It's been a long-running joke that the best Tex-Mex in town is at Reef on Saturdays at 4 p.m., when the staff sits down for a family-style meal.
But now Bryan Caswell and Bill Floyd, the duo behind Reef, Stella Sola and Little Big's are getting into the Tex-Mex business full-time. And they have an unexpected partner — longtime Houston Press columnist and James Beard award-winning food writer Robb Walsh.
"We've known Robb for years, and Bryan and Robb both have an affinity for oysters and we always talk about oysters, because we all have the same favorite oyster," Floyd says. "Bryan and I have been talking about doing a Tex-Mex restaurant forever, and with Robb leaving the Press we just approached him and said, 'Is this something you'd be interested in?'"
The new restaurant will be heading into the Tower Theatre in Montrose, and Floyd says the group plans an extensive renovation while keeping the historical art deco attributes.
"That sign is so cool ... you just can't do things like that any more," Floyd says. "Inside the space is just a big box. There's going to be a mezzanine level, private room and a big patio facing Westheimer under the marquee. It has these great 40-foot ceilings, and we want to screen old black and white Mexican movies on the south wall."
Floyd says they have chefs in mind to run the kitchen and that Frank Ramirez, who was at Churrascos and Americas before leaving Houston for Playa del Carmen and South Beach, will be in charge of the front of the 9,000-square-foot, 300-seat restaurant. Walsh won't be in the kitchen, but his recipes will be on the menu.
"Robb likes to say that Tex-Mex is the oldest regional cuisine, and I don't think there's anyone in Houston who doesn't eat it once a week," Floyd says. "We want to do a very traditional Tex-Mex, casual, nothing fancy. The special number one might be a chalupa and an enchilada for $7.95, or there will be fajitas and other things from the grill."
The restaurant is set to open in the beginning of 2011 and while there is no name yet, Floyd notes that's nothing new.
"We were thinking about La Torre, which means the tower," he says. "But this is something where we might want to do multiple locations and that might not work overall even though it's perfect for that space. So we're just going to drink a lot of margaritas and see what comes out. That's how we got Reef and so far it's worked out."