Photo by Mark Champion

On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Chris Shepherd joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss all of the changes the James Beard Award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and media personality has made in the past year.

That starts with his decision to leave Underbelly Hospitality, the Houston restaurant group he founded that operates establishments such as Georgia James, Wild Oats, and Underbelly Burger. Shepherd shares why the time was right to move on and discusses some of the personnel who are still in place ensuring the restaurants operate at high standards.

From there, the conversation turns to the Southern Smoke Foundation, the non-profit Shepherd founded to provide emergency assistance to hospitality workers. He shares some of his observations from traveling the country on the organization’s behalf and discusses some of the chef he’s most excited to have participating in this year’s Southern Smoke Festival.

The chef made some news this week when he announced Eat Like a Local, his new TV show that will debut in September on KPRC 2. Sandler asks him about the show’s approach — including why you won’t see Shepherd cooking on air. He also shares some of the topics he plans to feature on the show, such as the connection between Lebanese shawarma and Mexican pastor and the way Barrier Beauties cultivates its oysters.

Shepherd has also kept a foot in the culinary world by consulting for clients in California. Sandler asks if those experiences, and recent restaurant openings by chefs such as Terrence Gallivan (ElRo Pizza & Crudo) and Lucas McKinney (Josephine’s, a seafood restaurant in Midtown that had an invite-only preview last weekend) have inspired him to open a new restaurant.

“It’s a different world, for sure. I’m finding my footing in doing other cool things that still go back to cooking and restaurants. I get that itch scratched a little bit, but I still like to do dinner service for two,” he says. “[My wife and I] talk about it. I’m not going to say it won’t ever happen, but right now I’m finding the things that really engage me. It helps me be a better steward of the community.”

Listen to the full episode to hear Shepherd share the moment at last year’s Southern Smoke Festival that moved him to tears. He also talks about his time as CultureMap's Wine Guy.

Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Linda Salinas discuss the news of the week. Their topics include West U. restaurant El Topo partnering with Benjy Levit to rebrand; The Burger Joint expanding to the Rice Village area; and CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen closing after only a year of operations.

In the restaurants of the week segment, Salinas and Sandler discuss their visits to Citizens, the New York City-based Australian-inspired coffee shop and cafe that recently opened in Montrose. Then, they share thoughts about a the tasting menu at Musaafer, the Indian fine dining restaurant in the Galleria.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturdays at 2 pm on ESPN 97.5.

Photo by Becca Wright

Meet the good citizen behind Montrose's Aussie-styled cafe and coffee shop, plus hottest restaurant news

What's Eric Eating Episode 287

On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Andrew Geisel joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Citizens, the Australian-style cafe that recently opened its first Houston location in Montrose. The new restaurant joins Citizens' three existing locations in New York City.

The conversation begins with Geisel explaining his decision to move from Australia to New York. Ultimately, he partnered with fellow Aussie Justin Giuffrida to open the first Citizens in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. Geisel explains the differences between an Australian cafe and a traditional American coffee shop, shares how Citizens survived the pandemic, and explains why the company chose Houston for its expansion.

Sandler notes that Citizens has opened near a number of breakfast and all-day concepts, including Blacksmith, Snooze, and Picnik. He asks Geisel how he sees Citizens standing out.

It's a really important question to answer. In essence, we're comfortable for a few reasons. Going back to Australia, there's really great cafes on every corner. The idea of saturation is something we're used to. We've operated in New York. There's tremendous offerings near our New York stores.

Good competition makes you be a better business. Strong competition raises the bar. Rather than call it competition, it's inspiring. I think when you have a high concentration of really wonderful bars and restaurants in an area, it really shines a spotlight on the area. It's something you want to be part of. The important thing becomes, how can we very clearly define who we are and what our voice is? How is it different from the other players in the area?

The idea is, why would you want to come to Citizens right now? What can we do for that's unique to us that you're not going to get at those other businesses? The breakfast with really high quality table service, genuine Aussie hospitality, and a menu offering that is diverse in both coffee and food. A menu that gives you everything from fresher, lighter, healthier bites to more hearty pieces. I find that to be something I'm very proud to represent.

Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Mary Clarkson discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Street to Kitchen chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Texas; Bun B and his business partners opening a brick and mortar location of Trill Burgers; and Cocody, a new restaurant from Le Mistral veterans David Denis and Sylvain Denis that's coming to River Oaks this summer.

In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler and Clarkson discuss their recent meals at two newly opened restaurants. First, they rave about Albi, a fine dining Mediterranean restaurant in River Oaks. Then, they consider The Chelsea, the stylish bistro in the Montrose Collective mixed-use development.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturdays at 2 pm on ESPN 97.5.

Citizens of Montrose Andrew Geisel Justin Guiffrida

Photo by Becca Wright

Andrew Geisel, left, is this week's guest.

Photo by Jenn Duncan

Meet the talented team behind Upper Kirby's inventive 'new Japanese' restaurant, plus hottest food news

What's Eric Eating Episode 268

On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Money Cat chef-owner Sherman Yeung and chef de cuisine Jio Dingayan join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss the new restaurant that recently opened in Upper Kirby. The conversation begins with both chefs discussing how they entered the culinary world and began working together at Katy's well-regarded Tobiuo Sushi & Bar.

Money Cat food spread
Photo by Jenn Duncan
A selection of dishes from Money Cat.

From there, they turn to Money Cat. While the restaurant serves a full range of different kinds of sushi — including sashimi, maki, and nigiri — it also features creative riffs such as a tomato salad with cheese foam, chutoro toast, and tempura fried maitake mushrooms. As Yeung explains, he didn't want Money Cat to be a clone of Tobiuo.

"It's not traditionally Japanese. I play around with 'new Japanese,' where we draw a lot of inspiration from Japanese ingredients and techniques," Yeung says. "We're not adhered to Japanese. Chef Jio and I want to explore Asian culture. That's why I call it new Japanese."

Also worth noting is that Dingayan has a lot of responsibility for a 22-year old chef. Sandler asks him about leading a team of chefs who are likely older and more experienced than he is.

"The thing I project the most is compassion and empathy. You want to work with someone who tries to understand you through the good and the bad, and that's what I try to do with each one of my cooks," Dingayan says. "I think teaching humanity really shines a light on what we're trying to do. We're not just cooks. We're humans, too, and you should know who's cooking your food."

Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Michael Fulmer discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: il Bracco owner Western Addition Restaurant Group opening Balboa Surf Club in the same Galleria-area shopping center; the imminent closure of Tex-Mex restaurant Spanish Flowers; and the opening of Bayou Heights Bier Garten with a barbecue menu created by chef Teddy Lopez.

In the restaurants of the week segment, Fulmer and Sandler share first impressions of Gatsby's Prime Seafood. They also discuss a recent meal at Home Slice Pizza, the Austin-based restaurant that opened in Midtown.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

Courtesy of Tatemó

Esquire-best-list Houston chef dishes on his acclaimed Mexican restaurant, plus hottest food news

what's eric eating episode 266

On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” chef Emmanuel Chavez joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss Tatemó. The corn-focused Mexican restaurant has been attracting significant critical praise, including a spot on Esquire’s list of America’s best new restaurants.

The interview begins with Chavez sharing the story of his career. After starting out as a dishwasher in a Tex-Mex restaurant, he entered the world of fine dining in Seattle. A wake-up call from a mentor prompted him to begin researching the process of making traditional corn tortillas through the process of nixtamalization. Ultimately, he moved back to Houston and started selling tortillas at the Urban Harvest farmers market.

People frequently describe Tatemó as a Mexican restaurant. While Chavez acknowledges his cooking is rooted in Mexican techniques and corn that's imported from Mexico, he tells Sandler he sees the restaurant more broadly.

"We're not a Mexican restaurant. We're a Houston restaurant," he says. "Everything we source, as far as produce, is from within the city. Other than caviar and kampachi from California, it's Texas produce. It's a Texas restaurant inspired by maize. It's maize driven. That's how we like to identify ourselves."

Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Felice Sloan discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Common Bond’s new partnership with the owners of El Bolillo Bakery; chef Michelle Wallace departing Gatlin’s BBQ to launch a sandwich pop-up; and Pappas Restaurants’ plans to open Little’s Oyster Bar, a new seafood restaurant in the former Little Pappas space.

In the restaurants of the week segment, Sloan and Sandler share their impressions of Ciel, the recently opened restaurant that offers both elevated cuisine and a lively atmosphere that includes singers and dancers. Listen to hear their assessment of how these elements come together.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

Photo by Dylan McEwan

Bosscat's boss dishes on his new sushi restaurant-bar, plus Houston's hottest food news

What's eric eating 264

On this week’s episode of “What’s Eric Eating,” Daily Dose Hospitality CEO John Reed joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss his two restaurants, Bosscat Kitchen & Libations and Ten Sushi + Cocktail Bar. Reed and his business partner Leslie Nguyen recently brought Ten Sushi to Houston and have plans to open a Woodlands location of Bosscat in early 2023.

After a quick review of Bosscat’s almost six years in Houston, the conversation turned to Ten, which opened across the street for its sister concept in November. Sandler asks Reed about the purpose of Ten’s broad menu, which includes a diverse array of sushi rolls as well as wok–based dishes with Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai influences.

“I’m more of a masses guy than some of these great chefs in town who are focused on specific people. My mind is, how do I recreate this, how do I grow this? Our menu has been centered around that,” Reed says.

“People love sushi. The Chinese portion, the Korean portion has been about that consumer who goes out with four or five people [and someone says] ‘I don’t eat raw fish.’ We have something for you. That’s what we tried to do was bridge the gap for a party of 4 or 5. Yes, we want to go to sushi but two or three people don’t. We have something for all of you. That’s where we’ve found success.”

After a lengthy discussion of Ten’s menu and design, the conversation turns to bringing Bosscat to the Woodlands. Reed also discusses the company’s future plans for the Dallas/Plano market and an opportunity they’re pursuing in Phoenix.

Prior to the interview, Sandler and co-host Matt Harris discuss the news of the week. Their topics include: Trill Burgers signing a lease for a permanent location; Esquire magazine including Tatemó on its list of America’s best new restaurants; and Houston Restaurant Weeks donating $1.2 million to the Houston Food Bank after its 2022 event.

In the restaurants of the week segment, Harris and Sandler share first impressions of Louie’s Italian American, the new concept that replaced Cafe Louie in the East End. They also discuss Burger Bodega’s successful transition from pop-up to brick and mortar restaurant.

Ten Sushi co-owners John Reed and Leslie Nguyen.

Ten sushi john reed leslie nguyen
Photo by Dylan McEwan

Ten Sushi co-owner John Reed is this week's guest.


Subscribe to "What's Eric Eating" on Apple podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. Listen to it Saturday at noon on ESPN 97.5.

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Beyoncé brings dazzling Renaissance Tour to big screens with new concert film

big-screen bey

“The goal for this tour was to create a place where everyone is free ...and no one is judged.”

So declares Queen Bey in a just-released trailer for RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ, a new documentary and concert film coming to major movie theaters on Friday, December 1 across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The new film chronicles Houston-born Beyoncé's journey from concept to performance as she treks across the globe in her worldwide, 56-performance, 39-city Renaissance tour.

Houstonians are still buzzing from the two-day H-Town homecoming (read our review here) that near-capacity crowds pack NRG Stadium for the often breathtaking, three-hour shows that featured a cameo by fellow Houston-born superstar Megan Thee Stallion.

Tickets for the concert film — a joint production between Parkwood Entertainment and AMC Entertainment — are on sale now at amctheatres.com and Fandango.com. Fans can also find tickets at Cinemark, Regal, Cinepolis and Cineplex, all of which will screen the movie. Tickets will also be available at numerous movie theatre circuits in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico later this week, according to an announcement. Admission for all standard showtimes will start at $22, plus tax.

RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ is a must for any Beyhive member — as well as those who want to reminisce attending the epic shows, or those who missed her tour stops. The big-screen treatment is fitting: short of seeing the shows live, there is no better way to take in the Renaissance tour's dazzling effects, lasers, and pyrotechnics, mind-bending visuals on huge screens, unforgettable costumes (A.I.!), Megan's surprise, and of course, Queen Bey riding through the air atop a glittering Reneigh, her trusty, mirrorball, shimmering steed.

Fans can look forward to multiple showtimes daily on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, for a minimum of four weeks, according to press materials.RENAISSANCE will also be available in IMAX (the ideal viewing) at AMC and Dolby Cinema at AMC, and other branded premium large format screens.

Kicking off atthe opening show in Stockholm, Sweden and documenting each stop to the grand finale in Kansas City, Missouri, the film captures rarely seen, behind-the-scenes moments of a Beyoncé tirelessly working and preparing and sharing tender moments with her children and family.

Meant to further articulate her “everyone is free/no one is judged” mantra, scenes will depict the more than 2.7 million fans from around the world who dressed in silver and shiny outfits, took part in her Joy Parade, and nailed the Mute Challenge at each show.

Call us biased, but we can't wait for the up-close Megan scenes and backstage action before and after she shocked NRG Stadium — and all of Beyoncé's Houston moments as the queen returned to the kingdom where it all started.


Find RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ tickets at at amctheatres.com and Fandango.com.

J.J. Watt, wife Kealia, and his family and friends ring it in at Ben Berg's swanky supper club

turned up for watt

Houston celebrated J.J. Watt’s triumphant homecoming this past weekend, as No. 99 was fittingly inducted into the Houston Texans Ring of Honor during the team’s 30-6 win Sunday, October 1 over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Watt donned the Texans red jacket during halftime, officially joining the late Houston Texans founder/owner/CEO Robert “Bob” McNair and NFL Hall of Fame nominee (and Watt’s former teammate) Andre Johnson.

“It feels like you’re at a family reunion and it feels like I’m back with all my family in a place that feels like home and I’m just loving it,” Watt told the packed NRG Stadium. “The fans have been great, the McNairs have been great, the whole organization has been really, really great and I'm just thankful to have my whole family here. My wife and my son are here, my parents are here, my brothers are here. It’s my mom’s birthday so it all kind of culminates into a great day today.”

Texans Chairman and CEO Cal McNair placed the jacket on Watt’s mountainous shoulders as Johnson, Watt’s family, and nearly 90 former Texans players cheered him on for his induction. Adding to the memorable day, Watt’s brother T.J., currently on track to be 2023’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year at very least, served as the Steelers opposite our Justin James as coin toss team captain.

The Watts and crew ring it in

While Houston showed up and out for Watt, where did No. 99 celebrate? He and his family and friends opted for Ben Berg’s famed, swanky speakeasy supper club, Turner’s.

The Berg connection comes from Watt’s retirement announcement dinner last year, where he and some close friends and teammates celebrated at B&B Butchers. “So the Texans reached out to us and asked if we could do a dinner at Turner’s for J.J. and his family,” Berg explains to CultureMap.

Watt posted photos on Instagram with his lovely wife Kealia sitting in his lap, he and his brothers Derek and T.J., mom Connie and dad John, and their close friends at Turner’s, which Berg closed for the private celebration.

“It’s a big honor,” Berg notes. “You know, when you create these spaces, the goal is to be a memorable part of people’s lives. And so the fact that we were chosen for him to celebrate with his family, loved ones, and his closest friends — for such a huge accomplishment and huge honor — was a big responsibility.”

What’s J.J. eating?

For the big bash, Berg and company crafted a special — and beefy — steak-stacked menu, with special treats for Connie, who was celebrating her birthday — and her son’s big day. While Berg and the staff didn’t create specific themed items — like, say, the Onion Rings of Honor that Trill Burgers fried up for the weekend — “we made sure we brought over some of his favorite dishes from B&B,” says Berg.

Those dishes included the A5 Japanese Wagyu Katsu Sando, the always popular Carpet Bagger on the Half Shell, Chef Tommy’s Bacon slabs (served with blue cheese and truffle-infused honey), and more of No. 99’s favorites. Other items included buttermilk fried quail, Maine lobster gnocchi, and a feast of sides like mac and cheese casserole. Sweet finishes included a signature triple chocolate layer cake, a walnut caramel tart, and the Berry Butter Cake from B&B.

Though we’d have imagined tearing up a Porterhouse or massive ribeye, Berg reports that Watt ordered the Wagyu Filet Rossini (decadently dressed up with foie gras and spinach truffle jus) and the IYKYK classic Turner’s Wedge salad.

Speaking of orders, partiers ordered up some song requests from Turner’s resident vocalist and pianist Thomas Cokinos, who’s always on fire at the supper club, but really turned up for Watt. No. 99, an ol’ softie, requested Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun” for Kealia (also writing “I love you” on the ticket — well played, J.J.), while others opted for tracks by country stars Zack Brown and Morgan Wallen.

Derek Watt requested Lil’ John’s “Get Low” with a shout out to his two brothers, leaving us disappointed that nobody asked for “99 Problems” in honor of J.J. (Next time, gents).

Ryan Reynolds + J.J. = goals

J.J. Watt Turner's Houston songs family friendsHey J.J., something you wanna share with the rest of us? Photo by Thomas Cokinos

Our favorite shout out? One “Ryan Reynolds” requested the bro singalong classic “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers. Watt fans will recall that he buddied up with the handsome Canadian actor and soccer fan and backer when he and Kealia announced their investment in UK football side Burnley FC. (Kealia also seems to be a big fan of Reynolds, as we reported in May).

Berg made sure to let Watt and Co. enjoy themselves until late, but also made sure to stop by and greet his VIP guests. “I wanted to say hello and thank you; it was really an intimate affair for him, his family, his brothers, and really close friends,” says Berg.

“J.J. is just a super nice guy and just super down to earth,” Berg adds. “And, you know, he’s really big.”

J.J. Watt Kealia Watt Turner's Houston

J.J. Watt/Instagram

Hometown hero J.J. Watt and his wife Kealia pose at the Turner's party.

Familiar farmers market face goes wild with new dinner series at mystery Montrose venue

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Houstonians will once again be able to enjoy Jane Wild’s food in air conditioned comfort. Best known for her time at Tomball’s Jane and John Dough bakery and The Dunlavy on Allen Parkway, the chef is launching a new dinner series to showcase her perspective on farm to table fare.

Titled Jane’s Dine Inn, the bi-monthly dinner series will supplement the sweet and savory baked goods Wild sells at farmers markets across the Houston. The intimate, five-course meals will be served to only 22 diners per night. Unlike outdoor markets, serving diners in a more traditional, restaurant-style setting allows Wild to serve a wider variety of dishes that meant to be eaten hot.

“Jane’s Dine Inn is a space for me to share another side of my story with food,” Wild said in a statement. “Where art has a narrative that celebrates the seasons. A place where I can honor localism in all its forms. To nurture the regeneration of connections, with each other and the land around us.”

It begins this Saturday, October 7 with a meal titled “Texas Autumn.” Wild’s menu includes pumpkin and tomato soup, apples and celery salad, roasted pork with peaches, and a persimmon shortcake.

Meals will take place at a local venue in Montrose that will only be revealed to ticket holders. They begin with pre-dinner snacks. From there, diners take their seats at communal tables ($190 per person or a complete group of six for $1,000) or at a kitchen table with a better view of the action ($225 per person). Each meal will mix both individually plated and family-style dishes. Add wine or non-alcoholic pairings for $60 per person.

Wild plans to hold similar dinners on October 21, November 4 and 18, and December 2 and 16. A monthly brunch pop-up will be announced in the future.