Midtown Restaurant Emerges

Amid Midtown bar boom, a new neighborhood restaurant emerges

Amid Midtown bar boom, a new neighborhood restaurant emerges

Cook & Collins Houston restaurant construction October 2013
Cook & Collins will bring classic American fare to Midtown when it opens next month. Photo by Eric Sandler

There's construction at the former El Patio/Xuco Xicana space, and Eater Houston reports that the people behind Pub Fiction/3rd Floor/Crisp are launching a new restaurant called Cook & Collins that's set to open in December.

"For me to keep making Midtown the single best neighborhood (in Houston) it needs more restaurants," co-owner Michael Paolucci tells CultureMap. He formed a separate company called Iron Cress Hospitality Group to facilitate that process. "In Houston, if you get too many bars and not enough restaurants, you become an entertainment district." He points to the recent rise and fall of the bars on Washington Avenue as the latest example of the phenomenon, which he doesn't want to happen in Midtown. 

"To keep making Midtown the single best neighborhood (in Houston) it needs more restaurants," co-owner Michael Paolucci tells CultureMap.

 Although recently people have described Rice Village as a walkable neighborhood, Paolucci thinks his neighborhood should be in that conversation, too. "I'm born and raised in Chicago. I've been in Midtown since 2000 when I moved here," he says. "I wouldn't be in (Houston) if it weren't for Midtown. I don't want to have to go to my car first. Midtown is the only neighborhood in Houston where you can do that." 

Paolucci says his group bought the building to prevent someone else from turning it into another bar. He notes that Midtown has a few standout restaurants like Reef, Ibiza and Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, but there's a lack of casual, local, neighborhood eateries. "Ask 30 people where they're going to eat, they'll say they're going to Cyclone's or Fish," he says. 

Cook & Collins aims to change that with a menu of "fun, American fare" that Paolucci says will be accessible to a wide audience. "Even though there's a lot of foodies that live in Midtown, there's also a lot of young professionals who think (farm to table) is too much for me."

The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner during the week with brunch on the weekends. The multi-level space will allow for seating that accommodates both small and large groups. One thing Cook & Collins won't have is late night hours. "We're not gonna confuse people," he says. "This is a restaurant." 

Crisp chef Jared Estes worked with Paolucci to design the menu, and Alan Hartigan will serve as executive chef in the kitchen. 

Paolucci says Midtown also needs a 24-hour diner, but "it's a headache. I didn't want to run it. If someone does, we'll find them a space."

Perhaps it's time to introduce Mr. Paolucci to Pi Pizza Truck owner Anthony Calleo. He's got a thing for diners.