A beloved Montrose institution is making some changes to prepare itself for its next 40 years. With a new general manager and a new chef, Rudyard’s wants to take the steps necessary to remain a neighborhood staple.
“The thing I said before was instead of new and improved it’s old and improved,” general manager Allison Meyer (Aqui) tells CultureMap. “Clean everything up, dust everything off.”
To that end, she recruited Anthony Calleo to serve as the bar’s chef. Best known for founding Pi Pizza, Calleo had been looking for a space to open another restaurant when Meyer asked if he knew anyone interested in taking over the kitchen. After a three-hour conversation and a meeting with owner Lelia Rodgers, Calleo took the job.
“I’ve been coming here for 20-ish years,” he says. “My 27th birthday party was here. When Lindsey and I were together, I was here all the time for Grown-up Storytime. I’ve done Punk Rock Karaoke and open-mic comedy. I have a history with this building.”
Calleo’s new menu builds on dishes he’s created at Pi, for the food truck at Ladybird's bar and at Sandy Witch, the sandwich shop he operated out of the Grand Prize kitchen back in 2013 and 2014. Rudyard’s regulars will be pleased to see that the burger menu has been expanded with a couple of new options, and the signature tots remain present and accounted for. But that’s only the beginning.
“I was real worried people were just going to order burgers and tots, and I’d want to slit my wrists in the alley . . . They’re ordering the other stuff [too],” Calleo says.
Taking his inspiration from the dishes he used to eat at Rudyard’s when chef Joe Apa ran the kitchen, Calleo’s menu includes classic fish and chips with a crispy crust, a massive club sandwich that features house-smoked turkey and bread sourced from local baker Bread Man Bread Company, and the “Not a Shitty House Salad” that mixes greens with pears and cheese sourced from the Houston Dairymaids. Four new pasta dishes utilize noodles made by BOH Pasta, chef Ben McPherson’s Italian restaurant that’s opening soon at Bravery Chef Hall.
Now that the bar has resumed lunch service, the mix of lighter and more hearty options means people can eat there at all times of day without feeling bad afterwards. From Calleo’s perspective, Rudyard’s customer base should be everyone who can walk there in 10 minutes. He just needs them to give his menu a chance.
“It’s a great building. It’s got great character. It’s comfy as shit. There’s 50 reasons you should come here,” Calleo says. Later, he adds. “Let me handle dinner for you. I’ve got a menu full of reasons and a whole lot of energy invested that you should take me up on that.”
If the idea of a comfy pub with better-than-it-has-to-be food, basic cocktails, and a solid tap wall of craft beer sounds familiar, well, Calleo isn’t afraid of comparisons to a certain nearby establishment.
“I’m making shirts,” he says with a laugh. “Rudyard’s, just down the street from Hay Merchant for 41 years.”