What's Eric Eating Episodes 334 and 335
On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Kyle Noonan joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Free Range Concepts . The Dallas-based hospitality group operates four restaurants and bars in Houston: Bowl & Barrel and The Generic Public in CityCentre and two locations of its concert venue The Rustic in downtown and Uptown Park.
The conversation begins with Noonan discussing his time working for Pappas Restaurants. From there, he partnered with his college room, finance professional Josh Sepkowitz, to open the first Bowl & Barrel in Dallas. The duo then partnered with Texas country music singer Pat Green on The Rustic, which becomes one of the highest grossing bars in Texas.
After discussing the company’s operations in Houston, including plans for possible new locations of both Bowl & Barrel and The General Public, Noonan shares that Free Range is looking beyond Texas. It has already committed to opening locations of The Rustic in Arizona, Denver, San Diego, Orlando, and Tampa and has eyes on potential locations in the Carolinas and Georiga. Any of those cities or states could also become home to Joe Leo Fine Tex-Mex, which is named for Noonan’s grandfather.
“We’re really interested in Tex-Mex outside of Texas, to be honest. I had experience with the Pappasitos brand. There is a real hunger for Tex-Mex outside of Texas,” Noonan says. He notes that the market for such a restaurant would include former Texas residents as well as people who are curious about the cuisine.
“We like to look for opportunities and low-hanging fruit,” he adds. “I see a lot of green space for Tex-Mex outside of Texas.”
Listen to the full interview to hear Noonan share why he likes to visit a city’s oldest restaurants when traveling instead of its hotspots.
On this week’s other episode, Sandler and co-host Michael Fulmer discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: the Houston return of Dallas Tex-Mex favorite Mi Cocina and Mexican bakery El Bolillo opening a new location in west Houston.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Fulmer and Sandler discuss their recent meal at Rumi’s Kitchen , the Atlanta-based Persian fine dining restaurant that recently opened next to Uchiko. They also share first impressions of Comalito , the new taqueria in the Houston Farmers Market led by star Mexican pastry chef Luis Robledo Richards. Finally, they describe their recent breakfast at Burnt Bean Co., the barbecue joint in Seguin that earned a finalist nomination in the 2023 James Beard Awards for Best Chef: Texas.