Houston doesn’t lack for choice when it comes to cuisines like Tex-Mex, Chinese, and Italian, but South African food remains relatively rare. Outside of downtown’s Springbok and fast casual Spice Runner in the Energy Corridor, only one restaurant, Peli Peli, has really made a mark.
Peli Peli has grown from its original location in Vintage Park to a second location that opened last year in the Galleria. Even as the company is working on its fast, casual Peli Peli Kitchen that will open in Spring Branch this summer, owners Michael Tran, Thomas Nguyen, and chef Paul Friedman have signed a lease to take Peli Peli to Katy in the former Kenzo Sushi Bistro space in the bustling LaCenterra at Cinco Ranch mixed-use development. If all goes according to plan, the restaurant will open in late fall.
“It’s probably a little early, just like it was early to open in the Galleria, but my dream and Michael’s dream has always been to bring the concept to Katy,” Nguyen tells CultureMap. “I think it’s an underserved market. We live out here. For me, it would be coming full circle in Houston.”
In both of its current locations, Peli Peli takes a fine dining approach, but Nguyen says the Katy location will be more family-friendly with an inside-outside bar that faces a green space. In a change, local design firm Collaborative Projects (Bernie’s Burger Bus, Underbelly) will build the restaurant.
“For us, part of our experience is creating something that’s new that people can get excited about,” Nguyen explains. “We wanted to change directions for PPK and Katy. We want it to feel like Peli but be a little different. We’re comfortable with what Collaborative did for Bernie’s.”
Although Peli Peli’s appearance on Restaurant Startup didn’t result in an investment from Elizabeth Blau, the company continues to seek out alternative ways to raise funds. For the new restaurant, they’ve turned to the NextSeed crowdfunding platform to seek a loan of between $250,000 and $500,000. Unlike Kickstarter where restaurants typically trade cash contributions for products like food and T-shirts, backers will have their investment paid back over time with interest.
“It seems like something we wanted to do a long time ago in terms of allowing our customers to get involved in our growth. It’s a good marketing tool, and the interest rates are good,” Nguyen explains.