Washington Avenue gets a shot of Southwestern with the new TQLA
Tex-Mex, barbecue and Southwestern cuisine. When outsiders think of Houston dining, these are the cuisine staples they think of.
But outside of Robert Del Grande's considerable reach, Southwestern restaurants in Houston are somewhat underrepresented. That's about to change with the opening of TQLA — pronounced "tequila" — on the foodie-friendly intersection of Washington Avenue and Shepherd Drive.
As a "Southwestern kitchen and tequila lounge," TQLA will be serving a hybrid of modern Mexican, Southwestern and Southern cuisine elements. Focused on seafood and grilling, roasted and dried peppers (ancho, serrano, achiote and poblano) featured dishes will include blue corn fried oysters, crawfish corncakes and habanero jerked chicken breast, grilled mahi mahi with tomatillos, achiote orange seared pork tenderloin and pumpkin seed-crusted salmon with green chile mashed potatoes. The menu will also incorporate locally-grown vegetables and vegetarian dishes.
In the lounge, TQLA will serve 167 tequila offerings, all made of 100 percent blue agave and representing blanco, reposado, anejo and extra anejo varieties, in addition to flavored tequilas, sotol and mescal. A rotating selection of eight premium tequilas will be hyper-cooled to five degrees and served "on tap", in addition to seasonal tequila infusions and specialty sangrias, margaritas and palomas.
Helming the kitchen is Tommy Birdwell, a CIA grad who's worked under Stephen Pyles and Mark Miller. General Manager and partner Scott Lindsey has a decade of experience in restaurant consulting and is one of 40 certified Tequiliers in the United States, a title granted by the Academia Mexicana del Tequila, AC — the tequila world’s equivalent of a Master Sommelier. Partners Christina Lampe and Mike Nelson bring additional restaurant industry experience for a concept that is already considering national expansion.
TQLA melds together the owner quartet's passion for food, tequila, music and art. With a design from acclaimed architecture firm Gensler, TQLA aims to stand out from the crowd by taking the strip-center space and "infusing it with warmth, modern lines and Southwestern references — without falling prey to overtly obvious interpretations of the (Southwestern) genre."
Reef designer Lisa Pope Westerman is directing the decor installation, featuring Houston artist Alberto Bonomi's hand-crafted installations, including a nine-panel mesh metal sculpture that hugs the ceiling like turbulent clouds.
TQLA is scheduled to open at 4601 Washington Avenue in early November.