It's been three long years since Randy Rucker worked full time in a kitchen at Bootsie's Heritage Cafe, but that will change in 2015. Rucker and partner Eoghan Dillman have revealed the first set of details about Bramble: Their restaurant in the former Mancuso's Italian Table space on Voss.
With both a liquor license and city permits in hand, Bramble could open as soon as January. Inside, the 46-seat restaurant will feature interior touches salvaged from properties owned by the restaurant's partners and an open kitchen with a "live-fueled hearth . . . (that) gives a view of the day's dishes," a release promises.
If Rucker's truly prepared to give up consulting and focus, Bramble will be one of Houston's most exciting restaurants.
As with Rucker's tenure at Bootsie's, the menu will change nightly but is based around the concept of "true luxury" that the chef first defined in June during a pop-up dinner to celebrate Bramble. Ingredients that Rucker uses to define "true luxury" include venison, wild hog, duck and Gulf seafood. Expect foraged, fermented and pickled ingredients to play a major role as well.
“We grow our own products where and when we can, we explore nature and forage to pick from the beauty of what lays around us, and we invest time and resources into partnerships with many of our gracious local farmers and ranchers all in order to ensure the freshest and most seasonal items are available daily,” Rucker says in the statement. "It’s our belief that creativity and new ideas are a result of having an intimate relationship with your food source and believe that a sense of place is very important while dining."
Prices are unknown at this time, but the "neighborhood restaurant" designation suggests that it will be similar to newcomers like Coltivare and Pax Americana. Count on spending about $40 per person for food. Bootsie's famously served a six-course tasting menu for $35, so Rucker knows how to deliver value.
I despise pop-ups. Reckon there isn’t a cook in the world that does…— randy rucker (@greensandbeans) November 17, 2014
One way for Rucker to solve his pop-up problem is to get back into a restaurant full time. If he's truly prepared to give up consulting and focus, Bramble will be one of Houston's most exciting restaurants. Based on word of mouth, Rucker was more engaged for his recent Third Coast Thanksgiving pop-up at Paulie's than he was for the Bramble party in June. That's a positive sign.
On the other hand, if he gets bored with the day in-day out grind of restaurant life, even one that's only open for dinner five days a week (Tuesday through Saturday), Bramble could go off the rails quickly. Rucker's walking a culinary high wire with a menu that changes daily, and it will take time to train a staff to execute his vision without constant supervision.
While it's hard to predict the future, Bramble certainly feels like the chef's last shot at making a meaningful contribution to Houston's restaurant scene. If it succeeds, he rockets back to the short list of the city's best chefs. If Bramble stumbles, Rucker goes back to being a amusing source of Twitter insights about Notre Dame football and Widespread Panic.
The restaurant promises to deliver more information about itself via a blog and through a series of videos. Whatever happens will certainly be worth watching.