Ken Hoffman reveals Houston's ritziest versions of drive-thru classics
Riel restaurant is now serving real quality fast food — real slow. Executive chef Ryan Lachaine concocted upscale takes on several drive-thru favorites last month in honor of National Fast Food Day. Three of the items were so popular that Lachaine added them to the permanent menu at his trendy Montrose eatery.
Riel offers the inspired fast food selections as part of the menu for Louie's, a ghost kitchen sandwich concept that operates out of Riel's kitchen from noon to 5 pm Monday through Saturday, also happy hour from 5 to 6:30 pm weekdays.
The ritzy fast food items are: Le Riel Mac, Lachaine’s version of McDonald’s Big Mac, with two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. $12. Pizza de Gallo, Riel’s version of Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza, with corn tortillas, refried beans, seasoned ground beef, cheese mix, enchilada sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream, and cilantro. $8, Filet-R-Fish, a spinoff of McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish, with a grouper filet, dill tartar sauce and American cheese on a potato bun. This one is super popular and was created by Riel cook Anitra Broussard. $13.
I had a few questions for Lachaine, all variations of: uh, why?
CultureMap: What’s the idea behind offering high-quality, inventive takes on iconic fast food items?
Ryan Lachaine: I like eating fast food as a guilty pleasure, and now I have the opportunity to make some of my favorite fast food items.
CM: Taco Bell has just taken Mexican Pizza off its menu. Do you think they're making a mistake?
RL: I selfishly think it's a mistake because I like eating it. It was obviously a popular item if people are making this big of a deal about it.
CM: How popular has this menu been so far?
RL: Really popular. People are really liking it. We sell a lot of fish sandwiches every week.
CM: Here’s the biggie. One of the appeals of fast food is that it's fast. Your fast food is slow, and prepared to order. Are your customers being patient?
RL: Our customers are patient because they understand that we're not a drive-thru and everything is made by hand. People aren't pulling up and barking orders at us.
Lisa Ling is one of my favorite investigative TV reporters. Her This is Life with Lisa Ling series on CNN usually focuses on serious social issues like drug addiction, prison reform, gang violence, and racism.
But she lost me last week. Ling presented an investigation into massage parlors that pose as licensed therapeutic establishments, but really act as a front for prostitution.
Ling said it is difficult to tell the difference between legal massage clinics, like the ones she visits, and X-rated massage parlors. She actually said that.
Really? I’ll help you out, Lisa. Perhaps you may find yourself in a similar quandary.
If the woman behind the counter is wearing a bra and thong panties, she’s smoking a cigarette and asking if you’re a cop, the place is open from 10 pm to 4 am, there’s an eye-searing cloud of cheap perfume, and a bowl of condoms next to the cash register … there’s a slight chance that sex may be available if you’ve got a hundy or two in your pocket. Prices subject to change.