A popular Austin restaurant will soon make its permanent return to Houston. Chi’Lantro BBQ will open in the Heights on Monday, April 3 at the The Heights Forum development (1324 N. Shepherd Dr.).
Originally founded as a food truck, Chi’Lantro has grown to 11 Austin-area locations and a thriving catering business. The food truck also operated in Houston but left in 2015 to focus on growing its brick and mortar business in Austin.
Named for a combination of cilantro and kimchi, Chi'Lantro serves a creative mashup of Mexican and Korean-inspired dishes. True to its food truck roots, the restaurant's signature item is The Original Kimchi Fries — french fries topped with kimchi, Korean BBQ, onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and sauce. In a year, the restaurant will serve more than 200,000 orders of kimchi fries, according to a release.
In addition to fries, the menu includes Korean fried chicken wings, ssäms (wrap-style sandwiches), and bowls that can be customized with a range of proteins and toppings. Meat choices include Korean BBQ steak, spicy pork, spicy chicken, and soy-glazed chicken.
Chi'Lantro has also had some success on reality TV. In 2016, Barbara Corcoran invested $600,000 in the restaurant on a season eight episode of Shark Tank.
“In 2015 we scaled back to focus on the brick & mortar expansion in Austin, and I am thrilled that after almost a decade we are returning to the city where my journey in Texas began,” Chi'Lantro founder Jae Kim said in a statement. “Houston holds a special place in my heart, and I am excited at the opportunity to rekindle my connection with this diverse and culinary-focused community.”
Ahead of its grand opening, Chi'Lantro will hold soft opening preview events on March 31 (5-8 pm) and April 1 (12-3 pm). Attendees must register on Eventbrite to attend the previews, which will feature free food until it runs out. The restaurant will encourage diners to donate to the MD Anderson Pediatric Cancer Fund for NF2 patients.
"I'm motivated to give back to a cause that means so much to me, I'm doing it for my sister who passed away due to NF2,” Kim said. “We are looking forward to celebrating our opening while supporting a good cause.”