Courtesy of The Rado Market

Chef Chris Williams has unveiled his latest project. The Rado Market is now open in the Third Ward for breakfast, lunch, and early dinner.

Located at the historic Eldorado Ballroom at the corner of Elgin and Emancipation (2310 Elgin St.), the Rado Market, which joins restaurants Lucille’s and the upcoming Late August as part of Lucille’s Hospitality Group, serves many purposes.

As its name implies, it’s a grocery store-style market that sells produce grown at the farm in Kendleton, Texas operated by Lucille’s 1913, Williams’ nonprofit that feeds underserved Houstonians as well as sauces, pickles, and other preserved items made by the nonprofit. In addition, the market sells prepared goods from Black-owned businesses such as Beeing Murray Honey, B’Tween Sandwich Co., Houston Sauce Co., and So Home Collective home goods).

The retail section also includes wine and beer that’s been curated by Lucille’s Hospitality’s employees and friends such as Project Row Houses board member Anita Smith and KTSU general manager Ernest Walker. Third Ward bookstore Kindred Spirits maintains a section of cookbooks written by Black chefs and other culinary leaders. Williams has contributed a few titles from his personal collection as well. Ultimately, Rado Market plans to feature a different cookbook each month along with ingredients to make its recipes.

If that weren’t enough, Rado also operates a counter service restaurant that serves breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, and more made with the same produce and other ingredients grown or created by Lucille’s 1913. In the morning, look for breakfast tacos and hot rolls that are made with a recipe created by Williams’ great-grandmother, culinary pioneer Lucille Bishop Smith.

Lunch starts with sandwiches, including fried green tomato, spiced turkey melt, and a Southern dip made with braised beef cheeks. Salad options include a chopped salad made with jerk chicken, egg, and avocado as well as the Kendleton Harvest with kale, greens, strawberries, and more.

“I love Local Foods in Rice Village. I love everything about it, that great little counter service market with artisanal products on the shelves. It’s a unique shopping experience,” Williams told CultureMap in April. “It’s very high end, very niche. I wanted to bring that model to Third Ward.”

Rado Market is only one of the new concepts on the Eldorado Ballroom property. Hogan Brown Gallery recently unveiled its first collection of works by local artists that’s titled Six Degrees of Separation. The Eldorado Ballroom itself will host musical performances and other happenings.

“I don’t even have words for how honored and grateful we are for the opportunity. It’s huge,” Williams added. “The history is huge. It taps into everything I love and I personally think is so important for the greater community . . . It’s about ownership. For the community to take ownership of this, I think the opportunity will be deep.”

Rado Market is open from 7 am - 7 pm Tuesday-Friday and 8 am - 4 pm Saturday and Sunday. It’s closed on Monday.

Rado Market turkey melt

Courtesy of The Rado Market

Rado Market's spiced turkey melt.

Photo by David “Odiwams” Wright

Top Houston restaurateur plans to resurrect Eldorado Ballroom with new cafe-market, art gallery, and star-studded concerts

pure gold

One of the Third Ward’s premier nonprofits has teamed up with one of Houston’s most prominent restaurant groups to bring new life to a historic venue. Project Row Houses has retained Lucille’s Hospitality Group and its affiliated Lucille’s 1913 nonprofit to operate the historic Eldorado Ballroom.

Located in the heart of Third Ward at the intersection of Emancipation and Elgin, the Eldorado Ballroom is a performance venue that dates back to 1939. Originally a place for Black Houstonians to gather as a community.

Eldorado Ballroom renderingA rendering previews the final look of the Eldorado Ballroom after renovations are completed.Courtesy of Project Row Houses

In its role as operator, Lucille’s Hospitality Group, lead by James Beard Award Outstanding Restaurateur nominee Chris Williams, will have three venues in the building: the Hogan Brown Gallery, Rado Cafe & Market, and the Eldorado Ballroom. Williams tells CultureMap that he recognized the building’s potential when philanthropists Hasty Johnson and Anita Smith initially approached him with the idea of operating the space. They're the first projects for Lucille's Hospitality Group, the company Williams formed in 2021 to extend beyond Lucille's, the acclaimed Southern restaurant he's operated in the Museum District since 2012.

“I don’t even have words for how honored and grateful we are for the opportunity. It’s huge,” Williams says. “The history is huge. It taps into everything I love and I personally think is so important for the greater community . . . It’s about ownership. For the community to take ownership of this, I think the opportunity will be deep.”

First to open will be the Hogan Brown Gallery, Named for Williams’ grandparents, the gallery will provide Third Ward’s artists with a venue for showcasing and selling their work as well as a space for community members to appreciate pieces by local talent. Operated by Lucille’s 1913 as a nonprofit venture, Houston artist Robert Hodge will curate the gallery’s exhibitions and work with the featured artists to enhance their careers.

Rado Cafe & Market will give the neighborhood a high quality restaurant and retail market that sells local produce and prepared food designed to service both people who have lived in Third Ward for years and newcomers. Picnic baskets meals will be available to encourage shoppers to dine across the street in Emancipation Park.

“I love Local Foods in Rice Village. I love everything about it, that great little counter service market with artisanal products on the shelves. It’s a unique shopping experience,” Williams says. “It’s very high end, very niche. I wanted to bring that model to Third Ward.”

Like Local Foods, Rado Cafe will serve sandwiches, salads, and other dishes created by Top Chef finalist Dawn Burrell. Ingredients such as collard greens, okra, and tomatoes will be drawn from local farms. In addition, Lucille’s will contribute fermented and pickles items from its preservation program. The retail shop will feature products from minority vendors along with a selection of wines.

“Everything we do at 1913 is access leading into education. If you don’t have access, you won’t give a shit. There’s no inspiration to learn about it,” Williams says. “I had this idea about having Chris Shepherd come in and teach a wine class for everybody. I think it would be a good way to get old and new neighborhood under one roof enjoying wine.”

In addition, Williams will partner with Third Ward bookshop Kindred Spirits to sell cookbooks. Each month, the market will feature a different book that will be paired with the ingredients necessary to make its recipes.

Like both the Hogan Brown Gallery and Rado Cafe & Market, the Eldorado Ballroom will improve access for Third Ward residents by providing local musicians with a new venue to showcase their talents. The 260-seat room has been upgraded with, in Williams’ words, “2030 lighting and sound” that restores its legacy as a room that’s hosted legendary artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. While Williams sees the venue as primarily hosting local acts, he has big goals for the kind of artists he wants to attract for quarterly headlining gigs.

Eldorado BallroomA historic photo of the Eldorado Ballroom.Courtesy of Lucille's Hospitality Group

“Once a quarter, we’re going after [someone like] Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper,” he says. “I’m going after Beyoncé within the next three years. It may be a five-minute cameo. She may be incognito, but I’m getting Beyoncé in that space.”

As a Third Ward resident, Williams recognizes the historic neighborhood is changing. Still, it’s always played a unique role in Houston’s civic life. The renovated ballroom has the opportunity to enhance the neighborhood’s legacy.

“The street I live on is one of the first places in the city where African Americans were able to design their own houses. It’s where we bought the land and designed our own existence. It’s like Black Wall Street,” he says.

“When I was growing up, Third Ward was always its own planet. People were more in touch. It’s always been the anchor of community activists, thinkers, and artists. It really hasn’t changed.”

All three venues are expected to open permanently in May and June, but Houstonians will get a sneak peek this Saturday, April 22 with Lucille’s seventh annual Prince Day. Held to commemorate the anniversary of Prince’s death on April 21, 2016, festivities kick off with an outdoor market from 1-6 pm that will preview many of Rado Cafe & Market’s vendors. From 8 pm - midnight, the Eldorado Ballroom will host a Prince tribute concert. General admission tickets are priced at $35. VIP tickets, priced at $77, include food prepared by Burrell, early admission to the venue, and priority access to table seating. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

“I’m a Prince fanatic,” Williams says. “This is our seventh year. Seven was Prince’s favorite number. It’s perfect to bring it home to the Eldorado.”

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Booming Houston burb's top U.S. rank for holiday spending leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Wealthy Houston suburb boasts the 10th biggest holiday spenders in U.S. Shoppers in the affluent Houston suburb are expected to spend $3,316 this festive season.

2. Retro Montrose pizzeria scores coveted spot on Esquire's Best New Restaurants in America list. The restaurant looks like a Gen X fantasy, but thankfully the pizza is up to today's standards.

3. Inside the new La Griglia: Murals are out, tableside touches are in, and more. "We took this restaurant a little more upscale," senior executive Brandon Busch explains.

4. Romantic River Oaks mansion boasting coveted neighborhood rarity lists for $11.5M. Inviting, yet secluded, rustic, but elegant, it offers everything a modern homebuyer needs.

5. Cozy neighborhood restaurant from Common Bond team opens doors on Heights' 11th Street. The diverse menu caters to a wide range of tastes.

ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill's guitars,  flashy duds, and more hit Dallas auction

sharp dressed man

A massive collection of guitars, fancy clothes, boots, and other memorabilia belonging to the bassist from rock band ZZ Top makes its Dallas premiere. Julien’s Auctions presents “The Collection of Dusty Hill of ZZ Top," a three-day auction taking place December 7-9 in Dallas at 915 Slocum Street and online at Julien's Live.

The auction will feature nearly 1,200 lots showcasing Dusty Hill's one-of-a-kind instruments, Western style wardrobe worn on stage and in appearances, gear, documents, favorite cowboy hats, boots, buckles, and memorabilia. As a prelude, the collection will be on display at 915 Slocum Street through December 7.

A Dallas native who passed away in 2021, Hill was notorious for his collection of stuff, some of which was already sold off in an estate sale in Houston in 2022.

The auction's headlining item will be Hill’s fur bass guitar played on the “Legs” music video. The 1983 Dean Explorer style bass, in sheepskin finish with ZZ Top logo painted on the fretboard, was attached to a rig worn around Hill’s waist to make it spin. They're predicting it will fetch $80,000 to $100,000.

Another offering is Hill’s signature 1953 Fender Precision bass guitar, and most-played instrument by Hill out of all the guitars in this collection. The bass was heavily used by Hill and served as his go to stage guitar for numerous ZZ Top live performances and in the studio until Dusty retired the bass in 2012 due to road wear.

Fans will find a museum-like exhibition created a la “Dusty Land” with instantly recognizable items on display, such as:

  • Circa 1983 Wayne Charvel, Custom Eliminator Hot Rod car-shaped bass guitar in custom red and yellow Eliminator hot rod finish previously displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
  • Circa 1960s Fender body Telecaster bass guitar, in grey / blue finish with custom pinstriping by Houston artist Jim Carnifax done in 1983, used in “Gimme all your Lovin" and "Sharp Dressed Man" music videos
  • An MTV Moonman award statuette presented to Dusty Hill for Best Group Video "Legs" at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards ceremony held in 1984
  • Bald eagle jacket by Manuel with talons and feather accents down sleeves, accented with prong-set stones, with personalized "Dusty Hill" Manuel label
  • Black leather motorcycle jacket with custom painted skeleton motif, eagle head pins on lapel, and silver spike embellishments with "StreekLandslide" written on the back

Special wall displays feature a horseshoe ring of hats, awards, Elvis Presley memorabilia, cowboy boots, and Western style accessories.

”Dusty treasured all of the items in this auction and it means so much to me that the fans, whom he loved, will have an opportunity to own something from his personal collection. He would be so happy to know that this auction will benefit other musicians in need through the efforts of MusiCares,” says his widow "Chuck" in a statement.

"The Collection of Dusty Hill" was previously exhibited at Julien’s international exhibitions in Kildare, Ireland, and then in New York at Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. It's currently on display at 915 Slocum Street through December 7. Photos of auction items can be seen here. The exhibition is free and open 12-8 pm weekdays, 10:30 am-6:30 pm on Saturday-Sunday December 2-3.

Hill's widow Chuck's involvement is notable. Houstonians may recall that a sale purporting to be "official" Dusty Hill items was not — and ultimately forced a cease and desist from Hill and her attorney. The experience left Charleen "Chuck" Hill "devastated," though she found no fault with media outlets that reported the sale as it was presented (including CultureMap): “you were misled too, just like the fans,” she told us.

The Rustic's co-owner dishes on his Tex-Mex future, plus our visit to Rumi's

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.