inspired" that have led to our city being prominently featured nationwide as a destination for foodies and art patrons in such esteemed pubs as The New York Times.

It seems that all it took for us to be recognized as a hot spot was for Houston's cuisine to catch up to its incredible arts scene. 

But even out of the world spotlight, local restaurants and arts organizations are seeing the benefit of teaming up.

Just last month Triniti hosted its third Mercury fundraising dinner where chef Ryan Hildebrand paired courses to music selections played by the chamber orchestra.

And this month it’s The Capital Grille’s turn to raise funds for Houston Ballet.

 It seems that all it took for us to be recognized as a hot spot was for Houston's cuisine to catch up to its incredible arts scene. 

“Following a visit with The Capital Grille chef-partner, Ricardo Vargas, and learning about his love of dance — he, his wife and several friends enjoy salsa dancing whenever they can — manager Steven Joest and I had a conversation about doing something for Houston Ballet,” PR maven Judy Nichols says.

What they came up with were two special dinners for the month of May with $5 from each dinner sold going to the ballet. The restaurant will host the kickoff for the ballet’s wildly popular Nutcracker Market in September and present the company with a check then.

And it’s not just the performing arts that get a boost from restaurants. Many eateries have long hung local artists works on their walls. Through June 9, you can see a full exhibit of photographs and collages by Peter Lucas at Phoenicia Specialty Foods. Sound Proof is an exhibit paying homage to the rapidly vanishing culture of physical music media, a conceptual shifting of these vessels into art objects, and a personal rumination on the artist’s lifelong relationship with music.

And have you noticed all the food trucks flocking to museum parking lots lately?

All of this commingling just makes sense. People who like art tend to like culinary art as well.

Houston has long been home to amazing art. We have a massive number of downtown theater seats, a fantastic Museum District, professional organizations for ballet, opera, symphony and theater and hundreds of small and mid-size art organizations of every conceivable type.

And now we have the food art to pair with it.