GoodBye Red Ox

Longtime Houston restaurateurs call it quits — for now — as Red Ox space goes Italian

Longtime restaurateurs call it quits as Red Ox space goes Italian

9 Red Ox Bar & Grill May 2014 owners against painted wall
Lily Hernandez and Terry Flores at the Red Ox Bar & Grill, which will close on April 15. Photo by Eric Sandler

After two decades in the Houston restaurant business, Terry Flores and Lily Hernandez are calling it quits — for now.

The duo, who originally met as students at the University of St. Thomas and later became business partners, are closing the Red Ox Bar & Grill, the near Northside restaurant they opened three years ago in the neighborhood where Flores grew up. The restaurant, which specializes in grilled fajitas, killer margaritas, chips and homemade salsa, and a popular weekly steak night, will close at the end of business on April 15. 

They had previously owned Bocados, a Montrose favorite, from 1997 until 2013. At the Red Ox, they continued some of Bocados' most popular entrees, including fajitas, chicken empanadas, and chicken flautas, with a new menu of burgers, salads, and seafood items. And they always went from table to table, greeting guests and making the restaurant feel like it was their home.

"It's time to take a break," said Flores, who plans to travel quite a bit over the next few months. "We're excited because it's a new chapter."

The Red Ox space, located on Collingsworth near the METRORail Red Line, has been leased to restaurateur Leo Coronel, who owns the Italian Cafe in Spring. He said he had been scouting for a second location in the Heights/Northside area when he came across the Red Ox. "I've been looking for a while and loved the location and the neighborhood and what they had done with (the space)," he told CultureMap. 

The new restaurant will be called Rocco's and will offer pizza, pasta, and salads in a wine bar atmosphere, Coronel said. He hopes to have it open by late May.

Flores said she and Hernandez had planned to exit the restaurant business after they leased the Bocados space to The Brick and Spoon, a Lafayette, Louisiana, restaurant that was new to the Houston market. (That venture was short lived and now Good Dog Houston occupies the space on West Alabama; Flores and Hernandez sold the building to a realty company.) But the opportunity to open another restaurant in Flores' old neighborhood proved too hard to resist. 

They renovated the former space, commissioning a colorful mural depicting Houston landmarks by artist Wiley Robertson, added reclaimed wood walls and a corrugated wrapped metal bar recycled from Flores' garage, custom table tops recycled from bowling alley flooring, and a modern glass garage door that opens to the patio on cool days.

In addition to owning the Red Ox building, Flores and Hernandez also own the property that houses D&T Drive Inn, which they have leased to Treadsack for its craft beer bar, so they will still be tangentially involved in the Houston restaurant scene. And though Flores says she's looking forward to a new life, she won't totally discount a return to the business one day.

"I'm not going to say, never ever. We might get an itch and come back," Flores said. "But I want to enjoy my life right now."