When the Eatsie Boys announced they were closing their cafe to focus on their food truck and 8th Wonder Brewery, chef Matt Marcus acknowledged that he was looking for new opportunities to occupy his time. His search came to an end when James Coney Island announced on Tuesday that it has hired him to serve as a consultant for JCI Grill.
"It was my dream come true to work for an icon like JCI in Houston," Marcus tells CultureMap. "I’ve been eating it all my life. I remember going to the one on Westheimer."
As when former Haven chef Randy Evans served in the consulting role, Marcus's task is to enhance JCI's offerings. For Houstonians who grew up eating chili cheese coneys, fear not; the restaurant's "legacy menu" isn't changing.
"I'm basically just fine tuning what already is a great product," Marcus says. "We are going to work on some exciting, cool new sandwiches. Also adding stuff to the menu that’s my own take on popular, Americana dishes."
Those new menu items pair with James Coney Island's rebranding as the fast-casual JCI Grill. The company has been remodeling its stores across the Houston area with new color schemes, graphic designs and lighting to appeal to its next generation of diners.
For his first task, Marcus is working to create what he describes as "one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the city." Then he'll turn towards adding some new hot dogs that are similar in spirit to the "Mutt Barkus" dog he created as part of JCI's Show Dogs series in 2013.
“This re-image initiative takes our brand closer to a premium, fast-casual level,” adds James Coney Island president Darrin Straughan, in a statement. “With our Legacy Menu and new menu items, we’ve got good food comparable to casual players, but with an average check and convenience that are much more attractive.”
Even with his new position, Marcus maintains his ties to both the Eatsie Boys truck and 8th Wonder. "We’re still full steam ahead, all three of us and Aaron (Corsi, 8th Wonder's brewmaster) with a lot of future projects coming up."