On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Sambrooks hospitality owner Michael Sambrooks and director of operations Steve Breaker join CultureMap food editor to discuss their newly formed restaurant group, Sambrooks Hospitality. Known as the owner of Montrose barbecue joint The Pit Room, Sambrooks recently acquired Pi Pizza, Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts, and Star Fish from Cherry Pie Hospitality.
Sambrooks and Breaker begin by discussing their entrance into the hospitality industry and how their paths crossed at Reef, where Sambrooks worked as a server and Breaker served as a manager. From there, Sambrooks started The Pit Room, which earned a spot on Texas Monthly's list of the state's 50 best barbecue joints courtesy of its creative blend of Central Texas-style smoked meats with Tex-Mex touches like queso and tortillas made with smoked brisket fat.
Finally, the two discuss their plans for the new acquisitions. While Sambrooks and Breaker have only minor changes planned for Lee's (starting with a new neon sign) and Pi Pizza (Chicago-style deep dish and more sandwiches), bigger changes are coming to Star Fish.
"We want to make that a flagship, high-end restaurant for our group that is going to express our personalities, our style of food, the things that we want to see on a high-end seafood menu," Sambrooks says. "It's probably going to be a total redo — nothing wrong with what was there before — but we want to show what we would like to see in that style of concept. We've got a lot of ideas on how that's going to look. Instead of bigger plates, it's probably going to be more simple, elegant plates with a few components . . . We might do a little minor construction of the interior. The team so far has been great helping us out with the transition."
Prior to Sambrooks and Breaker joining the show, Sandler and co-host Megha Tejpal discuss the news of the week. Their topics include the revelation that celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman will be opening a cafe at Bellaire's new H-E-B, Adair Concepts takeover of the restaurant at Evelyn's Park, Robert Del Grande's new menu at The Hobby Center's new restaurant Diana American Grill, and Delicious Concepts owner Ken Bridge's purchase of a Bentley with bitcoin.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Tejpal and Sandler describe their experience at ChòpnBlọk, a pop-up series that's serving as a test kitchen for a forthcoming fast casual restaurant that aims to bring West African flavors into the mainstream. They rate the positives and negatives of their meal and discuss whether the concept is likely to achieve its goal of becoming the West African equivalent of Local Foods. In addition, they share some first impressions of the new breakfast offerings at BuffBurger.