On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Riel chef-owner Ryan Lachaine and bar manager Derek Brown join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss the Montrose restaurant. The conversation begins with Brown explaining how he left the finance world to begin bartending at some of New York's best restaurants. Ultimately, he made his way to Houston and joined Riel in 2019.
Never one to leave the menu alone, Lachaine notes that he and chef de cuisine Peter Nguyen have been able to get Riel back to the style of service it offered before the pandemic, which means a focus on shareable items that come out as they're ready.
Brown's friendly demeanor has allowed him to cultivate a group of regulars who come to Riel once a week or more. Sandler asks him what it's like to build that kind of community at a restaurant instead of a bar.
"It takes time. I think time is probably the number one input into the equation," he says. "You've got to spend time with people and get to know them. The more you collect fun people the more they like talking to the other people you've collected. All of a sudden you've got a room full of people you enjoy spending time with."
"It's a f****** party in there sometimes," Lachaine adds. "People who don't even know each other. It's a blast."
The conversation also includes a discussion about Lachaine's future plans. In honor of the show's 250th episode, the chef turns the tables on Sandler by asking him a few behind-the-scenes questions about the show.
Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Matt Harris discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Chris Shepherd's departure from Underbelly Hospitality; Goode Co.'s plans to brings its Kitchen & Cantina Tex-Mex concept to the Heights; and the Blossom Hotel's announcement about its food and beverage plans.
In the restaurants of the week segment, the two friends discuss their recent meal at Eculent, chef David Skinner's high-end tasting menu restaurant in Kemah. Finally, Harris shares some thoughts on chef Alex Bremont's taco pop-up at Tatemo.