It looks like the Austin invasion of Houston's culinary scene isn't finished yet. Uchi and Torchy's Tacos have already become Houston sensations, and Coreanos food truck is hoping to get the same reaction.
Coreanos started in Austin in 2010 and became a hit with its Korean barbecue tacos and burritos, plus hot dogs, quesadillas and French fries. It even earned distinction in a crowded market, named one of the top 10 Austin restaurants of 2011 on Yelp.
"I feel like this is my time, and I wanted to come back home, too," Cantu says. "I feel like I'm home. Austin is amazing, but I'm over it . . ."
But when Houston native Louis Cantu and his Austin partner bought out the business last year, he had some changes planned. Cantu, who has worked with David Bull at Congress and opened The Belmont, Casa Maria and Imperia, is bringing a second Coreanos truck to Houston full-time, with gigs at Hughes Hangar, Karbach Brewery and potentially Kung Fu Saloon planned.
"I feel like this is my time, and I wanted to come back home, too," Cantu says. "I feel like I'm home. Austin is amazing, but I'm over it . . . The regulations here are a little tougher, it's more conservative than Austin.
"Austin is like a free-for-all to help the little guy to succeed in their product. But it's so saturated now. I'm happy we got voted by Yelp because that helped us a lot. It's hard to stand out."
Cantu is keeping the Korean sauces and flavors but using his experience to improve execution, as well as focusing on social media.
"That's one thing Coreanos didn't do — they didn't really interact with any of their followers. I want to build that fan base, I want to build that personal relationship," Cantu says.
Coreanos Houston will debut on Sunday at the Open the Taps fundraiser at Southern Star Brewing in Conroe, offering free samples to introduce themselves to Houston. One to try, according to Cantu? He says his favorite on the menu is the OG Burrito, stuffed with beef short ribs, French fries, Korean slaw, onion, cilantro, caramelized kimchi, sesame oil vinaigrette and garlic spread.
"The short rib that we use is so tender, it's so amazing with the seasonings," Cantu says, "and the French fries are so crispy. I'm really picky about French fries."