On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," CultureMap's weekly restaurant podcast, Balls Out Burger owner Ian Tucker joins food editor Eric Sandler. After the native Irishman describes the rom-com-style circumstances that led to his move to Houston and his ownership of three bars and restaurants in Dublin, the duo discuss Tucker's decision to open Balls Out as a restaurant dedicated solely to serving New York diner-style cheeseburgers.
After about two months in business, Tucker describes the process of finding the balance between responding to customer feedback in ways that fit with his concept — for example by switching from canned sodas to a soda machine even though he thinks the canned product has a superior flavor — versus those that don't, such as adding toppings like bacon or avocado.
"We are still very much trying to educate people as to our concept and what we do so I guess before they even come they know what they're going to get and they're not coming in with expectations of different things being available that are not available," Tucker says. "In general, we're getting a very good response. I don't expect to be the burger venue of choice every time somebody wants to get a burger . . . but then on the day they want a good traditional, beef cheeseburger, come to me."
Tucker also shares his plans for Poitín, a restaurant in the style of one of his Irish projects that will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, alongside an ambitious bar program. Diners who are particularly bullish on the restaurant can invest in it via the NextSeed platform and earn a 1.6x rate of return.
Prior to Tucker's interview, Sandler and Urban Swank blogger Felice Sloan discuss the news of the week. Their topics include Truth Barbeque's decision to open its Houston location on Washington Avenue, Krisp Bird & Batter's expansion into the Heights, and this week's new openings, including Bernie's Burger Bus and Hughie's Vietnamese Tavern expanding to the Heights, Goode Co. Barbecue arriving in The Woodlands, and A'Bouzy, the new champagne-fueled restaurant that just arrived in River Oaks.
In the restaurant of the week segment, Sloan and Sandler share their first impressions of South Bank Seafood Bar, the new restaurant that just replaced burger joint The Refinery in Midtown. Sloan also shares a couple of Urban Swank's top picks for Houston Restaurant Weeks.